Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parry, John (d.1782)

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PARRY, JOHN (d. 1782), musician, of Ruabon, North Wales, was familiarly known as the blind harper. He was harper to Sir Watkin Williams Wynne of Wynnstay, and for some time to Sir Watkin's father. In a harp-playing contest with Hugh Shon Prys, of Llanddervel, he was adjudged the victor (Jones). He went to London, and in 1746 appeared at Ranelagh House and Gardens. At Cambridge he played before Gray the poet, who, in a letter dated May 1757, says that he ‘scratched out such a ravishing blind harmony, such tunes of a thousand years old,’ that he ‘put my Ode [‘The Bard’] in motion again, and has brought it at last to a conclusion.’ Parry, though totally blind, was an excellent draught-player. He died at Ruabon on 7 Oct. 1782. A son, William Parry (1742?–1791), is separately noticed. John Parry is remembered as the editor, along with Evan Williams, of the earliest published collections of Welsh music, but the original melodies were much mutilated. Parry and Williams's published collections were: 1. ‘Antient British Music,’ London, 1742. 2. ‘Welsh, English, and Scotch Airs,’ London, n.d. 3. ‘Cambrian Harmony,’ London, 1781.

[Edward Jones's Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards; Grove's Dictionary of Music, ii. 651, iv. 443; Mathias's edition of Gray, ii. 356; Gent. Mag. 1782, 550; Engel's Study of National Music.]

J. C. H.