William WILLIAMS (husband of Mary MORRIS, Trefeglwys)

“WILLIAMS, WILLIAM (Gwilym Cyfeiliog) was born at Winllan, in the parish of Llanbrynmair, on the 4th of January, 1801, and was the eldest of a family of ten children. His father, Richard Williams, was a flannel manufacturer and farmer; his mother, Mary Williams, was a sister of the Rev. John Roberts, of Llanbrynmair, the well-known Independent minister. His brother Richard became a popular Calvinistic Methodist minister at Liverpool, and the author of several works (see ante). At an early age he was placed in school with his uncle, the Rev. John Roberts, and subsequently with Mr. William Owen, an excellent poet and musician, at Welshpool, from whom it is probable he imbibed that fondness and taste for poetry which distinguished him in after life. After leaving school he pursued his studies with great diligence, making the most of every minute of leisure time. After working all day with his father and the servants on the farm at Weeg, where he then lived, he would in the evening shut himself up for hours with his books. These, though few in number, he thoroughly mastered, and his very retentive memory enabled him to treasure up in his mind their contents. He committed to memory the four Gospels, a large number of the Psalms, and an immense amount of poetry. Of English poets he was, like John Bright, an admirer of Young. He was an excellent grammarian, and his natural aptitude for arithmetic and mathematics was such that probably with greater advantages he would have attained some eminence in those branches. He tburoughly mastered the somewhat difficult and complicated rules of Welsh prosody, and when he was about 20 years of age began to compose on the Welsh metres. He was a frequent poetical contributor to the Goleuad Cymru, Seven Gomer, Y Drysorfa, and other magazines of those days. One of his earliest productions was an Awdl ar sefydliad Coleg Dewi Sant (An Ode on the Establishment of St David’s College), which gained the second prize at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod fn September, 1823, the chief prize being awarded to the Rev. Daniel Evans (Danud Ddu). He also competed at the Welshpool Eisteddfod the following year on an Ode, subject, Goresgyniad Ynys Fan gan Suetonius Paudinus (The Subjugation of the Isle of Anglesey by Suetonius Paulinus), but the prize was awarded to Mr. W. E. Jones (Cawrdaf), His ode was, however, spoken very highly of, and judged to be of sufficient merit to entitle it to be printed with the prize compositions. This ode was accidentally omitted from his collected works published after his death. His poetical efforts attracted the notice and secured for him the friendship of the Revs. Walter Davies, J. Jenkins, of Kerry, David Richards, Evan Evans (Ieuan Glan Geirionydd), J. Blackwell, and others of the principal Welsh literary characters of those days, and for some years he regularly attended and competed at the Eisteddfodau. In the winter of 1825 he paid a visit to London — the only one in his lifetime, and there composed an Awdl ar yr olygfa o ben Clochdy St. Paul’s (an Ode on the view from the top of St. Paul’s). He won the prize at the Llanfair Caereinion Eisteddtod 1st March, 1826), for Engtyuion i’r Wyhren Serenog (Stanzas to the starry heavens). For some reason or other he never had much to do with Eisteddfodau after this time, but appears to have become disgusted with their management. But he still continued as long as he lived to encourage and help both as adjudicator and by competing himself, competitive literary meetings in his native country. He was generally considered one of the best Englynwyr — or composer of Stanzas on the peculiar alliterative Welsh metres — of his day. It cannot be said that he was equally successful with ordinary or “free” metres, though some of his compositions in this line are deservedly much admired. His hymn on Yr lawn (The Atonement), commencing —

” Caed trefn i faddeii pechod, Yn yr lawn, &c.,”

is well known, and often sung, and has even been translated into Khassee — one of the languages of North-Eastern Bengal, where the natives often sing it with much unction. Many others of his hymns and temperance verses are very well known. After his death his poetical works were in 1878 published in a collected form under the title Caniadau Cyfeiliog. Mr. Williams lived on a small freehold property of his own at Bontdolgadfan, Llanbrynmair, where for 40 years and upwards he carried on a small manufacturing business and a shop, and held several parochial and other public offices. He was thrice married — first to Anne, daughter of Mr. Morris Evans, Minffordd, Llanbrynmair, by whom he had one daughter; secondly, to Mary, daughter of Mr. Richard Morris, of Dolgwyddyl, Trefeglwys, by whom he had two sons and a daughter; and, thirdly, to Mary, daughter of Mr. Evan Evans, of Tynllwyn, Llanbrynmair, by whom he had two sons and four daughters. He was a staunch Nonconformist and an ardent Liberal. He died after a few hours’ illness on Saturday, the 3rd of June, 1876, and was buried the following Thursday at the parish church of Llanbrynmair. An immense concourse of persons from far and near followed him to the grave, so testifying to the great respect in which he was held by all who knew him.”

Taken from: Montgomeryshire Worthies (1894) by Richard Williams

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