The Welsh National Anthem, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" (Land of my Fathers) is an iconic National Anthem and is generally considered to be amongst the finest anthems of the world. The Wales National Anthem's lyrics and melody were composed by Evan and James James. The original manuscript of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau is stored in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
James James (also known by the bardic name Iago ap Ieuan) (1832–1902) was a harpist and musician from Hollybush, Blackwood, Wales. He composed the tune of the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.
James was born on 4 November 1832, at the 'Ancient Druid Inn', Hollybush, in the parish of Bedwellty, Monmouthshire. He was the son of Evan James (1809–1878) and Elizabeth Stradling of Caerphilly. His father, a Welsh poet who wrote under the pen-name of leuan ab lago, moved with his family to Pontypridd, where he carried on the business of weaver and wool merchant, in about 1844. His son James assisted him in the business.
First known as "Glan Rhondda" (the banks of the Rhondda)
James James composed the melody which was later to be known as Hen Wlad fy Nhadau in January 1856. Its initial title was Glan Rhondda (The banks of the Rhondda), giving rise to the tradition that the tune had come to James as he walked on the bank of the River Rhondda. His father wrote the lyrics that eventually became the words of the Welsh national anthem. The story is that James asked his father if he could put some words to the tune he had just composed. Apparently it took just one night and by the following day all three verses and chorus were written.
First performance of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was first performed (as Glan Rhondda) at Tabor Chapel in Maesteg in January 1856, the soloist being a 16 year old Elizabeth John of Pontypridd. It went on to be sung at many subsequent eisteddfodau and in March 1899 was one of the first Welsh language songs to be recorded on vinyl when a singer by the name of Madge Breese included it in a collection of songs she was recording.
The popularity of the song increased after the Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858. Thomas Llewelyn of Aberdare won a competition for an unpublished collection of Welsh airs with a collection that included Glan Rhondda. The adjudicator of the competition, Owain Alaw (John Owen, 1821-1883) asked for permission to include Glan Rhondda in his publication, Gems of Welsh melody (1860-64). This volume gave Glan Rhondda its more famous title, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, and was sold in large quantities and ensured the popularity of the national anthem across the whole of Wales.
At the Bangor Eisteddfod of 1874 Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau gained further popularity when it was sung by Robert Rees (Eos Morlais), one of the leading Welsh soloists of his day. It was increasingly sung at patriotic gatherings and gradually it developed into a national anthem.
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was also one of the first Welsh songs recorded when Madge Breese sang it on 11 March 1899, for the Gramophone Company. This was the first recording in the Welsh language.
Though it has no official or legal status, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is recognised and used as an anthem at both national and local events in Wales. Usually this will be the only anthem sung, such as at national sporting events, and it will be sung only in Welsh using the first verse and chorus.
The existence of a separate national anthem for Wales has not always been apparent to those from outside the Principality. In 1993 the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Wales John Redwood was embarrassingly videotaped trying to guess the words during a communal singing of the national anthem, clearly unaware of them; the pictures were frequently cited as evidence of his unsuitability for the post
The first recorded occasion of a National Anthem being sung before an international sporting occasion was in 1905. The Welsh crowd sang Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in response to the New Zealand rugby team’s traditional haka at the Cardiff Arms Park.
James James died on 11 January 1902 in his 69th year. He was buried in the churchyard at Aberdare along with his wife Cecilia and daughter Louise.
Memorial To Evan and James James
In 1930 a memorial was erected to the father and son with sculptures by John Goscombe. It commemorates Evan James and his son James James, the composers of the Welsh National Anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. The grave slab of Evan James was moved here from Carmel chapel, where he was buried, when Carmel was demolished. The memorial is in Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd, in the Rhondda Valley.
Design of the Memorial
The two life sized bronze figures represents poetry and music - a man holds a harp, representing music, and a woman represents poetry. They stand on a base of pennant stone brought from Craig yr Hesg, a quarry near to Pontypridd. The inscription reads: In memory of Evan James and James James, father and son, of Pontypridd, who, inspired by a deep and tender love of their native land united poetry to song and gave Wales her National Anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.
Welsh National Anthem Lyrics in Welsh and English
On almost every occasion, only the first verse of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau is sung but all three verses are listed below. The English version is hardly ever sung.
Hen Wlad fy Nhadau Lyrics (in Welsh)
Verse 1 Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi, Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri; Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad, Tros ryddid collasant eu gwaed.
Chorus: Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad, Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau, O bydded i'r heniaith barhau.
Verse 2 Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd; Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i'm golwg sydd hardd, Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si, Ei nentydd, afonydd, i mi.
Verse 3 Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad dan ei droed, Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed, Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad, Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.
A translation of the words to the Welsh National Anthem in English is as follows;
Hen Wlad fy Nhadau Lyrics (translated into English)
Verse 1 The land of my fathers is dear to me, Old land where the minstrels are honoured and free; Its warring defenders so gallant and brave, For freedom their life's blood they gave.
Chorus Home, home, true I am to home, While seas secure the land so pure, O may the old language endure.
Verse 2 Old land of the mountains, the Eden of bards, Each gorge and each valley a loveliness guards; Through love of my country, charmed voices will be Its streams, and its rivers, to me.
Verse 3 Though foemen have trampled my land 'neath their feet, The language of Cambria still knows no retreat; The muse is not vanquished by traitor's fell hand, Nor silenced the harp of my land.
Welsh National Anthem - Patagonia
The Welsh settlers of Patagonia nearly had their own national anthem, according to the back of an 1875 pamphlet.
The song differs from Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) by praising the river Camwy of Patagonia and the great white mountains of the Andes. The song portrays a people celebrating the foundation of a truly Welsh Nation, free from the historic oppression of their tradition, language and culture.
The song failed to catch on and no other reference to it has been found. The patriotic piece evidently never caught on in Patagonia, where the Welsh community today sings Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau."