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History of Brechfa Church from
 ' Teulu Teilo'
by Bob Lenny and Patrick Thomas

 

6. John Griffiths: a Faithful Priest

Old age, as well as the considerable distance between Brechfa and Meidrim, may well have been what led William Jenkins to decide to employ an assistant curate in Brechfa in 1796. He chose a 34 year old priest named John Griffiths, who had been Curate of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn since at least 1790 (and possibly slightly earlier). On June the 20th 1799, after the death of William Jenkins, John Williams Hughes, patron of the parish, nominated John Griffiths to take his place. Griffiths continued to look after both Brechfa and Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn until he died in 1838. He was licensed as a Perpetual Curate but was generally known as Rector of Brechfa.

John Griffiths was highly regarded by the churchwardens of Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn, who described him in 1804 as 'sober, studious and Pious of a good Conduct and in every Respect very regular.' He was equally well thought of in Brechfa, whose churchwarden informed the Bishop in 1828 that John Griffiths was 'a sober Person of Exemplary life of good conduct and in every respect worthy of the sacred function as becometh the Minister of God's word.' Griffiths himself recorded the pattern of Sunday services in his two parishes during his ministry:

"I serve Llanl: rhosycom at 10, in the Morning and Brechva at 3 in the after Noon: except on Sacrament Sundays when Duty is in the Morning at Brechva both are in ye Welsh.'

The fullest description of the work of this much-loved parish priest was given by David Alban, Brechfa's idiosyncratic 'perpetual Churchwarden', in 1816:

'Our Minister is an Incumbent of the Living and resides within an Hundred Yards of the church.

Our Minister is sober and Studious, and owing to his Abilities and Excellent good Conduct he is very suitable to his sacred function.

No person is permited to preach in Our church Unless We know him to be one of the Levites, and of Orthodox faith.

Our Minister performing Divine Service and preaching an Excellent Sermon Once every Sabbath, The sacrament is Administered Every Month he is remarkable for Visiting the Sick and very particular in the performance of all his Divine Duties, we observe these several Feasts commonly called Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Whitsuntide Days. Our children are Baptised in the church Except in cases of Necessity and those that are scholars are very often Examined by our Minister in the Church Catechism.'

Alban's report suggests that at the time John Griffiths was probably living at Ty Mawr. This is confirmed by the petition for a licence of non-residence sent to the Bishop of St Davids in January 1817 in which Griffiths states 'That he lives at Brechfa in the adjoining parish of Llanfihangelrhosycorn, within about Twenty Yards of the boundary of his own parish, and within one Hundred Yards of his Church.' By 1828 he had moved to Abergoleu, outside the village, and he remained there until his death on the 30th of October 1838 and was buried in Brechfa Church on the 3rd of November.

A moving tribute to John Griffiths survives, giving a clear picture of his personality and its impact on his contemporaries:

Teyrnged i'r Parch John Griffiths

' Yr oedd y Parch John Griffiths yn un o'r dynion goreu. Cerid ef yn annwyl gan ei blwyfolion, ei weinidogaeth a ddiferai ar ei wrandawyr fel męl. Yr oedd yn offeiriad yn wir, ac ynddo nid oedd dim twyll.

Byddai y gwahanol enwadau o Ymneilltuwyr yn yr ardal yn hoff iawn o fyned i'w wrandaw, a byddai yn amlygu mai ei ddymuniad oedd llesoli pawb yn ddiwahaniaeth.

Nid oedd ynddo unrhyw agwedd cul at neb, yr oedd yn caru dynion da ym mhob man o ba enwad bynnag y byddent; ac yr oedd yntau ar y cyfryw yn cael ei garu gan bawb a'i adweiniai.

Yr oedd yn wr gostyngedig, hunanymwadol, siriol a charedig, yn gymydog tangnefeddus, ac yn was ffyddlon yng ngwasanaeth ei Arglwydd.

Fe lafuriodd ym Mrechfa am yr ysbaid maith o dros 50 mlynedd a bu farw mewn oedran teg yn niwedd y flwyddyn 1838.'

John Griffiths' wife, Jane, two sons and a great-grandchild died before him and are commemorated, as is the Rector himself, on a tablet which was once on the wall of the old St Teilo's Church. David Griffiths was a surgeon's mate on the East Indiaman 'Hope'. He died off St Helena in 1808, aged 26. His brother John, a printer, died at Abergoleu in 1814, aged 34. The great-grandchild was John James Griffiths, the printer's grandson, who died in infancy in 1836. The memorial tablet was moved from the old church to the new one when the former was demolished. The other monument to be transferred at the same time was that to Daniel Prytherch of Abergoleu (1774-1800) and his wife Margaret (1773-1819). Their actual resting place is marked by a celtic cross on the site of the old church, inscribed ‘Underneath is the Vault of the Prytherchs of Abergolau.’