JOHN OWEN - AP GLASLYN. 1857 –1934.
Compiled by Arfon and Angela Owen [grandson and wife]. May 2003.
John Owen was born on the 6th May 1857 at “Colwyn”, Beddgelert. He was the eldest of the two sons of Richard and Elin Owen who were keeping a bookshop and lending library. Richard was the famous bard Glaslyn. Elin was the daughter of John Jones, the well known choirmaster of Beddgelert Choir, and sister of William Jones [Bleddyn], a folklorist and historian.
By the time John was three he and his parents had moved to Gwynant Street and his father had returned to quarrying.
John was educated at the local school and from an early age showed a great aptitude for music and drama. He would often be followed by a swarm of children in Beddgelert, anxious to listen to him reciting and singing.
On 2nd February 1867, when he was not yet ten, he was one of the first to win a certificate in music with Ieuan Gwyllt as his tutor. Ieuan Gwyllt was the Rev. John Roberts, a minister and musician, who died 14th May 1877 aged 54, and is buried at Capel Caeathro C.M., Llanrug.
John appears to have had a happy childhood. Some years later he wrote the following lines :-
Ty Fy Nhaid.
‘Rwy’n cofio pan yn blentyn hoenus, iach,
Yn nhy fy nhaid ‘roedd canu, bobl bach!
‘Roedd swn yr hen ddiwygiad yn mhob sain
Ddyferai dros wefusau nhaid a nain.
He also wrote a long poem entitled “Adgofion Mebyd” [Childhood Memories]. It begins:-
Wrth adgofio dyddiau mebyd,
Am ryw enyd yma’n brudd,
Y tywelitais inau ‘nghalon
Yn hiraethlon dros fy ngrudd;
O! na byddai dyddiau mywyd
Fel rhai mebyd yn parhau,
Tra nad oes yn aros enyd
Gwerth cael bywyd i’w fwynau.
When John was about 15 and the family were now living at 6.Church Street in Beddgelert, his brother Richard was born. This event appears to have caused conflict within the home. According to Bryfdir, his cousin, John and his father had words and John ran away to sea for a while. After returning from his travels he became a quarryman at Llechwedd Quarry, Ffestiniog. John and his father were reconciled in later years.
For a while John was a pupil-teacher under George Thomas at Beddgelert, but then returned to quarrying and his first love – music.
John had a fine baritone voice and also spent many years composing his own songs, writing both the words and the melody for some of them.
John was also a prolific writer. In 1876-7 he published two books of poetry. One was “Y Llenor Ieuanc” a copy of which is in Cardiff Central Library. At this time he was writing under the penname of Y Gwallt Gwyn. He also wrote a lot to the “Peoples Paper” under the name of Britwn. He did many religious articles such as “Tu Cefn I’r Byd” and “Y Ddwy Olygfa”. He sent contributions to Welsh quarterly, monthly and weekly publications such as “Heddyw”, “Y Genedl Gymreig” and “Yr Herald Gymreig”.
In 1877 John was made a bard at the Caernarfon National Eisteddfod after examination by Ceiriog, Iolo Trefaldwyn, Ioan Arfon and Iestyn. He took the name Ap Glaslyn. He was to be a member of the Gorsedd for 56 years. At the same Eisteddfod he had a second prize in a singing competition, after Tegfelyn. Ceiriog was the adjudicator.
Ap Glaslyn won many coveted prizes for his literary and musical works. He had the Gold Medal at Llandudno Eisteddfod for his brilliant rendering of “Gwen o’r Ddol”, under the adjudication of Cadfan and Llawdden.
He also wrote epitaphs such as the one on the grave of an Elizabeth Edwards in Sant Peris cemetery, Nant Peris, written in May 1877:-
“Eisiau byw wrth ddrws ei bedd – orwych mae
Parch a myg anrhydedd;
Hanes hon yn ninas hedd:
Adferir a chodforedd”.
At this time Ap Glaslyn was working in the Cook Quarry at Clegir near Llanberis.
In 1877 he married Elizabeth Trefor, aged 22, the daughter of Jane and the late William Trefor of “Foty”, Clegir.
The census of 1851 shows William Trefor, aged 27, a quarryman, born in Llanllyfni, as yet unmarried, and living with his widowed brother Robert, also a quarryman from Llanllyfni, in Sarn Clegir with Robert’s two young children. Nearby at Groeslon lived another quarryman brother, Griffith, with his wife and child. William, Robert and Griffith were the sons of Trefor Jones and Elizabeth William of Llanllyfni.
By 1861 William Trefor had married Jane Owen, the daughter of Thomas Owen [Bangor] and Elin [Beddgelert] living in “Stabal Goch”, Llanberis, where Jane had a twin brother, Owen.
