Evan James was a weaver and wool-merchant who kept the Ancient Druid Inn at Argoed in the parish of Bedwellty, Monmouth, and it was there that his son James was born. The family moved shortly afterwards to Pontypridd, where Evan James had a woollen factory in Mill Street. The father had some skill in writing Welsh verse; a few of his poems were printed in Gardd Aberdar, 1854, Cymru (O.M.E.), 1915, and elsewhere. According to Taliesin James, grandson of Evan James, it was the son James who, in 1856, composed the melody and the father who wrote the words. The subject is fully discussed by Percy A. Scholes, in the National Library of Wales Journal, iii, 1-10 ; see also the portraits of father and son reproduced there together with facsimiles of manuscript and printed versions. A later article in N.L.W. Jnl., viii, 244-57 shows reasons for doubting the ascription of the air to James James.
James James included the air, entitled ‘Glanrhondda’, in the collection of unpublished airs which he submitted for competition at the Llangollen national eisteddfod of 1858 under the pseudonym ‘Orpheus’ (Minor Deposit 150B ). The adjudicator, John Owen (Owain Alaw), harmonized it and included it in the third volume of his Gems of Welsh Melody, 1860. The tune became popular immediately; it was sung at the Aberystwyth national eisteddfod, 1865, by Kate Wynne, and at the Chester national eisteddfod, 1866, by Lewis W. Lewis (Llew Llwyfo).
Evan James died 30 September 1878 and was buried in the graveyard attached to Carmel Baptist chapel, Pontypridd. James James kept public houses at Walnut Tree Bridge (below Pontypridd) and Mountain Ash; he also lived for a time with his son at the Swan Hotel, Aberaman. He died 11 January 1902 at 6 Hawthorne Terrace, Aberdare, and was buried in the Aberdare cemetery. A memorial to father and son, the work of Sir William Goscombe John, R.A., was unveiled in Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd, 23 July 1930.
Published date: 1959