Rev Robert Thomas 1809 – 1880 (Ap Vychan)

We have to record the death of a well-known Congregational minister, the Rev. Robert Thomas, familiar to Welshmen as Ap Vychan, who died at Bala on Friday, April 23, at the age of seventy-one. The reverend gentleman was born at Llanuwchllyn, Merionethshire, and was ordained at Dinas Mawddwy, Liverpool being his first charge. Subsequently he left this city to take the pastorate of the church at Rhosllanerchrugog, whence he removed to Bangor. He remained in that city upwards of eighteen years, when he resigned, having accepted the professorship of divinity at Bala College. He was a well- known Welsh writer and poet, and succeeded in carrying off the chair prizes at Rhyl and Chester eisteddfodau. He was twice married, and leaves one son and a daughter, who is married to the Rev. G. W. Griffith, rector of Llangurig

Our Bala correspondent writes: A general feeling of grief and gloom was cast over the town by the announcement of the death of the Rev. Robert Thomas (Ap Fychan), Theological Lecturer at the Independent College, and well known throughout the Principality as an eminent preacher and poet. We have been informed that the late Mr. Thomas has been suffering from severe bronchial attacks, and he was confined to the house for some time and unable to attend to his ministerial duties. He was, however, considered to be improving in health, and zealously insisted upon being permitted by his medical adviser to go to Llanuwchllyn polling district to record his vote for Mr. Holland at the late parliamentary contest, which he was able to do. At the same time he was far from being strong, and the disease gained ground upon his apparently strong constitution. It was with some surprise and general regret that his death became known.

Since his removal from Bangor to Bala to take charge of the Congregational Church, and as a theological lecturer at the Independent College, he was highly esteemed and respected. He had distinguished himself chiefly by his own devotion and industry, and rose to a high position in the denominations and amongst his countrymen as a minister of the Gospel, and bard, and. an able contributor to Welsh literature, in which capacity he will be missed. In his youth he was a prominent member of the Cymreigyddion Society at Llanuwchllyn, and a contributor of prose and poetry to Seren Gomer and other serials of the day. At the age of fourteen he learnt the trade of a smith under the tuition of Mr. Simon Jones, Lon, Llanuwchllyn, but did not miss the intellectual cultivation and poetical flights of imagination during his leisure hours. It was about this time, under the tuition of the late Rev. Michael Jones, Independent minister, that he directed his attention to theology.

When he was 20 years of age he removed to Oswestry to attain improvement in his occupation as smith, and being anxious to join a religious communion, as there were no Welsh Independents at that time in the town, he cast his lot with the Calvinistic Methodists, after receiving the consent of his father. In this town he acquired knowledge of the English language, and became known as Temperance advocate in that language, and for forty years he was a total abstainer, and always ready to support the cause when called upon to do so. While in Oswestry he studied the works of Dr. Daniel Williams, Andrew Fuller, and President Edwards, of America. From Oswestry he went to Conway, still following his occupation, with Mr. W. Jones, The Foundry, whose daughter he married when he was in his 27th year. About this time he was encouraged by Dr. Arthur Jones, Bangor, to commence preaching, and was very successful. He received a call from the Independent Church at Dinas Mawddwy, where he was ordained. Next he went to Salem, Liverpool, and to Rhosllanerchrugog, and from thence to Bangor, as successor to his old friend, Dr. Arthur Jones. As a minister he was successful at all these places. We believe it was during his stay at Bangor that he took a high position as a Welsh bard. He was appointed theological lecturer to the Bala Independent College, when he removed to Bala, and also took charge of the Congregational Church in this town. Mr. Thomas buried his first wife while he resided in Liverpool, and when he resided at Bangor he was married the second time, to Miss Vaughan, who then resided in London, an old acquaintance of his from Llanuwchllyn. They lived happily together, and she devoted herself in every way to his success and comfort in the work of the ministry and his travels, and it was with grief and sorrow that he followed her remains to Llanuwchllyn churchyard about three years ago.