The census of 1861 shows William and Jane Trefor, both aged 38, son Thomas aged 9 and daughter Elizabeth aged 7, living in “Hafotty”, Bwlch y Groes Road.
On the 1871 census Jane is now a widow, still in “Foty”, with Thomas, 18, a quarryman, and Elizabeth aged 16. William had died in 1867 and was buried on the 14th May in Llanrug. Unhappily, Thomas died in September 1871, leaving Jane and her daughter Elizabeth on their own in Foty.
By 1881 Elizabeth is married and is a dressmaker living with her mother. There is no record of Ap Glaslyn being at home that night. There are three children – Eluned 4, Jane 2, and William one month. The National Index [U.K.] for the 1881 census shows no sign of Ap Glaslyn.
Ten years later Ap Glaslyn, a slate quarrier, is at home on census night with Elizabeth, William 10, a scholar, Eleusa 6, Arthur 4, Mary 9 months, and Jane Trefor, mother in law, aged 70, a General Servant. Eluned, now 14, had gone as a housekeeper to a widowed sea captain, Bob Jones, and his daughter at Nefyn. [Eluned and Bob were eventually married]. Jane, aged 12 was with her grandparents, Glaslyn and his wife, in Penygroes cottage, Aberglaslyn.
“Foty” was an old single storied dwelling up on the hillside above Llanberis at Clegir. It was divided into two one roomed cottages. Ap Glaslyn and his family lived in the left hand one, which had a lean-to built on the end. Another family lived in the other cottage. William Trefor had been a Deacon in the Methodist Chapel, which was just below the cottages. “Foty” is now a ruin and the chapel has been converted to a dwelling.
Ap Glaslyn had great success writing poetry, but was also a wonderful public speaker, a talent that stood him in good stead when he later became a Minister.
He also became well known as an actor. He identified himself with the Welsh drama movement and acted in one of the first drama companies to perform in Welsh, the Eryri Drama Company. The company first had to be judged in Liverpool to get a licence to perform plays. The judge was astounded at Ap Glaslyn’s performance at the auditions and passed him with honours. His certificate reads:- “This is to certify that Mr. John Owen, [Ap Glaslyn], was examined and passed the Requirements of Standard VI. Recital. Elecutionist. March 26th 1885. Accepted by Her Majesty’s Inspector James Smith. Recitations:- “Hamlet”, “The Raven”, “Judgement”, “The Bells”.”
Ap Glaslyn played a big part in the first performance of “Glyndwr” in Llanberis, and also had prominent roles in “Rhys Lewis” and “Hamlet”.
After a performance of “Rhys Lewis” the following lines appeared in the Press:- ““Rhys Lewis” was performed last evening in Hope Hall, Hope Street, [location not stated but could be Wrexham] by a company whose members are thoroughly conscious of the force of the characterisation framed by the novelist. The large audience appreciated in the highest degree the homely wit and satirical purpose of the piece, and the favourite Welsh Baritone, Ap Glaslyn, well known here and in the Principality”.
On Friday night May 8th 1885, it was the annual singing festival of the Sunday School in Dinas Chapel, Llangefni, and a play was performed telling the story of Mary Jones and her long walk to Bala to buy a Bible from the Rev. Charles. Impressed by her efforts the Rev. gave Mary his own Bible as he had no other, and from this act sprang the Gideon Movement and their work in ensuring that a Bible is always available in hotel bedrooms and other public places. In the production Ap Glaslyn played the Rev. Charles.
He became a member of the Trefriw Drama Company established in 1886 and performed in their production of “Rhys Lewis” through much of Wales and part of England. He was one of the foremost Welsh actors of that time.
But acting was demanding too much time away from home so Ap Glaslyn concentrated more on music.
In 1882 he had sung before an audience of 7,000 in the Caernarfon Pavilion and won the competition. The results were as follows :- J.H.Dew singing “The Three Sailor Boys” 37 votes, William Parry, “Cwymp Llewelyn” 68, Llew Jones “Revenge Timotheus Cries” [Handel] 40, David Jones “Cadlef Cymreig” 120, L.L.Roberts “Honour and Arms” [ Handel] 47, Thomas Harries “I fear No Foe” [Adams] 217, W.W.Ellis “The White Squall” 42, Ap Glaslyn “Pleserfad y Niagra” [Dr. Parry] 676, J.Ph.Jones “Bachgen Dewr” [Dr. Parry] 16, R.W.Jones “Ysbryd y Dewrion” 52. It is said that Ap Glaslyn believed that that was his biggest achievement on the stage.
