Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/James, James

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JAMES, JAMES (1832–1902), composer of 'Land of my Fathers,' the Welsh national anthem, born on 4 Nov. 1832 at the 'Ancient Druid' inn, Argoed, in the parish of Bedwellty, Monmouthshire, was son of Evan James (1809-1878) by his wife Elizabeth Stradling of Caerphilly. The father, a Welsh versifier under the pen-name of Ieuan ab Iago, removed with his family about 1844 to Pontypridd, where he carried on the business of weaver and wool merchant. His son James assisted him in the business. On a Sunday evening in January 1856 the father wrote a Welsh song of three verses, to which the son, a good singer and harpist, shortly afterwards composed original music, giving it the name of 'Glan Rhondda' (original score reproduced in 'Graphic' for 5 Aug. 1893). The words and the simple and tuneful melody, which owed nothing to any folk-song of England or Scotland, caught the public taste when sung locally by the son at an eisteddfod at Pontypridd in 1857 and on other occasions. Thomas Llewelyn, a harpist of Aberdare, to whom James communicated the song, included it, without disclosing its authorship, in a collection of unpublished Welsh airs, now in the possession of Mrs. Mary Davies, which he submitted for competition at the Llangollen eisteddfod of 1858, in the course of which it seems to have been also sung (Eisteddfod Programme). The air so impressed the adjudicator, John Owen (Owain Alaw) (1821–1883), that he included it, with symphonies and accompaniments of his own (and an English translation of the words by Eben Fardd), in his 'Gems of Welsh Melody' (Ruthin, 1860, No. 1). He gave it the name of 'Hen Wlad fy Nhadau,' or 'Land of my Fathers,' from the opening words of the first verse.

The song gradually grew in popularity, and was sung at the national eisteddfod at Bangor in August 1874. During the following decade it became recognised by Welshmen in all parts of the world (Cymru Fu, 30 Nov. 1889) as the national anthem of Wales, being generally sung at the close of meetings, all persons present meanwhile standing uncovered or at the salute, and joining in the chorus. The son composed music for several other songs of his father, but none was published. Leaving Pontypridd in 1873, James lived at Mountain Ash (1873-91) and at Aberdare, where he died at Hawthorn Terrace on 11 June 1902, being buried at Aberdare cemetery. He married in 1850 Cecilia, daughter of Morgan and Joan Miles of Pontypridd, by whom he had two sons and three daughters, his eldest and only surviving son, Taliesin, being a teacher of the harp. A fund has been raised for providing a memorial for the joint authors of the song, but its form has not yet been decided.

[Information from James's son Mr. Taliesin James, Cardiff, and Mrs. Mary Davies; T. R. Roberts, Dict. of Eminent Welshmen (1908), p. 202; T. Mardy Rees, Notable Welshmen (1908), p. 381; Morien, Hist. of Pontypridd (1903), pp. 68-71 (with portraits of father and son); Graphic, 5 Aug. 1893 (with illustrations); Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians (1907), v. 499; Mr. D. Emlyn Evans's notes on the song in 'Gem Selection — Songs of Wales,' published by Valentine; circular issued by Pontypridd Memorial Committee (1909). A long correspondence as to the alleged similarity of the song to 'Rosin the Beau appeared in the South Wales Daily News for March 1884 (see especially James James's letter 17 March) and in Western Mail (Cardiff) for 4, 7, 8, and 9 April 1884.]

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