Reminiscences of the late Rev R.E. Williams (Twrfab)
October 7th 1911
The following reminiscences are written by an intimate friend of the deceased rev gentleman, under whose ministry at Ynyslwyd Welsh Baptist Church many happy and profitable years have been spent:-Well may it be said that a prophet in Israel was “wise in heart and might in strength” has passed away from his sphere of labour to receive the reward of every true and faithful servant of God. The rev gentleman’s clear-cut features and his distinguished mien commanded almost universal admiration and respect. His gentlemanly presence and his commending figure will be very much missed by many in the Aberdare Valley. His sudden and tragic death has cast quite a gloom, not only amongst his own church, but among the traders and general public of Aberdare.
The angel of death took him swiftly to his last home. He suffered no protracted illness. He had often ruminated in church meetings as to whether he should die in such manner, and it was elided that his ripe Christian experience had made him ready in spirit for the great period of transition. He was a great-hearted man, and was very optimistic concerning the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God on earth. Often he had said “We have our periods of depression, our summer and winter, our sunshine and storms even in religious experience. If the church on earth is sometimes on the plains, it also ascends on occasions to the pinnacles of the highest mountains.” Moreover, he said in reference to the church of Ynyslwyd, “Someday, possibly at a not very distant date, I shall have vacated this pulpit to make room for another. Even of the worker depart, God sees that others shall arise and continue His noble work on earth.” Such was his faith on the use of Christ on earth.
His was a very stroking personality and he possessed a great deal of originality. At a prayer meeting or “cyfeillich”, he would often introduce hymns which are not to be found in any of our hymn-books. The congregation at Ynyslwyd had become familiarised with these hymns, and sang them with a relish and joy, which were greatly appreciated by the pastor, Among the chief favourites of the deceased were:-
Hen gartref hoof fy mam;
Mae Iesu, mrawdm yn Seion
Ni oddef I mi gam,
Maer’s Yspryd Glan yn Seion
Bendithon gaiff y saint;
A diolch an y fraint”“Yr Gwr wrth Ffynnon Jacob
Eisteddai yno I lawr
Tramwyodd drwy Samaria
Tramwya yma’n awr
Roedd syched arno yno
Am gael en hachub hwy,
Mae syched arno heddyw
Am achun llawer mwy.”
L’a un us ai gwenith yw,
Phag fod yn un o’r chweron chwyn
Sy’n tyfu’n mysg y gwenith gwyn.”
Many other striking verses were also made known to him through antiquarian interest and his possession of Welsh religious books dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Curiously enough the writer’s last chat with the rev gentleman took place at the office of the “Leader” whither Mr Williams had gone to write a letter or owing to a downpour of rain preventing him from returning home. This was almost the last appearance at Aberdare with public, for the next morning (Wednesday) he had departed for his daughters home at Swansea in readiness for his preaching engagement at Killay on the following Sunday. It was in July last that the writer accompanied him for a walk of several miles around the Mumbles coast to Langland Bay, and returned with him along the island route, He was a most pleasant conversationalist. On our journey we chances to meet the Rev J. Lee Davies, Brynamman, who was then almost totally blind, and the Rev Issac Jones, Salem Newydd, Ferndale (a branch of Ynyslwyd Church). It was truly a grand to hear Mr Williams express such high opinions of his pulpit confreres of all denominations. He was a marvellous reader of human nature, and it left ab unforgetable impression on my mind when he remarked that he had always looked beyond the foibles of some of his deacons, looked beyond their human weaknesses, and reconciled himself to them by the thought that they were all workers for God. This great lesson of toleration he had learnt by the perusal of a book containing advice to young ministers, written by C.H. Spurgeon. This book (and also Martin Tupper’s “Proverbial Philosophy”; Jeremy Taylor’s “Holy Living and Holy Dying”; Howells “Familiar Letters”; Baxter’s “The Saints Everlasting Rest”, and the works of Issac Taylor and a host of others) left a lasting impression on his capacious mind, He was one of nature’s gentlemen, and always took care lest he should unconsciously offend anybody.
