John Williams M.P. 1861-1922

Picture of John Williams

From Pit-Boy to M.P. (Gower)

Mr John Williams, Labour member of Parliament for West Glamorgan, died at his residence at Sketty on Tuesday after a long illness.

Mr John Williams, M.P., had represented the Gower Division of Glamorgan since 1906. The son of working parents, he was born at Aberaman in 1861 and educated at the British School there. He Commenced, to earn a living at the age of twelve years, being then employed at the Plough Colliery, Aberaman, as a door-boy. As a young man, he was of studious habits and acquired an extensive knowledge of Welsh and English literature, and his proficiency as a bard won him a place in the Gorsedd circle under the nom de plume of “Eryr Glan Gwawr.”

From his early youth he was a leader of men and gifted with eloquence he soon became a powerful platform speaker. After working underground for he became check-weigher at the Lady Windsor Colliery of the Ocean Company at Ynysybwl, where for about twelve years he represented the workmen. He found time to promote innumerable industrial societies for the uplifting of his fellow workmen and Was elected a member of the Mountain Ash Urban District Council.

During this time, he studied for the ministry and was ordained a Welsh Baptist minister. He was general secretary of the Society of South Wales Colliery Workers in 1890, and
Subsequently, he became, advisory agent to the Western Miners’ Association, which post be held up till his death. He was a member of the executive committee of the South Wales Miners’ Federation and was one of the senior members on the workmen’s side of the Conciliation Board.

Associated with Mabon and Brace in the old Lib-Lab group. Mr Williams held moderate views, and in his various election campaigns invariably commanded a large measure of support from the Liberals of the Gower Division as well as the Labour section. He was highly respected, and popular in West Wales, and had for years been a local preacher. He was an ardent Nationalist and was equally as fluent in Welsh as in English. He was of the University of Wales and a J.P. for the county of Glamorgan.

Sorrow in the House
Popular figure lost from Parliament

The death of Mr John Williams (writes our Lobby Correspondent) was received in Parliamentary circles with the greatest sorrow, and it was a pathetic coincidence that it follows so closely on the death of the revered Mabon., with whom he had so much in common in his political and religious outlook, Mr Williams had not been able to attend the House for many months owing to his indisposition, but formerly he was most regular, and a well-known and popular figure in Parliament.

He was always extremely obliging to Welsh visitors to the House, who found he had a unique knowledge of the interesting subjects on the House and, of the history of Parliament. His services were even sought as a guide to the Houses of Parliament, and he could talk for hours most interestingly on the historical side.

Whenever he spoke in the House, he impressed it with his obvious sincerity and ardour of his convictions. He had been prominent in many memorable scenes in the House of Commons during the stirrings events of Welsh Disestablishment, and it is recalled that one occasion it was he who started the singing of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” when members trooped into the Lobby, after a historic division.

He had frequently been of the greatest service to Parliament for his work on Select Committees and similar bodies, where he was able to bring to bear a rare technical knowledge of the mining industry and a great experience of administrative work. He was still counted a “moderate” at the House, and men of all classes were proud to regard him as a friend. For he had all the instincts of intimate and permanent friendship.

Once in the dining-room, he took a seat at a table reserved for Ministers of the Crown. “Excuse me, sir,” was the mild reproof of a waiter, “are you a Minister?” “Yes,” as the jocular reply. “What department?” asked the incredulous and persistent waiter. “Gospel department.” only an M.P. and a miners’ leader, but an ordained minister. “Oh,” came the equally prompt retort, “I am afraid, sir, this table is not good enough for you.” And, enjoying the humour of the situation, the Rev. M. P. removed to another table.

The figures at the last election were:

John Williams (Labour)……. 10,109
D. H. Williams (Liberal) ………8,353

The Labour candidate is Mr D. P. Grenfell (miners’ agent), and the Coalition Liberal candidate Mr D. H. Williams, who unsuccessfully fought Mr John Williams at the last election.

Coal Owner’s Tribute

At a meeting of the owners’ and workmen’s representatives held at Cardiff on Tuesday, Mr P. 0. Ward, presiding over the owners’ representatives, referred to the death of Mr John Williams, M.P., who had for many years been a member of the late sliding scale committee and, of the
Conciliation Board. The late Mr Williams, he said, had always most willingly placed his services at the disposal of the coal trade and had used his best efforts to promote a friendly relationship between the ‘colliery companies and their workmen. Mr Ward proposed that a vote of condolence be forwarded to the family.

Mr Enock Morrell seconded on behalf of the Workmen’s representatives and endorsed the remarks made by Mr Ward, and state that the workmen’s representatives would keenly feel the loss of Mr Williams who was an active and valued member of their side. The vote of condolence was unanimously agreed to, all the members in respectful silence.

Interesting Stories
When Mr John Williams Deposed Mabon

There are so many interesting stories, which illustrate the late M. John Williams’s ardour as a searcher after knowledge and his strenuous life. Once, when he was engaged in his colliery work, some colliers had on occasion to enter the weighing machine house to ascertain the weights of trams they had sent up when they saw on the desk a volume printed in strange characters. “What is that John?” they asked. “My Greek Testament,” was the reply; “a man cannot be a real preacher without mastering his Book.” This was at the time when he was studying for the Baptist ministry, to which he was ordained.

His bardic title, “Eryr Glan Gwawr,” he won as long ago as 1885.

In 1898 there was a big tussle between Mr John Williams and Mabon, which resulted in the latter being temporarily deposed from the chairmanship of the miners’ conference, and the former succeeding him till the two becoming reconciled and resuming their old terms of affection, Mabon resumed his honourable post and held it till his resignation.

Mr Williams left a widow, four sons, and five daughters. The funeral takes place at Sketty, the cortege leaving the house at 3.30, the date and hour being fixed to enable local miners to be present.

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