He was educated at the council school Brynengan (1917-25), Pen-y-groes county school (1925-31); (he won the chairs at the first two Urdd National Eisteddfodau at Corwen, 1929, and Caernarfon, 1930); University College of North Wales, Bangor (1931-36; BA, 1934 with honours in Welsh; diploma in education, 1935.
He began researching into the life and work of Thomas Price (‘Carnhuanawc’) during the 1935-36 session for the MA degree. However, much to his disappointment, he did not complete the study due to the demands of his employment on his time. He taught Welsh and Latin (and woodwork for a short while only) at Barmouth county school, 1936-57, and was head of the department of Welsh and deputy headmaster of Ysgol Arudwy, Harlech, from 1957 until his retirement in 1976. A genial and most dependable person, he was a dedicated and conscientious schoolteacher throughout his career. He served in the Army (with the Royal Engineers) during Nov. 1940 - March 1946.
The University of Wales Press published his volume Gwerthfawrogi Llenyddiaeth (1959) which consists of ‘a selection of poetry and prose chosen as suitable for use as exercises…by senior pupils in secondary schools and first year students in colleges’. As well as being a most useful tool for the teacher, this volume also reflects the author's obvious scholarship, culture and literary taste. He revised O Gorlannau y Defaid (1905), the historical novel by Annie Harriet Hughes (‘Gwyneth Vaughan’). This new edition, for libraries only, was published by Gwasg Gee in 1969. He also edited and contributed to the volume Gŵr wrth Gerdd: John Hughes 1896-1968 (1973). Between Nov. 1955 and Dec. 1956 he published in Yr Athro a detailed series of ‘[Philological] notes on some of the poems in Blodeugerdd o'r Ddeunawfed Ganrif’ aimed at Sixth Form pupils. He published many well-crafted reviews in Barddas, Barn, Merioneth Journal, Genhinen and Taliesin during 1967-78.
D. Tecwyn Lloyd said of H. J. Hughes (in trans.): ‘Reviewing was his main contribution and in that capacity he was always thorough and completely fair; …the purity and consistent standard of his work set an example to all of us who write in Welsh…his best was best indeed’. Among his last contributions was a warm portrait of Morris Jones (‘Morus Cyfannedd’; 1895-1982), the country poet from Arthog, published in Barddas, 20 (June, 1978), 1-2. He served as chairman of a sub-committee responsible to the Meironeth Education Committee for producing Atlas Meirionydd (1974) under the editorship of Geraint Bowen.
He was became an ‘Honorary Member’ of the Gorsedd of Bards (Druidic Order) at the National Eisteddfod, Bala, 1967. He was a member of the Council of the Merioneth Historical and Record Society, from 1967 until his death. He held popular evening classes in Ardudwy on the cynganeddion under the auspices of the WEA. He had a deep knowledge of the intricacies of poetic art (cerdd dafod), and being a teacher by instinct he took great pleasure in passing that knowledge on to others. A further instance of this was his participation in a television series, ‘Swyn y Glec’, broadcast by BBC Wales between Oct. 1970 and March 1971 in which he gave lessons on the cynganeddion. Three of his poems were included in Awen Meirion (1961) in which Emlyn Evans, the general editor, paid him a special tribute in the preface for his thorough work in connection with this volume. A translation by him of an unknown English hymn was included (no.128) in Caneuon Ffydd (2001).
He also enjoyed tracing the meanings of Welsh place-names and the derivation of words, but this is not surprising since he was a former student and an enthusiastic admirer of Sir Ifor Williams. Needless to say, he was an ardent patron of all things Welsh within his community like the Talsarnau Eisteddfod from its inception as well as other cultural societies. According to John Ieuan Jones, a local poet and friend of his, H. J. Hughes was ‘an interesting conversationalist who embodied the best of rural Eifionydd in his bearing and his unassuming personality’.
He married 10 Feb. 1940 Ann(ie) Laura Jones, Dyffryn Ardudwy (who died 28 Oct. 1977); four daughters and one son were born to them. He died suddenly at East Glamorgan Hospital on 13 Nov. 1978 at 66 years of age whilst visiting Cardiff. He was buried in St Michael's churchyard, Llanfihangel-y-traethau, Ynys, Talsarnau, Gwynedd.
Arwyn Lloyd Hughes, Llandaf
Published date: 2012