It is a well-known that Twrfab was a book collector par excellence. He had scoured many treasured gems for the book shelves of second-hand dealers, and in some cases it had taken him 15 or 20 years to obtain single volumes belonging to particular sets. It had been my pleasure to secure a copy of volume 1 of Disreali’s “Curiosities of England Literature”, for him in a remote town in England and also a rare copy of a volume of Issac Taylor’s works. Dobson, the second-hand bookseller, “Cheeky Dobson” as he was popularly called was not afraid to insult any “mortal being ministers in religion included), except the Rev R.E. Williams, for whom he felt deepest veneration.
The late Dr Davies, Bryngolwg, remarked when subscribing to Twrfab’s testimonial a few years ago the he (Mr Williams) and another Aberdare minister were the only ones among the preaching fraternity for whom the doctor ever possessed any admiration and respect.
The rev gentleman retained his taste for the good books right to the end. The thought of selling or parting with any of the books abhorred him. He, therefore, contemplated and us is to be hoped he has arranged accordingly the presentation of the whole mass of books (except those he has received as gifts, which would be retained by the family) to the Aberdare Free Library.
Twrfab was very cosmopolitan in his views, and would make the acquaintance of all classes of people. Many in the lower strata of society had received words of hope and encouragement from him. His influence was always felt at meetings of the Aberdare District of Baptists and if there was a storm brewing at any time, Twrfab could quell it. His sermons showed perfection in the art of construction and almost invariably he followed the methods of:-
- Dwelling upon the significance and importance of the words of his text, which would be a much more lucid and detailed exposition than is found even in Trench’s “Study of Words.”
- A discursive and philosophical treatment of the principle and the theology of the text.
- The Final appeal for the letter sent Mr William’s address from Carnegie donating £160 towards the new organ for Ynyslwyd Church was never opened by him, although he had been heart and soul in favour of the movement. We can only hope that the fruit of his labours will remain for many years to come on the church and the community.
By D.D. (David Davies “Eurfab”)?
The mortal remains of the late Mr Williams were conveyed from his daughter’s residence at Swansea on Friday morning to be interred at the Public Cemetery at Aberdare. The following 12 bearers, deacons of Ynyslwyd Baptist Church, journeyed specially to Swansea:-
Messrs Williams Davies (the church treasurer); William Roach, David Johnson, William Evans, John Williams, John Phillips, David Davies (Eurfab), Thomas Morgan, John Davies (Hill Street); John Jones, Thomas Davies, the church secretary.
A brief service was conducted at the house of Rev D. Price (Bethesda), Swansea, and the Rev Daniel Thomas. Among the ministers and others who accompanied the body to Aberdare were:-
Revs W. Casnodyn Rhys, D. Price, D.B. Richards, D. Jones (Cwmbwria), E. Hermas Evans, W. Gibbon, and T. Sinclair Evans all of Swansea; E.J. Hughes, Ravenhill; J.H. Davies, Killay; J.E. Griffiths, Birchgrove; E. Edmunds (secretary of the Welsh Baptist Union); J.W. Hughes, Landore; R.S. Morris, Cwmavon; J.T. Rhys, Swansea; W.C. James, Swansea; J. Thomas, Bridgend, and David Davies, Abergwynfei; Messrs T.W. Jones and Jeremiah S. Hughes, Landore: councillor D. Griffiths, Swansea, and A.G. James, Cardiff. The Rev J. Gomer Lewis was unavoidably absent.
A large number awaited the 12.37 train at the Great Western Railway station, Aberdare, where the cortege was reformed and proceeded to Ynyslwyd Church. The Rev James Griffiths, Calfaria, Aberdare, had charge of the arrangements, whilst Mr William Richards acted as precentor, and Mr Tom Davies presided at the organ. The Rev Morgan Lewis, Cwmayfiog, and the Rev W.T. Francis, Gwawr, Aberaman, opened the meeting. The Rev R.J. Jones M.A., testified to Mr Williams kindliness of character. Purity of thought and speech were always characteristic of Twrfab, and the expression of becoming always visible of his face was infectious. The town of Aberdare, as wee as the family, would lose greatly by his departure.
