Dafydd y Garreg Wen

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Dafydd y Garreg Wen is a traditional Welsh air and folk song.

Garreg Wen near Porthmadog, home of the harpist Dafydd y Garreg Wen

David Owen, the famous harpist and composer, lived near Porthmadog in Caernarfonshire, Wales in the first half of the 18th century, who was known locally as Dafydd y Garreg Wen, (English: David of the White Rock). The epithet Y Garreg Wen (English: The White Rock) was the name of the farm near Morfa Bychan in which he lived.

Tradition has it that as Owen lay on his death bed, he called for his harp and composed the haunting air. He died at the age of 29 and was buried at St Cynhaearn's Church near Porthmadog.[1]

The words were added nearly a hundred years later in by the poet John Ceiriog Hughes.

'Cariwch', medd Dafydd, 'fy nhelyn i mi,
Ceisiaf cyn marw roi tôn arni hi.
Codwch fy nwylo i gyraedd y tant;
Duw a'ch bendithio fy ngweddw a'm plant!'
'Neithiwr mi glywais lais angel fel hyn:
"Dafydd, tyrd adref, a chwarae trwy'r glyn!"
Delyn fy mebyd, ffarwel i dy dant!
Duw a'ch bendithio fy ngweddw a'm plant!'
'Bring me my harp', was David's sad sigh,
'I would play one more tune before I die.
Help me, dear wife, put the hands to the strings,
I wish my loved ones the blessing God brings.'
'Last night an angel called with heaven's breath:
"David, play, and come through the gates of death!"
Farewell, faithful harp, farewell to your strings,
I wish my loved ones the blessing God brings.'

A more literal translation would be:-

'Carry', said David, 'my harp to me'
I would like, before dying, to give a tune on it (her)
Lift my hands to reach the strings
God bless you, my widow and children!
Last night I heard an angel's voice like this:
"David, come home and play through the glen!"
Harp of my youth, farewell to your strings!
God bless you, my widow and children!

Another version of this song begins with the line, "David, the Bard, on his bed of death lies", and continues with the second line of the verse being, "Pale are his features, and dim are his eyes". Owen is also well known for his air Codiad yr Ehedydd (English: Rising of the lark).

In 1923 the British Broadcasting Company made its first broadcast in Wales, from "Station 5WA" in Cardiff. Mostyn Thomas opened the programme, singing Dafydd y Garreg Wen, and so it became the very first Welsh language song to play on the air.[2]

Bryn Terfel recorded "Dafydd Y Garreg Wen" on his 2000 album We'll Keep a Welcome.[3]

An arrangement for military massed bands is played annually during the national remembrance Sunday celebrations led by Her Majesty the Queen each November in Whitehall.

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Befriend a church, BBC North Wales, accessed 5 August 2010
  2. ^ Prior, Neil (13 February 2013). "Broadcasting in Wales: 90 years since BBC went on air". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  3. ^ We'll Keep a Welcome at AllMusic