David Gam and his descendants

EINION SAIS, the second son of Rhys ap Hywel, was a ‘military man’ and fought alongside Edward III at Crècy and Potiers. He built himself a ‘castelled residence’ called Castell Einion Sais, near where Penpont House is today.

DAVID LLEWELYN or Dafydd ap Llewelyn, generally called David Gam (or squinting David), was the great-great grandson of Einion Sais and inherited the estate and demense of Castell Einion Sais.

Before Agincourt, David set out in 1402 on an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Owen Glyndwr.  He was seized and imprisoned until 1412 when he was released on condition that he engaged ‘not to bear arms or oppose the measures’. However, he ignored this and Owen Glyndwr eventually sent troops to capture him.  David Gam was not at home when they arrived, but they burnt his house to the ground.

“As a punishment for repeated injuries received from him, Owen burnt his house to the ground; after which, meeting with one of David’s tenants on the road in his return, he tauntingly told him:

O’ weli di wr coch cam, Yn ‘mofyn ei gyrnigwen*, D’wed y bod hi dan y lan, A nod y glo ar ei phen.

If a squinting red hair’d knave, Meet thee, and perchance should crave, To know what fate his house befell, Say that the cinder-mark will tell.

*Gyrnigwen, literally the white horned, it is generally given as a description of a sheep; here perhaps, it alluded to the external appearance of the house, the roof of which, like that of Newton, formed a kind of cone, with a stack of white chimnies at the apex, which may be supposed to have some resemblance to an exalted horn.”


History of Breconshire, Vol I. (1804), Glanusk Edition by Theophilus Jones.

It was shortly after this, that David killed his kinsman (Ritsiart fawr o’r Slwch) and fled to England to avoid a threatened prosecution for the murder. He attached himself to the Lancastrian party, ‘to whose interest he ever afterwards most faithfully adhered.’

In Henry V there can be little doubt that Shakespeare in his character of Fluellin intended David Gam though for obvious reasons, as his descendants were then well known and respected in the English court, he chose to disguise his name.  At the Battle of Agincourt it is said that he killed the Duke of Navarre and subsequently saved the life of Henry V by the loss of his own, and that the king knighted him as he lay dying in the field.

It is probable that Henry V rewarded David’s family with something more substantial than a title and that he either granted his descendants territorial possessions or bestowed a sum of money upon them adequate to their wants, for they are immediately seen rising in importance, increasing opulence and numbers for several succeeding centuries.  At different periods between the years 1550 and 1700 the descendants of this hero of Agincourt (who ‘lived like a wolf and died like a lion’ according to Theophilus Jones) were in possession of every acre of ground in the county of Brecon.  But by the end of the 18th Century there were but two descendants alive.

“Among the Welshmen who followed King Henry to the French Wars…tough warriors under the command of Davy the One-eyed…did gallant service at Agincourt.”

In Search of Wales, H.V. Morton

Right: Arms of Sir Dafydd Gam by Thomas Pennant

Source: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

 David Gam’s Descendants


JOHN GAMES lived at the end of the 15th and in the first half of the 16th Century and sat as M.P. for Breconshire in 1545. He is the first member of the family to be styled ‘of Newton’. His son EDWARD GAMES was M.P. for the town of Brecon in 1542 and 1545, sheriff in 1558 and died a few years later, in 1564.

It was Edward’s son JOHN GAMES who established himself as one of two or three dominating figures in the county for almost half a century.  It was he who rebuilt the family seat of Newton in substantially its present form and commemorated his work with a carved achievement of arms and a long inscription on the lintel of the hall fireplace.

The inscription reads:  JOHN GAMES, MAB AG ETYFEDD HENA EDWARD GAMES AP JOHN AP MORGAN AP EVAN AP DAFYDD GAM 1582:  or in English ‘ John Games, son and eldest heir of Edward Games, son of John son of Morgan son of Evan son of Daffyd Gam.’  Above the moulded border of this inscription is another, a motto, AR DDUW Y GYD.  GAMES:  All things depend on God.  Games.’

‘altogether disposed to quarrel and brawl and presuming in respect of his greatness that none…durst offer to punish correct or imprison any of his followers.’

William Howell, the bailiff of Brecon on John Games, 1591

John Games was apparently possessed of a violently passionate temperament and his fractiousness resulted in his getting involved in assaults, affrays, and other misdemeanours such as suborning juries. Whenever charges were brought against him John Games strenuously denied them; declaring that such complaints were ‘devised and imagined … to vex and molest (him) and put him to excessive costs and charges.’

Right: Games Monument in Brecon Cathedral. The only remaining figure from a tomb which was erected in the chancel of Brecon Cathedral c. 1555. The ‘Games Monument’ was erected in memory of the Games familiy of Aberbran and their wives. The other figures are reputed to have been burned by Cromwell’s soldiers during the Civil War. The effigy represents either Anne, daughter of Sir William Vaughan of Porthaml, Miss Bodenham of Rotherwas or Miss Morgan of Pen-y-Crug, the wives respectively of John, William and Thomas Games.

Source: Reproduced under the Creative Archive Licence from People’s Collection Wales. Original Source: Brecon Cathedral Heritage Centre.

Lion (fr. lion): this beast is perhaps the most frequent of all bearings. In early heraldry it is generally represented rampant,

Rampant: (old fr. rampand), of an animal, and especially of a lion rearing.

Gules (fr. gueules): the heraldic name of the tincture red. The term is probably derived from the Arabic gule, a red rose, just as the azure was derived from a word in the same language, signifying a blue stone. The word was, not doubt, introduced by the Crusaders. Heralds have, however, guessed it to be derived from the Latin gula, which in old French is found as gueule, i.e. the ‘red throat of an animal.’ Others, again, have tried to find the origin in the Hebrew word gulade, which signifies red cloth. Gules is denoted in engravings by numerous perpendicular lines. Heralds was blazoned by planets and jewels called it Mars, and Ruby.

Source: A Glossary of English Terms Used in Heraldry, James Parker (1894).

© 2018 Abercamlais. All rights reserved. Website created by Theresa Stabb. All photographs courtesy of Mr and Mrs A. Ballance and Theresa Stabb.

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