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'Men of Harlech'. Sorry about this ...
Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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(Bill Cainan suggested I float this idea. So don't blame me ... Laughing )

NB - Public disclaimer: I don't believe that 'Men of Harlech' was sung at the battle of Rorke's Drift.

On another thread some of us have been discussing a curious little book, The Story of Dan Hayward (Southall & Co (Newport, Mon.), 1909, 88pp). The first part of it includes a rambling, and not always accurate, account of this soldier's service during the AZW. It seems likely, however, that he was 2354 Pte Daniel Hayward, 2nd Battalion, 4th (King's Own Royal) Regiment. Among the more intriguing of the memories he records is the following:

After this [= the battle of Ulundi] we received orders to march into the Transvaal, and as we marched we sang the following song to the tune of the 'Men of Harlech':

British soldiers fight for glory
Let great nations tell the story
How we fought, one man to forty,
Britons never yield. [p. 23]

This detail has something of the ring of authenticity if only for the fact that Hayward was, putting it mildly, no wordsmith; he would appear on the basis of the rest of what he wrote to have been unlikely to have made this verse up. As we know, the tune of 'Men of Harlech' goes back to the 18th century (see Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (Edward Jones, London 1784; reprinted and expanded 1794, 1824 and subsequently): I believe the tune was first included in the 2nd edition). To my knowledge, it is found with lyrics in both Welsh and English from 1860 onwards. So by 1879 it may have been a reasonably well-known song.

Now, I haven't come across the words Hayward quotes anywhere else, and would be grateful for information to the contrary. Given his somewhat shaky grasp of facts, it's quite possible that what he records may have been some version or another of 'Men of Harlech' which gained brief popularity after the AZW, and which he remembered and put in his book. However, another tempting theory suggests itself. Could it have been that these words were composed by someone in the aftermath of Rorke's Drift (cf. the line 'How we fought, one man to forty') and occasionally sung by soldiers to the tune of 'Men of Harlech' during the campaign? There is probably no way of knowing, but I'd be interested in your thoughts.

It's also tempting to speculate whether Hayward's booklet was known to someone with Welsh connections involved in the making of ZULU ...


Last edited by Paul Bryant-Quinn on Sun May 17, 2009 4:02 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Men of Harlech - out west.....
Simon


Joined: 26 Feb 2007
Posts: 95
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Hi

Nothing really to do with the Zulu War but still.....

I seem to recall from way back that there was an old western movie about some American settlers holed up in a church or some kind of mission station by the Apaches called 'Apache Drums' and at some point the settlers all sang Men of Harlech.

Being as this film was made before Zulu, it could have influence the director/producers to include the song in the film.

Cheers

Simon
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Did I hear or read somewhere that it was Ivor Emmanual who was responsible for the lyrics sung to the tune of Men of Harlech in ZULU? Or did I just dream that? Was it in Sheldon's book perhaps?

Given the vintage of the original and how many variations to it there were by 1879, I've always been of the opinion that "Men of Harlech" was as likely a choice of song as any to have been sung at Rorke's Drift. On the other hand, I can't imagine there was a great deal of any sort of singing being done that day.
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Now this is getting interesting. Wikipedia mentions "Men of Harliech" appearing in the 1950 movie Apache Drums as you say Simon and IMDB describes a highpoint of the movie:


"One stirring moment comes when the townsfolk, frightened and intimidated by the strains of the Apaches' war song, decide to respond with a Welsh fighting song of their own. "

I'm assuming that the "Welsh fighting song of their own" is the "Men of Harlech" mentioned by Wikipedia. Is it just me or does that all sound vaguely similar to a well known movie made 13 years later? Any chance Stanley Baker or Cy Enfield ever saw "Apache Drums"? Hmmm....


Last edited by Sawubona on Sun May 17, 2009 4:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Paul Bryant-Quinn


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I've a memory that we've discussed Apache Drums on the forum before.

But just to repeat: I'm not suggesting that this version of 'Men of Harlech' was sung at Rorke's Drift itself. As you say, they had more pressing matters on their minds that day than writing ditties! However, presumably soldiers then as now sang, maybe occasionally while marching, if only to give themselves something to do. My idea was that as news of the defence spread in Zululand and Natal, did someone compose these words and were they known to at least some of the troops in 1879?

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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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Further to what I posted above, I think itís reasonable to infer that the half verse Dan Hayward quotes is what remains of an occasional piece, composed by someone in the long aftermath of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, and which was picked up and sung by other troops in Zululand. If then as now soldiers made up ditties to sing, this could well have been one of them. It's a pity that more of that kind of material hasn't survived from the AZW.

What Hayward writes has the echo of an authentic memory. For what itís worth, I think that what we have here is a last glimpse of a British battalion marching out of Zululand, singing a wartime song which had briefly become popular among the troops in those specific circumstances. However, it's also interesting to consider why 'Men of Harlech' became the 24th's regimental march in 1881. Even allowing for the fairly recently acquired Welsh connections, there were plenty of other stirring tunes around which the regiment could have adopted: so why 'Men of Harlech' specifically? Could it have been because the soldiers remembered it from the war and it had been popular with them at the time?

