Shadrach, Azariah (DNB00)

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SHADRACH, AZARIAH (1774–1844), Welsh evangelical writer, was born on 24 June 1774 at Garn Deilo fach in the parish of Llanfair, near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, being the fifth son of Henry and Ann Shadrach, natives of the neighbouring parish of Nevern. He had scarcely any educational opportunities, but when grown up he engaged himself as a farm servant to a local independent minister, who was reputed to possess a good library, on the condition that he should be allowed access to his employer's books after his day's work. At his master's suggestion he decided to enter the independent ministry, and in 1798 he went, as was then usual, on a preaching tour to North Wales, where he was induced by Dr. George Lewis [q. v.] to remain, undertaking the duties of schoolmaster, first at Hirnant, near Bala, and then at Pennal and Derwenlas, near Machynlleth. Towards the end of 1802 he was ordained pastor of the independent church at Llanrwst, at a salary of 5l. a year. Here he was largely instrumental in suppressing the wakes or ‘mabsantau’ which then flourished in the district. In November 1806 he removed to North Cardiganshire, where he had charge of the churches of Talybont and Llanbadarn. To these he added in 1819 the charge of a new church which he then formed at Aberystwyth, and for which, two years later, he built a chapel, becoming himself responsible for its cost. Owing to ill health he resigned his charges in August 1835, but continued to preach until his death on 18 Jan. 1844. He was buried at St. Michael's Church, Aberystwyth.

Shadrach was the author of no less than twenty-seven works, all, with one exception, written in Welsh. Some of them ran into several editions, and it is estimated that sixty thousand copies of his various books were sold altogether. They were mostly homiletic in character, being sketches of sermons he had previously delivered. Owing to his liberal use of allegory he has been styled, somewhat extravagantly, ‘the Bunyan of Wales.’ Perhaps his best work was ‘A Looking Glass; neu Ddrych y Gwrthgiliwr,’ &c. (Carmarthen, 1807, and numerous reprints), which was translated into English by Edward S. Byam, sometime chief magistrate of Mauritius, under the title ‘The Backslider's Mirror: a popular Welsh treatise, translated from the ancient British Language,’ London, 1845. Shadrach was credited with the possession of a prophetic faculty, and is specially remembered about Aberdovey on account of a curious ballad which he wrote in 1836, foretelling many unforeseen events which have since come to pass in the district. To his last work, ‘Cerbyd o Goed Libanus’ (Aberystwyth, 1840), are appended some autobiographical notes.

[A full biography by the Rev. Josiah Jones of Machynlleth was published, first in Y Beirniad, and subsequently in 1863 in book form. See also Rees and Thomas, Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol Cymru, iv. 134–8; Jones's Geiriadur Bywgraffyddol, ii. 542–4.]

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