Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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MORGAN , WILLIAM ([ c. 1545 ]- 1604 ), bishop, and translator of the Bible into Welsh ;

b. at Ty Mawr , Wybrnant , in the parish of Penmachno , the son of John ap Morgan ap Llywelyn , a copyholder on the Gwydir estates , and his wife Lowri , daughter of William ap John ap Madog . Reputed to have received his early education at the hands of a former monk , he entered S. John's College , Cambridge , as a sub-sizar in 1565 . He graduated B.A. in 1568 , and M.A. in 1571 ; and later became a B.D. ( 1578 ) and D.D. ( 1583 ). At the university he became a pupil of John Immanuel Tremellius , an eminent Hebrew scholar , and it was probably about this time that he first imbibed Protestant doctrines . [He was ordained deacon at Ely , 15 April 1568 ; his application states that he was then 23 years old; he was priested 21 Dec. in the same year].

From 1572-7 he may well have held the vicarage of Llanbadarn-fawr, Cards. He afterwards became vicar of Welshpool ( 1575-9 ), sinecure rector of Denbigh ( 1575-96 ), vicar of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant ( 1578-1595? ) and of Llanarmon ( 1578-95? ), rector of Llanfyllin ( 1579-1601 ), and parson of Pennant Melangell ( 1588-95 ). Life was made very difficult for him at Llanrhaeadr by the hostility of some of his parishioners. Chief among his enemies was Evan Meredith of the family of Lloran Uchaf , whose enmity was first roused when Morgan thwarted his nephew's aspirations by securing the marriage of a wealthy heiress to Robert Wynn of Gwydir . In 1579 Morgan testified in an action concerning the validity of Meredith 's marriage, and during the hearing of the case first came into contact with archbishop Whitgift who greatly encouraged him in his work of translation . The upshot of these quarrels was a suit brought by Morgan , and countersuits by his enemies, in the Court of Star Chamber and the Council of the Marches , 1589-91 . The Star Chamber records reveal Morgan as being on the whole a conscientious parson much harassed by the malice of his enemies.

It is just possible that Morgan began to translate the Bible before leaving Cambridge ; certainly he completed it during his sojourn at Llanrhaeadr — a remarkable fact in face of the bitter quarrels there. Thanks to the hospitality of Gabriel Goodman (q.v.) , he was able to supervise the printing of his Bible , which began in London towards the end of 1587 . It was published some time between Sept. and 20 Nov. 1588 . In his dedication to the queen , Morgan eloquently argued the pressing need for the translation. Though the language of his Bible was somewhat pedantic, he incorporated with the vigour and purity of the medieval classics a new flexibility and wider range of expression. His work marks the real beginnings of the literature and Protestantism of modern Wales . In 1588 , also, his translation of the Psalms appeared separately.

On 30 June 1595 he was consecrated bishop of Llandaff , retaining his living of Llanfyllin and possibly others. Translated to the slightly wealthier see of S. Asaph in 1601 , he resigned his other benefices, but held the archdeaconry of S. Asaph ‘in commendam.’ As a bishop , he showed notable zeal in encouraging preaching and rebuilding. His determination to safeguard the temporal possessions of the see led him into sharp conflict with David Holland of Teirdan , and into an even more bitter controversy with Sir John Wynn (q.v.) . He d. 10 Sept. 1604 . Morgan m. Catherine , daughter of George , widow of William Lloyd , but d. s.p.


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (by J. E. Lloyd );
  • C. Ashton , Bywyd ac Amserau yr Esgob Morgan, cyfieithydd cyntaf y Beibl Cymraeg , Treherbert, 1891 ;
  • I. ab O. Edwards in Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , iii, 298-339;
  • W. J. Gruffydd , Llenyddiaeth Cymru o 1450 hyd 1600 ;
  • T. E. Jacob , The Life and Times of Bishop William Morgan, the translator of the Bible into Welsh , 1890 ;
  • Thomas , A History of the Diocese of St. Asaph ;
  • Venn , Alumni Cantabrigienses ;
  • his application for orders is printed in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1922-3 , 128.


Sir Glanmor Williams, M.A., Swansea

Corrections and additions:

MORGAN , WILLIAM ( c. 1545 - 1604) ;

It is unlikely that Morgan was a pupil of Tremellius , who was a tutor at Cambridge from 1550 to 1553 only, though he did visit London for a period in 1565 . However, Morgan could have used Tremellius 's Latin translation of the Old Testament , which was published in Frankfurt in 1575 and reprinted in London in 1579-80 .

For Morgan 's use of Tremellius 's Old Testament and his methods as a translator see Isaac Thomas , Yr Hen Destament Cymraeg, 1551-1620 ( 1988 ) and Y Testament Newydd Cymraeg, 1551-1620 ( 1976 ). For Morgan 's status as a scholar see also R. Geraint Gruffydd , ‘ The Translating of the Bible into the Welsh Tongue ,’ 1988 .


Sir Glanmor Williams, M.A., Swansea

Published date: 1959