10 Facts About The Welsh National Anthem On St Davids Day

Welsh football Team singing the national anthem

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau: How Well Do You Know The Welsh National Anthem? 

Wales is world famous for its passionate, emotional and adrenaline pumping national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and whether you’re from Cardiff or California – there’s no denying it’s one of the most iconic and beautiful anthems in the world. 

For a reminder of how it goes, here are 70,000 rugby fans singing at Wales' national rugby stadium in 2013 before their emphatic Six Nations win over England.

  

The story behind Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is almost as iconic as the anthem itself, but how much do you know about our national song?

1. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was composed by father and son Evan James and James James in 1856. 

From Pontypridd, Evan and James composed Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in January 1856 and the original manuscript can be found at the National Library of Wales,  Aberystwyth. A statue honouring the father and son now stands in Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd.

2. It was written as a declaration of love and loyalty to Wales.

The emotionally charged lyrics are believed to have been written in response to Evan's brother urging him to leave Wales. 

He had recently emigrated to the United States for a new life and wanted Evan to join him. The lyrics reference bards, poets and singers, the protection and endurance of the Welsh language, Wales' landscape, and those who have died for Welsh freedom.

 Original manuscript of Welsh National Anthem
(Original manuscript Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

3. The original title was Glan Rhondda – meaning Banks of the Rhondda. 

Pontypridd sits at the junction of the Rhondda and Taff/Cynon valleys, where the Rhondda runs into the Taff river. The younger James was a harpist who played in local inns around his home town and according to one story of how the song was composed, he came up with the tune during a walk along the riverbank. On his return home he asked his father to come up with lyrics to go with it and by the next day Evan had written three verses.

New Bridge Pontypridd
(New Bridge, Pontypridd Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was performed for the first time at the vestry of Tabor Chapel, Maesteg by 16-year-old Elizabeth John.

Just a week after it's composition, it was performed by the local singer and quickly became popular among locals. Originally it had meant for dancing so was performed much quicker, but was slowed down to make it easier for crowds to sing together. 

Statue of Evan and James James
(Statue of Evan and James James Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

5. The song was quickly accepted as Wales' unofficial anthem.

It reached national acclaim in 1858 when it was performed at the Langollen Eisteddfod, soon after it was published in a bestselling collection of Welsh songs and began to be sung at patriotic gatherings. 

6. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was including in the first known recording made in the Welsh Language. 

In March 1899 singer Madge Breese recorded a number of Welsh songs, including a version of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau for the Gramophone Company, which was pressed onto a single-sided 7-inch disc and lasted one minute, 17-seconds. 

Wales Rugby Team
(Credit: WRU/Facebook)

7. The anthem has a strong connection to the national rugby team and was the first to ever be sung at the start of a sporting event. 

In 1905 The New Zealand rugby team toured the British Isles for the first time and played the undefeated Welsh team at the Cardiff Arms Park in a clash touted as the ‘Game of the Century’. The All Blacks started the game with the iconic Haka and it was suggested by the WRU’s Tom Williams that Wales should respond by leading the crowd in a rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. 

Clearly, it worked as Wales won the match 3 – 0. 

Wales Rugby Team 1905
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

8. It's not officially the national anthem.

While Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is sung at national events and sporting occasions and universally recognised as Wales’ national anthem, it isn’t actually legally or officially known as such - which is the case for the majority of anthems in the British isles.

Welsh football Team singing the national anthem
(Credit: FAW/Facebook)

9. While Welsh football fans in the Red Wall are use to belting out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before matches – it hasn’t always been the case. 

In 1977 the Welsh football team, led by Terry Yorath, staged an extraordinary protest in their clash against England at Wembley when the English FA refused permission for Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau to be played before kick-off. 

Yorath and the team decided that if the band weren’t going to play it, they would sing it themselves and refused to break off from the line-up, where they instead sang out their own rousing rendition. 

The current team sing the anthem a Capella before their matches, with the music track cutting out after a few bars following a request from the squad to create an even more stirring atmosphere. 

10. The Welsh speaking settlement of Y Wladfa in Patagonia, South America has its own version of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau called Gwlad Newydd y Cymry. 

Roughly translated as ‘The New County of the Welsh’, it was penned by Lewis Evans and performed to the same tune as the original anthem.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus i bawb! 

Categories:Spring, Pembrokeshire, History

Tags:Wales

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