On the Monday following, the Herald newspaper reported on the competition with the headline “Ap Glaslyn has beaten a policeman”. Thomas Harries, a policeman, was one of the competitors and a very good singer. Some woman in Beddgelert saw the paper and rushed round to show it to Ap Glaslyn’s mother just in case she hadn’t heard about it And when the old lady saw the words about her son beating a policeman she shook her head and said “I told everyone, didn’t I, that that boy of mine would do something terrible one day!”
He was in the forefront of Welsh singers. His style was particularly Welsh and he electrified audiences singing “Pa Le Mae’r Amen”, “Ta-ta”, “Hen brocar bach gloew fu Nain”, “Y Ddefad Golledig”, “Gelert ci Llewellyn”, “Rhyfelgyrch Cabden Morgan” and “Fechgyn Cymru”. He sang in the marketplace at Conwy and Dinorwig with his old friend Griffith Philips of Llanberis as accompanist.
He also sang in English – songs such as “Pull for the Northern Shore”. A successful future was very evident when he was observed singing boldly in a confident and easy manner:-
“Slavery lies behind us lads’
Pull for the Northern Shore!”.
Press opinions of the time included the following:-
“Ap Glaslyn is one of the most popular vocalists in Wales”. – Gwalia.
“Ap Glaslyn must be pronounced one of the most satisfactory exponents of baritone music I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to”. – Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald.
The Ap was a member of Cor Meibion Eryri and he once went with them to sing in the Crystal Palace, London. On the night the soloist fell ill. Ap Glaslyn was happy to fill in and received great applause.
At this time Ap Glaslyn was working in the Cefn Du Quarry above the Cook Quarry at Clegir. He had a ready wit. Arriving early for work one morning he began moving a large drum, used in quarry haulage. One of his mates remarked, “Ap is here at the break of day!” Ap replied, “Don’t you know, my boy, that you must keep time when following the drum!” - Ap was a corporal in the local militia. He was also a Precenter in his local chapel. He once went to the “Set Fawr” in a chapel in Caernarfon, still in his uniform. Any military uniform was frowned on in non-conformist churches. But the visiting preacher, the “Unmitred Bishop of Caernarfon”, Rev. John Evans, a formidable preacher and a national leader of non-conformity, made light of it in his sermon, such was Ap Glaslyn’s personality. Rev. Evans preached on the Roman Centurion. He’d noticed the Ap in the “Set Fawr”, and said “This officer, friends, was of a very high rank- a centurion”. And leaning over the pulpit he added “Yes, friends, a centurion, not a mere corporal!”
Ap Glaslyn had a strong sense of humour and his ever- ready repartee never failed to enable him to command attention and control very large crowds at eisteddfodau, concerts etc.
Ap Glaslyn sang in many concerts and was in great demand. He had offers from quite a few English opera companies but he chose to join the Carl Rosa, and sang with the Company in Wales and England. But while he was with them he still sang his old Welsh songs. He took part in classical works. In November 1882 he sang “Halgia Vinta La Causa” by Mozart on the stage in Caernarfon Pavilion. He sang brilliantly and had loud applause from the huge crowd. Eos Bradwen and Mrs. Garvill Davies were on the stage as well, with Mr. R. Pritchard at the harmonium. The Caernarfon Pavilion was situated between Bangor Street and Twt Hill.
The Ap would sing with others whilst walking home from concerts – no motors at that time and many walked some distance to chapel, meetings, and other events.
As well as singing, he could also conduct and instruct. He used to teach a choir of children, sometimes in the chapel and often at his home in Foty. He taught
Sol fa to the choir and their favourite piece was “Cantata’r Adar” by Dr. Parry. He had two choirs every week separate from the chapel. On Tuesday night he had the boys from 18 – 20 years, and on Friday those from 20 onwards came to learn the old notation. They came from far and near. They had a lot of fun and always looked forward to their lessons. Afterwards they would play games, recite and mime. Ap Glaslyn gave his services for many years in Clegir and he did great work there.
The Ap enjoyed composing and singing his own songs. Several pieces were begun whilst he was at work in the quarry. He wrote both the words and the music for some of them, such as “Ta-ta” and “Mae William Ar Ol” [William has gone]. The latter was written about his son, William, a slate quarryman, who left home in his twenties to work in the coalmines of South Wales. Sometimes he took verses by others and set them to music. Examples include “Canwyll Fy Llygad Wyt Ti!”, [ words by Glan Padarn], and “Hen Brocer Bach Gloew Fy Nain”, [ words by Pedr Mon], first published in 1899. “Yr Hen Simdde Farw”, [ words by Rev. J.T.Job], was put together one Sunday afternoon in Foty. The Rev. Job had been preaching in Clegir Chapel and had been taken home to tea by Ap Glaslyn. Before the visitor left the two men had written the song.
