A Patriot From Without
By J. F. JONES,
THIS is the story of a well educated man who was offered an appointment but declined to accept it, yet some years later fought, successfully, to obtain it, and in about a year gave it up. The post was the Wardenship, or Head Mastership, of Llandovery College or, as it was known at the time, the Welsh Educational Institution.
The man was David James, native of the northern, or Welsh, part of Pembrokeshire, who was born in the parish of Manordeifi in the lower Teifi valley, in January, 1803. His parents, Abram and Ann James, lived at Goitre in that parish at the time of their death in 1857.
David James had his first lessons at old Manordeifi parish church, where a succession of curates kept school. From 1814 to 1816 the curate was the Rev. John Jones, and he was followed in the latter year by the Rev. James Jones. In 1817, when fourteen years old, David entered Cardigan Grammar School, and came under the care of another curate, the Rev. William Watkin Thomas, who had become master of the school in the January of that year. In addition to the normal run of lessons, the new master introduced Christmas concerts in which the pupils gave public entertainments at Cardigan Town Hall. At Christmas, 1818, the concert consisted of "various recitations of speeches, dialogues, and poems in different languages", David James's contribution being a recitation in Welsh of "The Wreck". Thomas Nott, Joseph Hughes (Carn Ingli) and David Charles (of Carmarthen) recited Virgil's Third Eclogue in Latin; and David Lloyd, who later became principal of the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen, recited "The Parting of Hector and Andromache" in Greek. The following year the scholars performed Mrs. Hannah More's religious play David and Goliath.
During these years various literary bodies promoted essay competitions favouring Welsh topics, open to students of Welsh grammar schools. In 1821 the subject offered for competition by a London Cymreigyddion Society was "Gwladgarwch" (love of country). Six essays were submitted, three from North and three from South Wales, one medal being offered in each division. The winners were David James of Cardigan Grammar School for the south, and Evan Evans of Beriew School, Montgomery for the north; one of the losers was James W. Morris of Ystradmeurig School. The following year the subject for competition was "The Cultivation of the Welsh Language", and David James again took the South Wales medal. The Church Union Society also gave money prizes to the best scholars at the Easter examinations at the licensed grammar schools, and in 1821 Cardigan Grammar School winners included David James, David Charles, Joseph Hughes and David Lloyd. In 1822 David James was given two awards, one for the best Welsh sermon, and one for the best example of Hebrew calligraphy.
Towards the end of 1823 their beloved master, the Rev. W. W. Thomas, was appointed Master of Ystradmeurig School following the death of the late master, the Rev. David Williams. Some of his best students followed him to Ystradmeurig, and they included the two friends, David James and Joseph Hughes, who remained at Ystradmeurig till they completed their courses. But in less than two years the Rev. Mr. Thomas, who had married Miss Lloyd of Abertrinant (a distant relative of James Lloyd of Bronwydd), received, in April, 1825, the rectory of Llanychllwydog, near Fishguard, on the presentation of the said James Lloyd; in 1836 he was also instituted to the rectory of Dinas, the patron being Thomas Lloyd of Bronwydd. The new master of Ystradmeurig School was the Rev. James W. Morris, a member of the Lewis Morris family.
On completing his courses at Ystradmeurig School David James was ordained deacon by Bishop jenkinson at Abergwili Church in November, 1826, and licensed to the curacy of Granston. In September, 1827, he was priested, and shortly after became curate of Mathry. His friend, Joseph Hughes transferred to St. David's College, Lampeter, and was deaconed from there in August, 1828; he was priested in the following year and licensed curate of Llanfihangel Penbedw. A student deaconed and priested in the same years was Henry Hampton of Ystradmeurig, who was licensed to the curacy of Llanafan-fechan in Brecknockshire.
