Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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WILLIAMS , JOHN ( Ioan Rhagfyr ; 1740 - 1821 ), musician ;

b. 26 Dec. 1740 at Hafoty Bach , parish of Celynnin, Mer. , the son of William Robert Williams and his wife, who was related to Edward Samuel , Llangar (q.v.) . The family moved to Tal-y-waun , near Dolgelley . The son learned his father's craft — that of making cloth hats . Wool merchants from Shrewsbury used to lodge at Tal-y-waun and some of these, after observing that John Williams had a gift for teaching, paid for three months' schooling for him at Shrewsbury ; he also received lessons in playing the trumpet and the flute . After returning from Shrewsbury he began to write music and poetry . In 1763 he m. Jane , daughter of William Jones , Bryn Rhyg , Dolgelley . He relinquished the craft of hat-making in 1772 to become a clerk to Edward Anwyl , solicitor , Dolgelley ; he afterwards kept schools at Trawsfynydd , Barmouth , Dolgelley , and Llan-elltyd . John Williams was probably the most prominent musician of his time in Wales . Anthems which he wrote remained popular for a long time, his hymn-tunes ‘ Sabath ,’ ‘ Cemaes ,’ and ‘ Dyfroedd Siloah ’ are found in many collections, whilst instrumental pieces by him (marches, gavottes, and minuets) were published in Y Cerddor Cymreig ( Ieuan Gwyllt ). In Foulk Robert Williams ( Eos Llyfnwy , q.v.) , ‘ Cerddoriaeth o Gerddi Seion ’ (in manuscript form in N.L.W. ) are preserved fifty-nine hymn-tunes and twenty-one anthems by him. He d. 11 March 1821 , and was buried in Dolgelley parish churchyard.

Sources:

  • Seren Gomer , May 1822 ;
  • Y Cerddor , Feb. 1889 ;
  • M. O. Jones , Bywgraffiaeth Cerddorion Cymreig , National Eisteddfod Association publication, 1890 ;
  • Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig , 1889-96 ;
  • Geirlyfr Bywgraffiadol o Enwogion Cymru , 1870 ;
  • Eminent Welshmen: a short biographical dictionary of Welshmen ... from the earliest times to the present , 1908 ;
  • Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol o Enwogion Cymru , ii, 645-6;
  • Enwogion Cymru. A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen , 1852

Author:

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

Published date: 1959