There is a collection of songs called “Cerddi Eryri” and some of the Ap’s are included:- “Dros y Maesgwyn”, 1889, “Atgofion Mebryd ym Medd Gelert”, 1889, “Raliwe yr Wyddfa”, 1896, and “Ynisor a Hen Amser ym Medd Gelert”, 1909.
But probably the best known work is “Pa Le Mae’r Amen”. For this piece Ap Glaslyn took verses by Gwyrosydd that he saw published in “Drysorfa’r Plant” in March 1886 and set them to music. Gwyrosydd was also the author of “Calon Lan”. “Pa Le Mae’r Amen” is well remembered and is still being sung today. It has been recorded both by Ritchie Thomas and David Lloyd.
Unfortunately the Ap very much enjoyed a drink, and it is believed that the copyrights of most of his work was sold by him in Caernarfon, in order that he might enjoy himself.
But one night something happened that appeared to have a profound affect on Ap Glaslyn’s way of life.
One evening he was, as often happened, in Edward William’s bookshop in Llanberis, and he met a thin dark man who was a stranger to him. The shopkeeper introduced them. The stranger’s name was Dewi Havhesp and he was looking for somewhere to stay for the night. Ap Glaslyn offered him shelter and Dewi thanked him in rhyme:-
“Mae i mi i roi ‘mhen,
Wr euog yn Fotty’r Awen”.
Together they walked the two miles to Foty, talking about poetry. Soon they were sitting down to supper and enjoying a long conversation by the fire. Dewi’s real name was David Roberts. He was a tailor and poet who had taken his bardic name, Havhesp, from the name of the river running through his home village of Llanfor near Bala. He was the eldest of eleven children. His life was irregular. He had spent time in Dolgellau jail. He had a problem with drink and was often destitute. [Born in 1831, the same year as the Ap’s father, Dewi spent most of his life in Llanderfel and was buried there in 1884 after dying in the workhouse in Bala].
Ap Glaslyn saw that Dewi had no under clothes, he had pawned them to buy drink. In the morning, after breakfast, the Ap gave Dewi some clothes and money before he left. Ap Glaslyn never forgot this encounter. Many were his kindnesses to all in need, proving him to be tender hearted and sympathetic to all needing assistance, whether it be money, clothing or other help.
In February 1895 Ap Glaslyn wrote a poem of ten verses about the old workers in the Dinorwic Quarry, entitled “Galarnad “Y Ceir Gwylltion” – Cyflwynedig i Weithwyr Chwarel Dinorwig”. It is not known if Ap Glaslyn ever worked at the quarry, but as it was just across the valley from his home in Clegir he would have known it well. The poem begins thus:-
Mae popeth bron yn newydd
Ar fynydd ac ar for,
Ta’r hen yn unig erys
Mewn hanes yn ystor;
Yn dilyn dydd galarnad,
“My Lord” am ride and drive,
Daeth diwedd “Car y Gweithiwr”
Yn eighteen ninety-five.
Yn iach gerbydau gwylltion,
I’ch cicio ac i’ch troi;
Mae’ch enwau drwy’r alarnad
Mewn irad wedi’u rhoi;
Ffarwel I “Garibaldi”,
“Eryri”, a’r “Pry Llwyd”,
Y “Gaseg”, gyda’r “Ebol”,
Fu’n mynd heb fol na bwyd.
The last verse is as follows:-
Hwre i “Dren y Gweithwyr”,
Ac i’r Boneddwr mad
A’i mynnodd er ein mwyniant,
Teilyngant glodydd gwlad;
Fel hyn mae’r byd a’i bethau
Yn rhwydd fyrhau ein hynt
Gan fyned ar olwynion,
I’r pen yn gynt, yn gynt.
In 1902 Ap Glaslyn’s mother, Elin, died and his father, Glaslyn, was grief stricken. The Ap persuaded his father to give up his home in Aberglaslyn and come to live in Foty. This arrangement did not work and soon Glaslyn left to go and live in Penrhyndeudraeth.
Eventually the Ap became involved with the Temperance Movement and worked with the Calvanistic Methodist Society in Caernarfon. He gained the respect of wellknown preachers of the day such as Rev. John Williams of Brynsiencyn and the Rev. Thomas Charles Williams of Porthaethwy.
He fell heavily under the influence of the 1904-5 revival. He is believed to have heard the call when on a visit to his daughter Jane in Nebo near Caernarfon.
