Mr Rees Hopkin Rhys J.P.

In Memoriam
Mr Rees Hopkin Rhys J.P.
A Biographical Sketch

Mr Rees Hopkin Rhys J.P. the “Grand Old Man of Aberdare”, whose mortal remains were places at rest this week in the family vault at the Penderyn Churchyard, came from an old Aberdare family, his father Mr Jenkin Rhys, of Llwydcoed in the early years of the present century, and like his more distinguished son, took keen interest in the parochial affairs. In addition to Mr Rhys two other sons became well known in the district, one being Mr Jenkin Rhys, of Ysbugorfawr, father of the coroner for North Glamorgan “Mr R.J. Rhys”, andof Mr P.T. Rhys, solicitor, Aberdare, Mr Jenkin Rhys was for some time chairman of the Penderyn School Board, and took a keen interest in local affairs in the Rhigos and Penderyn parishes. Another brother was Dr Llewelyn Rhys, who practiced in Aberdare, Dr W. Llewelyn Rhys being his son. So was Mr Rhys, the well-known solicitor of Pontypridd, a member of the firm Messrs Walter H. Morgan and Rhys. One of the sisters was married to Mr Menelaus of Dowlais, while other sisters remained single and ministered upon Mr Rhys in a loving manner until their deaths; both of them as well as his brothers have predeceased him.

Mr Rhys was born March 19th 1819, a few months before Her Majesty the Queen, and in his early years assisted his father as a mineral agent in connection with the Llwydcoed Estate. In this connection his business increased rapidly, and he was, before he had reached his majority in close touch with those “Knight of Industry” to whom the Aberdare and Merthyr district owes so much. The knowledge he then acquired of the mineral resources of Glamorgan and portions of Monmouthshire has stood him in good stead, and his services were in frequent requisition as witness and arbitrator in mining and other questions as well in reference to the question of railway facilities&c, and the writer well remembers the marvellous grasp of knowledge of the coalfield he displayed after half-a-century of blindness, when he sat as an arbitrator a few years ago in a dispute between the Bwlfa Colliery Company and the Pontypridd Water Works Company as to water rights, &c.. He was also not an unfrequent witnessbefore Parliamentary committees on railways and other bills. Before his blindness he had taken high rank as mining engineer and expert and doubtless, had he not met with and unfortunate accident which resulted in blindness, he would today be remembered as towering above all those names are frequently mentioned as the pioneers of the South Wales coal trade. Unfortunately for himself, but as it turned out fortunately to the ratepayers of Aberdare and Merthyr.


Llwydcoed House
Llwydcoed House

In 1847 while conducting at the Dowlais Works one of the first experiments ever made in South Wales with gun cotton, an explosive invented the previous year by Professor Schonbien, Of Basel he was totally deprived of his eyesight. This calamity which in most cases would have resulted in the sufferer’s complete withdrawal frompublic life, in the case of Mr Rhys seemed to have the contrary effect, and to have merely diverted his energies into a new channel, although for some years he was engaged in connection to the coal trade of the district being the late Mr Eustace Richards of Aberdare joint owners of Merthyr Dare Colliery. Before this while barely out of his teens, Mr Rhys had paid much attention to parochial matters, his name being often met with while yet in the minority in the old vestry book of the parish. He acted for some time years practically as a road surveyor in the district, and as much he laid out the road from Aberdare to Merthyr, via Abernant and it was not inappropriate that sixty or seventy years afterwards he should this year be really the instrument in securing for Aberdare theinestimableboon of a widened entrance at the bottom of Abernant Road, a road which had been made as far as Abernant over a century ago for a population barely a tenth of the present one. In April 1846 he was elected a member of the Merthyr Board of Guardians for the parish of Aberdare.

