Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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ROBERTS , DAVID JOHN (‘ Dewi Mai o Feirion ’; 1883 - 1956 ), journalist, folk poet, tutor and setter of cerdd dant ;

b. 14 May 1883 at Talweunydd , Blaenau Ffestiniog, Mer. , son of David and Catherine Roberts . He began to take an interest in singing to the harp when he was very young, and as did a number of other youths from the neighbourhood of Blaenau , such as Ioan Dwyryd , Robert G. Humphreys , and W. Morris Williams , he used to frequent the cottage Llys y Delyn , Rhiwbryfdir , Blaenau Ffestiniog , where David Francis (‘ Telynor Dall o Feirion ’) lived in the early part of the 20th c. ‘ Dewi Mai ’, in company with his contemporaries, learnt from David Francis how to set a stanza to an air and how to handle cynghanedd . After living for a time in England , he returned to Merionethshire , for a while in the neighbourhood of Bala , before settling in the town of Dolgellau . There he earned his living as a journalist and undertook the task of teaching others to sing penillion . He prepared hundreds of settings of verses, and sent them by post to all parts of Wales , thereby arousing the interest of many who in their turn came to be prominent performers and setters of penillion . He published three volumes of settings, many of the poems they contain being written by him: Diliau'r plant ( 1913 ), Trysorau'r tannau ( 1935 ), Y Patrwm ( 1952 ). But despite his great contribution as a penillion setter and tutor , he made two other more important contributions which were essential cornerstones in the development of singing to harp accompaniment. Throughout 1933 and 1934 he wrote a weekly column in Y Cymro under the heading ‘ Cornel y delyn ’. In it he dealt with every aspect of the ancient art, bringing it to the notice of the general public. He called for a national society to be formed to promote this ancient form of singing, and through his articles he prepared the way to secure the success of the society - Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru - when it was founded in Bala in Nov. 1934 . After the society was founded, ‘ Dewi Mai o Feirion formulated the first draft of the rules of Cerdd Dant which were adopted later by the society, and which remain to the present day as aids for penillion setters. His contribution to the development of the art of singing to the harp between 1920 and 1956 was crucial. He m. Kate Laura Ephraim and d. 27 Nov. 1956 .

Sources:

  • Allwedd y Tannau Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru , 1956 , 9-10;
  • information from his son, D. G. Roberts, Rhyl .

Author:

Dr Aled Lloyd Davies, Mold

Published date: 2001