Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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HUGHES , JOHN ( 1896 - 1968 ), musician .

Born 16 Nov. 1896 , in 6 Broad Street , Rhosllannerchrugog, Denbs. , one of the 9 children of William Hughes and Catherine , his wife. He was educated in Grango School , Rhosllannerchrugog and then spent 8 years at Hafod colliery , near his home. He was deeply attached to music at an early age; he conducted local choirs , and studied harmony and counterpoint with Dr. J.C. Bridge , organist at Chester cathedral . In 1921 he went to the University College , Aberystwyth , and after graduating in music in 1924 he stayed there an extra year to study Welsh literature under Thomas Gwynn Jones . He was president of Y Gymdeithas Geltaidd (the Welsh society ) at college. He became organist and choir-master at Noddfa Baptist church , Treorchy , 1925-42 , before being appointed music organiser for Mer. — the first appointment of its kind in Wales — and made his home in Dolgellau .

By the time he retired in 1961 he had attained prominence as a conductor , adjudicator and lecturer . He succeeded in forming choirs in every part of Mer. , and arranged a number of successful music festivals in the county. He conducted 50 performances of 20 different choral works between 1942 and 1961 , and as a result of this activity the Dee and Clwyd Music Festival was established at Corwen in 1955 — a festival which he served as choirmaster for the first 8 years. He was also active with the eisteddfod ; he was responsible for the musical aspects of the national eisteddfod at Dolgellau ( 1949 ), and prepared the choirs for the eisteddfodau in Colwyn Bay ( 1947 ), Llanrwst ( 1951 ), Dyffryn Maelor ( 1961 ) and Llandudno ( 1963 ). He served also as an adjudicator , and during the last years of his life he edited the Welsh translations in the music section of the National Eisteddfod .

He was a zealous Baptist , being elected president of the Welsh Baptist Union , 1963-64 . He took a particular interest in hymnology , and was considered to be an authority on the history of church music . He edited Llawlyfr Moliant Newydd ( 1955 ) and Mawl yr Ifanc ( 1968 ), and was a member of the editorial board of The Baptist Hymn Book ( 1962 ). He also edited the music in Llyfr gweddi a mawl i ysgolion ( 1958 ) for the education committees of Caern. , Mer. and Cards. Many of his original hymn-tunes, and his arrangements of hymn-tunes and carols , were included in his memorial programme, Rhaglen goffa John Hughes, 1896-1968 , which gives a glimpse of the many aspects of his career as a musician , editor , researcher and scholar .

He was not a prolific composer , though he did write some hymn-tunes, such as ‘ Maelor ’ and ‘ Arwelfa ’, which became very popular. He revealed his real musical talent as a gifted choir-master and conductor . He d. in a hospital in Cardiff , 14 Nov. 1968 , and was buried in Rhosllannerchrugog cemetery.


  • H. J. Hughes (ed.), Gwr wrth gerdd John Hughes, 1896-1968 (Llandysul, 1973) ;
  • Welsh Music, the journal of the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music , 3 (1969) ;
  • Y Cymro , 1 Jun. 1961 and 21 Nov. 1968 ;
  • information from his brother, Arwel Hughes, Cardiff .


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

Published date: 2001