One remarkable performance of his has a permanent record in the history of the iron trade. No. 1 Furnace, Llwydcoed, got out of order, and it was necessary in the rapid progress of the iron trade, and keenness of competition, to reconstruct. Then Mr Rhys showed some of his best qualities. Elaborate plans were prepared, every requisite in masonry and ironwork ready, even the coign dressed, and then with his army of labour ready, and the blast rushed out, a dash was made, the whole thing carried out with only the loss of one man, and the finely built furnace, showing Thomas Ashton, the master mason's best efforts, in one mouth was blasting merry again as if it had never known a stoppage. No wonder that Mr Fothergill “Abernant Ironworks” regarded this achievement with special favour. It was the subject of comment and of eulogy all over the iron district, and, in after years, long formed the point of illustration in proof of what the Agent might have accomplished had he been spared from the disastrous accident at Morlais. With most men the catastrophe would have been the closing incident of a promising career, not so with Mr Rhys. He continued as consulting agent at Llwydcoed, his brother, Mr Jenkin Rhys, father of the Coroner, assisting him.

Aberdare was then represented in the Board of three guardians, the other two Messrs Griffith Davies of Ynsyslwyd, father of the present chairman of the Board and Mr Morgan Williams, saddler, whom some of the older Aberdare readers, will recollect as having an establishment in High St. Of his doings during the brief year which divided his election on the Baird from his blindness not much record remains; but soon after his return to the Board after his blindness the board fell upon troublous times, and the files of the “Monmouthshire Merlin” and the “Merthyr and Cardiff Guardian” for 1849 contain some lively reading of scenes anent the clerk and relieving officer, in which, as might be expected, Mr Rhys took a prominent part. Space, however, will not allow us to detail these. When Mr Rhys became a member if the Board of Guardians the Merthyr Union included, in addition to the parishes of Aberdare, Merthyr, Gellygaer, Rhigos, Penderyn and Vaynor, those of Llanwynno, Ystradyfodwg and Llanfabon, and Mr Rhys in 1862 took a very prominent part in opposing the attempt of the three later parishes to secede from the Union to form the Pontypridd Union, but his opposition and that if the other Guardians (representing Aberdare, Merthyr and Gelligaer) proved unsuccessful. The services rendered by Mr Rhys to the Merthyr Union for over 53 years have been inestimable, and especially has this been the case on the Assessment Committee of the Union, Mr Rhys has sat uninterruptedly upon the Board since his election for 23 years as an elected member, then for 27 years”1867-1894” ex-officio as a magistrate for the county of Glamorgan, and from 1894 to 1898 as a co-opted member, and for the last 18 months or so once more as an elected member for his native ward of Llwydcoed. This record is, we believe unique in the annals of local government in the United Kingdom. For seven years “1880-1887” he was chairman of the Board of Guardians, and for many years chairman of the Assessment Committee, his marvellous and almost unique knowledge if the valuation of the different properties in the parishes in the Merthyr Union standing him in good stead on that committee. During his membership on the Board he strongly advocated the building of the Industrial School, with the object of removing the children from the workhouse and in spite of much opposition on the ground of economy, he succeeded in getting it built in Aberdare, and the result has amply justified his sanguine expectations, the school having for many years been looked upon as one of the most successful in Wales, Mr Rhys being for many years the chairman if the Industrial School Committee. In 1881 the Guardians, in recognition of his valuable services, commissioned Mr T. Brock, R.A. to execute a bust of him, and this at present, with the busts of other past chairmen, adorns the Board-room.

Bust of Rhys Hopkin Rhys (Aberdare Museum)
Bust of Rhys Hopkin Rhys (Aberdare Museum)

The rapid growth of Aberdare in the forties and early fifties induces the speculative builders to erect a large number of houses with but little regard to sanitation and the absence of any controlling power was greatly felt. This led to agitation in favour of the formation of a Local Board of Health, in which Mr Rhys and his brother, Dr Llewelyn Rhys, took a prominent part, Dr Rhys especially giving valuable evidence before Mr Rammell, the inspector sent down to conduct as inquiry into the matter. The demand for the establishment of the Board became intensified by the advent of cholera and other infectious diseases. Dr Rhys in his evidence stating that Green Fach was never free from fever, and ultimately an order was obtained to form a Board. The first election took place in September 1854. Mr Rhys became a member of that first Board, the only member of that Board now living being Mr Richard Fothergill, late M.P. for the Merthyr Boroughs. It is somewhat remarkable, too that of the defeated candidates in that election only one survives in the person of Alderman Thos. Williams J.P. Gwaelodygarth, Merthyr. During his membership if the Board, Mr Rhys was largely instrumental in securing from the Charity Commissioners under the Common Enclosure Act the portions of the ground now included in the Public Park, the Cemetery, and the allotment grounds on the side of the Cwmdare Road, together with the plot on which the Aberdare County School stands all these being secured for the people of Aberdare. The proposal which Mr Rhys advocated of enclosing and laying out the Public Park led to a most vigorous opposition. A Mr T. Pugh, of Bute St, and Mr Larke, tailor posed specially as the opponents of the scheme on the grounds of expense.

