Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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JAMES , EVAN ( Ieuan ap Iago ; 1809 - 1878 ), author of the words of ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’ , and his son JAMES , JAMES ( Iago ap Ieuan ; 1833 - 1902 ), who is said to have composed the air .

Evan James was a weaver and wool-merchant who kept the Ancient Druid Inn at Argoed in the parish of Bedwellty, Mon. , and it was there that his son James was born. The family moved shortly afterwards to Pontypridd , where Evan James had a woollen factory in Mill Street . The father had some skill in writing Welsh verse ; a few of his poems were printed in Gardd Aberdar , 1854 , Cymru (O.M.E.) , 1915 , and elsewhere. According to Taliesin James , grandson of Evan James , it was the son James who, in 1856 , composed the melody and the father who wrote the words. The subject is fully discussed by Percy A. Scholes , in the National Library of Wales Journal , iii, 1-10; see also the portraits of father and son reproduced there together with facsimiles of manuscript and printed versions. A later article in N.L.W. Jnl., viii, 244-57 shows reasons for doubting the ascription of the air to James James .

Thomas Llewelyn ( Llewelyn Alaw ) , of Aberdare and Mountain Ash included the song in his collection of unpublished airs submitted for competition at the Llangollen national eisteddfod of 1858 — ‘ Hen Wlad fy Nhadau ’ appearing in the Llewelyn Alaw MS. (now in N.L.W. ) under the name of ‘ Glanrhondda .’ The adjudicator , John Owen ( Owain Alaw ) , harmonized it and included it in the third volume of his Gems of Welsh Melody , 1860 . The tune became popular immediately; it was sung at the Aberystwyth national eisteddfod , 1865 , by Kate Wynne , and at the Chester national eisteddfod , 1866 , by Lewis W. Lewis ( Llew Llwyfo ) .

Evan James d. 30 Sept. 1878 and was buried in the graveyard attached to Carmel Baptist chapel , Pontypridd . James James kept public houses at Walnut Tree Bridge (below Pontypridd ) and Mountain Ash ; he also lived for a time with his son at the Swan Hotel , Aberaman . He d. 11 Jan. 1902 at 6 Hawthorne Terrace , Aberdare , and was buried in the Aberdare cemetery. A memorial to father and son, the work of Sir William Goscombe John , R.A. , was unveiled in Ynysangharad Park , Pontypridd , 23 July 1930 .


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • N.L.W. Jnl. , iii, 1-10, and references cited therein;
  • South Wales newspapers;
  • Y Cymro , 17 July 1943 ;
  • NLW Evan James MS 1 containing the earliest copy of 'Hen wlad fy nhadau' in the handwriting of the composer.


Watkin William Price, M.A., (1873-1967), Aberdare

Published date: 1959