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William Caledfryn Williams was born in Denbigh on 6th February 1801; he died in Groeswen on March 23rd 1869. He started work as a weaver and continued in that profession for years. He was a minister in Llanerchymedd; Pendref; Caernarvon; Aldersgate Street Church, London; Llanrwst; Beulah; Bangor and in 1857 he came to Groeswen. There he died, a well-respected man. Of all the towns in Wales, there are no more famous nor prettier towns than Denbigh, or as it was previously known by its former inhabitants, Dinas Caledfryn-yn-Rhos. It is the principal town of the renowned Vale of Clwyd, and as such it is one of the most important market towns in the Principality. Nature, or rather, God’s nature has been over-generous to it, surrounding it on every side with fertile pastureland and enchanting scenery. Denbigh’s main attraction is its castle on the brow of the hill ‘the Caledfryn’ extensive remains of which exist to the present day and which, under the supervision of a vigilant committee are much better preserved than the majority of Welsh castles. The reader will see why the poet chose the name ‘Caledfryn’.

40 years later, in 1841 in the same town, another protagonist was born, namely John Rowlands, who is better known as Henry M. Stanley the Welshman, but he was not a Welshman like Caledfryn. He was known as John Rowlands as a child, and Henry Morton Stanley when he reached adulthood. It was mainly as a poet and critic that Caledfryn became known. He ‘sang’ throughout his life. Although he competed, he developed slowly as a poet. Dewi Wyn triumphed with an ode ‘Molawd Ynys Prydain’ when he was only 21, and Eben Fardd acceded to the Chair of the ‘Prif-fardd’ at 22. Caledfryn was 31 when he won the Chair with his ‘Rothsay Castle’ at the Beaumaris Eisteddfod in 1832, and he received £20 and the Chair for his ode.

The Chair was presented by Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria, as she then was, before she became the Queen of Great Britain. There were 19 competing. Gutyn Peris came second, 3rd was Eben Fardd and Tecwyn Meirion came 4th. Gwallter Mechain was one of the adjudicators. In 1838 he won the Chair at Abergavenny with an ode ‘Er Cof am Gomer a’i Fab, Ieuan Ddu (In Memory of Gomer and his Son, Ieuan Ddu’). ‘Rawn Awen’ was published in 1826; ‘Y Drych Barddonol’ (The Poetic Mirror), in 1839 and his Grammar in 1851. He also wrote profusely for ‘Y Traethodydd.’(The Essayist). He was also a well-known lecturer and his lectures on ‘extortion’, ‘commercial fraud’ and ‘Disestablishment’ provided the sparks that kindled a revival in Wales.

The Ship Rothsay Castle.

The ‘Rothsay Castle’ was one of the steamers that sailed between Liverpool and Beaumaris. The steamer was supposed to set sail from its mooring, St. George’s Pier Head, Liverpool, at 10 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday 17th August 1831, under the captaincy of Lieutenant Atkinson.

Something happened which caused a delay prior to setting sail, and the clock had struck 11 before everything was ready. As the passengers were coming on board a vehicle arrived at the wharf which needed to be brought on deck. It was the vehicle of R.W. Foster Esq. of Regent’s Park, London. He boarded the ship along with his wife and maid. They obtained their tickets on deck and were satisfied with their accommodation.

Losing an hour meant that the tide was against the Rothsay Castle and a storm was brewing. The water in the hold began slopping over the coal. The stoker was unable to produce enough steam for the ship, which was left at the mercy of the waves. At that time, the steamers used to sail along the Welsh coast were, as a rule, in dire need of repair. I cannot recall any new ships ever being assigned to sail between Wales and England, apart from those that sailed between Holyhead and Ireland, as they were carrying Irish and English trade and post. But what about the old (cridwst) ships that sailed to Liverpool from Swansea, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Caernarvon, Amlwch and Porthaethwy?

We have the melancholy and painful duty to acquaint the public of the decease of the eminent bard and popular minister, the Rev. W. C. Williams, or as more generally called “Caledfryn." This sad intelligence will cause grief to Welshmen of all denominations throughout the Principality, and to thousands who have emigrated to America, Australia, and New Zealand.

The deceased enjoyed a whole lifetime of health until within the last few months, when he began suffering from weakness and indigestion; but he continued to preach every Sunday morning unto the last, even to death.

It seems that he preached last Sunday morning, with more than usual effect, and wrote his letters on the Monday but about twenty minutes past nine o'clock on Tuesday evening, the. 23rd inst., he died suddenly, and seemingly painless. His friends were afraid, since he began complaining of illness, he would not recover, but he himself always believed he would soon get better. It can be truly, said that “a great man has fallen in Israel." His sun set in the 68th year of his age. The highest honours of the Eisteddfod were conferred on him when he was comparatively young, viz., in the year 1832, at the Eisteddfod held at Beaumaris, Anglesea, when he won the £20 and the bardic chair, on the Awdl (poem) “The Wreck of the Rothsay Castle,” and a distinguished honour which no other poet ever had, he was, presented with the prize and an additional medal by her Royal Highness Princess Victoria, now Queen of Great Britain. Since that time until now he diminishingly held his position as a poet and a literary character, adjudicating, at our annual and other Eisteddfodau, editing, &c.

