Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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THOMAS , DAVID VAUGHAN ( 1873 - 1934 ), musician .

Born 15 March 1873 at Ystalyfera, Glam. , son of Jenkin Thomas . He took the name Vaughan in 1911 when he became a member of the Gorsedd of Bards in Carmarthen eisteddfod . He attended Watcyn Wyn 's school in Ammanford , and from 1873 to 1883 the family lived in Ystalyfera , Llantrisant , Maesteg , Llangennech and Dowlais . The family moved to Pontardulais , and Vaughan Thomas received his early musical education from Dr. Joseph Parry , Swansea . He went to Llandovery College , from which he gained an open mathematical scholarship to Exeter College , Oxford He graduated 3rd class at Oxford in 1895 , M.A. 1905 , B.Mus. 1906 , D.Mus. 1911 . After leaving Oxford he taught mathematics in the United Services College , Westward Ho!, and then returned to Wales to start his musical career. He married, 1906 , Morfydd Lewis , Pontardulais , by whom he had three sons, and he and his family lived for many years in Swansea . He made an unsuccessful application for the post of Music Director of the University of Wales in 1919 . In 1927 he was appointed overseas examiner to Trinity College of Music , London , and travelled extensively in the Commonwealth and British Empire . He d. at Johannesburg , South Africa , 15 Sept. 1934 .

His chief works include ‘ Llyn y Fan ,’ first performed at the national eisteddfod of Wales at Swansea in 1907 , and again at Wrexham in 1912 ; ‘ A Song for St. Cecilia's Day ’ ( Queen's Hall , London , 1909 ); and ‘ The Bard ’ ( Queen's Hall , London , 1912 ). He wrote a large number of anthems, songs, and part songs, for both Welsh and English lyrics, and left a considerable body of instrumental work, most of which is still unpublished.

As a composer Vaughan Thomas is best remembered for the originality and scholarship which he brought to his settings of Welsh poetry, especially in his ‘ Saith o Ganeuon .’ Less well known, but equally notable for their lyrical beauty, are his songs on English words by George Meredith . Vaughan Thomas was a pioneer in the movement to lead Welsh music forward from a limited choralism to a more sensitive practice and appreciation of other musical forms. In his lectures and recitals, and in his programme planning for the national eisteddfod, he gave a vigorous lead towards new standards.

The work of Vaughan Thomas is pervaded by an imaginative enthusiasm for the characteristic qualities of a national culture and their distinctive expression in music.


  • Personal knowledge;
  • The Times , 17 Sept. 1934;
  • T. Haydn Thomas, Welsh Music, the journal of the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music , 4 (1973), 2;
  • Ifor ap Gwilym, Y Traddodiad Cerddorol yng Nghymru (Abertawe, 1978), 35;
  • David Vaughan Thomas (1873-1934), Discover Welsh Music website, viewed 7 March 2018


Arthur Spencer Vaughan Thomas, M.A., Barnet

Dr Llewelyn Gwyn Chambers, Bangor

Published date: 1959