Born in Llanengan, Llŷn peninsula, in 1721 or 1722 (he was christened 18 January 1721/2), the son of William Williams (or ‘Jones’) and Catherine his wife — William Morris suggests (Morris Letters, i, 308) that he was connected with the Bodvel family, but Foster enters ‘pleb.’ against his father's name. According to a letter which he wrote to Richard Morris in 1764, he was educated at Friars, Bangor, and he adds that he was there at the same time as Goronwy Owen. He entered Jesus College, Oxford, in June 1740, ‘aged 18,’ and graduated in 1744. He became curate of Llanengan (1745-51), rector of Llanfrothen and perpetual curate of Beddgelert (1751-4), and rector of Aberffraw from 15 February 1754 (when the Morrises had hoped to get the living for Goronwy Owen) until his death. Hugh Williams and Goronwy were ‘dear’ friends, according to the latter; in the collection of Goronwy's letters there are several references to him, and there is one letter addressed to him; but except for Goronwy's last letter to Richard Morris (1767), in which he enquired whether Hugh Williams was still alive, they all belong to the years 1752-5. As J. H. Davies has pointed out, the letter usually believed to have been sent to Hugh Williams in 1751 was in fact a copy of a 1751 letter sent by Goronwy to William Elias and forwarded by him (probably in 1754) to Hugh Williams. Moreover, there is nothing in the index to the Morris Letters to indicate that Hugh Williams was in the inner circle of the Morris brothers — if that index is searched (under the name ‘Aberffraw’) it will be found that Hugh Williams and William Morris were on occasional visiting terms; but when Hugh Williams wrote to Richard Morris (Add. Morris Letters, p. 624) in 1764 it was as one stranger to another. It is not easy to see how William Elias could have been Hugh Williams's instructor in poetry, as suggested by J. H. Davies — all we know for certain is that Elias had criticised some of Williams's verse, and that Goronwy had defended his friend; very little of Williams's poetry has survived. The popular belief that Hugh Williams was a member of the Cymmrodorion Society in 1751 is also incorrect — his name appears for the first time in the 1759 list of members. In 1773 he published a Welsh translation of an English sermon, and in 1776 Rhannau Detholedig o'r Salmau Cân gyd a'r Ystyr o honynt o flaen pob Salm. Tradition has it that he was a good preacher, and his letter to Richard Morris shows that he was keenly interested in the Welsh language. He died in 1779, and was buried 3 July at Aberffraw.
Published date: 1959
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