Poet, patriot, and preacher
Evan Jones was the son Evan and Catherine Jones, who kept a small farm in the neighbourhood of Dolgelly, Ieuan was born on September 5th, 1820 and the greater part of his boyhood was spent at Tycroes, a small house three miles from that town. He had the advantage of being brought up in a Christian home with religious parents. Of his mother it was said that while she was in service, and earning low wages, she purchased a Bible on the instalment system, and this, followed some years later by the incident of Mary Jones,’ induced Mr Charles, of Bala, to take steps to form the Bible Society.
Her son received some education at a small village school, but through long intervals of absenteeism, he generally forgot what he had previously learnt. He was, however, very fond of reading, and got into the habit of borrowing books from the neighbouring farms. When quite a young lad he had read a great deal, his favourite books being ‘Taith y Pererin,’ ‘Llyfr y Tri Aderyn,’ and ‘Llyfr Hymnau’ (Grawnsypiau Canaan).
His powers as a bard were soon in evidence, and his englynion on local characters caused much amusement, and, at times, annoyance. At Dolgelly, he became acquainted with many of the foremost of Welsh poets, but, unfortunately for him, through this acquaintanceship, he became addicted to drink. Not being physically strong, he was unsuited for manual labour, and being continually with his books he was looked upon by those who knew him as a lazy fellow.’
In 1836, he started a school at Brithdir and Rhydymain, but was forced to give up through lack of support. At this time the great temperance revival swept through the country, with the result that leuan signed the pledge, and became not only one of the first members of a temperance society started at Brithdir, but a most ardent temperance advocate. The following year he was received into Church membership at his native village, and afterwards desired to enter the ministry. This wish was checked, as the villagers still regarded him as a worthless lad. He secured a position as school- master at Llanwddyn, in Montgomeryshire, and afterwards, at the invitation of Dr Arthur Jones, went to Bangor, where, for a while, he carried on a school.He kept a school with some success when a lad but when a young man went to school in Shropshire, ‘and was ordained to the Congregational ministry.’
1841 when only 21, he entered Brecon College to prepare for the ministry. Soon after entering college, several letters and articles directed against Nonconformity, written by a Dr Kennedy, appeared in the ‘Shrewsbury Chronicle.’ leuan, however, wrote several able replies in defence, and effectually silenced the critic. Another incident of his college life occurred during the great political fight for Free Trade. A meeting was held at Brecon against the principles of Cobden and Bright, but Ieuan, by his able questioning of the speakers, carried the vote in his favour.
In 1845, he accepted the pastorate of the Welsh Congregational Church at Tredegar, and in the same year married Catherine, daughter of Mr John Sankey, Shrewsbury. She, however, died two years later, and, after this, leuan began to rapidly lose his health. What must be described as the greatest work of his life, and that which raised him to a high pinnacle of eminence among his fellow countrymen, was his work in disproving the malicious findings of the Commission that inquired into the state of Wales, the report of which appeared in the now extinct “Brad y Llyfrau Gleision’ (Blue Books). This Commission was appointed to inquire into the educational and moral life of the people of the Principality. The Commission consisted of seven Churchmen and three Nonconformists, and out of 334 witnesses heard; only 76 were Nonconformists.
The findings of this Commission were a libel on the people of Wales, who were accused of lack of knowledge, immorality, and drunkenness, special reference being made to their Nonconformity. This state of things was attributed to the prayer and society meetings of the various Nonconformist sects. To leuan fell the task of disproving these findings?
He wrote articles and compiled statistics in defence of the Welsh character. So ably were these articles penned, and the evidence brought forth so conclusive, that the findings of the Commission were looked upon as prejudiced and worthless. Ieuan Gwynedd was forced to give up his pastorate owing to failing health. He removed to London to take an appointment as editor of the ‘Standard of Freedom,’ published by Messrs Cassell’s.
On Monday evening, the 10th ult., a large meeting was held at Sharon Chapel, Tredegar, for the purpose of presenting Mr Evan Jones, the late minister, with different testimonials on his resigning the pastorate. Prayer having been offered the chair was taken by Mr. Llewellyn Williams, the senior deacon of the church, who addressed the meeting in a speech remarkable for its depth of feeling, power, and truly natural eloquence
The meeting was then successively addressed by Messrs John Harris, Sirhowy; Daniel Jones, Adulam; N Stephens, Sirhowy; John Price, Rumney; Lewis Powell, Cardiff; W. Williams, Tredegar; and J. Ridge, Kendle. All the speakers testified their great respect for the activity, sincerity, integrity, and ability which Mr. Jones had always displayed, and deeply lamented his removal from the Principality, and their earnest wish for his speedy return. In the course of the proceedings, the following testimonials were presented him: By Messrs. John Harris and Daniel Jones, for the Tredegar and Sirhowy Sunday School Union, a Welsh-English Dictionary, by Dr. W. O. Pughe, 2 vols, royal 8vo. By Mrs. Evans and Miss Anne Jones, for the women of Tredegar, a splendid mahogany writing desk, with a purse of gold. The following inscription is engraved in Welsh on the desk:
“THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD.
