Stephen J. Williams had wide scholarly interests but his most important contributions were as one of the pioneers of modern studies of medieval Welsh law (the Law of Hywel Dda) - his edition, jointly with J. Enoch Powell, Llyfr Blegywryd, appeared in 1942, 1961 - and as the editor of number of Medieval Welsh prose texts, Ffordd y Brawd Odrig, 1929, and the Welsh translations of Old French Charlemagne epics, Ystoria de Carolo Magno, 1930, revised edition 1961, ‘Pererindod Siarlymaen’ 1930, work which led to a seminal article on the craft of the translator in medieval Wales (‘Cyfieithwyr cynnar’, Y Llenor, 1929). He gained the degree of D.Litt. in 1948. A number of his most important articles were republished in Beirdd ac Eisteddfodwyr in 1981. Stephen J. Williams was active in providing teaching materials for schools. He was editor of Yr Athro to which he contributed articles on literary criticism but his major role was as a grammarian. His standard Elfennau Gramadeg Cymraeg was published in 1959, 1980, A Welsh Grammar, 1980, and a popular text book, Beginner's Welsh (1934) ran into several editions; he also held radio language lessons. As a member of a panel set up to standardise modern Welsh usage he was prominent in attempts to ensure that Welsh was flexible enough to be able to adapt to twentieth-century demands (his article on ‘Y Gymraeg a'r dyfodol’ appeared in the Cymmrodorion Society Transactions 1943), though the proposals known as ‘Cymraeg Byw’ were generally misunderstood (see his robust article in Y Faner, 1981). He served on the University of Wales Welsh Terminology panel and he was consulting editor for the popular Y Geiriadur Mawr (H. Meurig Evans and W.O. Thomas, 1958). He supported all aspects of Welsh life in Swansea, especially Ty'r Cymry and the Welsh Drama Society for which he wrote his ‘Y dyn hysbys’ in 1935. He was a prominent supporter of the National Eisteddfod, serving as a member of the Council for many years and also as its Chairman, and as a member of the Gorsedd of Bards. He served as adjudicator frequently and he was responsible for translating the words of many of the songs and choral works used at eisteddfodau. He was elected Fellow of the National Eisteddfod in 1975. He and his wife were active members of the Welsh Folksong Society and they were elected honorary vice-presidents together in 1985. A staunch Independent, he was a deacon and church secretary of Henrietta Street chapel in Swansea, and president of the Union of Welsh Independents in 1969.
He married Ceinwen Rhys Rowlands, a soloist and folksong singer from Llandeilo, in 1925 and they had two sons (Urien Wiliam, Aled Rhys Wiliam) and a daughter (Annest). Stephen J. Williams died in Swansea aged 96 on 2 August 1992 and was cremated in Morriston crematorium 8 August.
Dr Brynley Francis Roberts, Aberystwyth
Published date: 2008