The Rev. William Thomas was not born in Abertillery itself but in Ynysddu, further on down the valley. He is better known by his bardic title of Islwyn, which he took from the name of the mountain, Mynydd Islwyn, which stands above where he was born in April 3, 1832. Islwyn’s short life only spanned forty six years and he died where he was born, in Ynysddu on November 20, 1878. During much of his life he worked as a Calvinistic Methodist minister in Y Babell, the local chapel, throughout a time of intense interest in the Christian faith all over Britain.
Islwyn had books of poetry published in 1854 and 1867; and in 1897 a complete edition of his Welsh poems. His magnum opus was “The Storm”, a philosophical poem in Welsh, which takes in more than nine thousand lines and which he started at the age of 22, after the death of his fiancée, Anne Owen. If having to be a troubled soul is one of the main elements towards being a poet, then Islwyn definitely fell into this category, as it seems Anne’s death played on his mind throughout his married life with Martha Davies. It is even recorded that on his deathbed he said,
“Thank you, Martha, for all you have done for me. You are very kind. I am going to Anne now.”
Some experts call him the Welsh Browning, and there are many similarities between his work and that of the English poet, including the accent on mysticism and even the obscurity of their work.