The question of park or no park in the early sixties became election cries, and Mr Rhys was assailed with pertinacity worthy of a better cause; but he defeated his opponents, and there is probably no Aberdarian today living which is not convinced that his policy was the right one. A great amount of ephemeral literature some of it of a very scurrilous character, was printed during this heated discussion, and the chorus of Mr Larke’s election song-

Hark! Hark!
We’ll vote for Larke
And plant potatoes in the Park-

Indicate the position taken by Mr Rhys’s opponents in this matter. Mr Rhys has lived long enough to see the Park the pride of very Aberdarian and also to see the whole of the money borrowed for the enclosure and laying out thereof repaid. A couple of years ago he was also largely instrumental with the aid of Sir William Thos. Lewis, Bart, in getting another addition of the free spaces in the town by the liberal gift of the Dumfries Park to the town by the Marquis of Bute in commemoration of Her Majesty’s Jubilee. He was also a warm supporter of the policy of buying up he Aberdare Waterworks, which on being secured by the Board were greatly enlarged and improved by the construction of the Nanthir Reservoir, and the closing years of his life have been devoted to the still further extension of the waterworks by the construction of another new reservoir at Nantmelin Uchaf, and he has been privileged to know this great work as accomplished fact. Another monument to his foresight is the admirable sewerage scheme which was completed at a cost of £36,000. In this connection, it might not be uninteresting to mention that Mr Rhys, as chairman of the Aberdare Local Board of Health, and late Mr Wm Jones. J.P., the chairman of the Merthyr Local Board, were appointed arbitrators on behalf of their respective Boards to arrange the purchase and management of the joint sewage farm Abercynon as between the two Boards, intricate and difficult as this task was, these gentleman were able to settle the matter without calling in an umpire on terms which have proved mutually satisfactory to the two Boards. Mr Rhys was for many years the chairman of the Joint Sewage Farm Committee, and was a member up to the last, and his services in obtaining compensation from the Taff Vale Railway Company when that company took over a portion  of the farm a few years ago is highly spoken of by his fellow members on the committee.

In July 5th 1866, Mr Rhys was elected chairman of the Board of Health, and from that date to the day of his death he has been re-elected chairman without opposition at very annual meeting of the Board, and subsequently of the District Council, which over took over its functions. Which in itself a tribute to the high esteem in which he was held, which any man may be well proud of. He was one of the promoters of the formation of the Aberdare Burial Board, and became its first chairman, holding that position until the whole of the grounds were laid out, the chapels built, and the scale fees, &c. arranged, after which he declined to occupy a seat on that body, his numerous other public appointments making it increasingly difficult to sit upon all these bodies. He was not elected a member of the first Aberdare School Board in 1871; although he was a candidate this being one the few elections he ever lost, being, with Mr D. Davies Maesyffynon, at the head of the unsuccessful ones; bit in 1874 he became member, and on the retirement of Mr James Lewis, J.P., Plasdraw from that Board in 1877, Mr Rhys became its chairman a position he held uninterrupted until last year, when, in spite of much pressure he declined to be nominated a candidate at the triennial election.

