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19 October 2017

300 years since the birth of William Williams Pantycelyn

300 years since the birth of William Williams Pantycelyn

The great Welsh hymn writer, William Williams, Pantycelyn, was the subject of a debate in the national assembly of Wales last week. His most well-known composition is ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah’ and this year marks the 300th anniversary of his birth. Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth tabled a question to Welsh government cabinet secretary Ken Skates, asking what plans Welsh government had to mark the event, stating: 

“William Williams Pantycelyn is one of the most prominent figures of Wales, there’s no doubt about that, not just because of his contribution to the Methodist reformation and the over 900 hymns that he wrote, many of them among the most popular today still, but also, he made a huge contribution towards the cultural and educational development of Wales. He modernised the Welsh language, was one of the first to write in Welsh against slavery in America; he was also very prominent in insisting that women should have the same rights as men in marriage and so on.” 

The Senedd debate followed on the heels of a petition, submitted to the assembly in September by Aled Gwyn Job, calling for Welsh government to recognise and commemorate the anniversary. A precedent had been set in recent years, suggested the petitioner, by commemorating the centenaries of the births of notable Welshmen Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas. The petition was open for six weeks, collected 1,114 signatures, and was considered by the petitions committee for the first time on 3 October 3. 

In response to Rhun ap Iorwerth’s question, Ken Skates, whose responsibilities include promoting Wales as a tourist destination, was unequivocal in his support for Pantycelyn’s life to be commemorated. Moreover, he backed Darren Millar AM’s suggestion that a fitting tribute might be a statue in Cardiff Bay, with another one alongside it of another great Welsh hymn writer, Ann Griffiths. Ken Skates appealed for partners to be identified so that Welsh government could get behind the initiative and help enable it to happen. 

Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths, along with other individuals and movements from Wales’ Christian heritage, have been raised in plenary sessions on other occasions as well. Dai Lloyd AM, in February 2008 for example, referenced Ann Griffiths, Mari Jones and others in calling for Welsh government to raise awareness of our Christian heritage as an important part of culture tourism. 

Both Dai Lloyd AM and Darren Millar AM also paid tribute to Pantycelyn in February this year in plenary, the month that actually marked the tercentenary of his birth. Christians in Wales can be encouraged that our Christian heritage is not being airbrushed out, and Wales deep Christian heritage will continue to shape and enrich its present and future.