Who was Telynog?

Thomas Evans (TELYNOG; 1839–1865)

Corner of Eben’s Lane


Many years ago, despite walking passed this plaque several times a day I had little or no idea about Telynog or Ossian Dyfed. The plaque does not reveal very much about either. Not even their full names. Later I became aware that Telynog was listed amongst the ranks of the famous in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography. This is what I read here:

Born 8 September 1840 at Cardigan, son of Thomas Evans, boatmaker of that town. At the age of eleven he went to sea in a coastal vessel but, not liking this life, he ran away to Aberdare, where he worked as a miner in Cwm-bach. At an early age he started writing poetry, gaining his first success with a pryddest entitled ‘Gostyngeidd-rwydd’ in an eisteddfod held under the auspices of the Baptist chapel in Cwm-bach, where he was a member. He composed freely both in the free and the strict metres, gaining many successes at local eisteddfodau under the adjudication of poets of such eminence as Islwyn and Cynddelw. At the time of his premature death from consumption at the age of twenty-five he was regarded as one of the most promising poets of Wales. Among his best-known works are the lyrics ‘Blodeuyn bach wyf fi mewn gardd’ and ‘Yr Haf.’ The latter is included in Blodeugerdd by W. J. Gruffydd. A collected edition of his work arranged by his friend Dafydd Morganwg (D. W. Jones) with a biographical sketch by Hywel Williams was published in 1866. He died 29 April 1865 and was buried in the Aberdare cemetery.

His works and life story is included here:

The works of Telynog

The entry in the DWB is more or less a short precis of that included in the Byr-gofiant. As you would expect in a memorial by a friend, written within a year of the person’s death, the portrait is more of an appreciation than a critical analysis of his life and work. Is it possible for us to discover more about him more than 150 years after his birth? It is certainly possible to gain access to certain documents not easily obtainable in those days. The internet has also allowed access to many interesting sources.

I’m sorry to begin on an awkward note but the date of his birth on the plaque is wrong! Thomas Evans was born in 1839 and not 1840. (By the way Ossian Dyfed’s date of birth is also wrong. He was born in 1853.) Here is a copy of Thomas Evans’ birth certificate:

Thomas Evans’ birth certificate


To zoom in on the ‘date of birth’.

He was born then on 8 September 1839 the son of Thomas, a shipwright and Elisabeth Peters. The address given is Netpool Bach. If we look at the 1841 census:

Census 1841

Here is the detail:

Thomas Evans (40) and his wife (35) with their children David (9), William (7), John (4) and Thomas (1) the youngest; and Elizabeth Phillips, a 70 year old lodger.

There were 7 households (families ) on the Netpool at this time. A question worth asking – where exactly was the Evans household?

Perhaps this may help:

Netpool c.1915

The date on the back of the postcard is 1915. The shelter can be seen (built in 1902), Ael yr Aber, Dolwerdd farm and the houses on the banks of the Teifi (still standing today) but one house has gone –behind these – on the footpath which leads to Old Castle Farm. I wonder if this is where Thomas Evans lived? There is a mention (Glanceri, CTA 1915) that he lived in a ‘cottage near the Netpool’.

When he was a little boy he almost died in a fire but was rescued by his brother John (Telynog: unveiling, CTA, 1927).

By 1851:

Census 1851

Thomas was 11 years old and described as a ‘scholar’; his brother William (17 years old) working as a labourer; and John (13 years old) a cobbler’s apprentice. 

Thomas was educated in a private school run by Mr Forrester, Pwllhai. (O. Beynon Evans, CTA, 1918). Mr James Forrester, Pwllhai is mentioned in the 1851 census:

  • James Forester HD m 56 Schoolmaster CGN Cardigan St Mary (1851)
  • Mary WI m 58 PEM Kilgerran (1851)
  • Morgan SO u 17 Moulder CGN Cardigan (1851)
  • Mary DA u Scholar CGN Cardigan (1851)
  • Cathrine DA u 13 Scholar CGN Cardigan (1851)

Thomas (or Ossos as he was known at this time) received little formal education, because, according to the Byr-gofiant:

‘When he was 11 years old, he was placed to serve on board one of the small boats sailing from Cardigan port to various ports across Wales…’

It is hard to believe these days that he was only 11 years old when he started out on a career on the sea. His mother was with him on his first voyage – as was the custom in those days. But then, it seems, he had a tough time with his fellow workers on board and he decided that a life on the ocean waves was not for him. He abandoned ship and ran away in Milford Haven. With little money he made his way to Glamorgan and settled in Cwmbach, Aberdare, where his brother William was already living. After arriving in Aberdare he wrote home to his mother in verse form. This, it seems, was his first attempt at poetry.