Possibly unbeknown to them during the years at Cardigan School was a coming-together of Welsh clergy in distant Yorkshire, a movement which would ultimately considerably influence their lives. On St. David's Day, 1821, some Welsh clergymen holding livings in that faraway county met at the home of one of their number, the Rev. Robert Humphreys, Vicar of Bramley, near Leeds, to celebrate the occasion and to discuss Welsh matters. The following year they met at the vicarage of the Rev. W. Morgan in Bradford. These meetings continued to be held annually, the attendants gradually increasing in number sufficiently for them to agree to form an association of West Riding Welsh clergy. Being far from home and beyond the reach of Welsh bishops, these exiles gradually raised their voices on such matters as the planned union of the sees of Bangor and St. Asaph so as to provide finances for the intended new diocese of Manchester. Very soon a new-comer joined their ranks. This was the Rev. Lewis Jones, native of Llanfihangel-geneu'r-glyn, near Aberystwyth, who had recently become Vicar of Almondbury, near Huddersfield. His parish was very extensive, covering about 30,000 acres, too much for one incumbent. He decided to sub-divide the parish; taking advantage of the government's "Million Act" he built a number of churches, and cast around for curates and perpetual curates (or vicars), principally from Wales, to take charge. He remembered reading in the Cambro-Briton
of David James and his "Gwladgarwch" essay, learnt that he was now curate of a parish in north Pembrokeshire, and invited him to become his curate at Almondbury. Needless to say, the Rev. David James accepted. On building a new church at Lockwood on the outskirts of Huddersfield, Lewis Jones invited the Rev. Joseph Hughes to become its first incumbent. Hughes married a Yorkshire lass, moved to Meltham, another of the Rev. Lewis Jones's churches, and stayed there till he died; known as "Carp Ingli" in the principality, he came back to Wales nearly every year for the eisteddfod. With these men beside him the Rev. Lewis Jones proceeded to revitalise the "Association of Welsh Clergy in the West Riding of Yorkshire" in 1835, became its president and held this post till he died in 1866.
Order of Druids
At Almondbury, where he stayed about seven years, the Rev. David James proved to be a hard worker. Among his first tasks was the building of new schools at Lower Houses, at Langley Park, and at Farnley Tyas. When a new organ was opened at Brierley Hill in October, 1831, the Rev. Mr. James was the special preacher. At that time the cult of Swedenborgism was rife in the area, but the new curate took this in his stride and enjoyed battling with the cultists. He brought into being his own little army, known far and wide as the Ancient Order of Druids, and was extremely enthusiastic in organising meetings and especially the annual Boxing Day marches. In December, 1835, the various lodges of Druids of Huddersfield proceeded to Almondbury Church. The members, consisting chiefly of mill-workers and wearing on this occasion white gloves and white ribbons, found on reaching the church that the parishioners had taken to the galleries and left the whole of the aisles for their visitors. A sermon suitable to the occasion was eloquently delivered by the curate. He explained that Druidism was the term generally employed to designate the primitive religion and learning of the first inhabitants of Britain; he then proceeded to describe how they came by these principles, and in conclusion informed his listeners that he intended printing a pamphlet explaining everything about the subject. In due course this was published with the title The Patriarchal Religion of Britain, a Complete Manual of Ancient British Druidism.
It became the standard work on the subject.
The curate never missed a St. David's Day meeting of the Welsh clergy, and never failed to protest vehemently on the treatment meted out to Wales and Welshmen. They continued to condemn the plan to unite the sees of St. Asaph and Bangor. They also demanded that Welsh bishoprics should not be filled by English monoglots. At their 1835 meeting they decided to petition the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, on the matter, and the Rev. David James was selected to draft the Memorial; he dated it 1st March. These labours, conducted from outside Wales, were publicised by almost every periodical, and resulted in the name of the Rev. David James being one of the best known throughout the country.
At that time far more Welshmen lived in and around Liverpool than almost anywhere else outside Wales. When a new church was erected at Kirkdale in the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, near that town, the trustees unanimously invited the Rev. David James to become their first vicar in 1836. He left Almondbury with a heavy heart; at his departure the good people of Farnley Tyas gave him a six volume set of Henry's Bible bound in Russian leather. At Liverpool James felt he would be that much nearer his homeland and, perhaps, more able to help his countrymen. Thus, towards the end of 1836, he assisted the Welsh residents of Liverpool to organise a public meeting to petition parliament for a thorough reform of the Welsh Church, seeking a more equitable distribution of church revenues, and the appointment of efficient Welsh pastors.