His musical lecture entitled “Y Tan Cymreig” [The Welsh Fire], about Welsh reforms was much in demand. It included the remarkable events following the national awakening and the Welsh revivals, with a feast of memories in music, song and praise. On Saturday evening November 24th 1906 he delivered this lecture in the Methodist Schoolhouse, Mosside, Manchester, and it was very well received. The same lecture was given on July 12th 1907 at Capel Siloh, Gwytherin at 7.30pm. Tickets were 6d. After listening to this lecture by the Ap in Bethesda, the chief bard, Job, said, “This is one of the best lectures that I’ve ever listened to”. Alafon was in the same meeting and he said that “This piece will set the young men of Wales on fire again to praise the Saviour”.
On Saturday 23rd November 1907, in the school at Penisawaen, at 6 oclock, the Ap gave a lecture entitled “Y Ddwy Olygfa”. He was accompanied on the organ by his son Arthur Glaslyn Owen. Tickets were again 6d. Both his sons, Arthur and William, were excellent organists and vocalists, and one or both of them would often be with their father on these occasions.
Ap Glaslyn could still be relied on to make verses to suit a special occasion. He wrote the following on the marriage of his daughter Lizzie to Richard Jones Parry of Caernarfon in November 1907:-
“Pwy arall fel Jones Parry – a hawliai
Law a chalon Lleuci,
Gyda chan a than a thy – neb, neb, neb,
A fu ateb y ferch o’r Foty”.
Musical lectures in his home area were especially well applauded. One in Beddgelert [date unknown] was entitled “Tu cefn i’r byd”. Given in a meeting on a Saturday night in Capel M.C.,it was chaired by Rev. R. Pryse Ellis who said he was delighted to welcome one of the young boys of Beddgelert. Several of the Ap’s contempories came to hear their old friend who once again was accompanied by his son, Arthur. The ladies of the Chapel arranged a splendid feast in the Vestry to end the evening. The next day the Ap addressed the children in the Sunday School.
In May 1908 Ap Glaslyn was studying in the College at Bala.
Ap Glaslyn was also in demand as an adjudicator at Eisteddfoddau. For instance, on Saturday 25th December, 1909, he was asked to judge the singing at the M.C. Sunday School competitions in the Town Hall in Mold.
Ap Glaslyn was a staunch Liberal. His great hero was David Lloyd George and he would hear nothing against him.
Eventually, on the recommendation of the Association of Calvanistic Methodists who met in Chester, he was appointed as a missionary among the navvies who were preparing a bed for a new reservoir near Cerrigydrudion. This reservoir is now known as Llyn Alwen and it supplies water to Birkenhead. Ap Glaslyn evangelised here for about two and a half years from 1912 – 1915.
Later he was to give a lecture entitled “O’r Llwyfan i’r Pulpud”[From the stage to the pulpit]. It described his mission in exceptionally hard surroundings and he gave this lecture many times, imitating the intonation of the Reformer Richard Owen. It included the song “Alone in the desert, alone” which always moved the audience greatly.
All this time Ap Glaslyn’s wife, Elizabeth, was keeping the home going in Clegir. The two youngest children, Arthur and Mary were still at home. Arthur was working in one of the slate quarries. Also living in Foty was Olwen, the eldest child of William and his wife Mary.
Ap Glaslyn worked hard among the navvies and appears to have enjoyed the challenge. His services there were greatly appreciated. In an extract from “Y Goleuad”, February 5th, 1915, it reads:- “On his departure from Cwm Alwen, Ap Glaslyn was presented with a purse of gold by the officials, the workmen and their families, as a token of their appreciation of his services amongst them for a period of two and a half years. The presentation was made at the Recreation Hall, and presided over by J.H.Perkin Esq.”.
On 23rd January 1915, Mr. E. James Jones, Sec. General Home Mission M.C. wrote “The Committee wish you a quiet life after fulfilling your work energetically and faithfully. You’ve lived and worked worthily in exceptionally hard surroundings”.
Ap Glaslyn also received a letter from Birkenhead Corporation Water dated 26th January 1915. Reprinted in a local paper of that time, [the cutting in our possession is torn towards the end], it reads “It is with very great pleasure that we give our testimony to the good work which Mr. John Owen [Ap Glaslyn] has done among the men and their families employed on the above constructional work.
Mr. Owen came to us nearly two and a half years ago, to take up the missionary duties under the Calvinistic Methodist Association of North Wales, and through his energies has been able to gather together a large congregation.
Mr. Owen has also been instrumental in getting up concerts and other social entertainments, including singing classes among the children resident here and from all denominations. It is with very great regret that we learn of Mr. Owen’s ………departure as his efforts have been……….and very much appreciated……….”