Why Aberdare? Aberdare was similar to many towns in the Welsh Valleys during the nineteenth century where the coal mines attracted people from all corners of the globe. In 1801 the population of Aberdare was 1486; in 1851 it was 15, 000; 32, 000 in 1861 and 38, 000 by 1871. In many ways a new community developed. Between 1840 and 1870 schools, churches and chapels were built, necessary administrative and civic structures created, cultural societies established and new transport systems created along and across the Valleys. According to Bobi Jones (Barn, Sept.–Nov. 2007, p. 14)

Aberdare at this time was possibly the most cultured working class town in the world. It was seething with culture – printing presses and published works, authors, choirs, religious divines, cultural meetings, and households with clearly understood and expressed discussions taking place.

Before discussing Thomas Evans as a popular bard, it is worth mentioning that by 1859 he began to preach. According to Revd William Harries, Cwmbach (writing in 1907):

I have no doubt but for his tribulation he would be alive today and one of the best bards and preachers of his generation and nation.

What happened? Well – he was locked up and spent some time in Cardiff gaol. History has been generous to Thomas Evans and matters have been kept quiet. It is not easy to discover what happened. No mention of this matter in the Byr-gofiant.

But in an article in Seren Gomer (1905), 40 years after his death the Revd Thomas Morgan, Skewen wrote:

The matter was taken to the law court, and although 21 men swore that he was in work on the night in question (Fair night), yet the verdict went against him. Instead of paying the fine Thomas Evans landed in Cardiff gaol. He was placed in a cold damp cell, and this is when he caught a cold and later TB. He insisted until the very end that he was innocent. The whole matter affected his health and his spirit. He was unable to work for a long time.

So although this matter led directly to his death of a very young man of 25 it is odd that the matter has been (largely) ignored.

Revd William Harries, minister of Cwmbach at the time, and one who knew him well, discussing the matter above (some 2 years later; 15.3.1907 Seren Cymru) – but not revealing the accusation:

I believe that the idea of a cold, damp cell the true reason of his illness and untimely death is not true. I spoke to him many times on the matter, and he did not complain once of the dampness and cold of the cell. Instead of facing up to the circumstances he worried and this in turn became TB.

What were the circumstances?                                        

I looked at the list of people incarcerated in Cardiff gaol c. 1859–1860 (on the internet) but I failed to see the name of Thomas Evans. But in the Merthyr Telegraph 24.12.1859

Commitals to Cardiff gaol

Under the heading Committals to Cardiff Gaol is the following: “Thomas Evans, Aberdare, collier, for refusing to pay to the illegitimate child of Mary Davies.”

The name, the place, and job matches – and the date. I wonder if I am correct here? I emphasise and repeat the sentence: ‘He continued to claim to the end that he had been wrongly accused.’

How much time did he spend in gaol? Probably a short time since in 1861:

Census 1861

The family was living in Cwmbach: Thomas Evans, with his brother (both miners) and their mother Elizabeth, by this time a 62 year old widow and had left Cardigan. William Hughes a 33 year old lodger from Llangyfelach was also living under the same roof.

Thomas Evans had more luck after coming out of gaol. According to Thomas Morgan, Skewen:

’He was possibly the most successful young poet in the eisteddfodau of South Wales between 1860 and 1864. (SG, 1905). He won 18 prizes in different eisteddfodau and competitive meetings.’

By the way – you may have noticed that Thomas Evans I have called our friend until now. The reason for this is that his bardic name in this period was Coch y Berllan. A number of poems appear in local newspapers under this pseudonym.

But in August 1862 Tomas Evans announces:

Telynog tawel ei anian, – yn awr,

Ac nid Coch y Berllan

Enw arall, hyfwyn eirian,

O’r newydd yn rhydd ddaeth i’m rhan.

Y Gwladgarwr 2 Awst 1862.

Roughly translated:

Telynog quiet his muse – now

And not Coch y Berllan

Another name,

New, free is mine

And as Telynog he is well-known. Most of his compositions appear in Barddoniaeth Telynog (1866). It contains over 100 poems. 11 pryddestau: on a wide range of exotic subjects, such as: Destruction of the Alabama, The return of the Jewish nation, Patriotism of the Poles, and Emancipation of the American Slaves. Under Caniadau (Songs) 31 poems: including Yr Haf (The Summer), which appears in Y Flodeugerdd Gymraeg (W J Gruffydd). But his most famous work is:

‘Prudd-gan : composed on Cardigan beach which begins like this: ‘Blodeuyn bach wyf fi mewn gardd…’

‘I am a little flower in a garden, slowly, slowly wilting…’

He also liked to compose comic poems: 13 of these including: ‘What shall we do with the old women?’

Another popular work was: ‘Letting the cat out of the bag.’ The titles suggest the nonsensical subjects covered: ‘John is a strange fellow after getting drunk’; ‘The song of the Wedding ring’; ‘Have you heard that Swansea has sunk?’ and ‘The song of the Flea’.

