Gam, David (DNB00)


GAM, DAVID (d. 1415), Welsh warrior, is more properly styled Davydd ab Llewelyn. 'Gam' is a nickname meaning 'squinting,' which, like other Welsh nicknames, became equivalent to a surname. David's father was Llewelyn, the son of Hywel, the son of Eineon Sais. Llewelyn possessed fair estates in the parishes of Garthbrengy and Llanddew,which lay within the honour or lordship of Brecon, a dependency of the earldom of Hereford, and after 1399 lapsed to the crown by the accession of Henry IV, who had long enjoyed that earldom. Peytyn was the name of Llewelyn's chief residence. David is described in a verse attributed to Owain Glyndwr as a short red-haired man with a squint. He was faithful to his lord, Henry IV, even during the revolt of Owain [see Glendower, Owen]. He was rewarded for his services by a large share in the South Welsh lands confiscated from rebels in 1401 (Wylie, Hist. of Henry IV, p. 245). There is a story that David plotted against the life of Owain when attending the Welsh parliament at Machynlleth. But it rests on no early authority, misdates the year of the Machynlleth parliament, and wrongly makes David a brother-in-law of Owain. There seems nothing to show that David ever wavered in his allegiance.

David was taken prisoner by Owain, probably at a time when Owain's successes were very few. On 14 June 1412 David's father, Llewelyn ab Hywel, and the seneschal and receiver of Brecon were empowered to treat with Owain, and by ransom or by capturing rebel prisoners to extricate David from his rigorous imprisonment (Fœdera, viii. 753).

It is said that David soon after got into trouble by killing a kinsman in an affray in Brecon town. In 1415 David, accompanied by three foot archers only, followed Henry V on his invasion of France (Nicolas, Battle of Agincourt, p. 379). It is reported that when, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, he was questioned by the king as to the number of the enemy, he replied 'that there were enough to be slain, enough to be taken prisoners, and enough to run away.' The story, however, first appears in Sir Walter Raleigh's 'History of the World ' (p. 451). David was slain at the battle of Agincourt, which was fought on 25 Oct. 1415. The contemporary chroniclers who notice his death simply describe him as an esquire Walsingham, ii. 313; cf. 'Chronicles of London,' quoted in Nicolas, pp. 279-80). There is a tradition that he was knighted for his valour when dying on the field of battle, and the fact that one chronicler says that two recently dubbed knights were slain (Gesta Henrici Quinti, p. 58, Engl. Hist. Soc.) is thought to bear out the story. But one writer at least mentions both the two knights and David Gam (Nicolas, p. 280). Lewis Glyn Cothi, a Welsh poet of the next generation, who celebrated the praises of David's children and grandchildren, regularly speaks of him, however, as 'Syr Davydd Gam' (Gwaith, pp. 1, 8). It has been suggested that David is the original of Shakespeare's Fluellen. This is not at all an improbable conjecture, as Fluellen is plainly a corruption of Llewelyn, and David was generally called David Llewelyn, or ab Llewelyn. The reference to him in Raleigh shows also that his name was familiar to the age of Elizabeth.

David is said to have married Gwenllian, daughter of Gwilym, son of Hywel Grach. He left a family. His son Morgan became the ancestor of the Games of Breconshire. His daughter Gwladus was by her second husband, Sir William ab Thomas of Raglan, the mother of William, the first Herbert earl of Pembroke.

[Besides authorities quoted in the text the biography of Gam in Theophilus Jones's Hist. of Breconshire, i. 160-1, ii. 156-69, with pedigrees, the pedigrees in Lewys Dwnn's Heraldic Visitation of Wales (Welsh MSS. Society); Gwaith Lewis Glyn Cothi; Sir Harris Nicolas's Battle of Agincourt; Tyler's Hist. of Henry V.]

T. F. T.