Dictionary of Welsh Biography

A new website has been created for The Dictionary of Welsh Biography. It will be launched at the beginning of November 2018 and will include new content, functions and design. Head over to biography.wales now to see what's new!

This website will eventually be replaced by biography.wales. In the meantime, we would like to hear from our users so you're welcome to send us any questions or feedback that you may have.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

ELLIS , ROBERT ( Cynddelw ; 1812 - 1875 ), Baptist minister, preacher, poet, antiquary, and commentator .

Born 3 Feb. 1812 at Ty'n-y-meini near Pen-y-bont-fawr, Mont. He was a farm labourer from 1822 until 1835 . His interest in literature and antiquities and his knowledge of poetry were probably kindled by his mother and rustic literati such as Richard Morris , the turner of Pentre-felin , James Jones the tailor , and Humphrey Bromley , the Unitarian preacher . These interests absorbed him until he joined the Baptist church at Gefail-rhyd ( 1832 ) and began to preach in 1834 . The following year he had some ten months’ schooling under John Williams ( 1806 - 1856 ) , author of Yr Oraclau Bywiol , at Llansilin . He was minister at the following places: Llanelian and Llanddulas 1836-8 , Glynceiriog 1838-42 , Sirhowy 1847-62 , Caernarvon 1862-75 . He d. 19 Aug 1875 at his old home, Gartheryr , between Oswestry and Llanrhaeadr , when he was on a preaching and lecture tour.

He was a man of many parts. He was an exegetical, doctrinal, and practical preacher , a considerable master of the pulpit Welsh of his day, speaking roundly, clearly, and with a natural fluency. He carried weight in bardic and eisteddfodic circles. It was his awdl ‘ Yr Adgyfodiad ’ in Seren Gomer , 1849 , which brought him to notice as a poet and gave him his bardic name. His masterpiece is probably ‘ Cywydd y Berwyn ,’ but his ‘ Awdl ar Ddistawrwydd ’ is also charming. He had a national reputation as an eisteddfod adjudicator (on poetry mostly), conductor , and orator . In Tafol y Beirdd , 1853 , he discussed the ‘twenty-four metres’; he edited the 2nd impression of Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru (by Rhys Jones ) , and Isaac Foulkes 's reprint of Barddoniaeth Dafydd ap Gwilym . He also compiled Blodau Arfon (the work of Dewi Wyn ) and edited Geiriadur y Bardd . He delighted in lexicography and produced Geiriadur Cymreig Cymraeg , 1868 . His poetry — Barddoniaeth Cynddelw — was published under the editorship of Ioan Arfon by H. Humphreys , Caernarvon , in 1877 . He was interested in every kind of antiquarian lore, published Manion Hynafiaethol , 1873 , and contributed eighteen chapters to Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry (by Gweirydd ab Rhys ). His wit, his natural gift for public speaking , and the wide range of his knowledge, made him one of the outstanding lecturers of his time — if, indeed, he was not the most outstanding; his subjects were extremely varied, but his chosen field was Wales in history and literature, and all his lectures were linked up with his genius for rummaging in the past. He was a great benefactor to the press of his denomination: he edited Y Tyst Apostolaidd , 1846-50 ; Y Tyst , 1851 ; Y Greal , 1852-3 ; and continued to edit the poetry which appeared in Y Greal until the end of his life; he also edited the poetry column in Seren Gomer , 1854-9 . He wrote biographies of his teacher John Williams and of Ellis Evans of Cefn-mawr . His commentary on the New Testament ( Esboniad ar y Testament Newydd ) continued to appear in parts from 1855 until his death. He contributed articles to Enw. F. and to the Gwyddoniadur , not to mention numerous periodicals. Nor was he indifferent to the theological discussions of his time, particularly the Maclean-Campbell controversies . Frequent reference is made to his handsome appearance, his wonderful memory, his vivacity and wit; and, to his contemporaries, the diversity of his genius and the encyclopaedic extent of his knowledge, were alike remarkable.


  • D. Williams, Cofiant y Parch. R. Ellis (Cynddelw) Caernarfon (Carmarthen, 1935) ;
  • Eminent Welshmen: a short biographical dictionary of Welshmen ... from the earliest times to the present (1908) .


John Thomas Jones, M.A., Ruabon

Published date: 1959