The funeral took place on Tuesday, the 27th April. A large number of ministers, deacons, and friends from all parts of Wales assembled together to take part in the solemn ceremony. Refreshments were provided for strangers in the vestry-room attached to the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. A public meeting was held in the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel at noon, presided over by the Rev. Michael D. Jones, Bodiwan. After singing a hymn the devotional exercises were conducted by the Rev. E. T. Davies, Abergele, and addresses, referring to the character of the deceased, his ministerial work, and the general loss occasioned by his death, &c., were delivered by the Revs. S. Evans, LIaudegle, J. Roberts, Brymbo, L. Edwards, D.D., Bala. The Rev. J. Myrddin Thomas, Mold, engaged in prayer at the close. About half-past twelve o’clock the funeral cortege was arranged, preceded by long procession of ministers of the different denominations, among whom were the following; Revs. W. Edwards, Aberdare, L. Edwards, D.D., Bala, .R. Jones, rector of Llanycil, S. Evans, Llaudegle, E. T. Davies, Abergele, D. S. Davies, Bangor, H. Williams, M.A., Bala, W. C. Thomas, Llanfairfechan, W. W. Thomas, Maesglas, E. Peters, Tegid Place, Bala, E. P. Jones, M.A., Ph.D., Mostyn, H. U. Jones, Rhesycae, W. James, Sarn, Holy- well, Ellis Edwards, M.A., Bala, R. M. Jones, Dolyddelen, D. Kees, Capel Mawr, Monmouth, D. Jones, Cana, Monmouth, W. Williams, Aran View, Bala, J. Pritchard, Corwen, J. Charles, Llanuwchllyn, D. Ch. Edwards, M.A., Bala, J. Howell, Arthog. J. B. Parry, Bethania, (Ffestiniog, D. Griffiths, Dolgelly, R. O. Evans, Sama, E. Jones, Pentrecelyn, D. G. Evans, Penrhyn Deudraeth, Z. Mathers, Barmouth, T. Evans, Amlwch, T. Davies, Llandrillo, J. Myrddin Thomas, Mold, B. Jones, Trawsfynydd, J. Lewis, Birmingham, H. Roberts, Rhydymain, J. Roberts, Brymbo, W. Williams, Llanelltyd, D. D. Richards, Nantglyn, W. D. Edwards, Graig-fechan, S. Thomas, Newmarket, R. Powell, Newtown, H. Evans, Llandderfel, J. A. Davies, Llanddulas, G. Price, Llanfachreth, and J. Jones, Llandrillo, &c. Next came a long procession of the students from the colleges, and among the laity were Capt. G. B. Thomas, Carnarvon; Messrs. J. Davies and Humphreys, Liver- pool; Caleb Williams and R. Spooner, Bangor; J. J. Jones, U.C.W., Aberystwyth, &c. In the first mourning coach were the Rev. Michael D. Jones, Bodiwan; and Dr. Roger Hughes, Bala.

Then followed the hearse. Messrs. Moses Roberts, William Davies, and John Williams, deacons, and H. Evans, printer, L. Davies, tailor, E. Thomas, shoemaker, J. Evans, Hyspysfa, and R. Evans, joiner, walking alongside as bearers. In the mourning coach next to the hearse were the chief mourners: Mr. Evan Thomas, Meifod brother to the deceased and Mr. Evan Thomas, jun. Rev. W. Griffith, Rector of Llangurig, son-in-law of the deceased; and Mr. Jesse Davies, Ruabon, brother-in-law of the deceased. Wagonettes, coaches &c., with friends and acquaintances.

The townspeople showed every mark of respect to the memory of the deceased as the funeral cortege passed all the shops were closed and the blinds drawn over the windows in private houses, and an immense congregation followed the remains-all the way from Bala to Llanuwchllyn. The inhabitants of this village also showed every respect as the funeral passed, and a large contingent of friends met and joined the funeral at the entry to the village. The deceased was interred near the east end of the Parish Church, in the same grave as his wife. Miss Gwladys Ruffudd, the daughter of Mr. G. Griffiths (Gutyn Ebrill), Ffestiniog, placed a beautiful wreath of flowers on the coffin. Several friends from Ffestiniog attended the funeral. The funeral arrangements were successfully carried out by Messrs. R. C. and M, Hughes, Bala.

In the evening a funeral service was held at the Congregational chapel, Bala, the devotional put by the Rev. R. I. Jones, Dolyddelen, and’ effective sermons were delivered by the Revs. D. S. Davies, Bangor (text 51st Psalm, 10th verse) and W. Edwards, Aberdare (1 Thes. ii, 17-20; 1 Cor. xiii., 9-10; Matt. xxxi., 29). In the course of the sermons references were made to the death of Mr. Thomas, the loss Sustained, and the lessons to be derived from his example.