The Rev J. Robertson, M.A., pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Aberdare, referred to the able intellectual gifts possessed by the deceased, gifts which aided him greatly in the work of the ministry, Mr Williams had been ever ready to preach from the pulpit of the Presbyterian Church, where his sermons were greatly appreciated.
The Rev J.T. Pritchard, Aberdare, moderator of the Welsh Wesleyan Churches, said that the wreaths of flowers on the coffin, which were all white, illustrated the purity of Twrfab’s character. He was truly living the Christian life which he preached. All the Wesleyan churches in the district were lamenting the death of such a mighty one in Israel.
Dr H. Harries (Afanwy) expressed his sorrow at the termination of a friendship of 56 years duration; the legacy left by Twrfab was a good and honoured name. He hoped the Lord of Hosts would comfort the widow and family in their bereavement.
Rev W.R. Jones, Penrhiwceiber, chairman of the Aberdare District of Welsh Baptist, and secretary of the Best Glamorgan Baptist Association, feelingly referred to the manner in which the late Mr Williams had touched his (the speaker) arm at the funeral of the Rev William Harris, and uttered the touching remark, “You will be burying the next”. That prophecy had become true and the Aberdare Valley was all the poorer for Twrfab’s departure. Charitableness was a prominent feature of his life. He was the friend of all and enemy of none.
The Rev D. Silyn Evans (Siloa) dwelt on Twrfab’s genuineness of character. He was broad-minded enough to occupy the pulpits of Congregationalists. He was a great philosopher, and he was a teacher even in the delivery of his sermons. His 3,000 volumes were a far greater treasure to him than if they had been £3,000. He was fond of the terse aphorisms and maxims of old thinkers, Silyn then read extracts from a lengthy letter written by a Congregationalist minister at Killay, who had heard Mr Williams preach his last sermon, extracts from, which were given.
The Rev Charles Davies, Cardiff, spoke of a friendship between him and Twrfab which lasted for more than 40 years. There was no doubt that the Master himself welcomed Twrfab on the threshold of eternity.
The Rev D.G. Jones, Penygraig, president of the Welsh Baptist Union, spoke of the great help he had received from Mr Williams, A shining ornament of the denomination had certainly gone, and they would miss his services very much.
The Vice-president of the Baptist Union (the Rev Edward Parry, Aberdulais) spoke of his 43 years of friendship with the deceased, Heaven had become all the richer by his presence there, and he was reaching the perfection which had so much striven for on earth.
The Rev J. Griffiths announced that the students at the South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff, had passed on Thursday a vote of condolence with the church and family. The Rev Rees Powell, Briton Ferry, offered a prayer. The congregation stood while the organist Mr Tom Davies, Stuart Street, played the “Dead March in Saul”. As the bearers conveyed the body from the chapel, Beethoven’s Funeral Sonata was softly played on the organ.
