RS Thomas Genealogy
Issue Date: 17/1/2010
RONALD STUART THOMAS
Following from RST 1/1/98:
Born: 29/3/1913, Cardiff.
Christened Ronald, adopted Stuart to differentiate between other Ronald Thomas at school.
See the end of this paper for extracts of writings on his life and works.
One biography has him dying in a hospice: this is incorrect. He died about 1030pm in his bed in his & Betty’s house, Twll y Cae in Pentrefellin. His wife, Betty and Antony Maitland were present.
Married 1st: Mildred (Elsie) Eldridge (1909-1991, bur Llanfaelrhys).
Married 2nd: Betty (Chadwick) Vernon, August 1996.
1 son by Elsie, Gwydion Thomas.
THOMAS HUBERT THOMAS
Birth Certificates recd 24/3/98:
Thomas Hubert Thomas, born 11/12/1883 at Church Villa, Ystradyfodwg, Pontypridd. Father James Thomas, Colliery Clerk, mother Mary Thomas, formerly Miles. Informant: father.
now Ystrad (?) up valley NW of Pontypridd.
Llanwonno, 3 miles East of there
Miskin, 1 mile S of Mountain Ash.
seaman, one of 11 children
THT was apprenticed under sail at 15
When RST born, he was out of seaman work and working temporarily as a commercial traveller.
parents were James and Mary Thomas, of a rich family, but James T ran through a
fortune and drank.
THT went deaf, probably hereditary.
THT's grandfather and Lord Davis of Llandinam were partners in one of the first deep pits.
Davis, born 11/1/1891, 66 Grawen Brecon Rd, Merthyr.
Father John Davis, Iron Puddler, mother Hannah Davis formerly
Llewellyn. informant: mother (her mark only).
Orphaned at age 6
Margaret Davis was adopted by her mother's sister and husband, Rev Richard David, who may have been Canon RD of Lanillud Fawr (Llantwit Major).
Her father may have been a clerk in a colliery. Her mother ran off with an Italian violinist: she was described by the aunt as "such a lady".
1/1. Ronald Stuart Thomas
father of Thomas Hubert Thomas
Born abt 1855 Marriage Cert.
RST: James T kept a hotel. Made a lot of money, and lost it. Porth Hotel, Llandysyl.
Father: Edmund Thomas, Colliery Proprietor.
1877 (Marriage): Buckingham Villa, Cathayis, Cardiff
1881 Census, 39 Victoria Rd, Ystradyfodwg (RG11 5302 137):
Thomas (25, Colliery Clerk, Glamorgan), Mary (22, Glam), Edmund (4, Glam),
Arismond?? (2, Glam).
1883: Church Villa, Ystradyfodwg
1891: not at Church Villa.
Married: Mary Miles
Cardiff 11a 389 June 1877:
21/5/1877, the Register Office, Cardiff, by license.
Thomas, 22 years, Bachelor, Colliery Proprietor's Son, Buckingham Villa,
Cathayis, Cardiff, father Edmund Thomas, Colliery Proprietor. Mary Miles, 21
years, spinster, Porth nr. Pontypridd, father Thomas Miles, Colliery Manager.
Witnesses David Symmonds & Fanny Edwards.
7/6/1859 (re Walford D.) (1856 from Marriage cert)
B/Cert Mertyr 11 a 310, 6/1859. (sub-district Gellygave)
7/6/59, Hopkins Town, Llanwonno, (S of Merthyr Tydfil), father Thomas Miles (an Anchor Smith), mother Elizabeth Miles formerly Jenkins,
May have been a barmaid at one time: JT married beneath him!
1861 Census Llanwonno checked: not found.
Issue (ref RST & Miles Tree):
1/1. Thomas (Tommy) Hubert Thomas, born 1883.
1/2. Avis (Avismond??) Thomas died youngish, unmarried.
1/3. Dorothy Thomas (bank clerk)
1/4. Edmund Thomas went down with crew and captain on ship in 1st War.
Born 1877 ref Census.
1/5. Elizabeth (Bessie) Thomas m. Douglas Cameron
2/1. Ian Cameron
1/6. Frederick (Freddie) Thomas lived in London.
1/7. Robert (Bala) Thomas
1/8. Ethel (Mollie) part time actress in London.
Born: abt 1863, Merthyr Tydfil (census), 1862, M/C
Census, 83 Brecon Rd, Garth, MT (RG10 5401 54):
John Davis (Hd, 31, Iron Pudler, Llandrillo Camarthenshire), Martha (35, Pembrokeshire), Mary (10, scholar, MT) John (8, MT), William (6), Thomas (14 mths,)
Census, 34, Brecon rd, Merthyr Tydfil (RG11/5318-38)
John Davis (Hd, 44, Iron Pudler, Camarthenshire), Martha (39, Pembrokeshire), John (18, Iron Pudler, MT), Thomas (11, scholar, MT) James (7, scholar, MT), Elizabeth (3, MT), William (8mths, MT).
1891 Census, 66, Brecon Rd, Merthyr Tydfil (RG12/4440-141) (nb in B/cert for Margaret, called Graven Brecon Rd).
John Davis (Hd, 28, Iron Pudler, MT), Hannah (23), Martha A. (1, MT), Margaret (3mths, MT).
