John Bradford (1706-85)

John Bradford was a weaver, fuller and dyer. He was also known as Siôn Bradford, and by his bardic name, Ieuan Tir Iarll (John of Earl's Land). John Bradford belonged to the Grammarians, the circle of poets who were active in the uplands of Glamorgan, and Iolo acknowledges him as one of his bardic teachers. [NLW 21387E, no. 13]. He conforms to a common pattern among the Grammarians: he was a Dissenter and a craftsman. A learned man, he was familiar with English literature and literary criticism as well as the Welsh poetic tradition. Bradford also collected manuscripts. He subscribed to Jenkin Jones's Llun Agrippa (1723) and to Lewis Morris's Diddanwch Teuluaidd (1763), and addressed englynion to Theophilus Evans upon the publication of the second edition of Drych y Prif Oesoedd (1740). He was a corresponding member of the Cymmrodorion and also corresponded with Lewis Morris and William Wynn of Llangynhafal.

Although his poetry was not of the highest quality, and although his influence was not valued outside Glamorgan, Bradford's efforts should not be ignored in relation to the cultural awakening in eighteenth-century Wales. On the whole, members of the Morris circle and the London-Welsh societies regarded the work and contribution of the likes of John Bradford with contempt. In response, Iolo deliberately sought to defend him. Indeed, he transformed Bradford into an important figure in the bardic lineage he created for bardism. Iolo's respect for Bradford was genuine, and so too was his attempt to ensure that he received the national recognition he deserved. In one manuscript he declared, 'Siôn Bradford! Ieuan Tir Iarll! Thy name must be remembered' (NLW 13097B, p. 151). Bradford's name is often associated with Iolo's literary forgeries. Iolo claimed to have transcribed the following material from the manuscripts of his poetic teacher: Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain, Coelbren y Beirdd (the Bardic Alphabet), 'Llafar Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain' and numerous fake bardic triads. Iolo also attributed many of his own love poems to Bradford. Bradford's surviving genuine poems and letters do not allude to bardism or Glamorgan's druidic history. However, Iolo managed to hoodwink several generations of scholars and readers, and at the beginning of the twentieth century John Morris-Jones suspected that John Bradford and Iolo were co-conspirators.