THOMAS, JOHN (Ifor Cwmgwys; 1813 - 1866), poet

Name: John Thomas
Pseudonym: Ifor Cwmgwys
Date of birth: 1813
Date of death: 1866
Spouse: Rachel Thomas (née Davies)
Parent: Mary Davies
Parent: Evan Davies
Gender: Male
Occupation: poet
Area of activity: Eisteddfod; Poetry
Author: Robert Thomas Jenkins

Born at Ael-yr-ychen, Pentre-gwenlais, Llandybie (Llandebïe), Carmarthenshire, son of Evan and Mary Davies, and 'totally uneducated' - he was 30 before he learned to write. At 10, he began to work in the woollen factory, afterwards owned by Job Davies (Rhydderch Farfgoch, 1821 - 1887, eisteddfodwr and poet); when about 16 he became a collier at Tredegar, afterwards working at Dowlais, at the Werfa colliery at Aberdare, and at Cwm-twrch, Ystalyfera. His lack of formal education did not prevent the continuous practice of verse composition throughout these wanderings: he competed diligently at eisteddfodau, and won prizes - but had to carry his compositions in his memory and hie to and fro to Pentregwenlais for Job Davies to reduce them to writing. At Cwm-twrch, he married Rachel, Job Davies's daughter, and it was she who taught him to write; they lived at Gilfach on the banks of the Gwys brook (hence his pseudonym). They moved to Troed-y-rhiw (Merthyr Tydfil), and thence (1863) to the Rhondda Valley. Shortness of breath had for some time prevented him from working in the mine, but eisteddfodic prizes provided him with a livelihood of sorts. He died 26 December 1866, and was buried in the graveyard of Capel Rhondda, Pontypridd. In his youth, he had been a copious producer of tribannau; later on, he excelled at the englyn - englynion of his, e.g. won the prize at the national eisteddfod at Aberdare in 1861. But he also produced work of larger compass, printed in the periodicals, e.g. Yr Ymofynnydd in 1849 and 1853 (like his father-in-law, he was a Unitarian), Y Gwladgarwr (when Caledfryn was its editor), and Y Diwygiwr, 1863; see also Gardd Aberdâr, 223, 237. One of his ballads is item vii in B. B. Thomas, Baledi Morgannwg. Two books of his verse were published: Ceinion Glan Gwenlais, 1862, and Diferion Meddyliol, 1865.


Published date: 1959

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