46 cywydd and englynion composed on special occasions such as births, deaths and local events..

  • Yr Afon (pryddest), winner at the Ffynnon Taf Eisteddfod.
  • Elen Glan Teifi (rhiangerdd) winner at the Ffynnon Taf Eisteddfod.
  • Gostyngeiddrwydd (pryddest) (winner at the Baptist Eisteddfod, Aberdare, Christmas, 1860)
  • Tymmer Ddrwg (pryddest) (winner at the Swansea Eisteddfod, 1861).
  • Dyffryn Aberdar (englynion) (winner in a competition in Y Gwladgarwr, 1862).
  • Albert Dda (winner t the Baptist Eisteddfod, Aberdare, 1862).
  • I flwch casglu Tabernacl, Pontypridd (winner at the Joint Eisteddfod at Pontypridd, Whitsun, 1862).
  • Pa beth sydd i’w wneyd o’r hen ferched? (Comic song) (winner at Pontypridd Eisteddfod Pontypridd, Whitsun, 1862).
  • Y Lloer (winner at Pontardawe, Christmas, 1862).
  • Y Diweddar Barch. Daniel Jones, Tongwynlais (winner at Joint Eisteddfod, Pontypridd, 1863).
  • Ardalydd Bute (joint winner with Gwilym Elian, Caerffili, May, 1863).
  • Marchnad caws Caerphili (comic song) (winner at Caerffili Eisteddfod, Sept. 1863).
  • Trachwant (winner at Caerffili, Sept., 1863).
  • Cân y Chwain (cân ddigri) (winner at Neath Eisteddfod, Christmas, 1863).
  • Rhyddhad y caethion (englynion) (winner at Troedyrhiw, Christmas, 1863).
  • Dinistr yr Alabama (pryddest), winner at Merthyr Eisteddfod, 1864.
  • Ymdrech a gwladgarwch y Pwyliaid i gyrhaedd eu hanibyniaeth (joint winner with D. Morganwg,  Eisteddfod y Porth, Glynrhondda, Good Friday, 1864).
  • Chwech englyn unodl union, cyrch gymeriad, ar farwolaeth D. Williams, Whitsun, 1864).
  • Ar farwolaeth D. Williams, ysw. (Alaw Goch). Winner at Pontypridd, Whitsun, 1864.
  • Dic Shon Dafydd (winner at Brecon Eisteddfod, June, 1864).
  • Cân y Fodrwy Briodasol (‘supposed to win’ Aberystwyth National Eisteddfod, 1865).

As a successful bard Telynog was often asked to adjudicate. But not everyone was happy with his opinion. One local ‘bard’ who regularly liked to compete, but failed to win much, had enough, and decided to write to the press criticising the adjucator and life in general. Telynog retaliated in a long, long letter with verses including  colourful descriptions.

One of his last poems was ‘The destruction of the Alabama’. (a ship destroyed during the American Civil War). By this time he was in poor health, suffering from TB.

His letters to his friend Dafydd Morganwg reveals his poor condition:

10 November 1864: This old earthen vessel is still in poor shape, so that I can hardly move out of the house, but I am as happy as one can be under the circumstance.’

‘I am unable to compose anything now; I am languishing very, very quickly; I am suited today to keep company with those feeble creatures in the Valley of Ezeciel. I intend to go to Llanwrtyd next week, to stay awhile, to see if the springs will do me good.

Dafydd Morganwg

Dafydd Morganwg was responsible for collecting and publishing his poems. He later wrote Yr Ysgol Farddol (1869) a handbook on the rules of the cynghanedd.

On 22 Nov 1864 Telynog writes to him again:

‘I don’t know how to look after my health, and compose ‘The Alabama’. I wouldn’t contemplate this without your encouragement.’

But he did complete it and it was submitted to the Merthyr Christmas Eisteddfod, 1864. He won the prize and high praise. Funnily enough there is a description of his visit to this eisteddfod by two young poets. It sheds a light on his popularity during this time. Telynog was a celeb to these young bards:

Y Gwladgarwr 14.1.1865

Here is Llwydwedd and Deheufardd’s description of the occasion:

‘We had not had the pleasure of seeing Telynog before this time. There is something truly gifted in his looks. We did not think he would talk to such people as us, if we had the opportunity to get near him. When Telynog left the stage, the crowd shouted as one for him to recite one of his poems, and some shouted ‘The song of the wedding ring’. He went back on stage and recited the poem ‘Bifflcorau Morganwg ar Gwmin Hirwaun’, which caused the huge crowd to laugh until their sides ached.’

But the report ends with this sentence: ‘There is a slight paleness of ill-health on Telynog’s face’.

After this Eisteddfod, his health deteriorated quickly and he died on 29 April 1865.

