By now it is inescapable everyone in Wales must have heard, even those people who had recorded the match and wanted to watch it without knowing the result must have found out by now. Wales not only won the six nations but the Grand Slam as well, this is a massive achievement for Wales as political commentators and doubters alike reminded us how formidable the Irish side can be.
Despite this great sporting feat for me the one thing during that match that struck me (bar my wife as she over confidently waved her hands cheering the final whistle) was the continuation of Welsh singing. I have no idea what it is, but we love a good sing along, in the shower, in the house and even in public, groups of people gathered in pubs, cafes, outdoors, stadiums. It has become such an ingrained tradition and aspect of our cultural identity that we should probably start advertising it on our tourist adverts “Come to Wales we’ll sing at you.”
Wales not only has a history of singing but oddly we still attend rugby matches and proudly scream at the opposition fans. They sink into an intimidated state, as we strike fear to their very core as one bold welsh fan stands up amongst the crowd and declares “The next hymn will be Hymn number 937, my nan loved this one”. Most rugby teams have chants, but not the Welsh we have hymns. I can personally guarantee that no English supporter has ever attended a Wales v England match without being offered some bread from Heaven.
This strange blend of cultures reveals a lot about our chapel growing heritage as we proclaim great hymns that have been sang in churches across Wales for generations, being passed down through the ages. Although we do not exclusively sing in English, and our language is very visibly on our hearts and tongues at rugby matches as we echo greats hymns that have been written in Welsh and have not ceased to be popular and culturally relevant. Probably unsurprisingly for me one of those songs that was being bellowed out in excitement, nerves and anticipation was of course ‘Wales’ Second National Anthem’ Calon Lan.
At one of the biggest moments for Welsh sporting history in years this song allegedly scribbled down on the back of a cigarette packet was being forced out through tears across Wales. The sheer thousands of people that know the tune and some of the words is immense, I think a lot of Irish fans might have left humming it. Tonight’s game was a strong reminder about why the Calon Lan Society was formed, because this is a song that matters to people, it matters to Wales. However how many people know anything about who wrote it, where he came from or even what it means in English?
The Calon Lan Society exists because this song that thousands of people were singing today has a rich, deep historical, linguistical and cultural significance to Wales. As a society we are determined to make sure that next year when we win the Grand Slam (ever hopeful me) there will be thousands of people singing Calon Lan with a better understanding of the meaning, history and culture of this great hymn.