Plasnewydd House Llwydcoed
Plasnewydd House Llwydcoed

In 1867 he was placed on the commission of the peace for the country of Glamorgan, and he was for many years senior magistrate in the district, and a most regular attendant at the Quarter Sessions, and was a member of the whole of the important committees of the Quarter Sessions until the administrative work of the quartet sessions was preferred to the County Council. He was to the end a member of the County Licensing Committee. The subject licenses was one in which he as all times took keen interest, his opinion carrying great weight upon that committee, especially in reference to any licenses applied for in the petty sessional divisions of Miskin and Caerphilly Higher. In 1860 he was appointed commissioner for income tax, and has been chairman of commissioners from that date. 1883 he was elected a governor of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.  When the County Council of Glamorgan was established in 1880, Mr Rhys was elected a county councillor for the Llwydcoed Ward, and it was a proud boast of his that in this, his native ward, he was never defeated as a contested election for the Board of Guardians, for the Local Board of Health, for the District Council, or for the County Council. His colleagues on the County Council appointed him a member of the Roads and Bridges and the County Roads Assessment Committee, while the justices at Quarter Sessions have elected him to represent them to the Joint Standing Police Committee. He attended the last meeting of the County Council at Neath in June last, and this was about the last occasion for him to serve the public in an official capacity, with the exception of an attendance on the following Saturday at the Merthyr Board of Guardians, after which he once sat upon the Aberdare Bench.

He took a keen interest in the establishment of a County School at Aberdare, and was one of the local governors, devoting to the meetings of those committees the same attention as he did to all other matters which he took in hand. For many years Mr Rhys had not been prominent as a politician, and although to the last he styled himself a “moderate Liberal” it is only those of our readers who have now past the meridian of life realize what an ardent fighting Liberal he once was.  Brought up as a Unitarian, he was as he once told the writer, “a Nonconformist of Nonconformists”, and in the days of the Church rates he fought a good fight against the imposition of Church rates in this parish. He was for many years the chairman of Nonconformist Committee in Aberdare, and fought side by side with the late Mr David Davies, of Maesyffynon, Alderman Thomas Williams and others, for the Liberal cause. During the memorable election of 1868 he was the chairman of the Election Committee of Mr Bruce (subsequently Lord Aberdare), giving also his support to Mr Henry Richard as against Mr Fothergill. In 1860, however, he supported Mr (now Sir) William Thomas Lewis, who came out as an Independent Liberal, and since that date he has taken no keen interest in political contests.

L to R: (Standing) Rev. T Humphries, G George, E Morgan R Llewellyn, D Williams, John Howell, Owen Harris, Thomas Rees, E M Hann, Rev. B Evans, M John; (Sitting) Thomas Thomas, Owen Williams, Thomas Phillips, R H Rhys, D P Davies, William Thomas
L to R: (Standing) Rev. T Humphries, G George, E Morgan R Llewellyn, D Williams, John Howell, Owen Harris, Thomas Rees, E M Hann, Rev. B Evans, M John; (Sitting) Thomas Thomas, Owen Williams, Thomas Phillips, R H Rhys, D P Davies, William Thomas

Last year his fellow townsmen showed their appreciation of his services by presenting him with a cheque for a thousand guineas, together with a magnificent address and a handsome piece of antique plate, the balance of the subscription being devoted to the purchasing of his bust, which is placed in the Council-room of the Aberdare District Council, but which has not been publicly unveiled. As already stated, he remained throughout his life a Unitarian in principle, although he had not latterly been an attendant at their church at Highland Place, of which he was one of the founders. Mr Rhys was also one of the founders of the St David’s Lodge (679) of Freemasons, and although he had not for years been in the habit of attending lodge meetings, he was present two years ago at the annual meeting and banquet of the lodge on the occasion of the installation of Mr W.D. Phillips, son of Colonel Thomas Phillips, clerk of the Urban District Council, as Worshipful Master of the lodge.

On Saturday, 1st July last-seven weeks today Mr Rhys travelled to Merthyr as usual to attend the meeting of the Merthyr Board of Guardians but soon after his arrival in the town he had a sever attack of asthma, which prevented his attending and on his return home that afternoon he became rapidly worse, and although a slight improvement took place, he was never able to leave the house, death resulting from cardiac failure on the Sunday afternoon last. He was attended throughout by DR Evan Jones J.P., and Dr Issac Bankes, Trecynon. Much sympathy is felt with his nephew, Mr R.J. Rhys, the respected coroner for North Glamorgan, who has lived with him almost all his life, and who was deeply attached to him.