The following ministers and laymen were also present:- Revs W. Jones, Treharris; W. Cynog Williams, Trecynon; J. James, Cwmbach; D. Hopkins, Trecynon; W.A. Jones and W.R. Jones, Merthyr; M. Jenkins, Abercwmboi; W.R. Jones (Pelidros); E. Cefni Jones, Hirwaun; W. Thomas, Bridgend; T.T. Jones. Blaenclydach; W.C. Thomas, Dowlais; R.D. Phillips, Cilfynydd; H. Williams, Pontypridd; D.C. Harries, Glyn Neath; D.C. Davies, Resolven; T.E. Williams, Berthlwyd; Issac James, Abercanaid; J.H. Davies, Killay (at whose church Twrfab preached last); W.A. Williams Pontypridd; J. Tywi Jones, Glais; R. Morris, Pontsticyll; J. Glandwr Watkins, Trealaw; R. Gwenffrwd Hughes, Pontlotyn; David Davies, Llanishen; D.W. Walters and D. price both of Swansea; J.M. Hughes and Zachariah Davies, both of Pendarren; Evan Jones, Merthyr; G. Llechidon Williams, Aberaman; Owen Jones, Treforest; A.B. Kinsey B.A., BD., T.P. Lloydm Resolven; T.H. Bryant (P.M.), Aberdare, David Davies, Gwawr; J. Lloyd Williams, Merthyr; B. Howells, Abercynon; R.J. Jones (U), M.A. Trecynon; F.W. Roberts, Treorchy; T. Eli Evans, Soar; R.H. Davies, B.A., Cwmbach; R. Williams, Nazareth; J. Robertson, M.A.; John Lewis (C.M.), Hebron; R. John, Merthyr; E. Thomas, Neath: A.G. James, Gowerton; and William Davies M.A., Bethania; Messrs T.J. Howells (Hywel Nedd), Dan Davies, Ystrad; E.J. Meredith, Wattstown; Thomas Edmunds, Evan Morgan and John John, all of Mountain Ash; David Rees, Hirwaun; Hugh Evans, Abernant; John Griffiths, Ysgol Comin; David Jones, and John Jones (secretary an precentor of Killay Baptist Church); W. Wilcox, Aberdare; J. Thomas, Bridgend; John Davies (ironmonger); David Griffiths, both of Bethania (C.M.); William Morgan (Bethel) and William Morgan (Bethesda), Abernant; E.L. Davies Aberdare; D.P. Davies, J.P., Ynyslwyd; Revs H.P. Jenkins, J. Grawys Jones, J.M. Jones, M.A., Aberdare; W.D. Morris (C.M.), Cwmaman; J. Morgan (C.M.) Trecynon; Messrs Ted Thomas, and Evans, Gadlys; J. Mills (Tarianydd): Hugh Thomas, schoolmaster; P.C. William Richards, Merthyr; Henry Lloyd (Ap Hefin); J. Afanydd Morgan, Thomas Morgan (W); W.J. Davies and Alderman John Williams, Bridgend; A.W. Humphreys, all of Cwmaman; J. Bosher, W. Eynon (colliery manager): W.J. John, R. Morgan, William Collier, E. Evans, M. Parr, Rees Lewis, and Daniel Jones all of Aberdare; John Davies (Gwinau Emlyn), Abercwmboi; Thomas Davies, Gwawr; Guardian Rees Rees, David Morgan, Abercanaid; Benjamin Daniel, Abercwmboi; John Williams, Bridgend; J.D. Evans, Swansea; John Lewis, Gendros; T. Williams, Thomas Morgan, William John, and Edward Bevan all of Trecynon; David James, M.W. David, W.J. Harries, Rees Evans (tailor), John Rowlands and George Williams, all of Aberdare; David Bowen, Treorchy; David Thomas, Ton Pentre; Emrys Evans (chemist), J.P. Powell, Danygraig; David Roberts (Saron); Abraham Richards, Hugh Walters, David Davies, Thomas Roderick, Lewis Williams, J.K. Evans, William Williams, J.H. Evans and Benjamin Davies all of Aberdare; Councillor H.H. Evans, H. Harries, Ystrad: T.P. Jones, Trealaw, and James Pardoe, Cwmbach.
A united choir from Ynyslwyd and the neighbouring churches numbering 236 voices, sand the hymns “Dolycoed,” “Lausanne,” “Crigybar,” “Abersytwyth,” “Babel,” and “Dineweidrwydd,” on route to the cemetery. The conductor was Mr William Richards, was was assisted by Messrs Gwilym Richards and James Llywelyn, Ynyslwyd, and Daniel Griffiths, Calfaria.
