Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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DAFYDD DDU ATHRO HIRADDUG ( before 1400 ), a poet ,

the man whose name is associated with the first bardic grammar ( llyfr cerddwriaeth ) which we have, i.e. a work dealing with the art of bardism and verse, and containing also an abridgement of the Latin grammar which was used in schools in the Middle Ages . Scarcely anything of him is known, but as Moel Hiraddug is the name of a hill near Rhuddlan , perhaps Thomas Wiliems (q.v.) is right when he says, in Mostyn MS. 110 , that he was a man ‘o Degeingyl ,’ i.e. from what is modern Flintshire . Dr. John Davies , Mallwyd (d. 1644 ) (q.v.) , states, in Pen. MS. 49 , that he was ‘ archdeacon of Diserth ’; as Dafydd Ddu is called ‘ Athro ’ ( teacher , etc.) and that term sometimes connotes (as is said in the bardic grammar) a particular type of cleric , it may be that Dr. Davies was recording some tradition which he had learnt in his youth in the neighbourhood of the Vale of Clwyd . In the 18th cent. it was maintained that his was the gravestone in the church of Tremeirchion , bearing an inscription containing the name David F’ Hovel (?) F’ Madoc — but that is completely uncertain. According to tradition he was famed for his learning and as a soothsayer , and the famous Dr. John Dee (q.v.) maintained in 1582 that Dafydd Ddu was Roger Bacon .

Sixteenth cent. scholars attributed the ‘ llyfr cerddwriaeth ’ to Dafydd Ddu and to Einion Offeiriad (q.v.) . Einion flourished about the beginning of the 14th cent. ; it is sometimes suggested that what Dafydd Ddu did was to add to Einion 's work. Neither of them is mentioned in the earliest manuscripts of the work except as persons who framed three metres (or measures), three manuscripts maintaining that these were the work of Einion and the fourth ( Pen. MS. 20 , written c. 1400 or, possibly, earlier) stating that it was Dafydd Ddu who invented them. Some cywyddau are also attributed to him. Possibly the most interesting work associated with his name is the Welsh translation of the ‘ Office of the Virgin Mary ’ which was printed in Myvyrian Archaiology . Dafydd Ddu is not mentioned in the earliest manuscripts of this translation, but Dr. John Davies said in 1631 that it was his work ‘hyd y mae pawb yn tybieid’ (‘according to what everybody thinks’). But no one has as yet solved the problem connected with this translation.

Sources:

  • T. Pennant , A Tour (Tours) in [North] WalesPennant, Thomas , 1883 , ii, 134;
  • Edward Jones , Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards… , 1808 , 16;
  • Archaeologia Cambrensis , 1897 , 109-14;
  • G. J. Williams , Traddodiad Llenyddol Morgannwg , 1948 , 1948 , 14-15;
  • [ An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire. Vol. 2 — County of Flint Royal Comission on Ancient Monuments, 1912 , item 244].

Author:

Emeritus Professor Griffith John Williams, M.A., (1892-1963), Gwaelod-y-garth, Cardiff

Published date: 1959