If anyone has any information on how that tune came to be chosen in 1881, Iíd be grateful to hear.

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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Paul,

The regimental history suggests that for a regiment which recruited from Wales it was no longer appropriate continue with 'Warwickshire Lads' as the regimental quick march. The Men of Harlech was adopted on 29 April 1880 - 14 months before the regiment became The South Wales Borderers. No reason for the choice is given.

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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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Many thanks indeed for the information, Martin.

So 'Men of Harlech' was chosen as the regimental quick march just nine months after the end of the AZW (I hadn't realised the tune was adopted in 1880). Perhaps there is something to Dan Hayward's memories after all.

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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Paul

Before Martin's post above, I would have said the re-naming of the regiment (and all the accompanying changes) in 1881 would have been a good reason to find a strongly Welsh regimental march to be adopted - or adapted. However, the revelation that it was decided in 1880 might make one think again - until one recalls that (and I'm ready to stand corrected here) these regimental changes right across the army - in which numbered regiments typically were changed to "county" regiments of two battalions - were first mooted during Cardwell's army reforms, instigated gradually from 1871 onwards. In other words, unless I'm much mistaken, the decision to form the SWBs in 1881 had been taken long before 1881 - or, at least, certainly by 1880. So the reasons for the new march would be much the same, as they were aware of the impending need for a suitable choice.

I agree with you on the clues in the rhyming couplet - there is no doubt it refers to the AZW in general and alludes to the "odds" at R/Drift in particuar. The only nagging doubt is that we usually hear of British soldiery singing ditties or adapations which were uttery unmilitary in their subject matter. Compare our ancient regimental marches (mostly adapted country airs) with the stuff the Prussians and Germans expected their massive conscripted armies to march to. In other words, is there any tradition at all for British soldiers to sing self-congratulatory material, other than in parody?

Neverthess, I think you may still have found an example here.

Peter


Last edited by Peter Ewart on Wed May 20, 2009 5:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
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Dear all,

This is where local knowledge comes in useful. For many years the Royal Brecknock Militia was linked with the Royal Monmouth Militia. In 1867, the Brecon Militia regained its independent status. In 1876, it was linked with Radnor Militia - a sensible arrangement - the new title was 'The Royal South Wales Borderers (Royal Radnor and Brecknock Rifles)'. When the 24th became the South Wales Borderers in July 1881 - the Militia became 3rd Battalion South Wales Borderers. It is possible that the militia already marched to MofH.

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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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Peter and Martin - good points; thank you both.

I have, of course, no brief for Dan Hayward and his rambling memories of service during the AZW; and as I think I intimated earlier it's not impossible that he invented as much as he remembered. As we all know, having studied this campaign, time does funny things to memoirs and his was all of thirty years on. However, to Martin's point, in the unlikely event that Hayward didn't make up the 'Men of Harlech' episode, it's perhaps of more than passing interest to note that this story wasn't connected with the 24th at all but seemingly with the 4th, which as far as I am aware had no particular history of links with that tune (I'd be interested to learn otherwise if anyone knows).

What would clinch it, of course, would be to find those words in some version or another of 'Men of Harlech' published after 1879. I'll keep looking.

Peter wrote:
The only nagging doubt is that we usually hear of British soldiery singing ditties or adapations which were uttery unmilitary in their subject matter ... In other words, is there any tradition at all for British soldiers to sing self-congratulatory material, other than in parody?

Not a clue, but I suppose it's not impossible that something of this nature might have been sung at the conclusion of a campaign. Who knows?

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rich


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I'm unknowledgeable on this and could anyone note who wrote "Men of Harlech"? A Welshman? An Englishman?

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Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
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The music was first published in 1794 as March of the Men of Harlech in the second edition of The Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards.

It first appeared with lyrics in Gems of Welsh Melody, edited by the Welsh poet, John Owen (Owain Alaw), published in London, England and Wrexham, Wales in 1860.

The Welsh lyrics are by the Welsh poet John Jones (Talhaiarn), and the English lyrics by W.H. Baker.

Since then, many different versions of the English lyrics have appeared.

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rich


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Simon.... Thanks for the reference. I found it interesting to note in a followup that Beethoven subscribed to an edition of the "MAPROTWB".
And it gave him the idea to eventually compose his "26 Welsh Songs".
Good stuff and it shows how cultures influence each other.

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Paul Bryant-Quinn


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Peter Ewart wrote:

The only nagging doubt is that we usually hear of British soldiery singing ditties or adapations which were uttery unmilitary in their subject matter. ... In other words, is there any tradition at all for British soldiers to sing self-congratulatory material, other than in parody?

'The British Grenadiers', perhaps?

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'Men of Harlech'. Sorry about this ...
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