In 1837 he helped in the editing of a hymn-book for use in Liverpool churches. He also initiated the building of a large elementary school at Kirkdale. Later in the year he was present at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod, taking an active part in the formation of a society for the publication of ancient British manuscripts in conjunction with the Cymmrodorion Society. Archdeacon John Williams, Rector of Edinburgh Academy, and the Rev. David James were two of the corresponding members for England, and the latter's special task was to collect subscriptions.
St. David's Day was always a special occasion at Liverpool. On that day in 1840 there were the usual processions and church services with a sermon in Welsh from the Vicar of Kirkdale. In the evening the Liverpool Cambrian Society held its annual dinner. In responding to the toast of Her Majesty and Prince Albert, the Rev. Mr. James hoped the marriage would give a Prince to Wales. He added that later on Liverpool Welshmen would be asking for an Albert Welsh Professorship in Cambridge, and a Victoria Welsh Professorship at Oxford.
In July of that year the Right Reverend John Banks Jenkinson, D.D., Bishop of St. David's since 1825, died. Almost immediately Welsh societies in London, Liverpool, the West Riding, and elsewhere petitioned parliament seeking the appointment of a Welsh-speaking Welshman. In addition a deputation comprising Viscount Sandon, M.P., Sir John Edwards, M.P., Mr. W. Bulkeley Hughes, M.P., Mr. David Morris, M.P. for Carmarthen, Dr. Hughes of Liverpool, and the Rev. David James of Kirkdale had an interview with the prime minister, Viscount Melbourne, at Downing-street. Later the Rev. David James wrote privately to Dr. Connop Thirlwall deploring the fact that he, a non-Welsh scholar, should have had this important office. The new bishop reacted by starting to learn the language. In the following October the two attended the meeting of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society, met, and became friends. Addressing the members the bishop admitted he had been in Wales too short a time to learn Welsh well.
The Vicar of Kirkdale continued campaigning on behalf of Wales. At the St. David's Day dinner at Liverpool in 1841 he drew attention to the English institutions which derived financial aid from Wales, mentioning especially Jesus College, Oxford (picking up rents from small Carmarthen dwellings, etc.); the Dean and Chapter of Winchester; St. John's Hospital, Chester; the Grocers' Company, London; and Lichfield Cathedral. Following the birth of the Prince of Wales in November, 1841, James wrote many letters to the press demanding Welsh Chairs at English universities, a new Welsh Order of Knighthood, and that the young Prince should have a Welsh name.
In 1844 the Rev. David James was elected a member and fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London for his historical researches and especially for his book on Druidism. While presiding at a meeting of the Liverpool Cymreigyddion Society in the following year, he appealed for aid in perpetuating the memory of the Rev. John Davies, D.D., of Mallwyd, one of the greatest of Welsh scholars, who had assisted Bishop William Morgan in translating the Bible into Welsh, and who had died in 1644.
Welsh Grammar School
Several years before Thomas Phillips, a Welsh surgeon who had spent some years in practice in India, came back to Britain, retiring to London. Having amassed a fortune he decided to devote part of it to improving educational facilities in Wales. He established scholarships at St. David's College, Lampeter, endowed a chair of natural science there, and also donated a library. Some years later he wished to endow another chair there, but his scheme ran into difficulties, and he looked elsewhere. On enlisting the advice of Sir Benjamin and Lady Hall, it was suggested that he should establish a small but good grammar school with emphasis on the Welsh language. Llandovery was chosen as the site, due principally to its historical associations (Vicar Prichard and Williams of Pantycelyn). The founder selected trustees: they were Lady Hall of Llanover; John Jones of Cefn-faes, Radnorshire (the founder's friend from his native county); the Rev. Thomas Price ("Carnhuanawc"), an ardent Welshman and Vicar of Cwmdu; the Rev. Joshua Hughes, Vicar of Llandingat (Llandovery); and William Rees of the Tonn Printing Press, Llandovery.
