Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , JOHN ( Ioan Mai ; 1823 - 1887 ), poet ;

b. 13 May 1823 at Caernarvon , son of Benjamin and Mary Williams . Educated at the National school , he was then apprenticed to Messrs. W. Potter , booksellers at Caernarvon and Pwllheli . About 1847 Williams opened his own business in Bridge Street , Caernarvon , and though but young and inexperienced, his success was immediate. He was a great reader and developed wide literary interests which made him a friend of men of the calibre of Joseph Loth of the University of Rennes , and E. B. Cowell of Cambridge . He is reputed to have given the latter considerable help with his translations into English of the poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym . Ioan Mai wrote many poems in the free metres, some of them for competition at various eisteddfodau, but although his unfinished essay on ‘ The characteristics of Welsh poetry ’ is sufficient proof of his knowledge of the intricacies of cynghanedd , he composed but very few poems in the stricter metres. He translated into English some of the poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym , the hymns of Ann Griffiths and a few of Ceiriog 's lyrics. For about forty-seven years he was a lay-preacher with the Wesleyans . He m. Margaret , only daughter of Hugh Hughes , Tynewydd , Trefriw , by whom he had six children. He d. 14 Oct. 1887 , and was buried in Llanbeblig churchyard. A selection of his sermons was included in the published volume of his works edited by John Lloyd Pierce .


  • Gweithiau Ioan Mai sef Detholion o bregethau a barddoniaeth … This volume also contains a selection of poems and an essay on "The Characteristics of Welsh Poetry", by the same author. Wedi eu trefnu a'u golygu gan John Lloyd Pierce, yn nghyda byr-gofiant o'r awdwr (Porthmadog, 1891) (Porthmadog, 1891 ).


Dr David Jenkins, C.B.E., M.A., D.Litt., (1912-2002), Penrhyn-coch, Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959