Is Oilithreach Mé
I am a pilgrim
Sounding the way back through story and song
Pererin Wyf / Is Oilithreach Mé / I am a pilgrim is a participatory arts project which sought to connect with the Welsh and Irish diaspora with particular reference to a new cross-border pilgrimage connecting Pembrokeshire and Wexford. The project took its title and inspiration from an 18th century hymn by the prolific Welsh writer William Williams Pantycelyn. The hymn has been sung to the tune of Amazing Grace since Welsh singer Iris Williams made her landmark recording in 1971.
This project culminated in May 2023 with an online documentary film screening and song sharing followed by a short live streamed concert at St Davids Cathedral.
Pererin Wyf – Is Oilithreach Mé – I am a Pilgrim: Documentary Film
The project took its title and inspiration from an 18th century hymn by the prolific Welsh writer William Williams Pantycelyn. The hymn is most often sung to the tune of Amazing Grace. Project participants were encouraged to sing a version of the hymn or any song that has the power to call you home and to pin it to an online map. Pererin Wyf is Welsh for ‘I am a Pilgrim’. This short documentary, a collaboration between Rowan O’Neill, radio producer Paul Evans and film maker Jacob Whittaker tells the story of the project.
Here are some examples of the hymn that people contributed:
William Williams, Pantycelyn – An introduction
Côr Cymry Gogledd America
Côr Meibion Llanymddyfri
Chord on Blues, Ferns Community Choir
A Diaspora Song Map
Songs to call you home
There are lots more songs on the map. Here are some other songs that people put there.
Rosemary Graham – One More Step
Paul Evans – Pererin Wyf
Anne Mulhall – The Old House
An Dara Craiceann
An Dara Craiceann (Tr. The Second Skin) is a new macaronic song written in response to the project by Wexford based traditional singer and project co-facilitator Rachel Uí Fhaoláin. A macaronic song is one that features more than one language, in this case Irish, Welsh and English. The song was given its first performance by the London Irish Community Voices Choir at an online celebration event on 24th May 2023.
Here’s a little bit more about the song:
“The title and lyrics are in response to my observations of the Pererin Wyf / Is Oilithreach Mé / I am a Pilgrim project participants, and the exchange visits between Ireland and Wales. The song reflects the understandings of pilgrimage and what it can unlock from beneath the surface, as we journey through life. I also wanted to bring my traditional song & folkore practice into this new work. One of my favourite songs to sing with my two children, Éire and Chulainn, is An Mhaighdean Mhara – The Mermaid. The story of a woman losing her seal skin and marrying a man is found in the oral tradition in Ireland and beyond. An Mhaighdean Mhara is a sorrowful lament, and the conversation is between a mother and her daughter. The mother is returning to the sea from whence she came. In this new song, I hear their voices and the draw they both feel to their ‘homes’. Their voices speak of the journey of so many others. I hope the lyrics speak of the shedding of ‘skin’ too. I was also particularly interested in highlighting the female perspective in this new song. The folklore surrounding the mermaid, I felt, was a lovely way to connect both the Wexford and Welsh diasporas through song and stories, and including both the Irish and Welsh language was also very important to me. The air I used is from another beautiful song that we enjoy singing together as a family; a Wexford song of emigration called ‘Bannow Mother’s Lament’. I also interweaved a section of the old Welsh hymn Pererin Wyf into the new song. All the individual pieces seemed to stitch together seamlessly.”
An Dara Craiceann – Film by John Ó Faoláin
An Dara Craiceann – With Welsh BSL signing
An Dara Craiceann – With Irish signing
Pererin Wyf – Y Canu Mawr – The Big Sing!
Y Canu Mawr was a celebration of the Pererin Wyf / Is Oilithreach Mé / I am a Pilgrim project including a short programme of pilgrimage related songs performed at St Davids Cathedral by Span Arts Choir Côr Pawb and the performance of a the new song An Dara Craiceann (Tr. The Second Skin) by song writer Rachel Uí Fhaoláin accompanied by her children Éire and Chulainn and Côr Pawb. The event concluded with a massed a Capella singing of the hymn ‘Pererin Wyf’ by William Williams, Pantycelyn where all assembled were invited to join in!
