Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Land of My Father's

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant! A happy St David's Day to one and all. The daffodils are out here as they ought to be.

My father was a half-Welsh Englishman, whose heart was caught in childhood by the South Welsh countryside of his mother's people. A clever, streetwise, and mind-hungry Londoner for most of his life, he could never forget, nor yet love the buzzing city; and when he got a welcome chance to retire early on good terms, he spent his last decade with my mother in that ancient matrix of Welshness, Ynys Môn that the Norsemen made Anglesey, between the Mountains and the Sea.

And I am English, and of London - but my second tribal affiliation, by birth and choice, is even as his. And as Wales is called the land of song, let this be a day for it!

It must be a small tribe or a rigid nation that has only one true song of it. Wales, like any nation Stated or otherwise, has of course its official anthem. It is called Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, or Land of My Fathers; though, being a full-on anthem, it is a bit too jingo to have been a song of my father's too. It is about splendid patriots and fell traitors, purity and the ancient tongue and the bards who defend their Muse against the long false defeat until their fingers bleed down their harpstrings. Katherine Jenkins sings the song of the Welsh nation and its dauntless champions here.

Then again, there is Sosban Fach, which means but is never called Little Saucepan. My grandmother knew this A Lot, and it would have been a much bigger surprise if she hadn't. It is about saucepans, sickness, kids, cats, and drinking too much 'tea'. Ray Gravell, Wyn Lodwick and the Band sing the song of the Welsh people and their harried homemakers here.

Sosban Fach
is specially associated with the rugby teams around Llanelli, which used not to be behindhand in the manufacture of cheap saucepans. This is the very last singing of it down at their old ground of Stradey Park.

Hey, DJ! Where's the Sosban?

And finally, there is that other quintessentially Welsh Muse, Max Boyce, who I was amazed to discover is actually slightly my father's junior. Dad did not speak Welsh until his last decade, or sing in it ever. When he and I used to go boozing in my much younger days, of a sufficiently merry evening this was the song which would burst forth lustily from the Cymric springs of his soul.

Too-ral-ay addy, until the next time!

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