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The Carmarthenshire Historian


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Exercise in Face Saving

by D. J. PRICE, M.A.

[This contribution is an edited extract from notes left by the late Mr. D. J. Price, a native of Llanddarog and sometime Director of Education, Mountain Ash. The accompanying illustration is the familiar portrait of Williams, Pantycelyn and must therefore be the elaboration referred to in the text. Editor].

On the northern side of the village of Llanddarog are two farms Pantllwynswch and Tirbach which are separated by about five fields. In one of these fields at one time stood a cottage called Y Wernogydd. Now there is no trace or remembrance of its exact situation. Home

Towards the middle of the 18th century there was a regular church-goer in Llanddarog of the name of David William Arthur. The same surname appears in church records, and in the churchyard, to the south of the porch, there is a small gravestone with the initials D.W.A. Somewhere around 1770 or 1780, Arthur's widow lived at Wernogydd with her three sons. One of the boys, now surnarned Williams, received a little schooling at the cottage of Groeswen below the village and later entered the service of the vicar of St. Ishmael.

Llanddarog tradition, certainly until about 1900, maintained that the boy received, as part of his wages, instruction in languages and mathematics, and during his periodical visits to his home he in turn instructed his brothers. David became a clergyman, John an exciseman at Bristol, and William, the youngest, became an interpreter in the law courts.

John came under the influence of William Williams, Pantycelyn, the noted hymn-writer. About once a month, Williams would officiate at the church of Llanlluan, on the limestone belt near Llyn Lech Owain. Around 1790, John heard Williams preach at Llanlluan and the appearance, the sincerity and the words of the minister had a deep effect upon the young man.

Many years later, at Bristol, long after the death of the hymn-writer, John was looking through a notebook in which he had written some of Pantycelyn's poems. The remembrance of the dignity and spirituality of the author caused John to set down on the notebook a rough drawing of the features of Williams as accurately as he could remember. It was from that rough drawing that the only picture in existence of Pantycelyn was elaborated.
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