Dictionary of Welsh Biography

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

ROWLAND , THOMAS ( 1824 - 1884 ), cleric and grammarian ;

b. in Llanfor parish, Mer. , 5 June 1824 , son of a workman on the Rhiwlas estate . His promise attracted the notice of Cleaver , the sinecure rector of the parish, who took him away from the shop at Bala in which he was serving , and sent him to John Williams , vicar of Rhos-y-gwaliau , to be educated for school-teaching. But after a short period at Chelsea Training College , Rowland showed a desire for holy orders, and went to Llandovery , at that time under John Williams ( 1792 - 1858 ) (q.v.) ; he did very well there, becoming eventually Welsh master at the school, and publishing his Welsh Grammar in 1853 . He was ordained in 1854 , and, after serving as curate at Llansantffraid Glyn Dyfrdwy and at Llanrwst , was promoted by bishop Short (q.v.) , after the exceptionally short period of two years, to the rectory of Pennant Melangell and Pen-y-bont-fawr, Mont. ; in 1878 he became vicar of Rhuddlan , where he d. 17 April 1884 . Rowland is described as ‘ slight, weakly, and pale .’ Though he published ( 1875 ) a volume of sermons, his title to remembrance is his Welsh Grammar , which went into four editions ( 1853 , 1857 , 1865 , 1876 ) — a volume of Welsh Exercises was added in 1870 . For a long period, Rowland 's was the standard Welsh grammar, and Sir John Morris-Jones (q.v.) , while noting its defects, was yet able to testify that it contained ‘ a great deal of sound knowledge … about modern Welsh ,’ and that it was ‘ an indication of the reaction of common sense against the dominance of Pughe ’ (q.v.) . Rowland was also, for the last ten years of his life, ‘corrector’ of Welsh place-names for the Ordnance Survey maps ; unfortunately, he followed his own opinion of what the names ‘ought’ to mean, instead of tracing their earliest forms as found in historical records. He was followed as ‘ corrector ’ from 1884 till 1889 by his widow


(daughter of William Williams , vicar of Llan-rhaeadr ), who in her turn adopted his mode of spelling. Under the pseudonym ‘ Helen Elwy ,’ she competed for the national eisteddfod prize for a Welsh biographical dictionary; though unsuccessful, she published her work, A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen, 1700-1900 , in 1907 . [She d. at Colwyn Bay , and was buried at Rhuddlan , 11 April 1910 , aged 72 (information from the vicar of Rhuddlan ).]


  • Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig (1889-96) (2nd ed.), x, 815;
  • Bye–Gones, relating to Wales and the Border Counties , 1884 , 63;
  • Y Geninen , 1888 , 151-8 (by William Thomas , Glanffrwd, q.v. );
  • Yr Haul , 1892 , 119;
  • G. J. Williams in Y Llenor , xii and xiii, on the controversy between Rowland and Ab Ithel (q.v.)


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959