Funeral at Penderyn

Vault of Rhys Hopkin Rhys’s Family St Cynog’s Church Penderyn
Vault of Rhys Hopkin Rhys’s Family St Cynog’s Church Penderyn

The remains of the late Mr R.H. Rhys (familiarly known at the blind magistrate of Aberdare) were interred in Wednesday afternoon in the churchyard at Penderyn. The deceased gentleman was born in Llwydcoed, a small village, a distance of two miles from Aberdare, and there he lived during practically the whole of a very useful public career. The funeral was not a large one, but it was of a very representative character. It was intended that the obsequies should have been of a private nature, but a strong desire was expressed that it should be public, to which the bereaved relatives complied. The cortege left Plas Newydd, Llwydcoed, which is pettily situated on the brow of the hill overlooking the valley, about 2 o’clock and the procession to St James’s church, Llwydcoed, was form as follows:- Police, clergy, magistrates, professional gentlemen, members of the public bodies, public, coffin and mourners. It had been especially requested that no wreaths, in accordance with the wishes of the deceased gentleman, should be sent, but there were two on the coffin, which had be sent by John H. Thomas, J.P., Ysguborwen, who was away on the continent, and Mrs Mary Rees, housekeeper at Plas Newydd. The coffin was of polished oak, with massive brass fittings, the inscription being “Rees Hopkin Rhys died August 13th, 1899 aged 80”. The bearers were members of the county constabulary, about sixty in number. They were in command of Supt. Thorney, Merthyr, and the inspectors present were Inspectors Davis, Aberdare; Cook, Dowlais; David, Mountain Ash; Canton, Merthyr; and Parry, Plymouth Works.

Following the police were the Revs. C.A. Green, vicar of Aberdare; H.R. Roberts, curate of St Fagan’s; Gilbert Heaton curate of Aberdare; R.J. Jones, Unitarian, Aberdare; J.L. Thomas, vicar of Aberpergwm; Hy, James, curate of Cwmdare. The magistrates included Messrs W.M. North, stipendiary; J.W. Morgan, Hirwaun; D. Davies, Aberdare; James Lewis, Plasdraw; D.E. Williams, Hirwaun; Thomas Williams, Gwaelodygarth; D.D. Davies, medical officer of health Aberdare; J.D. Williams, Clydach Court, Trealaw; Major M. Morgan, Mountain Ash, Thomas Jenkins, Pant, vice-chairman of the Merthyr Board of Guardians; F.W. Dunn, Cowbridge; W. Morgan, Pant; and Joseph Oxen, Troedyrhiw. Following them came members of the public bodies, the Aberdare Urban District Council, of which the departed gentleman was chairman, being represented by the following:- Messrs Rees Llewelyn, W.T. Morgan, L.N. Williams, John Howell, Morgan John, John Bucknell, Wm. Thomas, E.M. Henn, Ed Morgan, O Harries, Revs B. Evans, Thomas Humphrey, Colonel T. Phillips (clerk), Henry Beddoe (assistant clerk), O. Williams (surveyor), Arthur Morris (deputy surveyor), R.H. Lewis and G. Griffiths (rate collectors), Rees Price (road foreman), Samuel James and Thomas Richards (inspectors). Representatives of other public bodies were Joseph Owen, J.P., high constables of Merthyr and chairman of Merthyr District Council; Mr David Hughes high constables, Aberdare; Alderman J.W. Evans: Capt. F.T. James, clerk of the Merthyr Board of Guardians who have already been named in other official capacities; Mr D.W. Price, assistant overseer; Major A.P. James, Cardiff; Mr W. Charles; Mrs Walter Lloyd, member of the Aberdare Intermediate School Governing Board, Aberdare; Thomas Howells, clerk of the Joint Sewage Farm Committee, Merthyr; Wm. Lewis, Merthyr; Councillor Morgan Llewelyn, Treherbert;   Councillor T. Davies, Ton Pentre; D. Price, Dowlais; T.L. Edwards, county surveyor; John Williams, surveyor, Mountain Ash; V.A. Wills, Merthyr. Among the public were Messrs T. Roderick; Thomas Williams, Black Lion Hotel; W. Lewis, Rock Brewery; Dr T.W. Scale. Aberdare; Mr P.W. De Winton, Lloyds Bank Aberdare; J. Weyman, Mardy; J. Scott, Aberdare; Frank Hodges, Aberdare; M.R. David, The Grange, Aberaman; C. Reed, Aberdare; T. Rees, Cowbridge; Captain W.D. Phillips, Aberdare; D. Daniel, Abernant Colliery Office: Charles Wilkins, Merthyr: Mr Treharne, Ynysfield Treherbert: George Rake, Ysguborwen; D Richards, solicitor, Aberdare; Edward Arnott, Aberdare; A.S. Pleece; D.W. Jones Chemist Aberdare; R. Bedlington, civil engineer; James Hek, contractor; J.D. Hughes Boot Hotel; Rees Morgan Aberdare, Aberdare; Edward Pugh, Manager of Nantmelyn Colliery; S.T. Joliffe, Aberdare; Evan D. Evans, Heol-Gerrig; Wm Little, Cefn Pennar; T. ??? Merthyr; Chas Bottling G.W.R. Aberdare; Mander, Glanynys; W. and R. Edwards, Fedw Hir; J. Comley, S. Hopkins, L. Oxenham, Aberdare; W.T. Rees Maesyffynon; Thomas Jones Maesgwynne, Glyn Neath; G. Railton, Manager of Lewis Merthyr Collieries, Hafod; D. Jenkins, Clydach Vale Collieries; D. Jones, Llancaiach House;  H.O. Hughes (representing Mr D.A. Thomas M.P.); F. and F.G. Burge, Aberdare.

