THE DEATH of Gwilym R. Jones two days before the opening of the 1993 Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales at Builth Wells brought home to all who attended the cultural festival the loss of a prolific man of letters. He achieved a remarkable record by winning the Crown at the Caernarfon National Eisteddfod in 1935 for a poem in free metre, the Chair for a poem in strict metre at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod in 1938, and then at the old Colwyn National Eisteddfod in 1941 the Prose Medal for a novel, Y Purdan.
Born in the village of Tal-y-sarn, a slate-quarrying community in the Nantlle valley, Jones often found inspiration for his prose in the cultural vitality of the chapel and the cultural experiences of his childhood and youth. He himself followed a career in journalism. In 1922 he joined as a young reporter the staff of the Herald Cymraeg, a Welsh-language weekly newspaper that still serves Gwynedd, in north-west Wales.
In 1930 Jones became editor of Herald Mon, which serves the island of Anglesey, and then in 1931 he moved to Liverpool as editor of Y Brython, an excellent weekly newspaper which was established by Welsh exiles in 1906 but which became a national newspaper until it ceased publication in 1939.
At the outbreak of the Second World War he and his bride, she a product of the Liverpool Welsh community, moved to Denbigh, where he remained for the rest of his life. For the next 38 years Gwilym Jones was associated with a weekly magazine, Y Faner, first as a sub-editor, and from 1945 to 1977 as editor. His lasting contribution is undoubtedly in his poems, which are regularly recited at cultural festivals, in particular his fine poem 'Cwm Tawelwch', a meditation on the charm and tranquillity of a depopulated Welsh valley. His poems can be read in five volumes, namely Caneuon (1953), Cerddi Gwilym R. (1969), Y Syrcas a Cherddi Eraill (1975), Y Ddraig a Cherddi Eraill (1978) and Eiliadau (1981), as well as in Ar y Cyd (1958), an unusual volume for it includes poems by himself, by the trade unionist Huw T. Edwards, his fellow- journalist Mathonwy Hughes (who has written a useful introduction to Jones's poetry in Awen Gwilym R, 1980), and his friend the Rev Rhydwen Williams.
His novels, Y Purdan (1942), Gweddw'r Dafarn (1943), and Seirff yn Eden (1963) display command of the language, while his plays, Y Weddw o Aberdar (1938), Clychau Buddugoliaeth (1942), Gwyl Nos (1943), Y Gell Olaf (1959), as well as two other plays not so well-known, namely Argae and Y Dewin, all underline the versatility of this man of letters.
Jones was a passionate Welsh nationalist and for nine years he served as a councillor on Denbigh town council. His love of his heritage comes through in all his writings, and his talent was acknowledged when the Welsh Arts Council awarded him a substantial sum of money for the volume of poetry published in 1969, and the following year the University of Wales awarded him an honorary MA.
A staunch member of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, he served for years as a teacher of an adult Sunday school class which had the novelist Kate Roberts as one of the participants. His contribution to modern Welsh hymn-writing must also be mentioned for his adaptation of the 23rd Psalm, his hymn on the call to worship, and another on the cosmic Christ which will serve congregations of all traditions for decades to come.
Jones was a gregarious, lovable man of letters (though for many an extremely opinionated journalist at times) who contributed immensely to the journalism and literature of 20th- century Wales.