Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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ROBERTS , JOHN JOHN ( Iolo Caernarfon ; 1840 - 1914 ), Calvinistic Methodist minister, poet, and prose-writer .

Born at Tir-bach , Llanllyfni, Caerns. , son of a John Roberts who had moved to that district in 1824 from Amlwch , on the decline of the Parys Mountain copper works . He had very little early schooling, and when quite young worked with his father in the Nantlle slate quarries .

He began to preach in 1867 , went to Clynnog school and thence ( 1868-1872 ) to Bala Calvinistic Methodist College . In 1873 he became pastor at Trefriw , was ordained in 1874 , and in the same year m. Ann Williams ( 1846 - 1910 ) of Castellgoed in Eifionydd . In 1879 he was called to Tabernacle Calvinistic Methodist church at Portmadoc , and remained there till his retirement in 1909 . He died 5 Nov. 1914 , aged 74.

He had been moderator of the Calvinistic Methodist General Assembly in 1900 , moderator of the North Wales Association in 1906 , and ‘ Davies Lecturer ’ in 1907 , and indeed figured conspicuously in the administration of his connexion ; but he was at his best as a preacher and a public speaker .

He wrote much poetry , won the crown at the national eisteddfod twice ( 1890 , 1892 ), and quite a number of prizes for poems of various kinds; and he adjudicated in the ‘crown’ competitions on several occasions. He was of the school to which the designation ‘the New Poets’ was applied [on this matter see T. Parry , History of Welsh Literature , tr. H. I. Bell , 359-61], and his work is typical of that school.

He published seven books: Oriau yng Ngwlad Hud a Lledrith , 1891 ; Ymsonau , 1895 ; Myfyrion , 1901 ; Breuddwydion y Dydd , 1904 ; Cofiannau Cyfiawnion , 1906 ; Crefydd a Chymeriad (the ‘Davies Lecture’), 1910 ; and a biography ( 1912 ) of Owen Thomas .


  • Notes written by his son, the Rev. Dr. John Roberts , Cardiff;
  • T. R. Jones, Y Parchedig J. J. Roberts (Iolo Caernarfon) (Caernarfon, 1915?) .


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959