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Wales' most famous Wrote lyrics to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - his son wrote the melody

Memorial to James James and his father Evan in Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd. The two figures represent music and poetry. (RCT Digital Archive)
The tune that stirs the soul at the start of rugby internationals - Land of My Fathers - was composed by James James in Pontypridd in 1856.

Originally called 'Glan Rhondda', James James composed the tune to Wales’ great, unofficial national anthem 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - Land of my Fathers'. His father Evan wrote the words.

It was first performed in Tabor Methodist Chapel in Maesteg and its popularity increased after the 1858 Llangollen National Eisteddfod when it was included in a book by John Owen called 'Gems of Welsh Melody'.  In 1899, singer Madge Breese recorded it for the Gramophone Company – the first known recording made in the Welsh language. The song still lacks official status as the Welsh national anthem but is widely accepted as such. Wales gave the world the tradition of singing the national anthem before a rugby match when it was sung in 1905  - and the All Blacks were beaten! 

James was born at the Ancient Druid Inn near Argoed in 1832. In 1847, his family moved to Pontypridd, where his father Evan ran a woollen factory in Mill Street. James became a talented harp player who earned his living playing in local pubs.

Where to Visit?

Why not take a stroll around Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd where you can see the town's memorial to Evan James and his son James. The memorial is by one of Wales' finest sculptors, William Goscombe John, and the two statues represent Music and Poetry.

Birth: 1833
Death: 11 January 1902
Video Content
Paul Robeson sings 'Land of my Fathers'
James James
Arts, Stage & Screen