David Lloyd George was born in Manchester on the 17 January 1863 then raised in Wales, where he became one of the most famous radicals of the century. Between 1890 and 1945 he was elected Member of Parliament for Caernarfon.
Through the early years of the First World War, Lloyd George became Chancellor of the Exchequer under the leadership of Herbert Henry Asquith. In 1916 he became Secretary of State for War and later that year became the first Welsh speaking Prime Minister.
In 1916 The Times published a letter where the writer objected to the holding of the Eisteddfod during war time. In response to this article Lloyd George delivered a speech at the Aberystwyth National Eisteddfod which started:
“Why should we not sing during the war? Why especially should we not sing at this stage of the war?”
He continues to criticise the letter pointing out that Britain is still alive, not down, shattered and broken so “why should her children not sing?”
Through-out his speech Lloyd George vigorously defends the holding of the Eisteddfod during the war:
“Hundreds of wars have swept over these hills, but the harp of Wales has never yet been silenced by one of them, and I should be proud if I contributed something to keep it in tune during this war, by the holding of this Eisteddfod today.”
According to the Abergavenny Chronicle Lloyd George said, “our soldiers sing the songs of Wales in the trenches, and they hold their little Eisteddfodau behind the trenches” where he continued to read a telegram sent from the front line:
“Greetings and best wishes for success to the Eisteddfod; from Welshmen in the Field. Next Eisteddfod we shall be with you.”
On the 22 of August 1916 the newspaper ‘Y Genedl’ reported that there were over 7,000 listening to Lloyd George defending the National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth. Newspapers reported that he remained at the festival for some time after delivering his speech and then left the town amid scenes of tremendous enthusiasm.
On the 15 February 1934 Lloyd George then recorded part of his famous ‘Why should we not sing?’ speech at the BBC studios, ready to be broadcast on the radio, for the world to hear.
Listen to a clip from the speech:
Copy of this address is kept at the National Library of Wales, and thanks to the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project has been digitised and safely stored at the British Library’s digital repository. You can listen to the recording at the Library’s Reading Room and it will soon be available online.
Alison Lloyd Smith, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Hub Project Manager