Wales national anthem: lyrics in Welsh and English, history explained as song performed at World Cup 2022

For the very first time at a World Cup tournament, Wales performed ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’

For the first time since 1958, Wales is competing in the World Cup, with the 2022 tournament in full swing in Qatar. In particular, the Welsh national anthem, called Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, which translates to Old Land of My Fathers in English, has become something of a talking point after it was performed for the first time at the footballing event - the last time Wales were at a World Cup, they sang God Save the Queen.

The Welsh team, headed up by captain Gareth Bale, and 3,000 Welsh supporters blasted the song at the country’s match against the USA on Monday (21 November).

At the time, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg tweeted: “Well Wales have won the national anthem singing contest. Their players looked proud to belt out their anthem while the US team looked faintly embarrassed to be singing in public.”

This is everything you need to know about the Welsh national anthem.

What’s the history of the national anthem?

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was written in January 1856, by a father and son duo from Pontypridd. While the exact origin of the song is still uncertain, the words were written by father Evan James and it was his son, James James, who composed the melody.

The younger James is said to have composed the music for the anthem whilst walking along the banks of the River Rhondda, and, a week after the words and music were written, it had its first public performance. Originally titled Glan Rhondda (Banks of the Rhondda), it was sung by 16 year old Elizabeth John at Tabor Chapel, in Maesteg.

Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates with team mates victory in the FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Wales and Ukraine at Cardiff City Stadium on June 05, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

From there, it was published in a bestselling collection of Welsh songs, and gradually Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau became adopted as Wales’ national anthem, although it should be noted that it has no such official status.

The tradition of performing the anthem at sporting events dates back to 1905, when the rugby union teams of Wales and New Zealand went head to head for the first time at Cardiff Arms Park. After the All Blacks finished their traditional war dance, the haka, the Welsh crowd hit back with a rendition of the anthem - a move which paid off, with Wales winning 3-0.

What are the lyrics in Welsh?

The Welsh version of the national anthem goes as follows:

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,

Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;

Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,

Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,

Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,

O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.

Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd,

Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i’m golwg sydd hardd;

Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si

Ei nentydd, afonydd, i mi.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,

Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,

O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.

Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad dan ei droed,

Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed,

Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,

Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,

Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,

O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.

What are the lyrics in English?

Translated into English, the anthem goes as such:

This land of my fathers is dear to me

Land of poets and singers, and people of stature

Her brave warriors, fine patriots

Shed their blood for freedom

Land! Land! I am true to my land!

As long as the sea serves as a wall for this pure, dear land

May the language endure for ever

Old land of the mountains, paradise of the poets,

Every valley, every cliff a beauty guards;

Through love of my country, enchanting voices will be

Her streams and rivers to me

Land! Land! I am true to my land!

As long as the sea serves as a wall for this pure, dear land

May the language endure for ever

Though the enemy have trampled my country underfoot,

The old language of the Welsh knows no retreat,

The spirit is not hindered by the treacherous hand

Nor silenced the sweet harp of my land

Land! Land! I am true to my land!

As long as the sea serves as a wall for this pure, dear land

May the language endure for ever