(Thomas Evans; 8.9.1839– 29.4.1865)

This is the only photo that exists of Telynog. He certainly doesn’t look like a young man of 25. The grief of loosing a promising bard was acute. This is what appeared in Y Gwladgarwr 6 May 1865;

It is not necessary to dwell on the greatness, talent, genius and eloquence of my dear friend because value has already been placed on his incomparable poetry, by the most famous of Wales’ poets, Esyllt, Islwyn, and Emlyn. Telynog was one of Wales’ foremost poets, unassuming and noble in all meanings of the word –one whose presence was loved by all classes – peaceful and honest.

A sign of Telynog’s status with the Valleys’ poets is that they referred to him by using lines originally composed in memory of Byron, that well-known Romantic poet.

Yes, Telynog is gone,

Gone like a star that through the firmament,

Shot and was lost, in its eccentric course, Dazzling perplexing.

and lines written originally for Byron himself were reworded: 

Poor Telynog while life was in its spring,

And thy young muse just waved her joyous wing,

The spoiler came, and all thy promise fair

Has sought the grave, to sleep for ever there.

The sympathy and tribute flowed in the local papers. According to Dewi Wyn of Essyllt:

We have never read anything more effective, revolutionary, and triumphant in pathos, gentleness, and pensiveness than the bard’s ‘Pruddgan’ when he walked the coast of Cardigan; we cried gushing tears as we read, our feelings fell and we had to refrain half-way through. Pity that  one so dear, so kind, so hopeful, so truly poetic, so big, so able, taken from us in the flower of his youth.’

It is no wonder that six elegies appeared in the Gwladgarwr, a week after his death (13 May 1865) – the issue which included a report of his funeral.

Telynog was buried 3 May 1865: a dark day, cloudy, very rainy across the country in general; but it was doubly cloudy and showery in Cwmbach …

There follows a long list of ministers and bards present in his funeral: one name who stands out of particular interest perhaps is Ossian Gwent (or John Davies). Another poet from Cardigan who went to Rumney as a young man, and who earned his living in the ironworks.

Immediately after Telynog’s death a number of his fellow Aberdare based poets decided that a volume of his poetry should be published. A general appeal went out for copies of Telynog’s compositions.  His friend Dafydd Morganwg called on all eisteddfodic secretaries to send Telynog’s compositions to him. The general belief was that Telynog himself had not kept written copies of his works, that everything was in his memory – and now had disappeared for ever. BUT in the NLW there is an exercise book with his name and the date 1860 on the cover full of his poems – and as far as I know in his own handwriting. The book was presented to the NLW in 1912. Telynog must have kept this book hidden somewhere.

A collection of his poems was published in March 1866.

‘ …they are amongst the best things in the manner of poems that the Welsh press has ever produced… said the advert 17 Mar 1866 Y Gwladgarwr

Certainly Telynog’s work was extremely popular, and that for a very long time. An indication of this is the fact that the book reached 5 editions.

1 Ed 1866 Merthyr Tydfil, Joseph Williams. It is said that 800 copies were ordered before publication. 300 names appear on the list of subscribers. 50 copies were sent to his brother David Paul Evans, Cardigan. Many copies were sent to America. 2 Ed Cwmafon, David Griffiths. 3 Ed Cwmafon, Ll Griffiths. 4 Ed 1915??5 Ed Carmarthen, W. M. Evans and son.

Telynog’s gravestone at Aberdare cemetery

While some were busy preparing a book, others wished to place a suitable memorial stone on his grave. Although his mother aimed to use the money left after the book had been printed, it was decided to invite subscribers. A list was published in the local press. On the whole, sums such as a shilling, and half a crown arrived. Many promises were made but the money was slow coming in, and by May a few were asking where is the memorial stone? The total cost was £12 but many 6d and shillings are needed to reach £12. Although the money was slow to come in, when there was talk of competition for an elegy to place on the memorial stone 29 poets sent their attempts. Gwilym Eilian (William Coslett) was the winner (15.9.1866 Aberdare Times). Yet lines by Howell William, Pantygerdinen appear on his memorial stone.

The englyn on the gravestone.