Herbert Evans wrote to the Ap from Cerrig Rectory, Corwen on 16th February, 1915.
“Dear Mr. Owen, I am given to understand that you are about to leave your present sphere of work on the Alwen Water Works, to take up your duties elsewhere. I feel quite sure your departure will be keenly regretted by all your friends on the Works, and especially by Mr. Bird, the navvy Missioner, with whom you have co-operated so happily and successfully, and also by myself, who have always much appreciated your kind assistance at the Organ during the monthly services when it becomes my privilege and pleasure to administer to the faithful gathered together. You may rest assured that your stay among us has been a real boon and blessing to many, and hope this will encourage you in your new sphere of work. You are leaving us, and our best wishes and prayers will accompany you, and it only remains for me to hope and desire that you may be happy and successful amidst your new surroundings in the future as you deserve it to be. Wishing you every success and every blessing, Believe me to be, Yours Sincerely, Herbert Evans.”
Ap Glaslyn became involved with the Forward Movement in North Wales. He and the Rev. William Jones from Treforris were two of the foremost evangelists. In the space of three weeks they covered Eifionydd. William Jones began in Prenteg and then went on to Porthmadog, Tremadog, Borth, Criccieth, Garndolbenmaen, Trefor, Llanaelhaiarn and as far as Pwllheli. In the meantime Ap Glaslyn began in Nefyn, then on to Lithfaen, Aberdaron, Sarn, Dinas, Llangian, Abersoch, Llanbedrog and Rhydyclafdy to meet up in Pwllheli.
After preaching over a wide area of Caernarfonshire, Ap Glaslyn was sent southwards to take up his first pastorate at Rhayader. He then moved further south to Gelli. He worked hard and his services were always in great demand, particularly on St. David’s Day in the schools. His work here in the south was mainly through the medium of English.
On his leaving Gelli, the following words appeared in a local paper:- “Striking testimony as to the good work performed during his five years successful mission at the Forward Movement Hall, Gelli, was paid to the Rev. J. Owen [Ap Glaslyn], the famous poet and preacher,at a presentation meeting held at the mission room on Thursday to mark the occasion of his departure to take up the position of pastor of the Bute Square C.M. Church, Treherbert. Prior to his advent to the Rhondda, he had been in a mission at Lleyn ac Eifionydd, Caernarfonshire, during which time he preached at no less than 31 churches”. In appreciation of gifts received, Ap Glaslyn wrote these lines:-
I’ll lean upon this “Staff of Love” at last,
In faithful recollection of the past.
We’ve laboured here together-courage take-
For days gone by- ‘twas for the Master’s sake.
Ye children of the Mission [all refrain]
To prove our labour was not all in vain.
My hand shall grasp this staff as gift of love,
Until my lengthy journey end above.
In loving recollection of my friends,
At “Lower Gelli Mission”, how it ends.
The “Little Upper Chamber” as of old,
Is open still to heavenly things untold.
We thank you for those precious gifts around-
The staff, and baton, and the Bible bound.
While Jesus says “O Servants good”,
Ye too, have done for me what thing he could.
The gifts he received no longer appear to be in the family. In fact very little is known of the whereabouts of his personal belongings.
By 1918 his wife, Elizabeth, daughter Mary and granddaughter Olwen had joined him in South Wales and they were living at 6. Co-operative Street, Ton Pentre. The move must have been hard for Elizabeth as she spoke very little English and had spent all her life in Clegir. Arthur and William were already in South Wales and were working in the coal mines.
On May 10th 1918 Ap Glaslyn learned that he had passed the Ordination Examination. His results were as follows:-
Athrawiaeth yr Iawn 78
Gwyhodaeth Gyffredinol 56
Hanes yr Eglwys 65
Efengyl Ioan 55
He was ordained a Minister of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church at Aberystwyth. At sixty years of age he was the oldest person to be ordained in the Movement.
In 1920, when he was sixty three, he wrote the following in English:-
“When I was born in the month of May,
The cuckoo called that very day,
For all the birds to come and see
A little babe born in a tree.
Come all ye birds, come now and see,
That very babe is sixty three”.
In 1921 Ap Glaslyn and his family moved from the Rhondda to Llanbradach near Caerphilly where he became Minister of Moriah C.M.Church. This was a Welsh chapel.
They lived at 8. James Street in a terraced house. Shortly Arthur and his wife Florence and their two children, Eluned aged three and one year old Arfon, moved from Ton Pentre to accommodation in Llanbradach. Their eldest child, Edward John, was already living with Ap Glaslyn. Arthur went to work in Llanbradach Pit.
