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Forget Edward I: It’s Pantycelyn’s genius we should be celebrating
An Article written by Aled Gwyn Job on the legacy of a great welshman
Every nation seeks to celebrate its own particular genius in various ways, and utilise those celebrations to re-affirm its nationhood, and proclaim its own unique contribution to the world.
Wales has plenty of its own and we’ve just set up a petition calling on the Welsh Government to recognise one of the greatest of them all.
It’s a shame that in this Year of Legends the Welsh Government has found £400,000 to shell out on the iron ring celebrating Edward I’s subjugation of Wales, but have not celebrated a true genius.
Many readers will perhaps be completely unaware of the fact that this year is the tricentenary of William Williams, Pantycelyn (1717-2017): the hymnist, poet, author, preacher, traveller and organizer from Llandymddyfri, Carmarthenshire.
But you will be familiar with Pantycelyn’s work, whether you recognise his name or not. Guide me Oh Thy Great Jehovah, the English language translation of one of Williams’s most famous Welsh hymns, can often be heard ringing around the Millennium Stadium whenever Welsh fans are gathered together
Williams was not only a creative genius but a key figure in the process of rebuilding Wales as a modern nation which began in the 18th century.
He was a pivotal figure in the Welsh Methodist revivals in that century, which eventually led to the creation of the first national Welsh institution for 400 years, in the form of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists of 1811.
This initiative, in turn, led to a host of further educational and cultural developments, which saw Wales becoming the most literate nation in the whole of Europe by the middle of the 19th century.
William Williams, or as he is affectionally remembered in Wales, “Pantycelyn” (after the name of the family farm) can truly be identified as a genius when one considers his vast literary output and his outstanding contribution to Welsh life during his lifetime.
He wrote over 900 hymns and 90 literary works, expanding the range of the Welsh language in new and innovative ways.
The dense and heavy Welsh language used in the Welsh translation of the Bible in 1588, evolved into an altogether more fluid and modern language by means of Williams’s prolific pen, with his work drawing heavily on the everyday language used by ordinary Welsh men and women in his native Carmarthenshire.
Williams wanted to replace the cold, superficial and distant religion practiced by the Established Church, with a new and vibrant faith tradition that would better serve the people of Wales.