I’m not sure how that happened! Here is one list of subscribers that appeared in Y Gwladgarwr on 30.6.1866:

  • Mr Lewis Watkins 0 10  0
  • B. John, (Dar Alaw) 0 5 0
  • T.Price, (Idris Nedd) 0 1 0
  • Miss E. David, (Llinos Cynwyd) 0 2 6
  • Mrs James, Bute Arms, Aberdare 0 2 6
  • Mr D, Rhoslyn Davies 0 2 6
  • Mr J. Griffiths, (E. G. Cynon) 0 1 0
  • Mr John Griffiths 0 1 9
  • Miss M. Williams, Stag Hotel, Trecynon O 2 6
  • Mr R. Mawddwy Jones 0 2 6
  • Mr Jonah Thomas 0 1 0
  • Mr D. I. Davies, British School 0 2 6
  • Parch W. Edwards, Trecynon 0 2 6
  • Parc W. Harries, Trecynon 0 2 6
  • Mr N. M. Jones, Cymro Gwyllt 0 10 0
  • D. Howells, Trecynon 0 2 6
  • Ll. Jones, (Tisilio) 0 2 6
  • Thomas, (Gwynfead) 0 1 0
  • Windsor H. Jones, Abergwawr Brewery 0 10 0
  • Walters, Agent 0 5 0
  • James, Bute Arms 0 2 6
  • Alffred Davies 0 1 0
  • W. Josuah, (Caerwyson) 010 0
  • Thomas, Stone Cutter, Trecynon 1 0 0
  • Morgan, (Llyfnwy) 0 5 0
  • Gwilym Gwent 0 5 0
  • Phillips 0 2 6
  • Owen, Trecynon 0 10
  • D. Williams, Stone Cutter, Tre-cynon 0 5 0
  • Parch M. Davies, (M. Glan Taf) 0 1 0
  • E. James, Glyn Neath 0 5 0
  • Mr Jenkin Jones. Pontypridd 0 2 6
  • Parch. W. C. Williams, 5s.
  • GwiIym Cyrwen, Is.
  • Jones, Clock Maker, Wind Street, Abardar, Is.
  • Morgan, Trecynon, Is. a
  • John Jones, (Eiddil Glan Gynon,) Is.

Once the memorial stone was in place ‘Telynog’s Grave’ was the subject of many englynion that appeared in the local press. Since there was so much call for his work it is not surprising that his poems remain alive in the memory of many – and for a long time. But not everything that Telynog wrote pleased everybody. He upset many with the following englyn about the Rhondda Valley:


Cwm Rhondda, dyma gwm domog, – cwm tarth,

Cwm twrf, cwm gorgreigiog;

Cwm llun y sarff, cwm llawn o s’og.

A chwm culach na cham ceiliog.

50 years later someone wrote in the Rhondda Leader:

When is the Welsh National Eisteddfod to visit the Rhondda? The idea of such a visit has been floating in my mind since that time; it will not give me rest until somebody convinces me of the impossibility of the visit, or satisfies me of its practicability. Now, when the battle of the sites is being waged between Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, and London, it appears to be an opportune occasion to bring the matter before the public. The Welsh National Eisteddfod has been more than once in the vicinity. It has visited Aberdare, Pontypridd, Merthyr Tydfil, and Mountain Ash. But it has never been held in this Valley. It is to be feared that when Telynog termed the Valley a “cwm tomog, and cwm culach na cham ceiliog,” the Rhondda people were persuaded to consider their home as an uninviting place to entertain their visitors, and outsiders too readily accepted the poet’s innocent banter as a deplorable fact. But the Rhondda is not such an impossible district as some outsiders, and even many insiders, consider it. If it is a ‘cwm tomog’, nature occasionally beautifies the blackest tip, and the ideas of the people are far from being as narrow as ‘cam ceiliog.’ It is one of our duties to prove for the sake of youth of the Rhondda, that it is not so black as it is often painted. I am under the impression that there exists up the hills a  considerable amount of latent talent, and that we can favourably compare with any similar district in moral and intellectual attainments.

18.5.1907 Rhondda Leader

A few summer’s ago I visited Aberdare. I knew that a housing estate was named after Telynog so I followed the satnav to Aberdare. I was glad to see the following sign:

Tre Telynog housing estate, Aberdare

Here is the estate. But no sign of a plaque. I asked someone who was cutting a hedge nearby was there a plaque for Telynog, the bard somewhere in the vicinity. ‘Never ‘eard of him’ I was told. But we did find it. On a house in a nearby street. Bridge Rd. Here is the plaque above the front door:

18 Bridge St., Abedare, The plaque is above the front door.

The plaque

Unveiling of the plaque in 1926

Left-right: Herbert Davies; John Davies (Pen Dar), D J Hughes Jones, James Phillips, D O Roberts (ysg. y Cymm), Kate Roberts (Cymmrodorion president), E J Williams, Tel, Ap Hefin (in the back), John Davies, Iwan Goch), Parchg John Morgan (Bryn Seion), Miss Winnie Evans and Mr J R Evans, G and L (in the back). The lady in the hat on the left (back)? No less a person than Kate Roberts, ‘Queen of our literature’. She was the Aberdare Cymmrodorion president for that year.

Within 11 months of this occasion Cardigan Cymmrodorion had a similar idea.

“Telynog and Ossian: Commemoration of two worthy sons of Cardigan. Tablet unveiled by the Archdruid.” read the Tivyside headline.