At the graveside appropriate words were spoken by the Rev W. Ceinfryn Thomas, Dowlais, and T.T. Jones, Blaenclydach. Prayer was offered by the Rev j. Tywi Jones, Glais, and “Bydd myrdd o ryfeddodan,” concluded the service, which was conducted by the Rev J. Griffiths.
The mourners were Mr and Mrs W.H. Williams, son and daughter-in-law; Mrs and Mr F. Bevan, daughter and son-in-law; Mr Edward Evans; Mr and Mrs Howell T. Morgan. Wreaths had been sent by Mr and Mrs John Hope; Mrs Oliver Davies and family; Mr and Mrs Michael Thomas; Mrs P. Meredith; from the grandchildren; from the widow and children; Mr and Mrs Lloyd; Mr and Mrs H.T. Morgan and family; Mr and Mrs Edward Williams.
Mr Howell T. Morgan, Canal Head House, supervised all the funeral arrangements.
Expressions of sympathy with the family were received from:- Revs Henry Evans, Penrhyncoch; Joseph Edwards, Aberystwyth; Owen Owen, Porth; Penar Griffiths, Swansea; B.V. Davies, Abergwynfi; R. Williams, Aberdare; E.W. Davies, Ton, Alfred Morris, Llangennoch; E.K. Jones, Brymbo; James Owen, Swansea; R.S. Rogers, B.A., Mountain Ash; W.A. Jones, Cwmdare; M.J. Harries Thomas, Ammanford; Dr R, Ryce, Merthyr; Mr Ernst Pritchard, Newbridge; “Willie” Brackla Street, Bridgend; Mrs C. Davies, Ynyslwyd, Aberdare; Alderman T.J. Hughes, Bridgend; Miss E. Veline James, Millbank, Llanstephan; Mr J.H. Evans, London; Mr and Mrs Karle, Bridgend; Mr W.M. Thomas.
At Ynyslwyd Baptist on Sunday evening last the Rev James Griffiths, Calfaria, Aberdare, delivered a memorial sermon in respect of the late Rev R.E. Williams (Twrfab). Who was pastor of the church for 34 years. The “Dead March” was sung under the precentor-ship of Mr William Richards. The organist was Mr Ebenezer Williams. The Rev Mr Griffiths took as his text “For David, after he had served his own generation, by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers” (Acts XIII, 36). Mr Griffiths remarked that Twrfab, like David, was a mighty servant of God. His life had been like that of a fragrant flower in the garden of God. Many flowers had blossomed in God’s garden as a result of Twrfab’s clean and holy life. He was a man of prayer. He prayed incessantly for the success of the Church and for the members of Ynyslwyd in particular. Did he not pray at the bedside of his father and later of his dying mother? He had learnt to preach in the school experience. He was baptised at Liverpool in 1861, one month after the immersion of the famous Rev Seth Jones of Australia, whose stirring address on the night of his baptism left a deep impression on Twrfab. Curiously enough the same minister (Rev William Thomas, Blaenwaun) baptised the two pastors at Ynyslwyd, viz., Revs Thomas John and R.E. Williams. One of the minsters present at Twrfab’s ordination in Liverpool in 1868, viz., the Rev Abel J. parry, D.D., Rhyl, died only a few months ago. The deceased’s good work at Staylittle and Ravenhill (where is name was still held in deep respect) and his life works as Ynyslwyd were touched upon in detail. He was not only a preacher, but a litterateur who was credit to his country. He had filled the chair of the East Glamorgan Baptist Association, and at the last meetings of the Welsh Baptist Union at Mountain Ash, Twrfab’s name was suggested for the vice-presidency (and subsequently) of the Baptist Union for the next year. He (the preacher) hoped that God on his bountiful mercy would watch over the widow, who was that night seriously ill at Bridgend, and also extend his care to the sorrowful children. The choir sand a special anthem, “Y Cyfiawn a drif yn y nef”(Issac Lewis, Abernant), and the hymns were also specially selected for the service by the precentor. Each member of the church was given an in memoriam leaflet bearing the words “Adgof Cariad,” and poetry by Eurfab.
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