Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: The Best of Welsh ChoirsReleased: 1745
"Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" has evolved over time from an original version, written in 1745, with five verses by Welsh evangelist William Williams. The hymn compares the pilgrimage of the Christian life to the Hebrews escape from slavery in Egypt. The Old Testament tells us they were guided by a fiery and cloudy pillar and fed on manna or bread of heaven supplied by God, before finally arriving forty years later in the land of Canaan.
William's original title when it was published in 1745, was "Strength to Pass Through the Wilderness." These days, the hymn is often erroneously called "Bread Of Heaven."
William Williams (1717-1791) was born in the parish of Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, Carmarthenshire, to a nonconformist family. He abandoned his thoughts of becoming a doctor after he being converted to evangelical Christianity while listening to Welsh evangelist Howell Harris, an eighteenth century contemporary of John and Charles Wesley.
After he heard Howells preach, Williams decided to become an evangelical minister. For forty-three years he traveled almost 100,000 miles on horseback, preaching and singing the gospel in the Welsh language. Not only a persuasive preacher, Williams was also a prolific hymn writer, penning about 800 tunes, of which "Great Redeemer" is best known. Because of these Christian songs, he is considered to be one of the most important influences on Welsh language culture in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The hymn has been sung on various British state occasions such as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It was also the final hymn at Princess Diana's funeral in Westminster Abbey in 1997.
This featured prominently in the soundtrack to the 1941 John Ford film How Green Was My Valley, which won that year's Academy Award for Original Music Score.
Outside of church, the hymn's best known use is at Wales international rugby matches, where you frequently hear the crowd breaking out with enthusiastic renditions.
From the early 20th century, football fans have regularly used the variation "You're Not Singing Anymore," when taunting the fans of opposing teams after a goal has been scored. John Hughes, an organist from Pontypridd, wrote these alternative lyrics in the early 1900s.