Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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WILLIAMS , RICHARD ( fl. 1790?-1862? ), a writer and singer of ballads (‘the king of all the ballad-singers,’ said one who had heard him), mostly known as ‘ Dic Dywyll ’ (‘ Blind Dick ’), but sometimes also as ‘ Bardd Gwagedd ’ (‘ The Bard of Folly ’).

He was a native of North Wales — some say of Amlwch , some of Llannerch-y-medd , and some of Llŷn — but it was in South Wales that he really won his reputation. The dates of his birth and death are not known; but a person who heard him in 1862 thought that he was then between 70 and 75 years of age. He was at the Brecon eisteddfod in 1822 . It is known, too, that he was singing at Merthyr Tydfil at the time of the riots in 1831 ; he lived in that town for some years and shared the prize for the bass solo at the ‘Swan’ eisteddfod in 1834 . He was a tubby little man and, as is implied above, he was blind ; Nathan Dyfed ( Jonathan Reynolds , q.v.) tells us that he used to put his little finger in the corner of his eye when he was singing. It is also said that he earned eight pounds in a single afternoon at Merthyr by the sale of his ballads . And tradition has it that his ‘ Song on the effect of the new law, or The Workhouse ’ (for this see B. B. Thomas , below, 93-6) caused such an uproar among the working classes of Merthyr that the Guardians did not dare to build a workhouse in that town for nearly twenty years; he also sang during the Rebecca riots . Of his ballads, seventy-three survive in print, and there is a manuscript volume of them in the National Library of Wales ( N.L.W. MS. 1143 ). He could turn out some exquisite verse, e.g. ‘ Lliw gwyn, rhosyn yr haf .’ But his own preference was for satire or comic songs which, says Glaslyn (q.v.) , were frequently pretty low, with a whiff of the muck-heap about them. He d. at Liverpool (where he sang in the ‘ Cambria ’ and the ‘ Portmadoc Arms ’), but the date of his death is not known — there is a fragment of an elegy on him in B. B. Thomas , 19-20.

Sources:

  • References to him are numerous, but (as intimated) almost all undated: Cymru (O.M.E.) , ii, 48; xxii, 7 (Glaslyn), xiv, 64, 70 (Myllin), xxxiii, 165, etc. ( D. Samuel see below), ii, 122 (Cadrawd), and other places;
  • D. Samuel , introduction to Cerddi Cymru casgliad o ganeuon Cymreig, hen a diweddar , Caernarfon ;
  • B. B. Thomas , Baledi Morgannwg , 1951 ;
  • Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society , ii, 50-5, 84-5, 151;
  • Mr. W. W. Price of Aberdare's personal knowledge.

Author:

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

Published date: 1959