Williams, David (d.1794) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, DAVID (d. 1794), Welsh hymn-writer, son of William Rhys, was a native of Carmarthenshire. The year of his birth is variously given as 1712 (from his tombstone) and 1718 (from the second part of ‘Gorfoledd ym Mhebyll Seion’). On the rise of the methodists he became one of their ‘exhorters,’ and acted for a time as one of the superintendents of the Carmarthenshire societies. He was also sent on a mission to Bala (Methodistiaeth Cymru, i. 487). Leaving his home at Llan Fynydd and his employment as a tailor, he settled at Llan Deilo Tal y Bont, Glamorganshire, as master of one of Madam Bevan's schools, and subsequently kept school at Bassaleg, Monmouthshire, and Tre Witting, near Peterston super Ely (Llanbedr y Fro), Glamorganshire. At Peterston he joined in 1777 the baptists, being among the first members of the church formed at Croes y Parc. He died at Peterston on 1 Oct. 1794, and was buried there. His wife was the daughter of a prosperous farmer, and her want of sympathy with her husband's pursuits was the occasion of much bickering, which, tradition alleges, brought about his retirement from the methodist body. They had one son, Israel.

Williams, who usually called himself ‘Dafydd Wiliam,’ was a prolific writer of religious elegies; twelve are recorded under his name in ‘Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry’ between 1763 and 1792. But he is best known as a writer of hymns. Of these he published a first collection about 1762 (Carmarthen), under the title ‘Gorfoledd ym Mhebyll Seion’ (‘Joy in the Tents of Zion’); a second part was issued in 1777 (Carmarthen), a third and a fourth in 1778 (both at Brecon), while an English translation appeared at Brecon in 1779. The four parts were published as one at Brecon in 1782. Other collections of hymns written by him were ‘Diferion o Ffynon Iechydwriaeth’ (‘Droppings from the Fount of Salvation’), 1777; ‘Telynau i Blant yr Addewid’ (‘Harps for the Children of Promise’), Brecon, 1782; ‘Gwin i'r Diffygiol’ (‘Wine for the Fainting’), Carmarthen, 1787; and ‘Yr Udgorn Arian’ (‘The Silver Trumpet’), Carmarthen, 1789. Some of the most popular Welsh hymns are by this writer, including the so-called miners' hymn ‘Yn y dyfroedd mawr a'r tonnau’ (‘In the Billows of Great Waters’).

[Griffiths's Hanes Emynwyr Cymru; Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry; Elvet Lewis's Sweet Singers of Wales.]

J. E. L.