THE WOMEN OF TREDEGAR TO IEUAN GWYNEDD”
For his Defence of the Chastity of the Women of Wales. JANUARY 10, 1848.”
Mr. Jones returned thanks in a short speech, in which he expressed his deep regret that ill health rendered it necessary for him to leave a people whom he so cordially esteemed. He briefly recapitulated his own history, and expressed his gratitude to the kind friends who had testified so unequivocally their approval of his conduct. They had seen him enjoying all the happiness of life, and afterwards in the furnace of affliction, and surrounded by the sorrows of death. He loved his country, and he would ever remember with pleasure his defence of his virtuous countrywomen. He concluded by shaking hands with the chairman, as the representative of the meeting, and implored the blessing of heaven to rest on all present.
He afterwards returned to reside in Cardiff, contributed articles to various publications, and was a frequent winner at the National and other eisteddfodau. On the 23rd of February, 1852, when only 31 years of age, he died at Cardiff, and four days later was buried at Groeswen, near Pontypridd.
The women of Wales erected a monument over his grave. In the short space of 32 years he had done more for his country and his God than many famous men had done in the course of a long-life. Like another Merionethshire man, Tom Ellis, his life was an inspiration to young Welshmen and to-day their memories were enshrined in the hearts of the people of Wales. Both rose from the highest to the lowest positions. “They were born mud, and died marble.”
The Late Ieuan Gwynedd (The Caernarvon & Denbigh Herald 10.04.1852)
A fair correspondent, who signs herself “A Female Lamenter,” has written a mourning tribute on the death of the above named poet; which, we refrain from inserting, as its style is not adopted to the columns of a newspaper. She suggests that the elegy to the memory of the bard, for which a prize is offered at the forthcoming Dolgelly Eisteddfod, be competed for by the maids of Cambria, and also proposes that a monument be raised to his memory, in the erection of which the ladies of Wales shall take a prominent part, as a fitting testimony of their respect for the virtues and talents of the deceased, and of his well-known regard and esteem for his fair country women.
Evan Jones (Monmouthshire Merlin 12.03.1852)
And so, “leuan Gwynedd” has passed away from us, and entered into THE PRESENCE! And never did human spirit have such a task to tug and tear its way out of the flesh, scarcely in any other dozen instances in the history was there such turmoil, and labour, and sore travail, and superhuman throes endured in “shuffling off the mortal coil,” as his! It was as though his will mastered everything, and that will its own lord, laughing at destruction and seemed to laugh, and say, “There is more work to be done there is that and that, aye and that again; and then I will hold parley with thee, Grim Tyrant. Mind thou asketh thy Master’s leave, Oh, oh,” and away. And so Evan Jones lingered and hovered on the brink of the Great River; still doing every moment the work of the moment, with an energy and a perseverance so intense, and still so cool, and calm, and statuary like in manner, that it required an earnestness akin, to appreciate him at all. He was a specimen, certainly a rare and proud one of the modern Welsh scholar, poet, and dissenting pastor. Self-taught, or virtually, till they are young men, then a goodly many of them, asin his case, have three or four years of academic education, in one of the dissenting colleges in Wales, when cut they are turned, fully equipped, as it is supposed, for public life.
Of this number, Evan Jones was one and when he took charge of the Independent Congregation, in Tredegar, he had just left Brecon College. Sorrows soon surrounded him here; he buried his young wife and an infant, while he himself had been taken firm possession of, by the ruthless disease that has now laid himlow. His voice failed, he resigned the charge of his church, and there he was with neither wife, nor child, nor house, nor home, “the world before him where to choose.” He had already “deeply infixed” a lance near the vitals of the vicar of Aberdare, for his shameless libels on his nonconforming countrymen, where it still stuck festering, and he the while sweating, swinking, and sweltering, crying out for deliverance, which was slow of coming, but which, with such as this vicar, will come at last, without any real cure, a mere cicatrizing over the surface of the wound. This man had for months and months libelled the Dissenters with much drollery and rough wit and it must be said, with hearty good will.
