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Memorials to Welsh national anthem composer to be restored to former glory

08 Feb 2024 3 minute read
The grave and memorial stone of James James (Credit: Wikicommons)

David Owens

The grave and the memorial stone of the composer of the Welsh national anthem, James James, are to undergo extensive restoration.

The composer’s grave is in Aberdare Cemetery, while the memorial stone stands in the town centre.

The lettering on both the grave and the stone are to be restored thanks to funding from the local businesses who form part of Our Aberdare – the town’s business improvement district.

The aim is that restoration work will begin in the coming weeks and be ready for the National Eisteddfod, which this year will be held in Pontypridd.

Aberdare hosted the proclamation ceremony for the National Eisteddfod last year and Angharad Walters, the business improvement manager for the town, said the plan is to have the restored memorials ready for the influx of visitors to RCT during the Eisteddfod.

“The fact that we have the grave and the memorial stone of the father of the Welsh national anthem in our town is absolutely perfect for us,” she said. “Our thinking is that the majority of people that are going to be visiting RCT will go to the Maes, so how do we as a town centre entice people to come and see the rest of RCT.

“From our perspective, having the grave and memorial in Aberdare is a massive draw. I don’t even think people realise that the composer of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is buried here. So it’s important from a Welsh cultural heritage point of view, because this is a very important part of our history we are talking about.”

The faded inscription on James James’ memorial stone (Credit: Wikicommons)
The grave of James James (Credit: WIkicommons)

Angharad believes the gravestone was last cleaned some time ago, but a local stonemason who has been employed for the job is very confident it can be restored.

“It was done about 20 years ago I’m told, but the stone and lettering is still in excellent condition. It just needs a really good clean and a bit of tlc. The person we’ve employed is very passionate about the job.

“The businesses that are involved with Our Aberdare are the ones that are going to be funding it and obviously the hope that the restoration will benefit them and we’ll be able to get more people into the town, will which will result in increased footfall into their shops.”

In January 1856, the words of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of My Fathers) were written by Evan James (1809-1878) and his son James James (1833-1902) composed the music for the song.

In addition to the memorials, the James’ family bible is also housed in Aberdare library, while statues of Evan and James stand in Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd.

“This man was such an important figure in the history of our country and our anthem is recognised as one of the best in the world,” said Angharad.
“Sometimes I think we are we really bad at blowing our own trumpet in Wales. So it’s up to us to make more of our history than we do. There’s so much history in our valleys.

“I just think we should be shouting from the rooftops about everything we have to offer. It’s our heritage and we need to preserve it for generations to come.”

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