Corner of Eben’s Lane

It was the idea of Walter Rees, manager of Barclays Bank. He was the Robbie McBryde of his generation –as the sword bearer in the Gorsedd of the Bards. His bardic name was Gwallter Dyfi (he was a native of Machynlleth), and the secretary of Cardigan Cymmrodorion at this time. Cardigan Borough Council refused permission to put the plaque on the Guildhall and J. C. Roberts offered the pine end of his shop in Eben’s Lane. Mrs Thomas Jenkins and son, Glenview were responsible for the plaque. On 11 March 1927 a large crowd gathered in Capel Mair, and the marched up Priory St, and along the High St to Eben’s Lane. Local Primary school children were also present. A memorial plaque was unveiled by the Archdruid Elfed (King’s Cross, London). The ceremony included hymn singing and speeches and then everyone moved over to the Netpool where another crowd had gathered. More hymns were sung and more speeches spoken… And then all the bigwigs went back to the Black Lion for tea including: 

Elfed, Revd J D Evans; Revd T. Esger James; Mayor John Evans; Revd J Morgan (Aberdar); Revd T J Rees (Trewyddel); Revd D Evans (Drewen); Revd Gwilym Morris (Penuel, Cemaes); Revd T. Lloyd (Llechryd); Revd J Price (Ferwig); Revd W H Jones (Gerazim); Revd J. Thomas (Penybryn); Revd Eynon Morris (Pengam); Revd D. Moses Davies (Llandudoch); Revd Dan Adams (Llechryd); Messrs J T Evans (Pearl), sec.; J. E. Jones (Stafford Ho); Wm Thomas, Carningli; J Conwyson Roberts, L Oswald Jones (NP bank ); Cllr Samuel Young MA, D T Davies, JP, (Henllys); D Lewis Jones (Barclays), and W R Jones, MA (County school).

If we jump forward to 1966 (March) 101 years after the poet’s death we read the following headline in the CTA: ‘Successful Telynog Night’. Another night under the auspices of Cardigan Cymmrodorion Society, and who was chairing this evening but W R Jones, the vice president, in the absence of Enoch Thomas BA, the president. An evening of song and recitation by the choirs of Cardigan and Preseli Secondary Schools and performances by a number of notable names. The commentator was the Revd Gomer Roberts MA. ‘The Song of the Flea’ was sung by Teifryn Rees.

  • Yfory Sion Crydd – Parti Ysgol y Preseli
  • Pa beth sydd i’w wneud â Hen Ferched? –David Davies
  • Yr Haf –Côr Ysgol Sir Aberteifi
  • Detholiad o englynion – Bechgyn yr ardal
  • Cân y Chwain – Teifryn Rees
  • Gwenno Fwyn Gu – Parti cyd-adrodd YS Aberteifi
  • Cywydd Y Lloer – Parti Cerdd Dant Ysgol Preseli
  • Pan ddaeth y gath o’r cwdyn – Elfyn Owen
  • Fy Nghariad – Teifryn Rees
  • Gostyngeiddrwydd –merched lleol
  • Adroddodd Gwynfi Jenkins deyrnged Crwys i Telynog

The highlight of the evening must have been a recitation of Crwys’ work to Telynog by Mr Gwynfi Jenkins. The celebrations came to an end with thanks by Jacob Jones, Llechryd and the Revd D. Osborne Thomas BA BD.

Where does Telynog fit into the history of Wales’ poets? I can but quote from Professor Brinley Robetrts, a former professor of Welsh and a former Librarian of the NLW, and a native of Aberdare:

From 1854 until 1865; a short 10 year period was his career [no mention of the time Telynog spent in gaol!] it is true that he mastered the accepted bardic and eisteddfodic techniques of his time and he was particularly productive  and successful in a short span of time. Telynog was the ‘big promising poet’ to his contemporaries, but it is doubtful whether he would have reached the top of the pole if he had lived…

…his long poems tend to relate stories, with little poetic imagination. He is more successful in his short poems, so as a poet of comic verse he would have made his mark. He was an able englynwr and his memorable phrases stayed in people’s memories for a long time… His career revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the eisteddfodic  and society’s bardic education.

Well that’s his view. It may also be fair to say that he could have adapted and developed  his work as time went on.

Robin Gwyndaf’s view in Barn, 1965:

It is true to say that the major part of his work is noted by loose expression, unripe craft and the absence of that living thing which gives permanent value to a poem. Yet, in the majority of his work, that ray of poetic genius catches you, elegance of craft, suitability of image, symmetry of comparison.  He may become tangled in the complexities of cynghanedd, but sometimes it is an obedient maidservant to him and his walk is triumphant, free…



NLW 15672c: Anerchiad i’r ddau frawd H Wms, Pant-y-gerdinen a’i ddisgybl talentog Coch y Berllan  31.1.1960

NLW 10564c: Llythyr at J D Evans, 6 William St at Dafydd Morganwg

Gweddillion barddoniaeth Telynog oddi wrth Dafydd Morganwg 1-25

NLW 1065c  [presented by Revd J D Evans, Bwthyn, Pencader 11.6.1912]

Llythyr oddiwrth Wm Humphreys, Temerance Hotel, Pontypridd 8.11.1864.


