Richard Gwyn was born in Montgomeryshire and after spending his early career at Cambridge University, returned to Wales to teach in 1558. He married and he and his wife Catherine had six children. Despite pressure from the Bishop of Chester to become an Anglican, he resolved to become a Catholic. To avoid fines and imprisonment he had to move home and school frequently.
He was arrested by the Vicar of Wrexham, but escaped and lived as a fugitive for eighteen months until he was captured and sent to prison. He refused to attend Anglican services and when taken there forcibly was fined for disrupting the service. He was tortured frequently when in prison but refused to give up his Catholic faith.
With two other Catholics, Richard Gwyn was indicted for high treason in 1583 and found guilty. He was condemned to death to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The sentence was carried out on the Beast Market in Wrexham on October 15th, 1584. Just before he was hanged he is recorded as turning to the crowd to apologise if any of his songs or his jests had caused them offence.
The hangman pulled on his leg irons to put him out of his pain and when he appeared dead they cut him down. He revived and is said to have remained conscious throughout the disembowelling until they cut off his head. His last words in Welsh were ‘Jesus have mercy on me.’
Relics of St Richard Gwyn are to be found in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows in Wrexham. The church at Llanidloes is dedicated to ‘Our Lady and St Richard Gwyn’; and the church in Bethesda is dedicated to St Pius X and St Richard Gwyn. The High School in Flint is named aftyer St Richard Gwyn. A celebration Mass is held in the Cathedral each year. In 2007 this will take place on 21st October.