PeopleOf Cwmamman

Hedd-Wyn Williams

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The above image shows Hedd-Wyn Williams with some of his eisteddfod prizes which consisted of cups, medals and rose bowls. He was born on the 20th of September, 1917 in a house named "Bryn Heddwyn" on Jones Terrace, Glanamman. His participation in eiseddfodau and the drama club in the village helped to groom him for his occupation as a Minister.

At the young age of 3, Hedd-Wyn won a first prize for Welsh recital and he later became a regular competitor in the many eisteddfodau throughout the district. The 6th of August, 1925 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle referred to him as "the brilliant Glanamman child elecutionist" after he won four first prizes in the childrens categories in eisteddfodau held at Llanybri, Burry Port and Carmarthen. This he accomplished in the course of one weekend, aged approximately 7 years and 10 months.

An article in the 13th of August 1936 edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle congratulated Hedd-Wyn on winning the first prize for elecution at the Fishguard National Eisteddfod. It was reported that by that time, he had won 58 cups, 14 chairs and numerous medals and estimated that at his age (a little under 19 years old), he must hold the record number of cups in the Amman Valley.

Hedd-Wyn's original ambition was to become an actor but the call of the Ministry was stronger. He entered the University of Aberystwyth on a full scholarship and obtained his B.A. and M.Div there. He married a young nurse, Iris Lloyd from the Post Office in Wolfscastle. Pembrokeshre. After his ordination, he and his young wife emigrated to Toronto, Canada, to be the Minister at Dewi Sant Welsh United Church.

Rev. Hedd-Wyn Williams attended the University of Toronto to further his studies and obtained his Master of Religious Education (M.R.E.) He then took the pulpit at St. Paul's United Church in Toronto where the Sunday School alone had over 150 children. After 16 years he felt the need for a change and he became the Head of Counselling at Centennial College in Toronto while at the same time filling the pulpit for a smaller congregation at Wanstead United church.

Hedd-Wyn was honoured as Minister Emeritus for both Dewi Sant and Wanstead United churches. Like many clergymen, Hedd-Wyn never really retired in that he still performed weddings, funerals and was the guest preacher in many different pulpits right up until a month before his death, which occurred on the 14th of August 2004 at the age of 86. Hedd-Wyn and his wife Iris enjoyed good health and independence until just before the end, residing in their own home and driving their own cars. Iris predeceased Hedd-Wyn by exactly two months.

Hedd-Wyn was clearly proud of his Welsh heritage; he loved Wales and returned to his homeland often. He said that "A Welshman could sing his troubles away and the common labourer was king when it came to culture and the arts."

From some of Hedd-Wyn's own written memories, we learn that his own great-grandfather was a tenant farmer named David Williams who would have farmed Penlan Farm, Llandeilo in the mid 18oo's. Giving us an interesting glimpse into the life of a tenant farmer. Hedd-Wyn wrote:

"My great grandfather, David Williams was a tenant farmer on the estate of Lord Dynevor, Llandeilo in Camarthenshire, South Wales. The farm belonged to Lord Dynevor and David had to serve so many days on the estate e.g. ploughing, hay making, trimming the hedges, shearing the sheep etc. He was not allowed to hunt on his farm e.g. rabbit, grouse, or pheasant, nor could he fish for salmon, trout or eel in the river or steam as they all belonged to the Lord of the Manor as it were. Every New Year's Day, he would be ever so thankful to the Lord for presenting him and his wife with a carthen - a warm wool blanket woven from the sheep's wool."

David Williams' son (Hedd-Wyn's grandfather) was named Moses Williams and he was born on Penlan Farm in the parish of Llandybie. When he married a girl named Hannah Jenkins, they lived with Moses' parents at Penlan. Moses and Hannah's son, David Jenkin Williams (Hedd-Wyn's father) was also born on Penlyn Farm. The three later moved to Abernant Farm, Glanamman, on the Northern side of Cwmamman.

Hedd-Wyn's own written words give an account of his family history as follows:

"My father, David Jenkin Williams was born at Penlan on December 5th, 1888. Later, my Grandfather moved to Abernant farm, Glanamman and lived in a two story thatched cottage. In time, he built a very fine house that stands to this day; it overlooks the Amman valley. This home belonged to my grandfather but it was still on Lord Dynevor's estate. The family grew and Aaron John, Mary, Glyn, Gladys, Gilbert and Glory all lived on the farm.
My father married Sarah Hannah Evans and bought a house on Jones Terrace, Glanamman, in the valley. He worked in the coal mine.
Aaron John emigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada where he opened a hardware store.
Glyn became a butcher and he had a butcher store in Ammanford.
Mary married Owen Evans, a miner, and lived in Ammanford.
Gladys had measles as a very young child and lost her hearing. She stayed on the farm most of her life.
Gilbert finally inherited the farm.
Glory married a miner and lived in the old thatched cottage.
My father nearly lost his sight working underground with a small miner's oil lamp so he had to give up his coal mining. After regaining his eyesight he became a milkman or dairyman, selling the milk from his father's farm to the residents of the valley. This was the time of the great depression and the tinworks and the mines all closed down but father still carried on selling milk that the families could not afford to pay so father had to give up selling milk! Fortunately, he applied for the position of Rating Officer for the Llandeilo District Council and was the successful candidate.
I was born towards the end of the First World War, on September 20th, 1917, the only child. At the age of three I won a first prize for reciting in Welsh (the language of the whole valley). I can still remember it.
Boed eich Nadolig I gan I gyd
(I wish your Christmas to be all music)
Eira neu beidio, gwyn fo eidh byd
(White be your world)
A byddwch yn blant I'r hen Ddraig Goch
(And be a child of the old Red Dragon)
Yn Gymru pur ble y boch Pure
(Welsh wherever you'll go)
Patriotism! Up to my teenage I recited in halls, marquees, and churches all over Wales, mostly successful: Over 60 silver cups, 12 arm chairs and many gold and silver medals. I was three times a winner in elocution in The National Eisteddfod."

Hedd-Wyn was related to the Moses Williams of Gelly Fawnen farm (Glanamman) who ran an Iron works in the 1800's. The sons of this Moses - Arthur and William (whom Hedd-Wyn called "Uncle", although that is not how they were related) started the Defiance Cycle works.

Another of Hedd-Wyn's relatives was Dr. Ifor John Thomas, the two being cousins. Hedd-Wyn was very proud of him because he was a brilliant Doctor even without his sight. Ivor John Thomas, as a lad, was also a renowned elecutionist at eisteddfodau, winning many prizes. When Hedd-Wyn won first prize at the 1936 Fishguard National Eisteddfod, Ivor John Thomas came second!

The two were also members of Glanamman Drama Club.

Many thanks to Cheryl Davies for her contribution to this website.


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