Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , HUGH ( 1722? - 1779 ), cleric and author ;

b. in Llanengan , Llŷn peninsula , in 1721 or 1722 (he was christened 18 Jan. 1721/2 ), the son of William Williams (or ‘ Jones ’) and Catherine his wife — William Morris suggests ( Morris Letters , i, 308) that he was connected with the Bodvel family, but Foster enters ‘pleb.’ against his father's name. According to a letter which he wrote to Richard Morris in 1764 , he was educated at Friars , Bangor , and he adds that he was there at the same time as Goronwy Owen . He entered Jesus College , Oxford , in June 1740 , ‘aged 18,’ and graduated in 1744 . He became curate of Llanengan ( 1745-51 ), rector of Llanfrothen and perpetual curate of Beddgelert ( 1751-4 ), and rector of Aberffraw from 15 Feb. 1754 (when the Morrises had hoped to get the living for Goronwy Owen ) until his death. Hugh Williams and Goronwy were ‘dear’ friends, according to the latter; in the collection of Goronwy 's letters there are several references to him, and there is one letter addressed to him; but except for Goronwy 's last letter to Richard Morris ( 1767 ), in which he enquired whether Hugh Williams was still alive, they all belong to the years 1752-5 . As J. H. Davies has pointed out, the letter usually believed to have been sent to Hugh Williams in 1751 was in fact a copy of a 1751 letter sent by Goronwy to William Elias (q.v.) and forwarded by him (probably in 1754 ) to Hugh Williams . Moreover, there is nothing in the index to the Morris Letters to indicate that Hugh Williams was in the inner circle of the Morris brothers — if that index is searched (under the name ‘ Aberffraw ’) it will be found that Hugh Williams and William Morris were on occasional visiting terms; but when Hugh Williams wrote to Richard Morris ( Add. Morris Letters , p. 624) in 1764 it was as one stranger to another. It is not easy to see how William Elias could have been Hugh Williams 's instructor in poetry , as suggested by J. H. Davies — all we know for certain is that Elias had criticised some of Williams 's verse, and that Goronwy had defended his friend; very little of Williams 's poetry has survived. The popular belief that Hugh Williams was a member of the Cymmrodorion Society in 1751 is also incorrect — his name appears for the first time in the 1759 list of members. In 1773 he published a Welsh translation of an English sermon, and in 1776 Rhannau Detholedig o'r Salmau Cân gyd a'r Ystyr o honynt o flaen pob Salm . Tradition has it that he was a good preacher , and his letter to Richard Morris shows that he was keenly interested in the Welsh language . He d. in 1779 , and was buried 3 July at Aberffraw .


  • Entries from the parish registers of Llanengan and Aberffraw, sent by Mr. E. D. Jones ;
  • Foster , Alumni Oxonienses ;
  • A. Ivor Pryce , Diocese of Bangor During Three Centuries, seventeenth to nineteenth century inclusive being a digest of the registers of the bishops (1929) ;
  • The Letters of Goronwy Owen (1723–69) (1924) ( J. H. Davies ed.), index;
  • Cambrian Bibliography (Llanidloes, 1869) , 547, 575;
  • and the references given above.


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

Published date: 1959