Great Orme grave Robert Arthur Griffith

Grave of Robert Arthur GriffithRobert Arthur Griffith (d.1936)

This family grave, inscribed in Welsh, is a reminder that the Welsh language continued to thrive in Llandudno long after the development of the holiday resort. Robert Arthur Griffith was a poet, writer, critic and supporter of eisteddfodau in his spare time. His bardic name was Elphin.

He was born in Caernarfon in 1860. His father, John Owen Griffith, was also a poet (Ioan Arfon) and worked as a quarryman, being one of the founders in 1874 of the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union. Robert’s uncle Llwyfo Roberts worked as a journalist in Llandudno. Robert himself worked for the Daily News in his early career. He practised as a solicitor in Bangor and eventually, in 1903, became a barrister.

In 1915 he was confirmed as stipendiary magistrate (meaning that he was paid a salary, unlike ordinary magistrates) for Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. He had previously been the area’s acting stipendiary magistrate, hence the gravestone inscription gives 1913 as the date of his appointment. The inscription uses English for the job title, although Welsh speakers were familiar with the Welsh title, ynad cyflogedig, at the time.

In September 1917 he heard the case of Henry Thomas of Merthyr, who had been held in Dartmoor Prison for refusing to serve in the First World War. He released the prisoner, saying that money had been wasted on “this young pacifist” who would be “worth nothing” to the army and commenting that even a million conscientious objectors wouldn’t advance victory by one hour.

Elphin wrote two volumes of poetry, called Murmuron Menai (“Menai Murmurs”) and O Fôr i Fynydd (From Sea to Mountain), and the comic play Y Bardd a’r Cerddor (“The Poet and the Musician). He adjudicated in many literary competitions and was a literary critic. He retired in 1935 and died, aged 76, in Cardiff on Boxing Day 1936. He was buried in the same plot as his brother Ifor, who had died in 1916 aged 49.

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