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OWEN , JOHN DYFNALLT (‘ Dyfnallt ’; 1873 - 1956 ), minister (Congl.), poet, writer, journalist and Archdruid of Wales ;

b. 7 Apr. 1873 at Coedffalde , Llan-giwg, Glam. , at the foot of the Black Mountain , son of Daniel and Angharad Owen . His mother died when he was a year old and he was brought up by his paternal grandparents. He went to Cwmllynfell school and after a short period working in the mines he entered Parcyfelfed Academy (the Old College School ), Carmarthen , and went to Bala-Bangor College in 1894 . He was a close friend of Ben Bowen ( DWB , 46) and other young poets. His interest in the eisteddfod persisted throughout his ministry in Trawsfynydd ( 1898-1902 ) where he was an influence on Ellis Humphrey Evans (‘ Hedd Wyn ’; DWB , 229) ; and Deiniolen ( 1902-05 ) where he became acquainted with Thomas Gwynn Jones (see above) and William John Gruffydd (see above) . He then moved to be minister of Sardis , Pontypridd ( 1905-10 ) and while he was there he won the crown at Swansea national eisteddfod in 1907 on ‘ Y Greal Sanctaidd ’, having been very close to winning at Rhyl in 1904 . He m., 11 Aug. 1904 , Annie Hopkin of Ystalyfera and they had two children. In 1908 Dyfnallt became a member of the Celtic Congress and maintained an interest in the Celtic countries thereafter. In 1910 he received a call to Lammas Street , Carmarthen where he remained until he retired from the ministry. In 1916 he went to Béthune in France as chaplain to the Y.M.C.A. , and published Myfyrion a chaneuon maes y tân , an unique booklet of poems and meditations on his experiences on the battlefield. He wrote poetry only occasionally afterwards although he published a collection of poems, Y Greal a cherddi eraill ( 1946 ). He turned his attention to writing and to researching the history of Independent causes . Stephen Hughes ( 1912 ) ( DWB , 390-1) , Tomos Glyn Cothi ’ ( Thomas Evans , 1764 - 1833 ; DWB , 252-3) ( Y Dysgedydd , 1933 ) and ‘ Y Tri Brawd o Lanbrynmair ’ ( Adroddiad Undeb yr Annibynwyr , 1928 ) were some of his heroes, and he wrote about them not so much to record events as to inspire a new generation. In 1927 he was appointed editor of Y Tyst , a position he enjoyed as a means of expressing his views on peace, anti-imperialism, nationalism and Christianity. In 1953 , to celebrate his silver jubilee as editor , a collection of his essays was published in Ar y tŵr , a suggestive title conveying the editor as Isaiah 's watchman guarding the city from the enemy, which is how he saw himself. He travelled widely in Poland , Italy , Switzerland , Bavaria and Brittany . He published a book on his visit to Brittany , O ben tir Llydaw ( 1934 ) two collections of essays and articles, Min yr hwyr ( 1934 ) and Rhamant a rhyddid ( 1952 ), and also contributed numerous articles to the denominational press and The Dictionary of Welsh Biography . When World War II broke out he was in Danzig , and he published articles such as ‘ Wythnos yn Danzig ’, ‘ Arswyd y Gestapo ’ and ‘ Hitleriaeth gartref ’. After the war he gave refuge in his home in Carmarthen to Ropaz Hemon the Breton writer who had escaped before his trial in Brittany . Dyfnallt was president of the Union of Welsh Independents in 1936 and received an hon. M.A. degree of the University of Wales in 1953 . He was elected Archdruid of Wales at Rhyl in 1954 . He was then eighty years old and had been enjoying his retirement in Aberystwyth since 1947 . He d. 28 Dec. 1956 , and his ashes were scattered on the Black Mountain . There was no flattery in the tribute given him in Y Cymro - ‘ one of the best loved of the Welsh ’.


  • Geraint Elfyn Jones , Bywyd a gwaith John Dyfnallt Owen (Swansea, 1976) (1976) .
  • [See Emrys Jones in D. Llwyd Morgan , Adnabod deg. Portreadau o ddeg o arweinwyr cynnar y Blaid Genedlaethol (Denbigh, 1977) (1977) ;
  • Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society , 11, 120-8, for his bibliography.]


Geraint Elfyn Jones, Newtown

Published date: 2001