Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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OWEN , OWEN JOHN (‘ John Owen y Fenni ’; 1867 - 1960 ), printer and publisher, choir conductor and eisteddfod compère ;

b. 1867 at Dolgellau , son of Dafydd Owain , compositor and reader in the office of Y Dysgedydd and Y Dydd , and Margaret (née Vaughan ) . He served his apprenticeship in the same office before moving to Abergavenny in 1887 to work as a Welsh compositor in Henry Sergeant's press . He took an interest in music , having learnt the rudiments of sol-fa in the Sunday school in Yr Hen Gapel , Dolgellau , where his father was the secretary . At Abergavenny he was a member of the Independent church, Castle St. , where he became deacon and precentor . In 1897 he and his brother, Edwin Vaughan Owen (d. 22 Oct. 1950 ), bought the Minerva Press , and their office in Neville St. became a meeting place for members of the local Welsh -speaking community. Among the Welsh books published by the Owen Brothers is their father's biography ( 1907 ) and the works of Eluned Morgan ( DWB , 643) : Dringo'r Andes ( 1904 ), Gwymon y môr ( 1909 ), Ar dir a môr ( 1913 ).

On 9 Oct. 1909 John Owen m. Mabel Annie Dawson , and by that time he was well-known as a choir conductor , an elocutionist , witty public speaker and compère at eisteddfodau . He refused an offer to be a compère at the national eisteddfod in Abergavenny in 1913 , but he regularly compered from the national eisteddfod platform afterwards ( 1920-37 ), and he was made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards . He was energetic, and his multifarious interests included astronomy , cycling , motoring , climbing mountains , painting , local history and playing the harp and he gave over fifty years service as a lay preacher . He received the freedom of the town of Abergavenny in 1949 , and O.B.E. a year later. When he d. 30 Dec. 1960 a tribute was paid to him as the ‘ Patron saint of Gwent ’.

Sources:

  • Who's who in Wales (1937) ;
  • personal research.

Author:

Dr Siân Rhiannon Williams, Wenvoe, Cardiff / Rhoose

Published date: 2001