Ap Glaslyn was a pastor in Llanbradach for seven years. He was the best known minister in the Rhymney Valley before he was forced to retire owing to ill health. He did however continue to preach in other chapels around the area when his health permitted.
His favourite hymn was “Dal fi’n agos at yr Iesu” by E. Herbert Evans.
His grandson Edward John, who spent all his childhood years with his grandparents, has many memories of Ap Glaslyn. Edward John spent time in his study and can remember discussing the Ap’s last sermon with him. It was entitled “Iddew a Groegwr”.It was given at Cwmparc about three months before his death. John was 16 at the time.
The following are extracts from an article written by Edward John about his grandfather.
“In those days, a Methodist minister used to spend at least two Sundays every month preaching in other chapels. These could vary in distances away from home. Those situated well away were no problem. Taid would leave by train or bus and return on the Monday. The problem arose when he had a calling within two or three miles, say in Ystrad Mynach or Caerphilly, too near to spend the weekend but too far to walk, but there were no buses or trains on a Sunday. This meant a frantic search for anyone with any sort of transport who would be ready to take and collect him. Some of the more bizarre vehicles I remember were a coal delivery lorry and a motorbike and sidecar. Taid sitting bolt upright in the sidecar was really something to catch the eye.
The payment of a minister for his Sunday was £2.10.0. When I was about seven or eight Taid devised a little scheme for me when he was away. He told me that in his absence, I was to preach a sermon and that he would pay me the going rate. So on a Sunday morning I would stand on the little wall separating our house from next door, and thunder away. On his return on the Monday Taid would give me 2 1/2d, which he said represented his £2.10.0.
Anything at all that reminded him of his past was anathema to Taid. I remember we had a portable windup gramophone, and we had a record of David Brazell singing “Pa le mae’r Amen”, which we dared not play while Taid was in the house. Nevertheless, he had one piece of memorabilia on his study table – a rubber stamp imprinted with the words AP GLASLYN VOCALIST.
He would not hear a word against Lloyd George. The local barber whom he used to visit said something against him and Taid never entered his shop again. He used to catch the bus to Caerphilly instead.
Another favourite was the singer Leila Megane. [She was a contralto born in Bethesda in 1891]. When he knew she was on the radio he would chase up any of his chapel members who had a set. On those occasions he often used to take me with him.
In his study Taid had a coal fire which he would never attend to himself. Rather he would call out “Leisa, mae’r tan ‘ma’n diffodd! Mae eisiau glo arno!”. And Nain would come in with a shovelful of coal, and go out slamming the door with a loud stage whisper “Yr hen gythral!”. ”
Arfon also has memories of his Taid and Nain. He remembers going with his parents and brother and sisters to tea at his grandparent’s home at 8. James Street. A special treat was Nain’s bread and butter – thinly cut with real salted butter. But woe betide anyone who took the last slice – that was Taids!
Ap Glaslyn used to smoke a pipe and his tobacco was ordered specially from a local shop – Lewis, Mile End Stores in Llanbradach. It was called “Cymru Dewr” and came in an oval tin with a picture of a Welsh guardsman on the wrapping. It is believed to have been packed in Chester for the Welsh market.
In 1926 the Ap’s granddaughter, Olwen, who had lived all her life with him, had her eighteenth birthday, and he wrote the following lines:-
Daeth Ebrill gyda’i flodau tlws
A’r adar ganant wrth fy nrws;
A minau’n hynach nag erioed
Tra Olwen bach, yn ddeunaw oed.
A great friend was J. Alban Morris [Alban] who lived in Caerphilly. Alban was a Literary Adjudicator at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Gorsedd Secretary 1906 – 1907, a Drama critic, Lecturer, Journalist, and Palaeographist. He held Ap Glaslyn in high regard and wrote an appreciation of him after his death.
Ap Glaslyn’s wife Elizabeth died on August 26th 1932, aged 76.
She was buried in the cemetery of Bethania Chapel in Ystrad Mynach.
The Ap was lucky to have his daughter Mary and her husband David Davies living with him at this time. Also in the house was his grandson Edward John.
In a letter to his daughter Lizzie in Caernarfon, dated the 22nd November 1932, Ap Glaslyn, wrote of the “tragic death” of his wife and how it took over all his thoughts, but he had to stay in his study and prepare his sermons, and so carry on his life. He enquired after the health of Lizzie’s husband Richard Parry and their three children Eurwen, Gwerfyl and Bleddyn, and mentioned his son Arthur’s ill health as giving them all concern. Arthur had developed silicosis and was unable to work.
Unhappily, Arthur died the following year on October 13th 1933, aged 46. He was buried in Penyrheol Cemetery, Caerphilly.
