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Reference: NLW MS 77A

Reference: NLW MS 78A

Who was William Williams Pantycelyn?

Williams Pantycelyn is generally acknowledged as Wales's most important hymn writer. He was also one of the key leaders of early Methodism in our country and a renowned poet and author. Today he is considered to be one of our greatest writers.

William was born in 1717 in Cefn-coed in the parish of Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, Carmarthenshire. He was educated locally and intended to become a doctor. This changed in 1737 when he had a religious conversion while listening to Howel Harris (1714-73), the evangelical reformer, preaching in Talgarth in 1737. He took deacon's orders in 1740 and was appointed curate to Theophilus Evans (1693-1767) in the parishes of Llanwrtyd, Llanfihangel Abergwesyn and Llanddewi Abergwesyn. Because of his Methodist activities he was refused ordination as a priest and from then on he committed himself entirely to that movement. He travelled throughout the country preaching and establishing seiadau (local fellowships of Methodist people). He died in 1791.

He published his first volume of hymns, Aleluia in 1744 and he continued to publish volumes of hymns in Welsh and English until the end of the 1780s. By the time of his death in 1791 he had published almost 90 books and pamphlets. In 2017 to celebrate three hundred years since his birth, the National Library of Wales digitized all of William Williams Pantycelyn's published works. The collection, which contains over 4,000 pages, will be the basis for raising awareness of the author and hymnwriter's contribution to the life of Wales and the world, and will be a great resource for anyone studying or interested in his work.

Although the quality of his work is uneven, Pantycelyn is considered Wales's most important hymn writer because of the symbolic richness and directness of his work. As well as hymns, he composed epic poems and volumes of shorter poems. He also turned his hand to prose in order to promote the spiritual development of his fellow Methodists and by the time of his death he had published almost ninety books and pamphlets.

Further Reading

  • Derec Llwyd Morgan (gol.). Meddwl a dychymyg Williams Pantycelyn. Llandysul : Gwasg Gomer, 1991.
  • Gomer Morgan Roberts. Y pêr ganiedydd [Pantycelyn]. Aberystwyth : Gwasg Aberystwyth, 1958.
  • Glyn Tegai Hughes. Williams Pantycelyn. Caerdydd : University of Wales Press on behalf of the Welsh Arts Council, 1983.