Gruffydd, Thomas (DNB00)

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GRUFFYDD, THOMAS (1815–1887), harper, was born at Llangynidr in Breconshire in 1815. His maternal grandfather was the rector of the parish, in which his ancestors were yeomen. When three years old he lost one eye through falling on a hatchet, and when a schoolboy almost lost the other by a blow. He was already musical, and after these accidents devoted all his energies to music and to harp-playing. He was placed under one Jones, harper to Mr. Gwynne of Glanbran, near Llandovery, with whom he remained for some years. His countrymen followed him in large crowds wherever he played in public. He had a good voice and sang well. When he lost his sight his hearing became preternaturally keen and his memory strong. In course of time he married, and became successor to his old teacher as harper to the family of Llanover. In 1843 he accompanied Jones to Buckingham Palace to play Welsh airs before the queen and Prince Albert. Carnhuanawc (Thomas Price [q. v.]) was present at the time, and was asked by the prince to explain the peculiarities of the Welsh triple harp. Gruffydd was invited alone to Marlborough House to play. He won numerous prizes for harp-playing at the Eisteddfodau. In 1867 he visited Brittany, accompanied by his daughter, spending most of the time as guest of Comte de la Villemarqué, who presented him on leaving with a valuable gold ring bearing the inscription, 'Keltied Bro C'hall da Gruffydd, Llanover.' He was made harper to the Prince of Wales, before whom he played when the prince visited Raglan and Chepstow Castles. He was for many years recognised as the greatest Welsh harper of his age. A song of his, music and words, was published recently, under the name 'Gwlad y Bardd,' i.e. 'The Land of the Bard.' He died 30 Aug. 1887, and was buried in Llanover churchyard by the side of his parents.

[Memoir by Gwynionydd in Geninen, 1888.]

R. J. J.