Ieuan Gyfannedd was a sixteenth century poet associated with St Harmon area. We know nothing about him but one example of his work has been found; a poem in praise of Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth and his wife, Gwenllian, who was a daughter of Owain Glyndwr. They were one of the leading local families at that time, living somewhere by the top of Cenarth Hill. A description of the poem and what it tells us about the family of Philip ap Rhys and his homestead and his way of life can be found in Houses and History in the March of Wales (p.61), Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2005.
Frederick Joseph Foxton
Frederick Foxton(1806-1870) was known as ‘the atheist of Bwlchgwyn’. He lived by the main A 470 road, near Marteg Bridge, first at Bryngwy then at Bwlchgwyn Isaf. At one time he had been a clergyman. He is described as having ‘progressive views’, which evidently upset the church authorities and he was compelled to retire. He found sanctuary at Bwlchgwyn, became a bit of a recluse and wrote philosophical and religious essays and books. He collapsed and died at the roadside near Marteg Bridge, aged 64 and is buried in St Harmon Churchyard, in a railed enclosure at the edge of the churchyard, where he is almost anonymous.The lettering on his obelisk is almost completely weathered away. For a flavour of his progressive views see his Popular Christianity, its Transition State and its Probable Development, 1849. He developed a friendship with Thomas Carlisle and accompanied him on travels in Europe, see Thomas Carlisle’s Friend in Radnorshire, by Captain and Mrs Williams, 1943
Edward Meredith Price
Edward Meredith Price(1816-1898), musician and hymn writer was born at Penlan, Pant y dwr. He gave familiar local names to many of his hymn tunes: ‘St Garmon’, ‘Nantgwyn’, ‘Sychnant’, ‘Cenarth’ and ‘Penlan’. He lived in Australia for a time and narrowly avoided being shipwrecked. He returned to live in Pant y dwr, moved around and eventually settled in Builth Wells. His descendant, Margaret Ivy Simms Jones, published a book about ‘The Forgotten Composer’ and the history of her family in 1999. He died in 1898, aged 82 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Builth churchyard, but in 1935 a memorial stone was erected nearby. He has an entry in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.
Robert Francis Kilvert (1840-1879) was an English clergyman who was vicar at St Garmon church for a twelve-month period in 1876-7. He has been described as ‘a St Francis in England and Wales’. Kilvert’s Diaries, written between 1870 and 1879 were rediscovered in the 1920s and since then have been published in many forms. Kilvert’s stay in St Harmon was brief and most of his diary entries are set in Clyro, on the other side of Radnorshire.
The diaries are significant as a piece of rural social history but Kilvert is also renowned for his evocative descriptions of nature and his humanity and empathy towards his parishioners and their hard and often brutal existence. The Kilvert Society has several hundred members, united in their appreciation of the man and his diaries and the Radnorshire Museum in Llandrindod Wells has a permanent Kilvert Society Collection.
Jonathan Argoed Pugh
Jonathan Pugh (1893-1961) of Berth, St Harmon was a well-known poet, preacher and historian,who had a passionate interest in the Welsh language and local dialect. He participated in many eisteddfodau throughout mid Wales, taught himself Welsh and campaigned to prevent the anglicising of Welsh place names (see his article on local place names on the Radnorshire Society Transactions link). Examples of his poems are ‘The Upper Wye’ and ‘The Elan Valley’ and ‘The Departure’ and ‘The Return’. In 1937 he published a major poem ‘Einion Clyd’, about the twelfth century Radnorshire prince, and his murder by the Marcher Lord, Roger Mortimer. He is buried in St Garmon churchyard.
H L V Fletcher
Harry Luft Verne Fletcher (1902-1974) has a rather tenuous connection with St Harmon area. He was a teacher at schools in Llandrindod Wells and Bwlch y sarnau and he appears on a photograph of the Local Defence Volunteers during the Second World War. He wrote novels and books on gardening and topographical subjects. Many of his novels were set in the Welsh border country. He has an entry in Archives Wales.
Meic Stephens, the journalist, translator and poet is not from here; he was born in Treforest. But he has a lovely anecdote about local rivalries. A public meeting was held around 1904 to discuss the building of a vicarage for the new vicar. Previously there had been no official residence for the clergy and they were nearly always forced to live outside the parish. After much debate about the relative merits of St Harmon and Pant y dwr the site at Tawelog in St Harmon was chosen. Then an elderly parishioner,who had voted for Pant y dwr, spoke up to say, ‘Very well, so be it. But mark my words: give a man a taste of town life and he’ll never be up in the hills again.’
(Meic Stephens, A Semester in Zion, 2003 p232)
Jan Morris says that when Welsh patriots think of Owain Glyndwr, they tend to feel a mixture of pride, sadness, defiance, hope and longing. John Hughes’s novel, Glyndwr’s Daughter, is about that turbulent period at the beginning of the fifteenth century when Glyndwr led a revolt against the English king, Henry IV. His daughter, Gwenllian, lived at Cenarth with her husband, Philip ap Rees and much of the story revolves around Cenarth, St Garmon Church, Tylwch, Llanidloes and Abbey cwm hir. Llanidloes author, John Hughes, has written three Welsh historical novels,Glyndwr’s Daughter, Llywelyn and The Lost Welsh Kingdom.
.© PB 2016
(Photograph of Local Defence Volunteers courtesy of Jenifer Thomas and CARAD)
St Harmon Monumental Inscriptions:
E103 In memory of Frederick Joseph Foxton, M.A. Glangwy ….
Who departed this life November 3 1870. In the 61 year of his life.
C14 In loving memory of Jonathan Pugh J.P., Y Berth. Who died 30 June 1961. Aged 67 years.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom
Also of Thomas Ll. Pugh. Who died 23 December 1963. Aged 75 years.
Faithful in all his ways
Gwyneth Pugh wife of Jonathan Pugh. Who died 25 January 1999. Aged 89 years.