Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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ROBERTS , JOHN ( Ieuan Gwyllt ; 1822 - 1877 ), Calvinistic Methodist minister, and musician ;

b. 27 Dec. 1822 at Tanrhiwfelen , a house just outside Aberystwyth , the son of Evan and Elizabeth Roberts , who moved in 1823 to Ty'n-y-ffordd , Pen-llwyn , and, in 1829 , to Pistyll-gwyn , Melindwr . The father was a precentor , the mother was also a good vocalist . He attended Lewis Edwards 's school at Pen-llwyn for some years. When quite young he composed a poem to which he signed his name ‘ Ieuan Gwyllt Gelltydd Melindwr ’; henceforward he became known as ‘ Ieuan Gwyllt .’ He became a clerk to Messrs. Griffith and Roberts , druggists , Aberystwyth , but after two years started to teach in Skinner Street school . This latter post he relinquished after a few months in order to go to the Borough Road Training College , London , where he stayed nine months. On his return to Aberystwyth ( 1845 ) he opened a British school which, however, he left after nine months to become clerk to Messrs. Hughes and Roberts , solicitors ; he stayed in that post for nearly seven years. In 1852 he became assistant editor of Yr Amserau , a Liverpool Welsh newspaper of which William Rees ( Gwilym Hiraethog ) (q.v.) was editor ; this connection was maintained until 1858 . On 15 June 1856 he preached his first sermon — at Runcorn . In 1858 he went to Aberdare to edit Y Gwladgarwr , and, the next year, he m. Jane Richards , Aberystwyth .

Ieuan Gwyllt began to compose music when he was quite young; a hymn-tune by him, ‘ Hafilah ,’ was published in Nov. 1839 in Yr Athraw . In 1852 he published Blodau Cerdd which contained lessons in music together with hymn-tunes which, like ‘ Hafilah ,’ were imitations of the poorer kind of English hymn-tunes. It was after he went to Liverpool ( 1852 ) that he came to recognize what was characteristic of true ecclesiastical hymn-tunes, and it was then that he began to start on his real life-work — the collection and selection of the best tunes for use by his countrymen . After labouring for six years he was able to produce ( April 1859 ) Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol , with the publication of which there began a new era of Welsh congregational singing. To the original work he added an atodiad (supplement), and, in 1870, an ychwanegiad (appendix). He arranged and harmonized a large number of hymn-tunes and psalms and himself composed some two dozen including the very famous tune ‘ Moab .’ At this time he was travelling much throughout Wales to lecture on congregational music . In 1859 he and Thomas Levi (q.v.) , Aberystwyth , issued the first number of Telyn y Plant , the name of which was changed in 1861 to Trysorfa y Plant ; Ieuan Gwyllt was responsible for the hymn-tunes. In 1859 he was asked to become minister of Pant-tywyll Calvinistic Methodist church , Merthyr Tydfil ; he was ordained on 7 Aug. 1861 at the Newcastle Emlyn Association . In March 1861 he issued the first number of Y Cerddor Cymreig , a periodical which he continued to edit and publish on his own responsibility for four years, i.e. until Hughes and Son , Wrexham , took it over ( 1865 ); Ieuan Gwyllt continued as editor until 1873 . He founded the Gwent and Morgannwg musical festival in 1854 , Gŵyl Eryri in 1866 , and Gŵyl Ardudwy in 1868 . He began to study the Tonic Sol-fa system in 1863 , producing a sol-fa edition of his Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol the next year. He founded Cerddor y Tonic Solffa in 1869 and edited it until 1874 . In 1865 he became minister of Capel Coch Calvinistic Methodist church , Llanberis, Caerns. , where he remained until he retired to Y Fron , Llanfaglan , near Caernarvon , in 1869 . He was secretary of the committee which prepared Llyfr Emynau y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd , 1869 . He edited Y Goleuad , from July 1871 until Oct. 1872 . In 1874 he issued Sŵn y Jiwbili , an arrangement in Welsh of Sankey and Moody hymns and tunes. Throughout the years he was well known as music adjudicator and as conductor of singing-festivals ; he was also a frequent contributor to Y Traethodydd and Yr Oenig . He d. 14 May 1877 and was buried in Caeathro cemetery, near Caernarvon .


  • J. E. Jones , Ieuan Gwyllt ei fywyd, ei lafur, ei athrylith, ei nodweddion, a'i ddylanwad ar Gymru (Holywell, 1881) ;
  • J. Owen , Traethawd ar fywyd ac athrylith y Parchedig John Roberts (Ieuan Gwyllt) (Pwllheli, 1879) ;
  • Y Cerddor , Oct. 1892 and Jan.-May 1909.


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

Published date: 1959