Iolo Morganwyg

Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826)

Iolo Morganwg (Welsh for 'Ned of Glamorgan') was a scholar famed for creating the Welsh order of the bards.

Born Edward Williams in Flemingston in the Vale of Glamorgan, Iolo worked at his trade as a stonemason. He was a prolific poet in both Welsh and English and wrote in the guise of other poets as well as in his own voice. Morganwg was part of the radical romantic movement.

He was responsible for the establishment of the Gorsedd of the Bards, which he saw as the guardian of the language and culture of Wales. This supposedly ancient druidic order was established in a ceremony at Primrose Hill, London, in 1792.

It was a fantasy, of course, as scholars have found many of Iolo's works to be. Yet the body of bards he established resonated with the Welsh people. It gave them an institution which esteemed and cherished the language, something which hadn't existed since the Age of the Princes hundreds of years earlier. In 1819, the Gorsedd was formally linked with the Eisteddfod, an act which ultimately led to the National Eisteddfod we know today.

The Gorsedd is now an association whose members consist of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have made a contribution to Welsh language and culture.

Iolo was also an anti-slavery campaigner who tried to avoid everything to do with slavery. His shop in Cowbridge refused to stock slave grown sugar and he refused to take subscriptions for his book from Bristol slave merchants.

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