Dafydd MANUEL

“MANUEL, DAFYDD, a poet, who lived in a cottage called Byrdir, on Gwernafon farm, Trefeglwys, and who flourished about the year 1700. A poem of his, entitled “Bustl y Cybyddion,” — a satire upon Avarice — was published in the Blodeugerdd, and many of his carols and compositions were published in various collections about the beginning of the last century. Some have also appeared in print for the first time in Lloyd’s History of Powys Fadog. He was present at an eisteddfod at Machynlleth in the summer of 1701, when he composed an englyn, which may be found in the Gwnyliedydd for 1836. Some traditions of him may also be found in Y Brython vol. v., p. 209, The Peniarth MSS. include a large number of his compositions. Mr. Nicholas Bennett, of Glanyrafon, has also about thirty of them in MS. dated between 1689 and 1719, some displaying considerable merit Dafydd Manuel (“Yr hen Fanuel o’r Byrdir,” or “Yr hen Fanuel y Prydydd ” as he was generally called) lived to an extreme old age, being, it is said, 101 years old when he died. The parish register of Trefeglwys contains the following entry of his burial :— ” David Manuel “sepult. fuit 16 die Maii 1726.” — His wife Margaret had died before him in 1699. Thev left three children — a son David, usually called “Deio,” and two daughters, Mary (Malen) and Anne. The daughters were excellent poets, and several of their compositions in MS. are in Mr. Bennett’s possession. Mary was especially noted for her ready wit and power of repartee, and as a Pennillion singer with the harp — a mode of singing which to be elective, demands very great skill, a quick ear, and a retentive memory. In Bardd Alaw (Parry)’s Welsh Harper, vol. 2, we have a melody associated with her name, namely, “Hoffedd Merch “Dafydd Manuel,” (The delight of David Manuel’s daughter.) Other members of the same family have attracted attention on account of their precocity, genius, and attainments. John Manuel, who joined the army in 1798, and fought in Egypt under Sir Ralph Abercromby, could not read a line at the time of his enlistment, but became in an exceedingly short time an excellent reader of both Welsh and English, as well as thoroughly conversant with French. His daughter, Sarah Manuel, was quite illiterate up to her 80th year, when she joined a Sunday school class, learned to read fluently at once, and became well acquainted with the current literature of the day. Thomas Manuel, a sawyer, grew up to manhood illiterate, but accidentally becoming jjossessed of a French Testament he determined to master that language, which he did in a remarkably short time. In the year 1834, the Rev. Thomas Price, the well-known Welsh scholar and historian, took great interest in William Manuel a wonderful boy, the son of Thomas and Mary Manuel, and a member of the same gifted family. This child, then only four years old, read Welsh, English, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and naturally read backwards or upside down with the same ease that other persons would read in the ordinary way. Mr. Price first became acquainted with him at the Cardiff Eisteddfod, and afterwards frecjuently visited his mother’s cottage when she resided in the parish of Llanover, and also near Crickhowel Through the kindness of Alderman Thompson he was at the age of eight years placed in Christ’s Hospital, where, after a most successful career, he died of consumption when only twelve years old. This extraordinary child had two brothers also who possessed great natural gifts. Thomas, the eldest, was an excellent Welsh, Latin, Greek, and English scholar; and while daily engaged as a clerk in a lawyer’s office he, in the last year of his life, wrote during the night for a prize (which he won), an essay under the bardic name of “Efrydydd” on ” Wales as it is, &c.” He died in early manhood, of decline in 1851. Edward, the youngest child, gave promise of even more extraordinary abilities than William. He could read English, Welsh, German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew when he was only four years old, but he also died of consumption before he was five. Their mother (herself a remarkable woman) being mistress of Welsh and English, and perceiving the extraordinary thirst for learning evinced by her children, taught herself to read and translate Latin and Greek for the sake of assisting them.”

Taken from: Montgomeryshire Worthies (1894) by Richard Williams

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