The hymn was arranged for the event by Côr Pawb choir leader Molara Awen.
The event was live streamed from St. Davids on the 29th May. You can watch the live stream here.
The project began in September 2022 with a series of free online workshops focusing on key themes of the project; connecting with the Welsh and Irish diaspora, language, home, travel and song.
Pererin Wyf / Is Oilithreach Mé / I am a Pilgrim
started in September 2022 with a series of online workshops with world class speakers focusing on key themes of the project; connecting with the Welsh and Irish diaspora, language, home, travel and songAll the workshops were recorded. Here is a selection of clips from the session. The full recordings can be found on the map.
Prof E Wyn James – Is Wales the Land of Song?
On the 29th September Professor E Wyn James talked about the life and work of William Williams Pantycelyn the author of the hymn from which this project takes its title Pererin Wyf connecting the work of the enlightenment hymn writer with Wales’ continuing connection with song.
David Greenslade – ‘Welsh Fever’
On the 14th October Welsh author David Greenslade presented his experiences of living and travelling amongst the Welsh diaspora in North America. David spoke of perceptions of Wales from far away and the peaks and troughs of re-experiencing Wales as a journey of eternal return with particular reference to encountering the Welsh language in the USA.
Gareth Bonello – Pantycelyn’s Style
On 27th October musician and song writer Gareth Bonello shared his experience and the music he recorded as a result of working with musicians in Meghalaya, North East India. This work was inspired by the Welsh Methodist mission that travelled to Meghalaya in the nineteenth century taking their hymns with them including those of William Williams, Pantycelyn. Gareth’s presentation was in Welsh with simultaneous translation.
Pamela Petro – Hiraeth as creative impulse
On the 10th November a presentation by author Pamela Petro who writes,
Every pilgrimage (even the ones you don’t know you’re on) is also a quest.
Petro approached the theme of Pilgrimage within, to, and outside of Wales through the lens of ‘hiraeth’ a Welsh word notoriously hard to translate but often defined as longing or homesickness.
Catherine Dunne – Neither one thing nor the other
On the 24th November author Catherine Dunne shared her decades long research project The Irish in London: An Unconsidered People prompted by a chance meeting on a boat with an Irish emigré. She spoke of loneliness and the grief of the reluctant emigrant as documented in her book.
Helen Phelan – Singing the rite to belong
On the 8th of December 2022, Helen Phelan presented her deeply experiential work arguing for the unique role of song to invite and celebrate community. Phelan proposes that Song in ritual offers the promise of incorporation without demanding annihilation of unique gifts, yearnings and culture.
Rachel Uí Fhaoláin and John Ó Faoláin – Wexford bound
On the 12th January 2023 project co-facilitators Rachel Uí Fhaoláin and John Ó Faoláin gave presentation and journey through their work in traditional song, stories, language, folklore & film. A common theme that runs through their work is a sense of place, a feeling of where you are from or where you belong; a longing to be there.
Activity continued in the Spring with song and story sharing workshops and an exchange trip between the two counties.
Pererin Wyf Exchange Trip participants at St David’s Cathedral with Pilgrimage Officer Janet Ingram
Pererin Wyf Exchange Trip participants taking part in the Pilgrimage Symposium at the Waterfront Hotel, Enniscorthy
The project was developed by Rowan O’Neill in collaboration with Span Arts and co-facilitated in Wexford by Rachel Uí Fhaoláin from Ceol Mo Chroí and John Ó Faoláin from the Traditional Archive Channel and in West Wales by sound artist and film maker Jacob Whittaker. Pererin Wyf hymn arrangement Molara Awen and coding by Alan Cameron Wills. Audio soundtrack produced by Paul Evans.
You’re welcome to add your own contributions to the online map. Go to the map to find out how.
Pererin Wyf is part of the Ancient Connections project funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme.