Watch: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor singing in Welsh on US TV
As far as we can be sure, Elizabeth Taylor did not speak Welsh fluently.
But one thing we do know is that thanks to her Welsh-speaking husband Richard Burton and his family, the actress was very much immersed in the language.
She did speak French and Italian, and thanks to a clip which has resurfaced on social media, she was evidently more than comfortable singing in Welsh.
In support of their long-time friend Sammy Davis Jr’s new television show, Elizabeth and Richard were the special guests on the show’s premiere in 1966.
The trio’s chemistry was undeniable as they captivated the audience with a beautiful version of Burton’s favourite Welsh song – the captivating love song Ar Lan y Môr.
It appears the roots of Taylor’s knowledge of Ar Lan y Môr began in Wales – and Burton’s home village of Pontrhydyfen to be precise.
Burton’s niece Sian Owen said Taylor loved visiting Wales and was keen to learn the language, which the family always spoke together. According to Sian, Elizabeth was particularly interested in learning the words of Richard’s favourite song, Ar Lan Y Mor, so Sian started to teach her the basics.
In an interview with WalesOnline, she said: “When she came to the house, the first thing she said was: ‘Ble mae’r tŷ bach?’, which means ‘where is the toilet?’. She wanted to learn the words of Ar Lan Y Mor because it was one of Uncle Rich’s favourite songs so I started to teach her all the basics such as ‘nos da’ and ‘bore da’.
“The first Welsh lesson happened when I was in the Dorchester one night and Uncle Rich said Elizabeth had to go to Paris the next day. I went on the private plane with her the next day along with my sister and a friend of mine and we did a Welsh lesson on the way there. She picked it up well as an actress, she could say ‘Llanelli’ with no trouble at all.”
Ar Lan y Môr (Beside the Sea) is a traditional Welsh folk song. The song is a love song and as with many other Welsh songs, there are alternative words set to the same tune.
The famous song has been recorded multiple times by Welsh singers. Notably, the song features on the first Welsh-language concept album, Endaf Emlyn’s Salem (1974). A rendition appears on the only comedy album to top the UK album chart to date, Max Boyce’s We All Had Doctors’ Papers (1975).
The song also appears on Ar Log’s eponymous 1978 debut album, Bryn Terfel’s album We’ll Keep a Welcome (2000) and Katherine Jenkins’ debut album Première (2004).
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