IN SEARCH OF GWGAN GLEDDYFRUDD
By Darrell Wolcott
In a previous article on Caradog
Freich Fras, we discussed a man called Gwgan Gleddyfrudd of the ninth century and mentioned that others say a man of the same
name also lived in the seventh century. We shall begin with his "biographies"
as given by various writers:
Peter Bartrum says "Gwgon of
the Red Sword is mentioned in a triad as one of the Three Gatekeepers at the Battle of Perllan Fangor. The battle of
Perllan Fangor, i.e. the Battle of Chester, was in 616. According to Leland, Porth Hogan "The Gate of Gwgan" was
the name of one of the gates to the monastic enclosure of Bangor Iscoed. In the tale of "Rhonabwy's Dream", he is mentioned
as a companion of Owain ab Urien and a contemporary of Arthur but this is evidently one of the anachronisms with which that
tale abounds. His pedigree is given in "Progenies Keredic" where he is made the son of "Lauch filli Lucho filli Kedich
filli Keredic". In Jesus College Ms 20, he is son of Llawr ap Cedic ap Ceredig ap Cunedda. These pedigrees are
one or two generations too short if Gwgan was at the battle of Chester, but they indicate a belief that he was a man of Ceredigion,
and there are poetic references which suggest this. Pedigrees of some North Wales tribal patriarchs make him a son of
Caradog Freich Fras, but these seem to be quite fictitious."
Rachel Bromwich disagrees
with these comments: "Gwgan Gleddyfrudd appears to have been a local hero of Ceredigion, perhaps to be identified with "Guocaun
map Mouric" of Harleian Genealogies 26, the last king of Ceredigion, whose sister Angharad married Rhodri Mawr, and who met
his death by drowning in the year 871. Obviously a man who died in 871 could not have been present at the battle
of Chester in 616, or a contemporary with the two seventh-century figures who are named with Gwgan as having been present
at the battle in triad 60, but this is not necessarily an objection to the identification. He may be classed with the
small group of figures from later Welsh history whom the triads deliberately bring together with legendary heroes of the sixth
and seventh centuries. Analogous instances prove that the introduction of Gwgan's name here presents no argument against
the identification of Gweith Perllan Vangor with the battle of Chester, or against the identification of the two other
characters named in the triad with contemporary figures of the seventh century. Bangor Is-coed rather than Chester itself
may thus have been the real site of the engagement."
The triad to which both
writers refer is Triad #60 which reads:
"Tri Phorthawr Gweith
Perllan Vangor: Gwgon Gledyfrud, a Madawc ap Run, a Gwiawn ap Kyndrwyn" which translates into:
Three Gatekeepers at the
battle of Bangor Orchard: Gwgan Red Sword, Madog ap Rhun and Gwiawn ap Cyndrwyn
Our discussion begins
with the identification of the battle of Bangor Orchard with the battle of Chester. The only authority to so identify
it is the 15th century Brut Cleopatra which ends its rendering of the story of the battle of Chester as given by
Geoffrey of Monmouth with the words "a hwnnw a elwyt gewith perllan bangor" or "that one was the battle of Bangor Orchard".
However, this may have been no more than an allusion to the triad itself. It must remain an open question when and where
the triad battle was fought since Bangor Is-coed on the Dee in Maelor Saesneg near Chester is not the only Bangor in north
Wales. Nor is the famous 613 battle the only one ever contested around Bangor Is-coed.
While there do appear
to be men named Madog ap Rhun and Gwiawn ap Cyndrwyn who lived in the seventh century, no one can be sure the triad reference
is to those specific men. Just as Rachel Bromwich points to a Gwgan who lived in the ninth century, many other men were
named Rhun and Madog was even more common. Her association of Gwgan with Ceredigion partly relies on the pedigrees cited
by Peter Bartrum, both of which fail chronologically to date the triad Gwgan to 613. The Gwgan in those pedigrees,
should we accept them, would have been too old to be on the battlefield at Chester. And the man whose name appeared on
a gate at the Bangor monastery when John Leland visited there in the 1530's could be any Gwgan from any preceeding date.
The third name, Gwiawn ap Cyndrwyn, is equally difficult to show as certainly being a man who lived in the
sixth century; while he appears among the sons of Cyndrwyn of Powys who did live in that era, that list could
have taken the name from the triad.
The argument made by Bromwich
to allow her to place Gwgan in the ninth century works equally well to identify him with the son of the second Caradog Freich
Fras who belongs, not to Ceredigion in south Wales, but to Tegeingl at the mouth of the Clwyd in north Wales.
During the era we have assigned to that Gwgan, many battles raged in that part of Wales. There are accounts of Anarawd
ap Rhodri Mawr (c. 850-916) promising the Men of the North lands in north Wales if they would assist in the expulsion of the
Saxons from territory which the latter had overrun and occupied. These wars would have afforded a ninth
century Gwgan ample opportunity to be dubbed "red sword"; one such battle could have been at the orchards of Bangor just as
easily as the one fought in 613.
Nothing in the evidence
allows us to say with assurance that no Gwgan Gleddyfrudd lived in the seventh century, but proof that one did is even less
convincing. However, the triad which appears to associate Gwgan with north Wales, together with the pedigrees
which cite him as the ancestor of Llywarch Hwlbwrch and others, does point to a man of that name living in the ninth
century. Bartrum's characterization as "quite fictitious" that group of pedigrees which name his father as Caradog
Freich Fras would appear to be unjustified. But then he was obviously referring to the Caradog Freich Fras of c.
 John Leland "Itinerary in Wales", edited by Lucy T Smith, Carbondale, 1964,
vol iii pp 68 renders the gate's name Hogan but notes the name was Wgan in the original text
 Owain ap Urien dates from c. 540/550 and could not have been an associate
 P C Bartrum "A Welsh Classical Dictionary", 1993, pp 325; we have used the
words in the source but condensed the account, so this is not an exact quote
 Rachel Bromwich "Trioedd Ynys Prydein", Cardiff, 1961; our excerpts are taken
from pp 164 and 389/390 and presented in a consolidated summary
 ibid pp 163
 The Dee valley was contested by the Welsh and the Saxons for much of the
ninth century; armies entering Wales through this valley would have been opposed near Bangor as well as at other points along
 One Madog ap Rhun occurs in Jesus College Ms 20, 16 in a branch of a Powys
family and should be dated c. 565; another man of Powys named Cyndrwyn was the father of the Cynddylan, whose death
at the hands of the Saxons in the sixth/seventh century was lamented in a famous poem "Canu Heledd" attributed to
 Bonedd yr Arwyr, 1 lists children of Cyndrwyn but curiously omits the most
noted of all, Cynddylan. No ancestry is cited for this Cyndrwyn
 See the article "Ynyr Gwent and Caradog Freich Fras" elsewhere on this site
 Jones, Williams & Pughe "The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales", Denbigh,
1870; pp 688 cites the entry dated 890 in one version of Brut y Tywysogyon. Also refer to the paper "The Retaking
of Northeast Wales" elsewhere on this site