Evan Jones came athwart him, and gave him trial of good knightly steel, which made him sick at stomach, and his vizor fell, and lo, and behold! It was the godly, the church building, the school extending, the Apostolic Vicar of Aberdare, calling himself in these letters, “Ordovicis,” but legally yelped JOHN GRIFFITHS, clerk. Evan Jones now turned away, and kindly assisted by Lady Hall, he entered, ill as he was, with indomitable gallantry, into the thickest of the fray he was at once in the very beat and heart of the melee. He at once, by his tact and ingenuity, and untiring industry, got together a body of statistics from undoubted sources, which promptly put to silence the gabble and the falsehood of the Blue Books.
This was a hot contest, and though he could do little with his tongue, he was indefatigable with his pen, and paper after paper, in newspaper and magazine, defending his countrywomen from the infamous scandal thrown upon them, and the religious practices of his country from the connexion with which they were libellously and lyingly associated.
This work being done, and we finding ourselves masters of the field, there was EVAN JONES, with blank eye and hollow cheek, not through having done his work. I believe Lady and Sir Benjamin Hall did themselves the honour to befriend him substantially to the end. It was in terms of peculiar and manly gratitude he mentioned her name to me, the last timeI visited him. It will be an honour to her memory! Nor could he now be idle he went to work for John Cassell, where everything was wrong, and he got very ill again, and by being carried from carriage to train, he came home to try the native air.
As soon as he got settled down, he commenced, and at his own risk, a periodical for his young countrywomen, called “The Welshwoman” in Welsh, be it remembered, which continued with his life. He had recently undertaken new literary engagements, was editor of the “Etengylydd,” an excellent Welsh quarterly, and of the “Diwygiwr” a Welsh congregational magazine. The last thing we had heard of him was, that he was moving to Llanelly, to be near the press, but it was another removal Providence designed to troubled spirit, to its welcome rest, the body to Groeswen burying ground.
Farewell, Evan Jones! Yn iach Ieuan Gwynedd! Brother! Patriot! Friend! Countryman! Sleep on! Rest! Thoudid’st a good day’s work, and if anyone ever did, provedst thyself a true man. Farewell!
D. Rhys Stephen
An Address (Alaw Goch)
In an Eisteddfod in Aberdare, when Ieuan Gwynedd
was an Adjudicator
Oh, Awake from your lethargy, – missing
Are our wise men from their greatness;
Foremost among gentry in days gone by,
The Great Fathers, the sands have taken them.
The grand vines of our Poetry, – boldly,
Did they used to spread their knowledge;
The literature of Henllan, that is to receive milk and honey,
And their goodness is of benefit to the whole of mankind.
Bearing this feast in peace, – from an appetite,
Which is elevating, strive together;
When a sound judgement is delivered from the boat,
Ieuan Gwynedd, give a proper smile.
Funeral of Widow of Ieuan Gwynedd (The Cardiff Times 06.01.1895)
Amid every manifestation of sorrow and respect the remains of the late Mrs Jones, Gwynedd, Cardiff, widow of the immortal and litterateur, leuan Gwynedd, who died in 1852, were laid to rest at Groeswen.
The cortege left the house at 11 a.m., and proceeded by road the whole distance. Amongst those present wert the Rev. David Davies, Hanover Rev. J. Prys, Mr Daniel Lewis, and Mr Jones, Coedmoelfa representing Lady Llanover and her household; Mr Alfred Thomas, M.P., Dr. Edwards, family physician, and Messrs D. Howells and Stephens, deacons of Ebenezer Church, Cardiff, of which the deceased lady was a member. The chief mourners were Miss Lewis, Mr and Miss Hall, Mr and Miss Coleman, Mr Hopkins, and Mr Francis, of Liverpool.
As the funeral was a private character, it was accompanied by friends only as far as the North Road. At the house her minister, the Rev. H. M. Hughes, officiated in an appropriate and touching manner and at Groeswen the service was conducted Revs. T. C. Thomas, David Davies, and H.M. Hughes. The Rev. E. Bevan, of Fagan’s Church, Aberdare, feelingly referred to the many eminent qualities of Mrs Jones as a typical Christian, to her connection of more than 40 years with Lady Llanover, to the great confidence reposed in her by her ladyship, and to the warm friendship that existed between them throughout that long period. Mr Alfred Thomas, M.P. paid a splendid tribute to herself-sacrifice, loyalty and devotion during her early life to her illustrious husband, leuan Gwynedd, one of the noblest examples amongst the truly great of the sons of Wales. The Rev. J, Prys, Llanover officiated at the grave.