Thomas, David (1760?-1822) (DNB00)

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THOMAS, DAVID (1760?–1822), Welsh poet, best known as ‘Daffydd Ddu Eryri,’ was born about 1760 at Pen y Bont in the parish of Llan Beblig, Carnarvonshire. His father, Thomas Griffith, was a weaver, and the son for a time followed that occupation, but in 1781 abandoned it for that of schoolmaster, which he exercised almost without intermission until his death. He contrived to acquire some knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and also became, under the tuition of Robert Hughes (Robin Ddu o Fôn), then schoolmaster at Carnarvon, proficient in the Welsh ‘strict’ metres. As a bard of promise he was elected in October 1785 a member of the London ‘Gwyneddigion’ Society. He competed unsuccessfully for the society's medal at Bala in 1789, the subject being ‘The Life of Man,’ but was victorious at St. Asaph in 1790 on ‘Liberty,’ and at Llanrwst in 1791 on ‘Truth.’ In consequence of his success he was suspended from competition for two years, a measure which induced him to give up competng altogether. In 1791 the three ‘awdlau’ were printed in London. During this year and the next Thomas kept school at Llanystumdwy; in 1793 and 1794 he taught at Pentraeth, Anglesey, and was also engaged in arranging the valuable Panton manuscripts at Plas Gwyn. He then took up the business of coal-meter at Amlwch, and afterwards at Red Wharf Bay, but ultimately returned to Carnarvonshire to teach, living for the most part at Waen Fawr, his native village. In 1810 he published at Dolgelly ‘Corph y Gainc,’ a collection of Welsh poems, very many of them from his own pen; in 1817 a second edition of the ‘Diddanwch Teuluaidd’ appeared at Carnarvon under his editorship. He was the chief contributor to the ‘Cylchgrawn Cymraeg,’ of which five numbers were published at Trefecca and Carmarthen in 1793 and 1794, and acted as adjudicator in the eisteddfodau of Tremadog (1811), and Carnarvon (1821). He was accidentally drowned in the river Cegin while returning from Bangor to his home on 30 March 1822, and was buried in Llanrug churchyard. Dafydd Ddu's work as a poet, facile and vigorous though it be, is less remarkable than the position he held as bardic mentor to the school of poets which sprang up in his day in Carnarvonshire. He did much to secure the continuity of the old bardic traditions which were threatened by the innovating tendencies of Dr. William Owen Pughe [q. v.] and his London supporters. Many of his letters are printed in ‘Adgof uwch Anghof’ (Penygroes, 1883).

[Memoir in Cambro-Briton (1822), iii. 426, 433; Leathart's History of the Gwyneddigion, 1831; Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry; Ashton's Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymreig; letters in Adgof uwch Anghof.]

J. E. L.