An app for everything? Now the Welsh National Anthem has one!

Published: Saturday 4th Oct 2014

Written by: Ginnie James

I have talked before about my struggle to get to grips with the beautiful Welsh language but this week a conversation with my daughter really brought it home to me how far I have to go. She wanted me to play a game with her where we took it in turns testing each other on which colours and incidental words and phrases we know in Welsh. I had to resort to Google long before she started to struggle and, although I am pleased that she seems to have more of an aptitude for languages than I do, was a little embarrassed that my 4 year old knew more than me. I need to pull my socks up!

A great place to start would be the Welsh national anthem and the BBC reported on Thursday on a new app developed in conjunction with the National Library of Wales that aims to help people learn the anthem line by line. For a non-Welsh speaker like me it sounds just what I need in order to get the pronunciation and phrasing right. This innovative app also offers a beat counter and an option to learn harmonies. Along with a history of the hymn, pictures of original manuscripts are also included.

Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers) is always sung which such feeling and vigour and I do my best to lift my voice confidently when sung at church services, weddings and such (not rugby internationals I must say, but the issue of sporting allegiances in our household is a whole other matter!) but, when written down, the lyrics do look a little daunting. The first verse and chorus, along with my amalgamation of translations I have seen, are as follows:

“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.”


“The land of my fathers is dear to me,

Land of bards, singers; celebrities indeed

Her brave warriors, gallant patriots

For freedom their life’s blood gave.

Land, Land, true am I to my country,

While the sea secures our pure land,

O may our old language endure.”

There are quite a few different translations, but whether literal or in the spirit of the original poem, they all convey the pride and love the Welsh rightly feel for their country.

The lyrics and tune were composed by Evan James and James James (father and son respectively) in the mid C19th. The pair were from Pontypridd, in the South Wales Valleys, and their patriotic hymn soon grew in popularity throughout the country, was one of the first welsh language songs recorded to be played on a gramophone and was gradually adopted as the national anthem after it began to be sung by rugby fans around the turn of the C20th.

Hopefully the app will be as good as it promises to be and I will master the anthem before the next time I am required to sing it in public! Is there an anthem that is more likely to bring a patriotic tear to your eye? Have you ever had any embarrassing anthem moments? And if you decide to have a go using the app, I look forward to hearing how you got on!

Ginnie James
Ginnie James



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