Dictionary of Welsh Biography



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PHILLIPS , EDGAR (‘ Trefîn ’; 1889 - 1962 ), tailor, school-teacher, poet, and Archdruid of Wales, 1960-62 ; b. 8 Oct. 1889 in Rose Cottage , Tre-fin, Pembs. , only child of William Bateman and Martha (née Davies ) Phillips . His father was a sailor but after leaving the sea he was a baker in Porthcawl . Trefîn 's mother died in 1898 after she had been a patient for 5 yrs. in Saint David's Hospital in Carmarthen , and he was adopted by his father's sister, Mary , wife of John Martin , a sailmaker and formerly a sailor . English was the main language of the home and English was the language of the day-school, but thanks to the Sunday school he retained his Welsh . He tried to run away to sea when he realised that the family intended apprenticing him to a tailor . When his father re-married the family moved to Cardiff and the 11-yr. old boy entered Sloper Road school . The Welsh master , ( Sir ) John Rowland (see below) , took an interest in him and arranged for him to borrow Cymru and other Welsh periodicals. His father and stepmother tried to wean him from his interest in the Welsh language, but his Welshness was reinforced when he had the company of Owen Morgan Edwards ( DWB , 192-3) on a train journey to Pembrokeshire . When he was 14 yrs. old he returned to Tre-fin as an apprentice tailor to his uncle J.W. Evans , and as the workshop was a nursery for poets and a school in the cynganeddion , Trefin mastered Yr Ysgol Farddol ( Dafydd Morganwg ), the poets’ primer. For a year after completing his apprenticeship he worked as a tailor in Letterston and Whitland . He returned to Cardiff to specialize in cutting and he became a tailor of ladies’ wear . In 1912 he moved to London , working in several clothes shops before returning to Cardiff as master tailor in one of the largest shops in the city. In Aug. 1914 he opened a tailor's business in partnership with Trefor Roberts . He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1915 , becoming a bombardier . He was badly injured when one of the beams of a cellar fell on his head during an attack and he was moved from one hospital to another until his release from the army. He found temporary employment with Seccombes Company in Cardiff . With his health deteriorating he moved to the neighbourhood of Blackwood, Mon. , and worked in a shop in Bargoed . In 1921 he went to Caerleon College and gained a teacher's certificate with distinction. He was Welsh teacher in Pengam primary school 1923-24 before being appointed Welsh master in Pontllanfraith secondary school where he taught until he retired in 1954 . He was one of the pioneers of broadcasting in Welsh and his detectiveBili bach ’ was a hero to children of that period. He was a regular competitor at eisteddfodau . Having already won 33 bardic chairs and a crown , he won the chair at the national eisteddfod in 1933 and he was Keeper of the sword of the Gorsedd of Bards from 1947 to 1960 , when he was elected archdruid . He published Trysor o gân , poems for children in four volumes ( 1930-36 ), Caniadau Trefîn ( 1950 ) and Edmund Jones, ‘The Old Prophet ’ ( 1959 ).

He m. three times: (1), Hannah Clement , a nurse of Tredegar , in 1915 . She d. 24 Apr. 1943 . They had one daughter. He m. (2), Violet Annie Burnell , schoolteacher , 13 Apr. 1946 . The marriage was dissolved unopposed at Trefîn 's petition Nov. 1950 . He m. (3), Maxwell Fraser , 24 Oct. 1951 . He d. 30 Aug. 1962 .

Bibliography:

  • Brinley Richards , Cofiant Trefîn , Swansea, 1963 (1963)
  • [papers in N.L.W.].

Author:

Evan David Jones, F.S.A., (1903-87), Aberystwyth