The poet, the orator, the minister, although highly distinguished, is gone to his rest, to the Saviour of whom he spoke so well, and to the eternal mansions which he so beautifully described in many a discourse. But he has left behind not only medals of poetic distinction, but a name untainted by any immorality, a character which the world cannot defame, and a remembrance which will ever, be, respected as, long as “Cymro, Cymru, a Chymraeg" exist. May God bless and console his lamenting children and widow, and continue to watch over, and prosper the old and greatly respected church at Groeswen (Whitecross), now deprived of its minister.

Death has carried off in Wales a man of note and mark, a man whose name can never fail to be associated with the pulpit, the press, and the literature of the principality, and a name that has for many years been a household word amongst the Welsh nation. As an orator, Caledfryn was one of the most eloquent, as a Welsh poet unsurpassed, and a journalist in the best and most practical sense of the word. He had that capacity for editorial work which is not necessarily associated with great writing powers or scholarly acquirements.

His Last Days.

When he was entreated not to preach on account of his weakness, he said, “I am bound to preach as long as I can walk to the chapel." The last Sunday he lived, Mrs. Williams endeavoured to persuade him not to attempt preaching,”" he said, “I have a sermon prepared for the children of professors, and I must deliver my message to them." He walked to the chapel in a friend's arm, ascended the pulpit without fail, read, prayed, preached and administered the Lord's Supper, in such powerful and efficient manner that will never be forgotten by those present. The following Tuesday he was writing an article to the Gwladgarwr.
About one o'clock he felt rather unwell. His medical adviser saw him in the afternoon. About half-past eight a member of his church came to see him, and asked how he felt? “Perfectly happy," was the reply. He then turned on his right side, and slept immediately in Jesus, and while his family thought that he had only fell asleep to awake again, his happy spirit had joined the brilliant assemblage on Mount Zion.
A few weeks ago after the morning service, he uttered the following remarkable words to his congregation:
“It may be that you expect, and it is very reasonable that I should bear testimony to the faith and doctrine I have for so many years professed and preached. I feel perfectly confident to trust my soul to the Christ I have preached as the only Saviour of all those who believe in him. I can say as Dr. Hamilton, that I have nothing to depend on but the covenant, the oath, and the blood” And blessed be God here is everlasting strength.
I have seen the world in all its different phases, and I feel tired of its reputation. I long to go to the land of eternal wonders, where I shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Samuel and the prophets, the apostles and martyrs, with a host of friends that have gone before from the land of great tribulation; but chiefly to see the Lord of Life, and Captain of our salvation. I don't say this with a wish to retire from the battlefield. Work is my pleasure, and when my usefulness is over let my life be brought to a close.
Fulfilling my work is my business, without the least interference with the time of my departure. Let my heavenly Father's will be done." We need not say, the effect produced on the audience was overwhelming.


It would be difficult to give the reader a better description of this funeral than is given in Genesis of Jacob:

"And Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharoah, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt."

By half-past twelve hundreds of persons might have been, seen gathering to the place.

The service was commenced at the home of the deceased, by the Rev. H. Daniel, Cefn-Crib, who read and offered prayer after which a procession of between sixty and seventy ministers of various denominations from North and South Wales, followed by the Groeswen British schools, led the way to the chapel, which was in a very short space of time crammed to excess. The, opening services, was, conducted by the Rev. M. Jones, Tongwynlais. The Rev. J. Roberts, “Scorpion," Llanrwst, then preached a most impressive sermon from Job xiv. 14, followed by Dr. Rees, Swansea, whose earnest discourse, founded upon 2nd Corinthians v. 8. Well, be, fitted the occasion.

Monument 28.09.1869

A meeting has been, held, for the purpose of inaugurating a movement to erect a monument to the late Rev. W. Williams (Gwilym Caledfryn). Mr. J. Griffith, of London, better known as the Gohebydd, presided, and explained the object of the meeting. Letters were read from Mr. W. Bulkeley Hughes, M.P., Mr. Jones-Parry, M.P., Mr. Henry Richard, M.P., the Rev. John Griffith, rector of Neath, Mr. Hugh Owen, London, and a large number of ministers and gentlemen from various parts of be country, expressive of their unqualified approval of the object to do honour to the memory of one who has always stood foremost in connection with Welsh literature. A committee was, appointed, and a sum of £85 has been, subscribed. Mr. Joseph Evans, banker, Caerphilly, was, appointed treasurer, and Mr. Tom. Thomas, Pontypridd, secretary.

The Public Movement to Caledfryn 05/11/1870.

Those of our readers who subscribed to the fund lately raised for erecting a public monument to the memory of Caledfryn, at Groeswen, near Caerphilly, will be pleased to hear that Mr. A. H. James, sculptor, of Newport, Mon., is making rapid progress with the work he was, lately selected to execute. An immense block of Radyr granite has been, laid on the vault as the foundation of the monument, which will be composed of polished red granite, standing upwards of nine feet high, the base being nine feet square. In one of the panels of the die will be, placed a bronze medallion of the deceased eminent bard, and when completed the work will be a worthy tribute of respect to the memory of a distinguished divine and one of the greatest bards in Wales.

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