The anthem in more recent years

Katherine Jenkins

Last updated: 01 December 2008

Today, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is widely recognised as the Welsh national anthem, despite lacking official or legal status, and is sung at both national and local events in Wales.

Occasionally, particularly during events with royal connections, it is sung alongside God Save The Queen, the United Kingdom's national anthem.

The song comes into its own at sporting events, notably prior to rugby matches. Indeed, if the roof to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium isn't open on match day, the crowd will gladly raise it. Normally the first stanza and chorus are sung, always in Welsh.

Wales actually gave the tradition of singing the anthem before a rugby game to the world. In 1905, Wales prepared to do battle with the unbeaten mighty All Blacks: the greatest team in rugby history.

The Welsh had a secret weapon. Thomas Williams, one of the Welsh Rugby Union committee, decided that the Welsh team should sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in response to the intimidating battle cry of the Haka.

12,000 miles away from home, the All Blacks were overwhelmed by the sound. The New Zealand captain wrote later that he had never experienced anything like it in his life.

But not everyone is so familiar with the words. Conservative MP John Redwood was appointed to the role of Secretary of State for Wales in 1993. However, he was left red-faced after television cameras caught him awkwardly pretending to mouth the anthem, clearly not knowing the words, in front of a Welsh audience.

His successor, William Hague, fared rather better. According to John Major's autobiography, the first thing Hague did upon being appointed Welsh Secretary was to find someone to teach him the words. Ffion Jenkins later became his wife.

But it's not all sport and politics. The song has been heralded many times in the musical world. Two notable performances come from giants of Welsh classical music. Aled Jones performed it on his 2005 album New Horizons, as did Bryn Terfel on 2000's We'll Keep A Welcome.

Rock guitarist Robert 'Tich' Gwilym played with Geraint Jarman a'r Cynganeddwyr and alongside singers Sian James and Heather Jones. He was perhaps best known for his Hendrix-inspired interpretation of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau on the electric guitar. Gwilym died in a house fire in Cardiff in June 2005. The recording appeared on the Welsh Rare Beat compilation of songs originally released on the Sain label.


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