Ap Glaslyn’s health deteriorated, and after three months of illness he died in the morning of Monday April 16th 1934, a month before his seventy seventh birthday.
His funeral took place on Thursday 19th April at 3pm.
A service was held at the house, when Revs. Owen Griffiths, Thomas Cassam [Abertridwr] and J.N.Jones officiated, and the hymn “O Fryniau Caersalem” was sung.
The coffin was borne by Messrs. S.P.Williams, R.J.Hopkins, Daniel Davies, R.Ll.Jones, John Williams and Llewellyn Jones.
Family mourners included: Mr. and Mrs. D.H.Davies, Llanbradach [son-in-law and daughter]; Mr. And Mrs. William Owen, Pentre [son and daughter-in-law]; Mrs. Parry and Mrs. Jones, Caernarfon [daughters]; Mrs. Arthur Owen [daughter-in-law]; and the following grandchildren : Edward John, Eluned, Arfon, Tommy and Betty [Arthur’s children], Mair, Pentre [ William’s daughter], and Dorothy Jones, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire [ step-daughter of Eluned].
The friends who attended at the house were Miss Brenda Williams; Mrs and Miss Williams, Ynysybwl; Mr. Lloyd, Ffestiniog; Mr. Thomas, Bedlinog; Miss L.M.Roberts [“Alwen”], Headmistress of Coed y Brain School, Llanbradach; and Mrs. Morgan [“Mair Taliesin”], Caerphilly.
Many members of the public were present at Llanbradach, including Revs. D.J.Wills and Esaias Hopkins, and local Councillors.
At Ystrad Mynach the cortege was met by Revs. J.Harris Jones, Deri and R.B.Owen, Caerphilly; Messrs E.Evans [“Elfryn”]; H.Lewis, Nelson; J.Davies, Senghenydd; E.Jones, Caerphilly; G.Sampson and H.Matthews, Llanbradach; J.R.Williams, Caerphilly; T.Rees, H.Jones and J.Jones, Nelson; and Mesdames Davies, Roberts, P.Thomas, Lloyd and H.Davies.
The cortege proceeded to Bethania Church where a short service was conducted by Rev. J.N.Jones. The hymns sung were “Mae ‘Nghyfeillion Adre’n Myned” and “Iesu, Iesu,’Rwyt Ti’n Ddigon”, the organist being Mr. Llewellyn Jones and the precentor Mr. R.Ll.Jones. Rev. J.Harris Jones, Deri, read the Scriptures, and afterwards striking tributes were paid to the sterling qualities of the deceased. Mention was made of his abilities as singer, poet, bard, hymn writer, lecturer and preacher, whilst his essential Christian convictions were spoken of in glowing terms. Those who spoke were Rev. J.W.Jones, Caerphilly, Rev. Owen Griffiths, Llanbradach, and Mr. J.Davies, Senghenydd.
At the graveside the Rev.J.W.Jones read the burial service. The Rev. J.Harris Jones offered prayers, and the mourners sang “Bydd Myrdd o Ryfeddodau”.
So Ap Glaslyn was laid to rest with his beloved wife Elizabeth.
The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs D.J.Evans and Sons of Caerphilly.
Later a headstone was placed on the grave. It reads as follows:-
Er Gof Am
John Owen [Ap Glaslyn]
A fu farw Ebrill 16 1934
Yn 76 Mlwydd Oed
Hefyd am Elizabeth ei briod
A fu farw Awst 26 1932
Yn 78 Mlwydd Oed
Hedd Perffaith Hedd
Bethania Church is now in the hands of the Seventh Day Adventists, but not the cemetery; that is the responsibility of Siloh Presbyterian Church, Ystrad Mynach.
After Ap Glaslyn’s death, his daughter Mary and her husband moved to North Wales, and Edward John [grandson] went to live with his widowed mother and his brothers and sisters elsewhere in Llanbradach.
Blodyn ar Bedd [Ap Glaslyn] gan Anthropos.
Arwr y llwyfan un adeg a fu
Ai ddoniau gwefreiddiol yn swyno y llu,
Daeth tro ar ei fywyd – Cysegrodd ei oes
Ar allor gwasanaeth “Efengyl y Groes”.
“The Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down to 1940” – The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion.
“Hanes y Ddrama Yng Nghymru 1850 – 1943” – gan O.Llew Owain, pub. 1948.
“Y Crynhoad” – Hydref 1949, pp 15-18.
Newspaper cuttings collected by Elizabeth Glaslyn Parry [granddaughter].
Memories recounted by family and friends.
Compiled by Arfon and Angela Owen [grandson and wife]. May 2003.