Next came the coffin, which was borne on a bier to the church, which is a short distance from the house, and walking behind it were Messrs R.J. Rhys, coroner (nephew of the deceased), Philip T. Rhys, solicitor, Aberdare (nephew), Dr Watkin Llewellyn Rhys, Aberdare (nephew), W. Williams (nephew), Captain Tallis, Ebbw Vale; Sir W.T. Bart, and Mr Herbert C. Lewis, The Mardy Aberdare; Messrs H.W. Martin, J.P., and Edward P. Martin, J.P., Dowlais; Evan Evans, Park Lane, Cardiff; Dr. Evan Jones, J.P. and Dr. Issac Bankes, Aberdare (the deceased’s medical attendants), Mr T.M. Franklen, clerk of the Glamorgan County Council; and Mr Eustace Richards, Whitchurch. A large number of persons were assembled in the village as the procession wended its way slowly down the hill, and also near the church, where the body was met at the gate by the Rev. Evan Bevan, vicar of St Fagan’s. The building was speedily filled and many were unable to secure accommodation. The service was very brief, and commenced with the singing of the hymn “Lead kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom”. The congregation joined in repeating the verses of the 90th Psalm alternately with the vicar, who subsequently read the lesson for the service of the dead, I Cor., xv 20th verse. Then followed the favourite Welsh Hymn ”Byddmyrdd o ryfeddodau” which was sung with much feeling This brought the service to a close, and then the long drive of nearly six miles to Penderyn Church was commenced. A long line of carriages were in waiting, and the majority of the gentlemen present followed the body to its last resting place. The possession wended its way slowly through Hirwaun and up the steep roads on themountain side leading to the church. No service was held in the edifice, and the body was placed in the family vault, the officiating clergy being Rev. Evan Bevan and the Rev. Llewelyn Jenkins (vicar of Penderyn). The funeral arrangements were entrusted to Messrs John Morgan & Son, Aberdare.

