In 1856 Evan James and his son James composed the words and music to the song which would become Wales’ great, unofficial national anthem 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - Land of my Fathers'.
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. It was first sung at a rugby match in 1905 when the All Blacks were beaten!
Evan James was born in 1809 in Caerphilly and lived as a child at the Ancient Druid Inn near Argoed. He became a weaver and wool-merchant, and later landlord of the pub. James, one of his seven children, was born there in 1832. In 1847, the family moved to Pontypridd, where Evan ran a woollen factory in Mill Street. Evan composed verses in Welsh and some of his poems were published in journals of the time. His bardic name was Ieuan ap Iago. He lived in Pontypridd until his death in 1878.
James, his son, grew up to be a talented harp player who earned his living playing in local pubs. It was James who composed the tune for 'Land of my Fathers', originally called' Glan Rhondda'.
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.
Evan James is also remembered in Caerphilly where he was born. A tree-carving sculpture by artist Rhys Harris can be seen in Dafydd Williams Park.