May 1853, Madryn (near Pwllheli), Wales.
July 9, 1932.
West Derby Cemetery, Liverpool, England.
Owens had a rough start in life: When he was two years old, his older brother came down with smallpox, and his parents sent him to stay with his father’s sister, Jane Owen, in Llanbedrog. A few years later, his mother died in childbirth. His father then went to sea as a ship’s steward, but ended up dying in a hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
Raised by his aunt, Williams showed musical gifts early, and for a while led the singing at a Wesleyan chapel. He left school at age 12, and at age 16 became an assistant gardener in Gelliwig Hall. It there he first read the work of Ebenezer Thomas and became enamored of poetry. Under the tutelage of the head gardener, he learned the rudiments of verse.
After his aunt’s death, he worked at Dixon’s Nurseries in Chester, England; at Lord Vane-Tempest’s estate, Plas Machynlleth (seat of the Marquis of Londonderry); with a wholesale merchant in Liverpool; in the cotton trade, and finally landed a permanent position in William Williams’ warehouse in Button Street, where he stayed 10 years. In 1884, he became minister of Kensington congregational chapel, a ministry which lasted 46 years.
Williams was active in the Welsh Eisteddfods for many years, winning prizes and admiration for his gifts. The University of Wales awarded him an honorary MA degree in 1917, and in 1927 he became president of the Welsh Congregational Union.