St John’s Church Aberdare
St John’s Church Aberdare


Public References to Mr Rhys

At Merthyr Police Court on Monday Mr North, the stipendiary, with whom were Mr William Morgan and Joseph Owen, said he could not allow this occasion to pass without making some reference to the death of his dear old friend, Mr Rhys had done for Merthyr and indeed, for the whole county of Glamorgan, would not be soon forgotten, and when the various public bodies with which he had been connected came to hold their meetings they would, doubtless, give expression to their sense of the serious deprivation they had sustained by his removal. Mr Owen said it was very great sorrow that he endorsed every word which had fallen from the Stipendiary. He had sat with Mr Rhys at the Board of Guardians and on various committees for about twenty years, and he had never known anyone more straightforward in his decisions Mr Rhys rendered great service to the district, and his decease constituted a grievous loss to the public generally.

Previous to the commencement of business at Barry Dock Police Court on Monday, Colonel Guthrie, presiding magistrate, referred in sympathetic terms to the death of Mr R.H. Rhys. The death was deeply regretted by his fellow magistrates and himself, for they had lost from the magisterial bench a gentleman who, although blind for many years, had performed the duties appertaining to the office with the greatest creditable satisfaction, and they had very reason to be a friend with such a man.

At an inquest held at Rhigos near Aberdare, on Monday Mr Edward Powell, solicitor, Neath who watched the proceedings in his professional capacity on behalf of a client, said the jury and he desired to give expression to their feeling of sympathy with the Coroner (Mr R.J. Rhys) and his relatives on the death of Mr Rees Hopkin Rhys, J.P. of Aberdare. It was deeply deplored that death had caused the withdrawal of his splendid services and his deeply interesting personality. The CORONER in response said he was gratified for the expression sympathy. He had nearly all his life lived with the late Mr Rees Hopkin Rhys, and he consequently felt his death as much as anybody did.

At the Aberdare Police Court on Tuesday the Magisterial Bench at which the late R.H. Rhys, J.P., had often sat was heavily draped with black. Before commencing business Mr W.M. North, stipendiary, said that he had felt sad to have to refer to the death of their old friend Mr Rhys, who had sat in that court as a magistrate since the early sixties and since that time his face was seldom missed. Mr Rhys was an active and able magistrate and gave up the whole of his time to his magisterial duties and the duties connected with the numerous other offices which he filled in connection with the town. There were very few public boards of which he was not a member and while they would see his face no more they would see the result of his work in the excellent state of Aberdare at the present moment, which bore testimony to the interest he took in lower administration. The streets of Aberdare showing his zeal, and the improvements carried out in are town was his best monument. On a tablet in St Paul’s Cathedral to Sir Christopher Wren is inscribed the motto “Si monumentumrequiriscirccumepice”( if you require his monument, look around you), Aberdarians might well apply this motto to Mr Rhys. He was an old friend of his (Mr North) and had sat with him on that Bench for nearly 14 years; 52 years ago he had lost his sight, but with great pluck he had during the remaining and far longer portion of his career buckled to, and carried on his work with marvellous ability, and he was sure his brother magistrate would agree with him in asking the clerk to convey their condolence to the relatives Dr D. Davies J.P., said no one present knew Mr Rhys longer than he did. He had known him intimately for fifty five years, and as he (Dr Davies) had during a long period acted as medical officer of health in connection with the Local Board and District Council, he came into contact with him, and agreed with every word said by Mr North, -Mr D. Davies, J.P., as one who sat with him for many years on different Boards, said the ratepayers of Aberdare were greatly indebted to Mr Rhys, and the county itself would sustain a great loss by his death.- Mt T. Phillips, solicitors, and clerk to the urban District Council, as the senior advocate practising in that court, expressed his deep feeling on the occasion.

