The Carmarthenshire Methodist William Williams had a particular gift for adapting scriptural imagery and defining theological concepts in pious verse that appealed to the experience of those he knew intimately through pastoral care and preaching. Known for his enormous preaching tours throughout South and North Wales, Williams had been educated at the dissenting academy of Llwyn-Llwyd near Hay-on-Wye, and soon after his ordination as a deacon in 1740, helped Daniel Rowland to develop the private societies which led to the establishment in 1742 of a Methodist Association in Wales. Following the example of Wesley, Williams captured in much of his hymnody something of his own zeal for salvation and the love for Christ characteristic of the Pietist Revival. He first published Aleluia
, a small collection of hymns, in 1744, and this was followed by further collections in the 1750s. His vast output, widely hailed as a literary expression of Welsh Methodism, reached nearly 1,000 hymns by the time of his death. His Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch
was translated into English as Guide me, O thou great redeemer
in 1771 by his contemporary Peter Williams. The tune Cwm Rhondda was written much later by the Merthyr Tydfil composer and miner John Hughes (1873–1932) for the installation of a new organ at the Baptist chapel, Capel Rhondda, in Pontypridd in 1907, when Hughes himself was at the organ.
One of the best-loved hymns, in English and Welsh, it was sung at the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 9 April 2002, and at that of Diana, Princess of Wales, on 6 September 1997. The verse 3 arrangement for double choir was specially made for the wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 29 April 2011.
from notes by The Revd Dr James Hawkey © 2014