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Tributes to renowned poet and priest

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Respected poet and priest: Canon ap Gwilym

THE ARCHBISHOP of Wales has paid tribute to renowned Welsh poet and priest, Canon Gwynn ap Gwilym, who died on Sunday after suffering from cancer. 

As well as a respected clergyman, Canon ap Gwilym was a Welsh language poet, writer, editor and translator. Originally from Machynlleth, he served in the Church in Wales in the dioceses of Bangor and Llandaff before taking on the roles of Bishops’ Advisor for Church Affairs and Language Officer. He translated all the Church’s liturgy over the past decade into Welsh and also wrote an acclaimed translation of the metrical psalms.

The Archbishop, Barry Morgan, described him as a ‘scholar priest’ and said the Church had lost a ‘brilliant language officer and translator’.

He said: “Gwynn ap Gwilym was in the old Welsh tradition of being a scholar priest ‘un o’r hen offeiriaid llengar’. He was a Chaired Bard of the National Eisteddfod, and was about to publish a scholarly book on one of his predecessors at Mallwyd – John Davies, who had helped translate the New Testament into Welsh. He also produced a metrical version of the psalms in Welsh – translated from the original Hebrew – Salmau Cân Newydd. He succeeded in his aims of making these psalms accessible and singable without deviating from their original meaning. That was only possible because of his Hebrew scholarship, his ability as a poet and his deep knowledge of the Welsh language. Welsh congregations were able, often for the first time, to sing and understand the meaning of the psalms since they were translated in such a way that they could be set to familiar Welsh tunes.

“He was a brilliant Language Officer and translator for the Church in Wales. He translated most of the Church in Wales’ liturgical material, again using his gifts as poet and linguist. In later years, he brought the same thoroughness and energy to ecumenical relationships when he took on the task of being the officer responsible for the Church in Wales’ relationship with churches across the world. His attention to detail, his meticulous observations and his ability to communicate will be gifts that will be sorely missed, as will his thought provoking sermons, which always used the scriptures to illuminate contemporary issues.

“Our hearts go out to his widow Mari and the family.”

Canon ap Gwilym, 66, began his ministry in Bangor Diocese after graduating from the University of Wales, Bangor, and training for ordination at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was Rector for 16 years of Penegoes and then Mallwyd, serving churches in the Upper Dyfi Valley area . In 2002, he moved to Llandaff Diocese, serving in Penyfai and then Eglwys Dewi Sant – a Welsh language church in the heart of Cardiff – until 2007 when he was appointed Bishops’ Advisor and Language Officer.

In 1983, he won the Welsh Arts Council prize for his volume of poetry, ‘Grassholm’, and 30 years ago, in 1986, he was Poet Chair at the National Eisteddfod in Fishguard for his ode, ‘Y Cwmwl’.

He published three volumes of poetry -‘Y Winllan Werdd’, ‘Gwales’ and ‘Yr Ymyl Aur’ – and co-edited an anthology of 20th century Welsh poetry – ‘Flodeugerdd o Farddoniaeth Gymraeg yr Ugeinfed Ganrif’.

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Dayne Stone

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