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THOMAS , JOHN ( Ifor Cwmgwys ; 1813 - 1866 ), poet ;

b. at Ael-yr-ychen , Pentre-gwenlais , Llandybie ( Llandebïe ), Carms. , son of Evan and Mary Davies , and ‘totally uneducated’ — he was 30 before he learned to write. At 10, he began to work in the woollen factory , afterwards owned by Job Davies ( Rhydderch Farfgoch , 1821 - 1887 , eisteddfodwr and poet ); when about 16 he became a collier at Tredegar , afterwards working at Dowlais , at the Werfa colliery at Aberdare , and at Cwm-twrch , Ystalyfera . His lack of formal education did not prevent the continuous practice of verse composition throughout these wanderings: he competed diligently at eisteddfodau , and won prizes — but had to carry his compositions in his memory and hie to and fro to Pentregwenlais for Job Davies to reduce them to writing. At Cwm-twrch , he m. Rachel , Job Davies 's daughter, and it was she who taught him to write; they lived at Gilfach on the banks of the Gwys brook (hence his pseudonym). They moved to Troed-y-rhiw ( Merthyr Tydfil ), and thence ( 1863 ) to the Rhondda Valley . Shortness of breath had for some time prevented him from working in the mine, but eisteddfodic prizes provided him with a livelihood of sorts. He d. 26 Dec. 1866 , and was buried in the graveyard of Capel Rhondda , Pontypridd . In his youth, he had been a copious producer of tribannau ; later on, he excelled at the englyn — englynion of his, e.g. won the prize at the national eisteddfod at Aberdare in 1861 . But he also produced work of larger compass, printed in the periodicals, e.g. Yr Ymofynnydd in 1849 and 1853 (like his father-in-law, he was a Unitarian ), Y Gwladgarwr (when Caledfryn was its editor ), and Y Diwygiwr , 1863 ; see also Gardd Aberdâr , 223, 237. One of his ballads is item vii in B. B. Thomas , Baledi Morgannwg . Two books of his verse were published: Ceinion Glan Gwenlais , 1862 , and Diferion Meddyliol , 1865 .


  • Ifor Davies (his brother-in-law) in Yr Ymofynnydd , 1893 , 84;
  • E. B. Morris in Cymru (O.M.E.) , xxxvi, 221;
  • information and other refs. supplied by Mr. W. W. Price , Aberdare.


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

Published date: 1959