Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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BLACKWELL , JOHN ( Alun ; 1797 - 1840 ), cleric and poet .

Son of Peter and Mary Blackwell , Ponterwyl , Mold . He received no formal education, and at the age of 11 he was apprenticed shoemaker with William Kirkham , who was interested in Welsh poetry. Having read extensively in Welsh and English , he soon began to attend meetings of Cymreigyddion societies and to compete at eisteddfodau , winning a prize at an eisteddfod at Mold in 1823 for an awdl on ‘ Maes Garmon ,’ and another at Ruthin in the same year for an awdl on ‘ Genedigaeth Iorwerth II .’ He was also successful as a writer of essays , and letters written by him appeared in Y Gwyliedydd . All this brought him to the notice of certain gentlemen and clergymen , who subscribed to a fund to enable him to pursue a course of education.

In Jan. 1824 he went to Thomas Richards ( 1785 - 1855 ) , to prepare for entrance to a university, and remained there till Dec. of that year, when he entered Jesus College , Oxford ; he graduated in 1828 . During his stay at the university he continued to compete occasionally at eisteddfodau — his elegy to bishop Heber won the prize at the eisteddfod held at Denbigh in 1828 — and read everything he could find relating to the history and literature of Wales in the Bodleian and the College library . Having been ordained, and licensed curate of Holywell in 1829 , he was appointed rector of Maenordeifi in 1833 . He was editor of Y Cylchgrawn , published under the auspices of the S.P.C.K. , for the eighteen months of its existence, 1834-5 .

In 1839 he m. Matilda Dear , Pistyll , near Holywell . He d. 19 May 1840 . A marble tablet to his memory was placed on the wall of Maenordeifi (‘ Manordivy ’) church.

Alun is remembered for his poems in the free metres: ‘ Rhywun ,’ ‘ Cerdd Hela ,’ ‘ Cathl i'r Eos ,’ ‘ Cân Gwraig y Pysgotwr ,’ and ‘ Abaty Tintern ’ (a free translation of an English original with four additional lines at the end). These poems are the forerunners of the lyrical poetry produced by the romantic movement.

Sources:

  • Ceinion Alun (1851) .

Author:

Sir Thomas Parry, D.Litt., (1904-85), Bangor / Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959