JT Parry (Ap Idwal) (1853-1913): ‘QUARRYMAN PAINTER’

J. T. Parry was born on June 28, 1853, at Chwarel Goch, Tre-garth, near Bethesda, one of seven children born to Henry Parry (1825-1894) and Ann (1834-1893). He married Elizabeth on September 9, 1877, and they made their home in 65 Ffordd Carneddi, Bethesda and then at No 47. Of the ten children born to the couple, four daughters survived (Anne Jan[e], Maggie, Myfanwy and Gracie) and three sons (Henry Ellis, John and David). 

John Parry, like many boys of his time, worked at the Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda, and one of his pastimes, whenever he had the opportunity, was creating paintings in water colour on pieces of slate and then selling them for a few shillings each.

In the Census of 1881 and again in 1891, he is described as an ‘Artist-Painter’. In 1901, he is an ‘Artist & Landscape Painter’, working at home, having evidently left the Quarry. It has been said that his paintings made such an impression on Lady Penrhyn that she offered to pay for him to be trained professionally at a School of Art. 

Many of his paintings are found in Dyffryn Ogwen, and beyond, as well as in Penrhyn Castle and the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. Although it is believed that most of his paintings had scenic themes, there are exceptions such as ‘Castell Dolbadarn’, ‘Pont Tŵr’, ‘Pont Ogwen’ and, the jewel in the crown: the painting, in colour, of the little hamlet, Bryn Llys, buried over a hundred years ago under the slate tips of Penrhyn Quarry. More often than not, J. T. Parry would add ‘Ap Idwal’ after his name at the bottom of his paintings.    

John Thomas Parry died on March 21, 1913, at the Workhouse Hospital, Bangor, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Coetmor Cemetery, Bethesda.

© J. Elwyn Hughes, 2021