As his name implies, Rhys Grythor was a professional crowder. Very little is known about him. Two men who may be identified as Rhys are named in Gutun Owain’s list of poets and musicians, one in Gutun’s hand, Rys Grythor Vain, and the other in a later hand, Rrysyn Grythor (Huws 2004: 83, 87). It is likely that Rhys was the former, for his leanness is mentioned in a poem of uncertain authorship in which he is satirized (poem 122). Indeed, in the poem he is named Rhys fain ‘thin Rhys’ (122.5). If the identification is correct, Rhys was alive and active as a crowder by 1499, when it is likely that Gutun wrote his original list (Huws 2004: 81). As Huws notes (ibid. 83), one Rys grythor is found on Gruffudd Hiraethog’s list of those who graduated in the first eisteddfod in Caerwys on 2 July 1523, where he is named as one of the graduate disgyblion disgyblaidd (literally ‘disciplined disciples’; Bowen 1952: 130). The short list of graduates is followed by a note: ond hynny gwrthod i graddio a wnaethant ‘none were awarded a degree except these’. The note was misinterpreted in CTC 328, Miles (1983: 165–6) and ap Gwilym (1978: 44) as a reference to the graduates’ reluctance to receive such an undistinguished status. As the translation shows, the note in fact states that other poets were refused this status. If the Rhys Grythor named in 1523 is the same as the one named by Gutun, it is likely that he was quite old at the time of the Caerwys eisteddfod. It is doubtful whether it would have been usual or appropriate for an old man to receive a lowly poetic status, therefore it is possible that there were two Rhys Grythors active at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
There was certainly more than one Rhys Grythor when the second eisteddfod was held in Caerwys in 1567/8, namely Rhys Grythor o Lansannan, Rhys Grythor o Gerrig-y-drudion and Rhys Grythor Hiraethog (Bowen 1952: 133). Jones (1890: 100) and ap Gwilym (1978: 44) identify the last as the Rhys Grythor who was named in 1523. None of these three individuals can be identified as the Rhys named in the poem above, for one Dafydd was abbot of Maenan when it was composed, and no one named Dafydd was abbot there after 1513. Furthermore, he cannot be identified as the Rhys Grythor on whom Wiliam Cynwal composed a satire for Siôn Tudur (Huws 1998: 73), nor the one who was satirized by both poets and by others during the second half of the sixteenth century (in contrast to what is stated in CTC 328–9 and Miles 1983: 164–89). Huws (2004: 83) states that one Rhys Grythor is named in a poem known as ‘Cywydd tin y glêr’ (‘A poem for the lowest class of poet’) by Tudur Goch Brydydd. Two other poets are named in the poem whose names appear on Gutun Owain’s list in 1499, namely Tomas Celli and Siôn Cingsiws. It seems that they were Rhys’s contemporaries (in DWB Online s.n. Gutun Goch Brydydd, c.1550 is tentatively suggested as Tudur Goch’s floruit), and it is likely that he can be identified as the Rhys Grythor discussed here.
On the basis of the information above, as well as the probable dates of Abbot Dafydd ab Owain, from whom (in all likelihood) Rhys hoped to receive a cloak as a gift, it seems that Rhys was active during the last decades of the fifteenth century and the first decades of the sixteenth. He was probably a native of Dyffryn Clwyd and the Marches (122.17n and 26n).
ap Gwilym, I. (1978), Y Traddodiad Cerddorol yng Nghymru (Abertawe)
Bowen, D.J. (1952), ‘Graddedigion Eisteddfodau Caerwys, 1523 a 1567/8’, LlCy 2: 129–34
Huws, B.O. (1998), Y Canu Gofyn a Diolch c.1350–c.1630 (Caerdydd)
Huws, D. (2004), ‘Rhestr Gutun Owain o Wŷr wrth Gerdd’, Dwned, 10: 79–88
Jones, M.O. (1890), Bywgraffiaeth Cerddorion Cymreig (Caerdydd)
Miles, B.E. (1983), ‘Swyddogaeth a Chelfyddyd y Crythor’ (MA Cymru [Aberystwyth])