Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , ROBERT ( 1782 - 1818 ), composer of the hymn-tune ‘Llanfair’ ,

which appears in all Welsh congregational tune-books and in Songs of Praise and other English hymn-books; Dr. R. Vaughan Williams has composed variations upon it.

Robert Williams was b. at Mynydd Ithel farm , Llanfechell , Anglesey , s. of Owen Williams and Mary (née Davies ) . He was baptised at Llanfechell on 27 Oct. 1782 . He was blind from birth and earned his living by basket-making , but was also a musician of great repute.

The tune which we now call ‘ Llanfair ’ was at first called ‘ Bethel ’; it is so called in Robert Williams 's manuscript book, and is there dated 14 July 1817 . It was first printed (again named ‘ Bethel ’) as harmonized by John Roberts ( 1807 - 1876 ) of Henllan , in the Peroriaeth Hyfryd ( 1837 ) of John Parry ( 1775 - 1846 )

His burial is recorded in Llanfechell parish register under the name Robert Owen , 15 July 1818 , though he is said to have been buried in Llanrhwydrys churchyard.


  • P. Dearmer and A. Jacob , Songs of Praise Discussed a handbook to the best-known hymns and to others recently introduced (London, 1933);
  • Ifor L. Evans , Mawl yr Oesoedd. Casgliad o donau ac emynau (Cardiff, 1951);
  • Huw Williams, Cofio Robert Williams, Mynydd Ithel (1990).


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

Huw Williams, (1922-2002), Bangor / Prestatyn

Published date: 1959