Home Books A History of Dafydd Iwan and “Yma O Hyd”

A History of Dafydd Iwan and “Yma O Hyd”

The 1960s/70s heralded a transformational period of “social rebellion” by the emerging and aspiring “middle class” in terms of music, fashion, social behaviour and “leisure for pleasure”.

The consumer society was blooming within a changing workplace with the closure of heavy industry (coal, slate, steel), political unrest, industrial disputes, and media disclosure of upper-class scandals. In contrast to the “fear of confrontation” attitude of earlier generations, took direct action to ensure their demands were met.

Dafydd Iwan and his all-embracing autobiography, Still Singing “Yma O Hyd”, takes readers on an insightful and emotionally disturbing historical review of his personal experiences. This generated his desire and determination to seek greater recognition and status for the economy, people and language of Wales.

Within Wales, the attitude of policymakers regarding social and economic issues was creating turbulent, non-violent reactions from protestors seeking change. These issues included the break-up and closure of heavy industries, the drowning of the village of Capel Celyn to create the Tryweryn Dam to provide water for Liverpool Corporation. The tragedy at Aberfan, and also the lack of statutory support for the Welsh language.

The range of life experiences that engendered in Dafydd to generate change began in his childhood in Brynaman. A first-language Welsh-speaking village in the Aman Valley.

Outstanding Rugby Players

The area is famous for producing outstanding rugby players, including Gareth Edwards, Shane Williams and the current Wales captain, Jac Morgan.

He highlights the difficulties and frustrations encountered by English being the prominent language of instruction in the schools, although Welsh was the language of his home and community.

In his early teens, he moved with his family to Llanuwchllyn. Dafydd blossomed in the warmth of a farming community rich in history and Welsh language culture. It was while he was at college in Aberystwyth that Dafydd’s determination for the Welsh language to gain official statutory recognition in schools and communities came to the fore.

It was an uphill struggle against dissenting voices. Many of whom were prominent Welsh speakers, who rejected the call to extend the use of the Welsh language in education, business, leisure and the community. Opting to sit back and give in to the political establishment.

Dafydd Iwan highlights how the voices of discontent were met by nonchalance and arrogance.

It is clear within the text that the lack of awareness or urgency by the paymasters in London to accept the need for change. It was evident to punish protesters for civil disobedience in Wales.

Many individuals were sent to prison despite protests being non-violent.

Dafydd’s Journey

Dafydd’s journey included serving a prison sentence at Walton prison which led to a charge of civil disobedience. He was released early when his fine was paid “anonymously” by his friend Raymond Gravell. He was outstanding while playing at centre for Wales in the 70s and early 80s.

The author remembers times were tense during this, highlighting the impotence of Welsh politicians. People in Wales felt they were being left behind as their voices of discontent were discounted as lacking significance.

This instigated the call for change, including direct action, from all sections of communities. People, particularly students and workers facing redundancy, heralded a growing sense that Wales was waking up to a new reality and direct action was the only way forward. Unfortunately, many individuals were judged to have broken the law. They were labelled criminals, which stifled the careers of many who sought change. It also caused friction within families and communities.

Motivational Group Song

Dafydd points to the significance of his 1982 singing tour around Wales. It was to raise the spirits of the Welsh people following the turbulence of civil unrest, riots and the Thatcher era.

He considers two of his inspirational songs, “Cerddwn Ymlaen” (We Shall Walk On) and “Yma O Hyd” (We’re Still Here) were powerful for many individuals. It “lifted the gloom” by emphasising the key message of survival against all odds.

Significantly, “Yma O Hyd” was adopted by a number of football and rugby clubs as their signature tune. For example, it is played by the Scarlets every time they score a try and before games at Cardiff City and Y Cae Ras.

However, the real power of singing “Yma O Hyd” became significant when the Wales football squad and management team requested Dafydd sing the anthem prior to the World Cup qualifying game against Austria to “get them ready”.

The players and staff learnt the words and adopted “Yma O Hyd” as their motivational group song. It generated team spirit and togetherness

Wal Coch

This acclaim followed his majestic and tear-jerking performances with the Wales football team and the “Wal Coch” prior to their games against Austria and Ukraine in their successful efforts to secure a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar. It rocketed him to a level of global stardom and acceptance by many who had labelled him as a troublemaker.

Many spectators and television viewers were emotional as the team, “Y Wal Goch” and other supporters joined him in singing “Yma O Hyd” in the driving rain before the team defeated Ukraine.

The impact of Dafydd’s rendering of the song with the Wales squad was more than significant in motivating the team. It crystallized how the people of Wales had overcome being downtrodden for demanding their rights.

For Dafydd, it was the crowning glory. So many people had become more aware of the struggles to achieve change exemplified by “Yma O Hyd”.

Folk Anthem for Supporters

“Yma O hyd” has also become the folk anthem for supporters. Signifying feelings of national identity enthroned in the significance of the words and its rousing renditions.  

The chorus “Ryn ni yma o hyd, er gwaetha pawb a phopeth, ryn ni yma o hyd” (we’re still here today, despite everything and everyone, we’re still here today) is not merely inspirational. It tells the historical journey of addressing challenges.

The influence of Dafydd Iwan at the age of 80, with his determination and skills as a songwriter, has reached a global level. Written in English, this book is an outstanding insight into a socially significant turning point for Wales.

The text provides insight and awareness of the challenges involved in addressing and circumventing barriers. It promotes change and generates an added boost to being Welsh.

Diolch yn fawr Dafydd Iwan; ardderchog (excellent).

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