Tannau y Delyn Dorrwyd sef gweddillion barddonol Anghyoeddiedig Telynog. Tonypandy: Evans a Short, Swyddfa Seren Gomer, 1898. Aaron Morgan

Barddoniaeth Telynog (1866)

[based on a talk given at Cardigan Cymmrodorion, Bethania Vestry, December 2017.]
© William H Howells

Cardigan and the Sea 2

Cardigan’s geographical location on the banks of the river Teifi leading to Cardigan Bay, the Irish Sea, the Atlantic and beyond, means that the sea has always had an influence on its history. Wandering through the burial records and reading the gravestones of those buried in the Church cemetery, reveals the hopes and aspirations of Cardigan’s youth and the tragedies that occurred in so many families.

The river has always been a dangerous place for young children to play.

  • David William, 11 years old and the 3rd son of John ac Elizabeth drowned in July 1844.
  • In June 1890 William Henry Smith, Mwldan drowned in the river.

Some drowned by crossing the bar.

  • George Jefferson, 17 years old, and John Pratt, 22 years old, both drowned when the brig Active sank, in June 1825.

Cardigan Bay was the last place for some to see daylight.

  • Richard Finch, the 27 year old son of Mary, drowned in March 1827.
  • Thomas Thomas, 15 years old drowned in October 1843.
  • David Davies, Parc Llwyd, Aber-porth, 70 years old drowned in 1851.
  • John Evans, 30 years old drowned in November 1866.

A little further afield, William Phillips, a second mate on board SS Cyfarthfa drowned when he fell into the East Bute Dock, Cardiff October 1897. He left a widow and 2 children.

The following were drowned on various sea voyages where the ship’s destiny is not revealed.

  • Morgan Morgan, 45 years old, in December 1846.
  • William Miles, 19 years old, son of John and Dorothy, in December 1847.
  • William James, 29 years old in April 1853.
  • John Charles, 31 years old, son of David in August 1893.

When places are mentioned the distances travelled by Cardigan sailors are revealed. It is clear that Cardigan was not “the land that time forgot” and Cardigan people could be found in all corners of the globe well before the opening of the Cardigan to Carmarthen railway, the coming of the motor car and bus trips, or the building of Cardiff airport!

Here is a small sample of the evidence:

  • Rowland Rowlands, 20 years old, died on 25 April 1796 in the West Indies.
  • James Evans, 26 years old, master of the schooner Nymph died near Cape Clear, February 1833.
  • Daniel Davies, 40 years old, died near Cape Clear [off the Irish coast], November 1838.
  • James Owens, 25 years old, son of David and Diana, died near Crow Head, North West Ireland, November 1838.
  • John Roberts, 20 years old, died near the  Cape of Good Hope, September 1848.
  • William Davies, 38 years old, master of the schooner Harmony died in Tralee, May 1849.
  • Thomas Jones, 19 years old drowned and all the crew of the Pomona, on the Scottish coast February 1850.
  • Isaac Griffiths, 23 years old, drowned near the African coast, June 1850.
  • David Morris, 23 year old son of Evan and Margaret, died in San Fransisco December 1850.
  • George Lord, 10 month old, born at sea and died in Valparaiso [Chile] 1851.
  • John Mathias, 26 year old died of cholera in Rotterdam September 1854.
  • David Owens, 52 years old, died on board the schooner Master De Carri sailing from Pomeron, December 1854
  • John Griffiths, sailmaker, 59 years old, died in Malta May 1855.
  • John W. Jones, 16 years old on the brig Hope in 1856.
  • John White, 44 years old died died in Rio de Janeiro March 1857.
  • Capten William Finch, 37 years old, died in Rio de Janeiro May 1857.
  • William White, 28 years old, son of George and Sarah died in Quebec October 1860.
  • Mary Runnegar, 35 years old, died in Richmond, Australia May 1861.
  • James Timothy, 20 years old, fell overboard the barque Jone of Sunderland February 1863 on route from Mauritius to London.
  • David Thomas, died on board the schooner William Edward from Gloucester in the Bay of Biscay June 1863.
  • Phillip Phillips, 39 years old died on board the brig Harmony of Cardiff near the Scottish coast December 1865.
  • John Stephens, 45 years old died in Cuba, 1867.
  • David Davies, 27 years old, died on board the Sclavonica, by Leith in 1867.
  • David Sambrook, 52 years old, died on board the Harlech Castle near Cape Horn, August 1868.
  • William Tudor Davies, son of Tudor and Elizabeth, 23 years old and chief officer died on board the Almora, on route from Bombay to Liverpool September 1868.
  • Captain William Jones, 41 years old, drowned on route from Philadelphia to Plymouth 17 September 1869.
  • John Owens, 23 oed, died on route from the Mediterranean December 1870; and his brother James, 35 years old died on route from Shields to Mollendo [Southern Peru] December 1871.
  • William Jenkins, 21 years old, son of David died near Cape Horn, September 1872.
  • John Lloyd 26 years old died of yellow fever in Rio de Janeiro June 1873.
  • John Thomas, 45 years old, died while managing the barque Maggie of Swansea. He died in Plymouth and was buried there in May 1874.
  • Evan Thomas, ship master, William St., 36 years old, died in St Helena, 16 October 1875.
  • Thomas Harries Griffiths, 40 years old died on board the brig Leading Star on route from Shields to Folkestone November, 1875.
  • Stephen James, 49 years old died in Geddes November 1876.
  • Thomas Owens, 37 years old, died on route from Bombay to London, on board the Flora August 1877.
  • Captain John Morgan, 56 years old, died in Quebec Hospital, 1881 and was buried in Quebec.
  • Henry Greenhill Trollip, second son of Jacob, 19 years old died on board the ship Easterhill April 1886.
  • Thomas Morgan, 35 years old, died in Pera Hospital, Brazil January 1887.

