Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, William (1739-1817)

WILLIAMS, WILLIAM (1739–1817), Welsh antiquary, was born in February 1738–9 at Ty Mawr, Trefdraeth, Anglesey. His father, William ap Huw ap Sion, was a stonemason. After a very short stay at school he served a seven years' apprenticeship to a saddler at Llannerch y Medd, during which he formed his mind by much private study and by intercourse with the bards of the district, notably Hugh Hughes (1693–1776) [q. v.] and Robert Hughes (1744?–1785) [q. v.] Moving to Llan Degai, Carnarvonshire, he obtained employment as occasional clerk in the Penrhyn estate office, acting at the same time as land surveyor and dealer in slates. In 1782 he induced Lord Penrhyn to take into his own hands the slate quarries at Cae Braich y Cafn (now the Penrhyn quarry), and was appointed quarry supervisor, an office he held until he was pensioned in 1803. He died on 17 July 1817, and was buried at Llandegai.

During his long life Williams was a diligent collector of antiquarian lore, and use was made of his manuscripts by Richard Fenton [q. v.] and Sir Richard Colt Hoare [q. v.] Only two of his works have been published. ‘Observations on the Snowdon Mountains’ (London, 1802) deals with the natural history and antiquities of the region around Bangor, and was originally prepared for the private use of Lord Penrhyn. ‘Prydnawngwaith y Cymry’ (Trefriw, 1822) is a continuation (to the Edwardian conquest) of the ‘Drych y Prif Oesoedd’ of Theophilus Evans; the preface shows it was completed in 1804. Williams had some skill as a Welsh poet, and was known in this capacity as ‘Gwilyn Ddu o Arfon.’

[Gwladgarwr, viii. 193–9; Ashton's Hanes Llenyddiaeth Gymreig.]

J. E. L.