Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , WATKIN HEZEKIAH ( Watcyn Wyn ; 1844 - 1905 ), schoolmaster, poet, and preacher ;

son of Hezekiah Williams , who farmed Cwmgarw Ganol near Brynaman , and Ann , daughter of David Williams , Y Ddôl-gam , Cwmllynfell . Though born ( 7 March 1844 ) at Y Ddôl-gam , he spent his childhood at Cwmgarw . He had a few months at local schools before starting to work underground in a coal-mine at 8 years of age. A few odd weeks and months of schooling were added during the next five years, and this formal education was supplemented by the instruction which he received from his fellow-workers in the mines. He began to compete at eisteddfodau at an early age. He learned the rules of cynghanedd from Gwydderig ( Richard Williams , 1842 - 1917 , q.v.) and other local poets, and he claimed the acquaintance of Dafydd Morganwg , Llew Llwyfo , and others whose interests were alien to his own, when he went to work in the Aberdare district. In 1870 he m. Mary Jones , Y Trap , near Llandeilo ; she died within a year leaving a three-weeks old child. Early in 1872 Watcyn Wyn left the mine to attend a school kept by Evan Williams , a relative, at Merthyr Tydfil ; he eventually became an assistant teacher . In 1874 he entered a preparatory school, and afterwards spent four years at Carmarthen Presbyterian College with a view to entering the Congregational ministry . His second marriage in 1879 , to Anne Davies of Carmarthen , was followed by a short period as an assistant in a preparatory school at Llangadog , but in 1880 he and one of his colleagues opened the ‘ Hope Academy ’ at Ammanford ; in 1884 the entire responsibility for the new school fell upon his shoulders. He built a new home in 1888 and thereafter the ‘ Gwynfryn School ’ became well known as a seminary, for preachers particularly, about twenty students leaving annually to enter the colleges and professions.

Watcyn Wyn had a considerable reputation, during his lifetime, as a poet . He won the major awards at several of the chief eisteddfodau held between 1881 and 1893 ; he also wrote many shorter poems, both in serious and in lighter vein, particularly words to be set to music. A few of his hymns are still widely sung by Welsh congregations . He published several books of verse, Caneuon , 1871 , Hwyr Ddifyrion , 1883 , Cân a Thelyn , 1895 , Storiau Cymru , Caneuon y Safonau , Job (drama), 1874 , a translation of Moody and Sankey 's latest hymns Odlau'r Efengyl , and a small book on Welsh literature, a short biography ( 1890 ) of T. Penry Evans , and, in collaboration with Elwyn Thomas , two novels. He was a frequent contributor to Welsh periodicals and was himself, from 1890 , co-editor of one of them ( Y Diwygiwr ). A small volume of his memoirs was published posthumously. His prose is racy and unaffected, but he made no great effort to develop a literary style. He was a prominent popular lecturer and preacher (he had been ordained in 1894 ). He had endured poor health for years before he d. on 19 Nov. 1905 . He was buried in Gellimanwydd cemetery, Ammanford . A monument to him was erected by his students in the Gwynfryn chapel , and a memorial volume was written by Pennar Griffiths . While Watcyn Wyn by no means achieved greatness as a poet , preacher , or scholar , his fund of witticisms, his sound common-sense, and his genial personality made him a well-loved national figure.


  • Y Diwygiwr , 1906 , 1-27;
  • Cymru (O.M.E.) , 1906 , 245-8;
  • Adgofion Watcyn Wyn (Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, 1907) , 1907 ;
  • Pennar Griffiths , Cofiant Watcyn Wyn. Gyda darluniau (Cardiff, 1915) , 1915 ;
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , supplement, 1901-11 .


Brinley Rees, ( -2001), M.A., Bangor

Published date: 1959