Who was he - and why do we want to know?
In case you thought you were getting off lightly pronunciation-wise, part of his full name was Sir Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel and he lived from approximately 1380 to 25th October 1415. "Gam" is one of those merry Medieval nick-names which draws attention to some physical flaw such as short legs (Curt-hose) and probably means that he was lame. We still have the expression "gammy leg." Rather mysteriously the Dictionary of Welsh Biography thinks it means that he squinted or had only one eye but I find it difficult to fathom how he managed to be a successful warrior with that defect.
He was a prominent opponent of Owain Glyn Dwr and a supporter of the English king, which made him a traitor from the Welsh point of view. Bearing in mind the destruction that Glyn Dwr's rebellion caused in Wales, it is easy to see why some men were hostile to him. Dafydd could add to the pedigree already mentioned "Fychan ap Hywel ap Einion Sais" but probably told people "just call me Gam." His background locates him round Llanover in Monmouthshire and Pen Pont near Brecon. Some think he was previously in service to John of Gaunt and had to leave Wales after killing a rival in Brecon High Street. Rumour also places him in Hen Gwrt, near White Castle.
He probably fought with Henry V prior to the French battles but certainly served with three-foot archers (that disposes of the squint theory in my opinion) in the Agincourt campaign. Several chroniclers noted his death in that encounter but no-one agrees as to whether he was knighted then or posthumously. There is a legend that he saved the king's life during the counter-charge of the Duke of Alencon (whose name appears on Shakespeare's death roll of the French) when Henry was fighting hand-to- hand with him. The Frenchman lopped an ornament from Henry's crown with his sword and Dafydd led a group of Welsh knights to intervene. Some believe he killed the Duke before being killed himself.
In the 19th century George Borrow wrote of him: "he achieved that glory which will for ever bloom, dying, covered in wounds, on the field of Agincourt after saving the life of the king, to whom in the dreadest and most critical moment of the fight, he stuck closer than a brother." Borrow also quotes descriptions of him, supposedly included in satirical englyn (you don't want to know, really you don't) written by Glyn Dwr: "he was small in stature and deformed in person. though possessed of great strength. He was very sensitive of injury, though quite as alive to kindness, a thorough-going enemy and a thorough-going friend." There is a stained glass window commemorating him in the church at Llantillio Crossenny, where the Latin inscription calls him a golden-haired knight. He is also a chief character in the novel Owen Glendower by John Cowper Powys.
If you DO want to know about englyn (and you have only yourself to blame for asking), here is the Wikipedia definition: "... it uses quantative metres, involving the counting of syllables, and rigid patterns of rhyme and half rhyme. Each line contains a repeating pattern of consonants and accent known as cynghanedd." That clarifies that, then. Oh yes - and the plural is "englynion".
My thanks to Wikipedia for much of this information and two of the images.
Hen Gwrt is now a small moated ruin and very atmospheric, quite near the equally charismatic White Castle, one of the Three Castles in the area. Grrr - you do need a car to get to both but there is excellent walking nearby to earn you your CAKE. You can, however, visit the site of the crucial battle of Pwll Melyn by travelling to Usk by bus and walking up past the castle which you can look at en route.