Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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OWEN , WILLIAM (‘ William Owen of Prysgol ,’ 1813 - 1893 ), musician ;

b. 12? Dec. 1813 [in Lônpopty ], Bangor , the son of William and Ellen Owen . The father was a quarryman at Cae Braich-y-cafn quarry , Bethesda , and the son began to work in the same quarry when he was ten years old. He learnt music at classes held by Robert Williams ( Cae Aseth ), at Carneddi , and from William Roberts , Tyn-y-maes , the composer of the hymn-tune ‘ Andalusia .’ He wrote his first hymn-tune when he was 18 — it was published in Y Drysorfa for June 1841 . After the family had [removed] to [ Cae-sguborwen ], Bangor , [sometimes called Cilmelyn ] — they had spent some years [at Tŷ-hen ] near the quarry — William Owen formed a temperance choir which sang ‘ Cwymp Babilon ,’ the work of the conductor , at the Caernarvon temperance festival , 1849 . In 1852 , with the help of some friends at Bethesda , he published Y Perl Cerddorol yn cynnwys tonau ac anthemau, cysegredig a moesol ; of this 3,000 copies were sold, A sol-fa edition appeared in 1886 of which 4,000 copies were sold. He composed several temperance pieces, some of which were sung in the Eryri temperance festivals held at Caernarvon castle . His anthem, ‘ Ffynnon Ddisglair ,’ and the hymn-tunes ‘ Alma ’ and ‘ Deemster ’ became popular, but it was the hymn-tune called ‘ Bryn Calfaria ’ which made the composer famous; this continues to have a considerable vogue in Wales and in England . He m. the daughter of the house called Prysgol and went there to live; he also became precentor at Caeathro C.M. chapel . He d. 20 July 1893 , and was buried in Caeathro chapel burial ground.

Sources:

  • M. O. Jones , Bywgraffiaeth Cerddorion Cymreig , National Eisteddfod Association publication, 1890 ;
  • Y Cerddor , Sept. 1893 ;
  • R. D. Griffith , Hanes canu cynulleidfaol Cymru , Cardiff, 1948 ;
  • [ Y Clorianydd , 24 March 1954 ].

Author:

Robert David Griffith, M.A., (1877-1958), Old Colwyn

Published date: 1959