The founder and the trustees had no difficulty in deciding on a suitable master: it must obviously be the man everyone regarded as the foremost protagonist of everything Welsh in those years. To quote from a speech of the Rev. David James, F.S.A., "application was then made to the humble, but highly honoured, individual who now addresses you, whether I would accept the post; and I said, I certainly could not, for I did not then see my way clear to leave preaching for teaching. I therefore promptly refused to entertain the question. And it turned out that a far more accomplished scholar than this humble individual was ready to accept the post." Second choice was Archdeacon John Williams, former Rector of Edinburgh Academy, who later said that "soon after I was consulted by Mr. Phillips respecting his intended institution I lost no time in proffering my own services as the future principal, and my services were willingly accepted". Later on, when a sick man, he gave another version of his acceptance.
The Cambrian Society of Liverpool held its usual St. David's Day dinner in 1847 and in replying to the toast of his health the Rev. Mr. James attacked absentee landlords who dealt unkindly with their Welsh tenants; he complained about the poor state of education in Wales, blaming English ecclesiastics who had robbed and closed early Welsh grammar schools, and once again referred to the fact that bishops and heads of the church were non-Welsh. He did not attend the saint's day celebrations at Liverpool in 1848; on that day he was at Llandovery witnessing the start of Dr. Thomas Phillips' new Welsh Educational Institution.
In 1849 he received from the hands of Dr. Sumner, Archbishop of Canterbury, the degree of Magister in Artibus. From now on he was the Rev. David James, M.A., F.S.A. Between 1849 and 1853 he continued his pastoral work at Kirkdale. During his Almondbury years he had fought the Swedenborgists. At Liverpool it was the Roman Catholics that were his adversaries. In 1839 and 1840 he had published a series of booklets on the controversy between Protestant and Roman Catholic churches over religious instruction in the schools of the Corporation of Liverpool. In 1849 he published a pamphlet entitled The Pope's Supremacy Disproved;
he followed this in 1851 with two booklets called Purgatory, and Peter without a Primacy, the Pope a Usurper.
His next publication was The Siege of Deny,
incorporating a series of lectures he had delivered at the Concert Hall, Liverpool, earlier in the year.
Though he had turned down the Head Mastership of Llandovery College when it was offered to him, he retained an interest in its progress and in the successes of the Warden. He saw a copy of the Report for 1851 in which the Warden had written: "When I accepted at the repeated solicitation of the excellent Founder, the task of undertaking the responsible duties which must necessarily fall upon the first
master, the funds set apart for the special uses of the Trust Deed did not exceed £140 per annum." The Warden then referred to the difficulties he encountered in educating, single-handed, pupils whose ages and abilities varied tremendously. The Rev. David James later underlined this statement by saying that the first warden "taught boys below and above six years of age, as he was able, without the assistance of masters." The strain of such work probably led to a nervous break-down; less than a year later his friends learnt that his health was failing. In December the trustees advertised for a new head who "must be a clergyman of the Established Church, in full Orders, thoroughly acquainted with the Welsh language in its colloquial and literary use, and competent to impart a sound classical and general education. He will be required to educate twenty free scholars on the Foundation, but will be allowed to take other pupils at not less than eight guineas per annum. He will be entitled to the yearly endowment of £135 and his residence at the Institution." Applications had to be submitted on or before 13th January, 1853.
