The strange world of Dr. Price

It was whilst looking at Welsh examples of men cross-dressing as women that I came across a reference to Dr. William Price. That extraordinary character described as “one of the most significant figures of 19th-century Wales, and one of the most unusual in Victorian Britain.” (Wikipedia)

During his long and often bizarre life he had on one occasion been involved with the Chartist riots and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. In order to escape he disguised himself as a woman and boarded a Cardiff ship bound for Liverpool from which he subsequently made his way to France. Despite being the only example of his cross-dressing he was obviously so successful at it that nobody suspected – at least according to him. “I was assisted,” he said “on board by Police-inspector Stockdale, who, deeming I was a lady, showed me every courtesy. He little thought when he handed me so politely on to the deck that I was Dr Price, for whom he was at that very moment on the look-out. Having, however, got on board, I at once went down below, and when the vessel was at sea, I came on deck in man’s attire, but yet disguised.”

Having read the interview in the Cardiff Times I soon realised that although the piece by Gwilym Hughes had been quoted in almost every work on Price the original has never been made publically available. I have therefore extracted the complete interview and include it here. As it is a transcript the spellings are the original.

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In addition very little has been published on the author Gwilym Hughes who wrote predominantly under his bardic name of Ap Idanfryn. A short biographical piece on him appeared in English in the Pontypool Chronicle and Workman’s News in 1893 and in Welsh in Papur Pawb in 1895.

To summarise his life:

gwilym-hughes2Gwilym Hughes was born in LLanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant, Powys. The second son of seven children to John Hughes, a schoolmaster originally from Brynsiencyn, Anglesey. John had gained a reputation for himself as a writer under the pseudonyms of ‘Vox’ and ‘Idanfryn’ and Gwilym’s bardic name ‘ap Idanfryn’ meant ‘son of Idanfryn.’ His mother was the eldest daughter of Captain Hugh Owen, of the Belt area of Bangor. He was one of the first deacons of the Calvinistic Methodist chapel Twr-Gwyn (now a Grade II listed building).

Gwilym lived with his parents at Bangor, Amlwch and Carnarvon but in the summer of 1876 whilst only 12 his father died. In 1878 he entered the service of John Evans and Company at the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald where he began in the printing department. In 1880 he left and went to work at the Y Genedl Gymreig. Ever restless Gwilym would hop from paper to paper seeking new opportunities and only six months after starting at the Genedl he was invited to take a post as a reporter on the North Wales Express. So successful was he that he was invited to cover new areas for them reporting from Rhyl to Denbigh in the Vale of Clwyd.

He moved to Denbigh to better report for the Express however his old newspaper the Herald offered him another job reporting in the districts covering Llandudno, Conway and the Vale of Conway. He subsequently left the Express and became the chief reporter for the Llandudno Register and Herald, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and the Herald Cymraeg.

In 1883 he moved to south Wales to start a penny Conservative weekly called The Brecon Free Press. However a Radical and Liberal he did not share Conservative’s views and so returned to North Wales. He joined forces with H. Edwards the chief reporter of the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald and together they formed a Radical weekly journal the Bangor Observer. However before long he was back as chief reporter at his old stamping ground at the Herald where he remained for four years. Never still for long he then moved back south and in June 1888 he succeeded ‘Adfyfyr’ as the Pontypridd and Rhondda district representative for the South Wales Radical a daily paper.

As well as a reporter Gwilym was involved in numerous other activities. Along with David Edwards, the editor and manager of the Nottingham Express, he founded the Women’s Liberal Association at Carnarvon. And he acted as a Welsh interpreter at the assizes. During one case where six women between 80 and 90 years old had to be interviewed the judge, Mr Swetenham, said after 35 years of experiences in the Wales courts Gwilym was by far the best interpreter he ever had.

In 1887 he married Miss E.J. Roberts of Segontium Terrace, Carnarvon. She was the great-granddaughter of Angel Jones, of Wyddgrug (Mold) about whom Glan Alun had written a poem. He was also immortalised by the Rev. Daniel Owen in his novel Rhys Lewis – “generally agreed to be the first significant novel written in the Welsh language, and is to date one of the longest.” (Wikipedia) One of the leading characters, Abel Hughes, was based on Angel Jones.

As a journalist Gwilym travelled extensively throughout Wales and regularly reported on the Welsh National Eisteddfod, the chief synods and assemblies of the various Nonconformist denominations, and the Welsh National Conferences for the journal he represented. He was commissioned by the South Wales Daily News to represent them at the conference of the Miners Federation of the Great Britain in Birmingham in January 1893.

He died in 1933.