Mr Rhys was a man of deep impressions and strong convictions, and he had always the courage of his convictions and thoroughly outspoken in those convictions, His varied and long experience and general knowledge enabled him to fill his position on that Bench with marked ability and it would be a very long day before the gap caused by his death would be filled. He almost intuitively came to a decision, and those decisions, although at times apparently hastily formed, were almost always correct. That trait in his character was at times very trying to young practitioners, and sometimes to his colleagues on the Bench. No one had crossed swords with the deceased across that table oftener than he had, but while advocates endeavoured to do their duties to their clients, any incident which might have occurred was forgotten and forgiven, the loss that court sustained was shared by the parish, the district, the union and the county. Only as time rolled on would that loss be fully felt, and his worth realised. No one who had the honour to know him in his private capacity could forget his kind heartedness. The seeming austerity and ruggedness of his public character vanished. To hear him relate his early experiences and his reminiscences of the progress and growth of Aberdare from a small and straggling village to the populous town it now was a town he so much loved it was then one fully appreciated at his worth. Colonel Phillips, who spoke with deep emotion all though added; “I have lost a friend one who, from age and experience, was able to give advice, and one who always found worthy to follow. He was, take him all in all, a man; I shall never look upon his like again”.

At the meeting of the Merthyr District Council on Wednesday, Mr D.W. Jones said there were very few members present that day, as some of the councillors had gone Llwydcoed to pay their last tribute of respect to the memory of Mr R. H. Rhys. He was sure those present did not desire to part without passing a vote of condolence with the family. Mr Rhys had been the foremost man in the parish of Merthyr and Aberdare for a great number of years, and he had done a great many public services in both towns. He had had the pleasure of sitting with Mr Rhys on the Joint Farms Committee, and of course, it was needless for him to bear testimony to the great zeal which he showed for the public service.

Mr D. Davies in seconding the vote said he had had the pleasureof sitting by Mr Rhys for more than twenty years and their late colleague had done great service. They did not always agree, but he thought they all should express their sorrow at the loss of such a talented man. His death meant a great loss to the county, as he had been one of the foremost men in the county of Glamorgan for over 40 years, and he would be missed by every Board and Council with which he had been connected. The resolution was carried in silence, all the members rising to their feet.

High Constables of Aberdare

1883      

High Constable Dr Evan Jones (Note on Rhys Hopkin Rhys)

Soon after his election he convened a meeting to consider the advisability of supporting the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway’s Bill then before Parliament seeking powers to extend the line to Aberaman; the meeting  was held May 23rd 1883, in the Court Room when Mr Kenshole, Solicitor  for the promoters, explained the objects of the Bill which was warmly supported by the meeting, and Mr R.H. Rhys J.P.,  was asked on behalf of the townspeople to give evidence on behalf of the Bill before the Parliamentary Committee.

1891      

Mr Rhys Jenkin Rhys, Plas Newydd, Coroner “Son of Rhys Hopkin Rhys”. Mr Rhys was the Chairman of Committee and an ardent supporter of the movement which resulted in a very successful May Day Show being held in the town. He also presided over a public meeting convened by him to secure a better Station accommodation in the town, and an influential committee of which he was chairman carried on lengthened correspondence with the Great Western and Taff Vale Railway companies which resulted in the increased Station accommodation which Aberdare now enjoys.

In December a purse of gold containing £637 was presented to Dr Evan Jones, J.P., one of the Ex-High Constables of Aberdare by the workmen of the district, another Ex-High Constable, Mr Watkin J. Thomas, presiding at the meeting.

A marriage between H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence and Her Serene Highness Princes Victoria May of Teck having been arranged, the High Constable convened a public meeting to be held on January 18th, 1892, to arrange for a public recognition of the event. Before the meeting was held, however, the death of the young Prince on January 14th, cast a general gloom over all the country, and the meeting instead of being a meeting if congratulation became one to express the sympathy of the town with the Queen and Royal Family in their bereavement. The High Constable presided, and the message of condolence to the Queen was proposed by the Vicar, Rev. R.B. Jenkins, M.A., and seconded by the Rev. J. Davies “Soar”; a similar message of sympathy to the Prince of Wales was carried on the motion of Dr Evan Jones J.P., seconded by Dr D. Davies J.P., and on the motion of Mr D.P. Davies J.P., seconded by the Rev. B. Evans, a message of sympathy was sent to Princess May. It was also arranged that all places of business in the town should be closed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the day of the funeral, January 20th. On March 1st 1892, the St Michael’s College was opened by the Bishop of Llandaff.