There appears to have been some reluctance on the part of suitable candidates to apply for the post, a fact suggested by the putting-off of the closing date to early February. We have it on the authority of the Rev. John Evans, B.D., Rector of Crickhowell, who wrote a brief history of the Rev. David James in 1871, that it was only "trwy gynghor ei gyfeillion" that the Vicar of Kirkdale became an applicant, and it was these friends who rallied round and supplied him with a dozen testimonials. They were written by the Rev. W. W. Thomas, rector of Dinas, his first schoolmaster; the Rev. Lewis Jones, vicar of Almondbury, who had brought him to Yorkshire; the Rev. D. Meredith, vicar of Elland in that county, and one of his former pupils; the Revs. J. S. Howson and Henry Wilson, of Liverpool Collegiate Institution; the Rev. S. B. Sutton, former curate at Kirkdale; the Revs. F. Barker, Henry Hampton, and W. W. Ewbank, three Liverpool vicars; John Brooke of Huddersfield; Samuel Holme, Mayor of Liverpool and Trustee of Kirkdale Church; and the Rev. Joseph Hughes ("Carp Ingli"), vicar of Meltham and his friend from his early school days. There was also an unsolicited testimonial written privately and personally by William Williams of Aberpergwm, a man of considerable culture and patron of Welsh writers, to Lady Hall of Llanover, one of the college trustees.
All these bore testimony in their different ways and at varying lengths to the character, abilities, cultural attainments, literary pursuits, educational successes, theological learning, scholarship, patriotism, etc. of their candidate. There were nearly a dozen applicants, but the other most important were the Rev. W. Basil Jones, M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxford and the Rev. H. D. Harper, M.A., Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, headmaster of Cowbridge Grammar School 1849 to 1851, and then head of Sherbourne School. David James was appointed Warden at the meeting of the trustees at Llandovery college on 10th February, 1853. Though Warden Williams had desired to retire at Christmas, 1852, he was persuaded to "conduct the school until it can be delivered into the hands of his successor without interruption to the education of the pupils". Warden James took over after Easter, 1853.
The new warden spoke some months later of the state of the school as he found it: "The school progressed under the Archdeacon of Cardigan until his health gave way and he was unable to attend to his duties for many weeks together. The discipline of the school fell off, and the establishment was breaking up, so that he was compelled, as there was no prospect of his restoration to health, to resign. I hope, notwithstanding the disastrous results of the school arising from the ill-health of the warden, to work up the school, to increase the numbers, and to give the most efficient instruction to the pupils; to complete the building a thousand pounds more is necessary. This is one of the most arduous duties which await me: I have to grapple with the difficulty of raising the £1,000." At this time the University of Heidelberg, in Germany, gave him a Doctorate in Philosophy for his continuous historical researches.
In the autumn of 1853, at the twentieth anniversary of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society, under the presidency of Sir Benjamin Hall, M.P., the new Warden of Llandovery college addressed the assembly at great length; he also presided at the evening session. During his months at Llandovery he had noticed that no successor had been appointed to his Kirkdale living. Was the door being left open for his return? He heard in December that Marsden, one of the livings in the gift of his friend the Vicar of Almondbury, was vacant. The Kirkdale vicarage was worth £150 a year; the Wardenship brought in £135 per annum; Marsden was valued at £176. For a man without independent means these sums were thought-provoking. But he stayed on as warden. In January, 1854, he advertised that the "Welsh Educational and Collegiate School of Llandovery [would] re-open on Monday, the 30th instant. Tuition Fees, payable in advance, two guineas a quarter."
During the spring term of 1854 an action in the High Court over a clause in the will of Dr. Thomas Phillips, the founder of the college, resulted in the trustees receiving an award of £1,000. This chanced to be the sum needed to complete the new college buildings, and it relieved the second Warden of the task of gathering in this sum. It was after this that the Rev. Dr. David James, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A., informed the Trustees that he was resigning the post. By now he was "convinced that his true vocation was that of a parish priest and not a leader of education, being never happier than when ministering to his congregation and comforting the sick and dying". He became the new Vicar of Marsden, near Huddersfield, on the presentation of the Rev. Lewis Jones, Vicar of Almondbury.
The above article is based to a considerable extent on the Rev. Joseph Morgan's Biography of the Rev. David James,
published in 1925 by Hughes and Son, The Griffin Press, Pontypool. Additional material has been derived from the Carmarthen Journal
and The Welshman
of various dates; Yr Haul
of 1871; The Cambrian; Cambridge Chronicle; Cambro-Briton; Leeds Intelligences; West Wales Historical Records;
the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.