Every time I hear thousands of Welsh rugby supporters singing Wales National Anthem before a game, it brings tears to my eyes. There is something about Welsh passion and pride during a rugby match that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
All of these emotions came flooding back to me recently while I watched the World Cup. This year marks the first time the anthem has been sung at the tournament. The last time Wales was at a World Cup, they sang “God Save the Queen”.
“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” is the unofficial but universally recognized national anthem of Wales. Now most rugby matches and other big national events start with this traditional song.
It is a declaration of love and loyalty to Wales.
It came to be in January 1856. Evan James wrote the lyrics, while his son James James created the melody. The younger James was a harpist who performed around Pontypridd. He came up with the tune for the song while strolling along the river bank. When he returned home, he requested his father write the words, and the following day, Evan had three verses ready.
The original title was Glan Rhondda – meaning Banks of the Rhondda. Pontypridd sits at the point where the Rhondda runs into the Taff River.
Evan’s brother had recently emigrated to the United States and wanted Evan to join him. The emotionally charged lyrics are in response to his brother urging him to leave Wales.
The lyrics talk of Welsh bards, poets, and singers, as well as the endurance of the Welsh language, Wales’ breathtaking scenery, and those who gave their lives for Welsh freedom.
Elizabeth John of Pontypridd gave the first performance of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau at the Capel Tabor vestry in Maesteg during the winter of 1858.
It was included in numerous collections of Welsh songs after being performed at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 1858.
However, it wasn’t until the 1866 National Eisteddfod in Chester, where it was performed with such passion, that it was immediately adopted as an anthem.
In 1899 Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was included in the first known recording made in the Welsh language.
It has a strong connection to the Welsh national rugby team. The first time it was sung before a sports match was in 1905 when the undefeated Welsh rugby team hosted New Zealand’s All Blacks, who started every match by performing a haka. As a response, Wales player Teddy Morgan led the crowd in singing the anthem.
It clearly worked as Wales won the match 3 – 0.
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. It roughly translates as ‘The New County of the Welsh’ and uses the same tune as the original.
Here is Wales National Anthem in Welsh, translated into English, and phonetically. You can download a copy of all three at the end of the article.
Wales National Anthem in Welsh
1. Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,
Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.
Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,
Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.
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.
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.
‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ in English
This land of my fathers is dear to me
Land of poets and singers, and people of stature
Her brave warriors, fine patriots
Shed their blood for freedom
Land! Land! I am true to my land!
As long as the sea serves as a wall
For this pure, dear land
May the language endure forever.
Old land of the mountains, paradise of the poets,
Every valley, every cliff a beauty guards;
Through love of my country, enchanting voices will be
Her streams and rivers to me.
Though the enemy have trampled my country underfoot,
The old language of the Welsh knows no retreat,
The spirit is not hindered by the treacherous hand
Nor silenced the sweet harp of my land.
Wales National Anthem Phonetically
My hehn oo-lad vurr n’had-die un ann-wil ee mee
Goo-lard bay-rdd* ah chann-tor-yon**
Enn-wog-yon o vree
Ay goo-rol ruv-el-wirr
Goo-lard gar-wirr trah mard
Dross rudd*-id cor-llar-sant ay goo-eyed***
Ply-deeol weave eem goo-lard
Trah morh un beerh, eer beerh horff bye
O budd*-ed eer hen ee-eye-th barr hye.
*There are two “th” sounds in Welsh as there are in English.”Th” in Welsh is pronounced as in English “think” or “fourth”. “Dd” is pronounced as in “this” or “that”.
** “ch” is pronounced as in “loch” or “Bach”
*** “ll” is an aspirated L. Form your lips and tongue to pronounce L, then blow air gently around the sides of the tongue. The nearest you can get to this sound in English is to pronounce it as an L with a Th in front of it.
Thanks to Wales Online for the phonetic version of ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’.