Rowlands, William (DNB00)

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ROWLANDS, WILLIAM (1802–1865), known as Gwylym Lleyn, Welsh bibliographer, son of Thomas and Eleanor Rowlands, was born at Bryn Croes, Carnarvonshire, on 24 Aug. 1802. After a little schooling at Bryn Croes and Botwnog, he engaged in his father's craft of weaving, which he followed at various places in Carnarvonshire. He had been brought up a Calvinistic methodist, but at the age of eighteen he adopted Arminian views, and in consequence joined the Wesleyan body. In March 1821 he began to preach at Bryn Caled; shortly afterwards he and his parents settled at Ty Coch, near Bangor. After some years' experience as a lay preacher, he acted for a short time as substitute in the Cardigan circuit for John Davies, chairman of the Welsh district, in July 1828. He performed his task with such acceptance that he was retained in the circuit on Davies's return, and in August 1829 he was admitted as a probationer to the Wesleyan methodist ministry and appointed to the Cardiff circuit. He afterwards served in succession the following chapels: Merthyr (1831), Amlwch (1834), Pwllheli (1835), Newmarket (1837), Ruthin (1840), Llanidloes (1842), Tredegar (1845), Machynlleth (1848), Bryn Mawr (1850), Llanidloes (1853), Tredegar (1856), Aberystwyth (1858), and Machynlleth (1861). In 1864 he retired from circuit work and settled as a supernumerary at Oswestry, where he died on 21 March 1865. He was buried at Caerau, near Llanidloes. At an Eisteddfod at Eglwysfaer in 1865, a prize for the best elegy on Rowlands was won by E. Edwards of Aberystwith, and the elegy was published in 1866.

Rowlands published several religious works, among them an essay on ‘Providence’ (1836), a translation of Wesley's tract on Romanism (1838), and memoirs of the Rev. J. Milward (1839) and the Rev. J. Davies (1847). He was editor of the ‘Eurgrawn Wesleyaidd’ from 1842 to 1845, and from 1852 to 1856. But he is best known by his bibliographical and biographical work: ‘Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry’ (‘Cambrian Bibliography’), a record of all Welsh books, all books printed in Wales, and all having reference to the country, from 1546 to 1800. This important enterprise was begun about 1828, and Rowlands was from this time untiring, during his movements through Wales, in such researches as were needed to make his catalogue exhaustive. A portion of his list of books was printed in the ‘Traethodydd,’ but a plan for publishing the whole came to nothing in the author's lifetime, and it was not until 1869 that the book appeared at Llanidloes, edited and enlarged by D. Silvan Evans. Its value as a work of reference for the student of Welsh literature is generally recognised. ‘Gwilym Lleyn’ (to use Rowlands's literary title) also compiled a large number of biographies of minor Welsh worthies, which on his death were acquired by the publisher of ‘Enwogion Cymru’ (1870), and embodied in that work under the title ‘Lleyn MSS.’

[A memoir of Rowlands, by his son-in-law, the Rev. R. Morgan, runs through the twelve numbers of the ‘Eurgrawn Wesleyaidd’ for 1868.]

J. E. L.