Monday, May 6, 2024

Lewis Hamilton's Met Gala outfit was inspired by the story of the "first well-recorded black person of North Wales"

John was of uncertain origin, possibly a victim of the Atlantic slave trade, and from either West Africa or the West Indies. Early in his life he was taken by the Wynn family to its Ystumllyn estate in Criccieth, where he was christened with the name John Ystumllyn. Here he was taught English and Welsh by the locals. He learned horticulture and craftsmanship, at which he had some natural skill, in the estate garden. He worked as a gardener at the estate and eventually "grew into a handsome and vigorous young man", his portrait painted at around this time. Doted upon by several local girls, he began a romance with the local maid Margaret Gruffydd.

As Margaret moved to different employments Ystumllyn followed her, eventually running away from his job as gardener to marry in 1768. They had seven children, five of whom survived, with several of their descendants still living in the area as of 2019. They initially worked as land stewards, but Ystumllyn eventually re-entered into the employment of the Wynn family. In recognition of his service Ellis Wynn gave Ystumllyn a large garden and cottage at Y Nhyra Isa. Ystumllyn died in 1786; his wife, Margaret, lived for more than forty years more.

Ystumllyn was well-liked in his lifetime and met with little racial prejudice, though locals often expressed surprise at his unfamiliar appearance. Several years after his death, a small monument was constructed in his place of burial St Cynhaearn's Church.