Tragedy struck some families across more than one generation.

  • Thomas and James, sons of Owen and Elizabeth Thomas, drowned at sea as well as their grandson John Lloyd
  • David Davies, Parc Llwyd drowned in Cardigan Bay in 1851 and his son David died from burns on board the ship Amazon, January 1852.
  • David Williams, 11 years old, and 3rd son of John and Elizabeth, drowned by the Quay in Cardigan in 1844; their 4th son William, 16 years old was washed overboard the Susannah on the North West coast of Ireland in December 1844.
  • William Williams, 52 years old, master of the brig Jane of Cardigan died in Limerick, October 1825; Lewis, his 23 years old son drowned in February 1833; another son John, 18 years old drowned off the coast at Holyhead in the Mary of Cardigan in October 1838; and a third son Thomas, 34 years old died in New York in July 1847.

Saturday Night at the Black – new book

Copies selling fast: email     


to order a copy by post £12.50.

Cardigan in the Swinging Sixties!

Cardigan in the Swinging Sixties! (front cover)

Cardigan in the Swinging Sixties! (back cover)

Cardigan in the Swinging Sixties! (back cover)

Saturday Night at the Black: Cardigan in the Swinging Sixties. 183pp. with over 100 illustrations, many of which you will not have seen before, by William H. Howells. Price £10. Printed by E. L. Jones, Aberteifi. ISBN 978 1 78280 7698

Is Cardigan ready for this?

It’s a remarkable story! The background is the close connection between some of the town’s characters and those linked with the emerging Liverpool music scene at the time. People like the dramatist Alun Owen, who came to live in St Dogmael’s between 1963 and 1967; Allan Williams, the Beatles’ first manager; Bill Harry, founder and editor of the pioneering Mersey Beat newspaper; Bob Wooler, the Cavern’s famous DJ; and George Melly, who bought a summer house in Pen-y-bryn. This motley crew, with their partners, were warmly welcomed by Frank Aspinall, of the Black Lion, and with their help organised Liverpool bands to play in the Black.

The book contains a complete list of all the groups who played there between 1963 and 1973. At first they came from the Cavern – many via the Kaiserkeller and other Hamburg clubs. Do you remember the visit of Screaming Lord Sutch to Cardigan? What about Rory Storm and the Hurricanes; Ian and the Zodiacs; The Clayton Squares; Vince Earl and the Talismen; Freddie Starr and the Nightriders; Sony Webb and the Cascades; Derry Wilkie and the Pressmen; The Kirkbys; The Masterminds; The Chessmen and The Kinsleys and many more?

Later the groups came from South Wales: do you remember James Hogg, The Iveys; Haverson Apricot; Peter Shane and the Vikings – and let’s not forget local groups including Ricky and the Raiders and Strawberry Maize?

Every Saturday night over 200 teenagers flowed into the town from a wide area of Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire to dance, to listen to music and to enjoy.

But not everyone was happy with these developments. Parents warned their offsprings not to go near such a place, and the respectable town councillors were unhappy that the Black gave the town a bad image.

Cardigan has not seen anything like this before or since.

Read the truth about the connection of the Beatles with the local Eisteddfod!

Read about the close link between ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and St Dogmael’s.

You’ll be surprised to read the candid memories of those who were a part of the scene.

Available in bookshops NOW £10.

or email netpool1960@gmail.com to order a copy by post £12.50.