"A song for a new Welsh nation": Patagonian Welsh national anthem discovered in 19th century pamphlet

By William Axtell | 07 July 2015

Propaganda piece written by one of first Patagonian settlers found at National Library of Wales

A photograph of a pamphlet
The (nearly) national anthem of Welsh Patagonia© Courtesy National Library of Wales
The Welsh settlers of Patagonia nearly had their own national anthem, according to the back of an 1875 pamphlet.

Jason Evans discovered a document, Entitled Adroddiad y Parch. D S Davies am Sefyllfa y Wladfa Gymreig (A report by the Rev. DS Davies on the situation in the Welsh Colony), while researching material for a National Library of Wales mass Wikipedia edit as part of the Gwladfa exhibition celebrating 150 since the first Welshmen travelled to Patagonia.

The propaganda piece reports on all aspects of life in the colony, from religion to the wildlife. At the back is a song titled Gwlad Newydd y Cymry, attributed to Lewis Evans, a poet, harpist and one of the first Patagonian settlers.

“I recognised the song at once as a reworked version of Evan James’s popular Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau,” says Evans.

The song differs from Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) by praising the river Camwy and the great white mountains of the Andes.

“This discovery gives us a fascinating insight into the lives of those pioneering early settlers,” says Evans.

“The song portrays a people celebrating the foundation of a truly Welsh Nation, free from the historic oppression of their tradition, language and culture.”

The song failed to catch on and no other reference to it has been found.

Perhaps more intriguingly, the choice of Land of my Fathers for a base provides evidence of the original song being considered a national anthem for Wales 30 years before being sung at a rugby or football match.

“By 1875, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was popular at eisteddfodau and other social events, but this find suggests that, for some, it was already very much a considered a “national” anthem,” says Evans.

"It seems that it has been largely lost to history for nearly 150 years. The patriotic piece evidently never caught on in Patagonia, where the Welsh community today sings Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau."

Gwladfa, which runs at the National Library of Wales until December 12, uses photographs, manuscripts and artworks to tell the story of the first Welshman to migrate to Patagonia on the Mimosa and how they adapted to their new life on the plains.

Three places to see Welsh history:

National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff
The home of Wales’s national archaeology, art, geology and natural history collections. The art collection is one of Europe's finest and the ambitious Evolution of Wales exhibition covers the history of Wales from the Big Bang to the present day (via dinosaurs).

Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd

Edward I built Caernarfon to prevent the Welsh from rebelling and even today the castle is an awe-inspiring sight with seven polygonal towers and a main gate defended by a drawbridge and six portcullises. The castle also houses the regimental museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Torfaen

For those looking for something more representative of Welsh social history, Big Pit is a former coal mine kept working as a living museum. Visitors can learn about the history of mining and descend 90 metres into the earth for an underground tour of the mine.
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