Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nicholas, David

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Dafydd Nicolas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

NICHOLAS, DAVID (1705?–1769), Welsh ballad-writer, born about 1705 at Llangynwyd, Glamorganshire, was son of Robert Nicholas and Ann Rees his wife, who, according to the register of Llangynwyd Church, were married 12 Feb. 1699. David was baptised 1 July 1705. In ‘Cambrian Biography’ (p. 82), followed by Taliesin ab Iolo in his ‘History of Glyn Neath’ (p. 29), his birthplace is erroneously stated to be Ystradyfodwg, and the inscription on his tombstone wrongly gives the date of his birth as 1693. He became a schoolmaster, and kept day-schools at Llangynwyd, Ystradyfodwg, and Glyncorrwg successively, but spent the latter years of his life at Aberpergwm, in the Vale of Neath, as the ‘bardd teulu’ or family bard of that house, being probably the last in Wales to hold such a position. He acquired a great local reputation for his surgical skill in the treatment of both man and beast; but he was, like many of the Welsh poets of his day, addicted to drink.

Nicholas was admitted as member of the Glamorgan ‘Gorsedd’ or congress of bards in 1730, and a letter written by him in 1754 to Edward Evans (1716–1798), and printed in Taliesin (ed. by Ab Ithel), i. 94, is considered a masterly exposition of the rules of Welsh prosody. He is said to have translated portions of Homer; but these, if executed, are lost (Tal. ab Iolo, op. cit.) His reputation mainly rests on his ballads, which are among the most popular in Welsh. The best known of them are ‘Y Deryn Pur’ and ‘Fanny Blodau'r Ffair’ (see a translation, ‘Fanny Blooming Fair’ in Dr. Jones's History of Wales, pp. 260–2), which, with others, are preserved in the collection of Welsh national airs by Jane Williams of Aberpergwm. English translations of some of them by Mrs. Pendril Llewelyn of Llangynwyd (1811–1874) have been published in local papers and in ‘Archæologia Cambrensis.’ Nicholas died in 1769 (wrongly given as 1777 in ‘Cambrian Biography’), and was buried at Aberpergwm.

[Cadrawd's History of Llangynwyd, pp. 74, 186–8; Taliesin ab Iolo's Hist. of Glyn Neath (in Welsh), pp. 21, 22, 24, 29; Dr. Jones's Hist. of Wales, p. 260; Cambrian Biography; Miss Williams's Collection of Welsh Airs.]

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