John Thomas: Pencerdd Gwalia


John Thomas and his Harp

John Thomas was born to Catherine and John Thomas on St. Davids Day, 1826. He was born in Bridgend but his exact place of birth remains unknown.   Influenced my his father, who was musician but a tailor by trade, John learnt to play the piccolo and harp at a young age. At the Abergavenny Eisteddfod of 1838, aged just 12, John won a triple strung harp. 

During 1840, he was sponsored by Lady Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron to study at the Royal College of Music, London.  There he was taught by J. B. Chatterton  and Cipriani Potter. 

During 1851, John is listed as living at 27 Grafton Street, London. By this time his music was well known and he would soon be travelling and performing at concerts throughout Europe.  His destinations included France, Russia, Austria and Italy.

John Thomas was given the title of ‘Pencerdd Gwalia’ at the Aberdare Eisteddfod of 1861. At this time he was an avid promoter of Welsh Music and supported over forty annual Welsh Music concerts. During 1871 he became a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Later in 1872 he gained his highest honour, he was appointed the harpist of Queen Victoria. On her death he became harpist to her successor King Edward VII. 

John Thomas married twice: both of whom were his students.
He married Alice Ann Keate in 1878. She died two years later after the birth of their child John Llewellyn. 

He later married Joan Francis Denny on the 5th of August, 1885.  They had three children: Gwilym Ivor – Arthur Thomas – Ada Myfanwy.  Together they resided at 53 Wellbeck Street, London. They were noted to have a housekeeper and historical painter at their disposal.  

On January 7th 1905 John Thomas performed his last concert and he later died in 1913 aged 87. 

Joan Thomas (nee Denny)

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