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date: 18 October 2019

Dafydd Ddu o Hiraddugfree

(d. in or before 1371)
  • R. Geraint Gruffydd

Dafydd Ddu o Hiraddug (d. in or before 1371), grammarian and poet, was presumably a native of the township of Hiraddug in the parish of Cwm, which was part of the commote of Rhuddlan in the hundred of Tegeingl in north-east Wales. He may have been the boy 'David Duy' who was a member of the household of Llywelyn ab Ynyr, bishop of St Asaph, in 1311. It is perhaps less likely that he was the 'Magister David de Rhuddallt' who obtained preferment in the diocese of Bangor between 1318 and 1328, although there is a village named Rhu(dd)allt in the commote of Rhuddlan. The fact that he is styled 'Athro' (magister) in his grammar book and elsewhere suggests that he was a university graduate, probably of Oxford. He may indeed have been at one time chancellor of the cathedral church of St Asaph. In 1357 'Magister David de Englefield', a canon of St Asaph, was Archbishop Islip's vicar-general during a vacancy in the see. The vacancy was filled when Archdeacon Llywelyn ap Madog ab Elis was made bishop, and Dafydd Ddu may have succeeded him as archdeacon, residing at Diserth. By 1371 Ithel ap Robert was archdeacon and Dafydd Ddu was probably dead. Edward Lhwyd records a tradition that he was buried at Diserth, and this is to be preferred to the slightly later tradition that his remains lie at Tremeirchion. Folk-tales about him proliferated, and in the Renaissance he was confused with Roger Bacon.

Dafydd Ddu (his epithet means ‘Black’) is best known as the reviser of Einion Offeiriad's grammar book or poets' manual. An early copy of his revision is extant in Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS Peniarth 20, of c.1330, probably written at the Cistercian abbey of Valle Crucis. Dafydd preserves the basic arrangement and much of the material of Einion's grammar but relocates some of the material, amplifies it somewhat, and occasionally adds to it (he rarely omits or curtails). He has forty-seven examples of metres and metrical faults compared to Einion's thirty-nine. Whereas Einion's grammar credits Einion with the invention of three ‘new’ metres, Dafydd's revision credits these to Dafydd. Both versions have one metrical example that is Dafydd's own work, which may point to some collaboration from the beginning.

Dafydd Ddu is also the author of three skilful religio-didactic poems: on the history of the world from Adam to Christ (largely based on L'Enfant sage), on the ten commandments (combined with the two evangelical precepts, as in Mark 12: 29–30), and on the evanescence of life. Gwasanaeth Mair ('Mary's service'), a metrical translation of Horae beatae Mariae virginis, has been ascribed to him. The case for his authorship of the mystical treatise Ymborth yr enaid ('Food for the soul') is more precarious.


  • R. G. Gruffydd, ‘Wales's second grammarian: Dafydd Ddu of Hiraddug’, PBA, 90 (1996), 1–29
  • G. J. Williams and E. J. Jones, eds., Gramadegau'r penceirddiaid (1934)
  • Gwaith Einion Offeiriad a Dafydd Ddu o Hiraddug, ed. R. G. Gruffydd and R. Ifans (1997)
  • Gwassanaeth Meir, ed. B. F. Roberts (1961)
  • R. Iestyn Daniel, ed., Ymborth yr enaid (1995)
  • Parochialia … by Edward Lhwyd, ed. R. H. Morris (1909–11)


  • BL, Add. MSS
  • NL Wales, various collections
  • Bodl. Oxf., Jesus College MSS
  • Cardiff Central Library, foundation collection
  • U. Wales, Bangor, Gwyneddon collection
  • U. Wales, Bangor, Mostyn collection
Proceedings of the British Academy