Siôn Dafi is praised in poem 41. Only one other poem to him survives, a satire by Dafydd Llwyd o Fathafarn (GDLl poem 79).
Siôn Dafi’s lineage is unknown. Guto notes that he was descended from hil Eunudd ‘Eunudd’s stock’ (41.9) and o Iorwerth … / Foel ‘from Iorwerth Foel’ (11–12). A man named Siôn (or John) ap Dafydd Goch, born about 1430, was descended from Iorwerth Foel ab Ieuaf Sais and was related to a branch of the tribe in the vicinity of Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain (WG2 ‘Mael Maelienydd’ 3A), not far from Melverley (see below). However, it is unlikely that he was Siôn Dafi, Guto’s patron, as no one named Eunudd can be found amongst his ancestors.
According to Dafydd Llwyd of Mathafarn, Siôn Dafi hailed from Melverley (Melwern in Welsh) near Oswestry in Shropshire (GDLl 79.52, 60; 41.29n). The most striking incident in his career was that which concerns Guto’s poem to him, namely the severing of his hand for striking an Englishman. According to Siâms Dwnn, in his preface to his text of the poem in Llst 53, Siôn Dafi struck the Englishman at a kwrt ‘court’. It is not stated where the court was, but in view of Siôn Dafi’s connections with London (41.4, 8, 16), it is reasonable to suppose that it was situated there. This testimony is confirmed and supplemented in The Great Chronicle of London (Thomas and Thornley 1938: 198), where it is stated, soon after referring to Edward IV’s coronation as king on 19 June 1461l:
In the monyth of Julii ffolowyng oon namyd John davy a walshman strak a man wythyn the kyngys palays at westmynstyr wherffor In august ffolowyng he was browgth unto the standard In Chepe and upon a ffryday beyng markett dye, his hand was there strykyn off …
Siôn Dafi therefore struck the Englishman at the king’s palace in Westminster, July 1461, and his hand was cut off at a market in Chepe held on a Friday in August of the same year. It is not known why Siôn acted as he did. Some of the manuscripts refer to the poem as Cywydd y llaw arian ‘the cywydd of the silver hand’, and the words of the poem Llew aur yn dwyn llaw arian (17) suggest that Siôn Dafi had received an artificial (or prosthetic) hand rather than that the word arian denotes generosity. Dafydd Llwyd too refers to Siôn’s ‘onehandedness’ (GDLl 79.57–62).
Some additional facts may be gleaned about Siôn Dafi. It can be deduced on the basis of lines 7, 19, 33 and 49 in Guto’s poem that he was one of Edward IV’s soldiers. Dafydd Llwyd in his satirical poem to him states that he had falsely asserted that he (i.e. Dafydd) had lampooned the king (GDLl 79.24–8). In Evans (1995: 93) a list is given of Welshmen protected in the Act of Resumption of 1464–5, and among them a John Davy by an annuity of £20 from the town of Montgomery. This is doubtless the same person as the John Davy who received grants in Montgomery following the parliament held in 1467–8, when the interests of a large number of Edward IV’s Welsh followers were protected (ibid. 101 and 40n). Mention should also be made of the John Davy who assisted Alexander Iden, the new sheriff of Kent, in catching the English rebel John Cade on 12 July 1450, and who received a pardon, although it is not clear for what (Griffiths 2004: 616, 620, 655; note that one of Guto’s patrons, Matthew Gough, was killed in London during Cade’s rebellion). Is it the action of this John Davy catching Cade and his like that is signified by Guto in line 25 Dy law hir yn dal herwyr ‘your long hand catching outlaws’? It may indeed be the case that the man referred to in these sources is to be identified with the subject of the poem. He clearly spent some time in England and in London, where he resided at Chepe as a generous patron and heavy drinker (4, 8, 16 and note, 20).
Saunders Lewis (1981: 118–19) has attempted to reconstruct some of Siôn Dafi’s life in discussing Guto’s career, and in facing the question by what procedure Siôn was punished advances the theory that William Neville, earl of Kent and Steward of the King’s Retinue, following one of the favourite amusements of the earls of England, had taken advantage of Edward IV’s absence to punish Siôn Dafi because he was the king’s favourite.
Evans, H.T. (1995), Wales and the Wars of the Roses (second ed., Stroud)
Griffiths, R.A. (2004), The Reign of Henry VI (Sparlford)
Lewis, S. (1981), ‘Gyrfa Filwrol Guto’r Glyn’, Gwynn ap Gwilym (gol.), Meistri a’u Crefft: Ysgrifau Llenyddol gan Saunders Lewis (Caerdydd)
Thomas, A.H. and Thornley, I.D. (1938) (eds.), The Great Chronicle of London (London)