Married: Hannah Llewllyn
Myrthyr Tydfil 11a 810 Dec 1884. (Davies)
Also Aberayron 11b 53 March 1884. (Davies/Llewelyn). Chkd 3/83 - 12/90.
27/10/1884, Register Office, Merthyr Tydfil, by certificate.
Davies, 22, bachelor, iron pudler, 6 Williamstown, Merthyr, father John Davies,
Iron pudler. (registrar was called DaviEs hence spelling)
Hannah Llewellyn, 19, Spinster, 2 Taff St, Caeplautwyll, Merthyr, father Oswell Llewellyn, Iron moulder.
Witnesses William Larus?? & Elizabeth Morgans
Caeplautwyll - Garth.
Born: abt 1868, Mythyr Tydfil (census), 1865, M/C
1881 Census, Merthyr Mawr House (Nichol family), the Lodge. (RG11 5331, 121, p14)
Sina Howell (73, wid, lodge Keeper, Langan Glam),
Hannah Llewellyn (15, niece, svnt, Langan)
Taff St Garth, 1881: no Llewellyns, but:
John Howells (32 Iron Pudler) & family
David Lazidus & Elizabeth Morgan lodger aged 16.
1/1. Martha A. Davis, born 1890, Myrthyr. (census)
1/2. Margaret Davis. born 11/1/1891
Born abt 1831, Glamorgan
1877: Buckingham Villa, Cathayis, Cardiff, Colliery Proprietor.
1881 Census, Maenoy House, Ystrad (RG11 5302 164):
Edmund Thomas (50 Colliery Prop), Catherine (51), Margaret (21), Son (Enid???) (20, Medical Student), Mulder?? (18), Robert (16, Scholar), John (14, Scholar), Gwen (13, Scholar), Bysee (10, Scholar), 3 servants & visitor David Rees (20).
1/1. James Thomas, abt 1855.
1/2. Margaret Thomas abt 1860
1/3. Son abt 1861 - medical student 1881
1/4. Mulder Thomas abt 1863
1/5. Robert Thomas abt 1865
1/6. John Thomas abt 1867
1/7. Gwen Thomas abt 1868.
THOMAS LLEWELLYN MILES
Born: 20/4/1836 re Miles Tree & Bible.
Census, 68, Treshorne (?) Rd, Ystradyfowg, (RG11/5302-68)
Thomas Miles (44, Engine Driver, Pontyprydd), Elizabeth (42, MT), Llewellyn (17, Engine Stoker, P/prydd), Elizabeth (15, P/P), Thomas Ephraim (10, P/P), Annie (6, Aberdare), Jane (4, Ystrdyfodwg), Catherine (6 wks, Ystrdyfodwg).
Married 2/1/1858 (Merthyr Tydfil 11a 411, 3/58):
Penuel Chapel, Methodist Connexion.
Thomas Miles, 22, Batchelor, Collier of Pontypridd, father Llewellyn Miles, Striker.
Elizabeth Jenkins, 20, of Rhondda Valley, Llanwonno, father David Jenkins, Collier.
Born: 4/11/1838, Mythyr Tydfil (date from Walford D, place census, surname from Mary Miles B/C)
does not have correct father (Merthyr Tydfil 26 347 12/38):
4/11/1838, father Edward Jenkins, Miner, mother Mary Jenkins, late Thomas formerly James of Jackson's Bridge.
1/1. Edward Miles, born 31/1/1858, died 2/2/1858
1/2. Mary Miles
1/3. Hannah Miles, born 14/9/1861
1/4. Llewelyn Miles,
born 13/8/1863, Pontypridd, died 27/11/1914
1881, Census, Engine Stoker, Yystradyfodwg
Married Gladys, issue:
2/1. Llewellyn Miles.
2/2. Gwilyn Miles.
2/3. Eddie Miles.
1/5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Miles, born 26/2/1866 Pontyprydd.
Married: Fisher Morgan
2/1. Taliesin Miles.
2/2. Dili Miles.
Married Ted Higgins, issue:
3/1. Joan Higgins.
2/3. Betty Miles.
2/4. Tommy Miles.
1/6. Edward Miles, born 22/4/1868,
married Jane Davies (14/12/1867-31/8/1960)
2/1. Eleanor (Lela) Miles (25/8/1901-31/3/1990)
Married: James Richards
3/1. Eleri Richards
Married: William Morgan (Moc) Rogers
4/1. Owain Rogers
4/2. Angharad Rogers
3/2. Nest Richards
Married: Gordon Thomas
4/1. Delyth Thomas
4/2. Catrin Thomas
4/3. Richard Thomas
2/2. Edward Alun Miles (b.25/8/1903)
3/1. Ann Rhiannon (Nan) Miles (d.9/3/1994)
Married: Jim Hurst
4/1. Martin Hurst
4/2. Jenny Hurst
5/1. Sian ...
5/2. Bethan ...
2/3. Elizabeth (Beti) Miles (5/5/1906-20/6/1996)
2/4. Dafydd John (Dafydd) Miles (18/11/1908-22/12/1998)
Married: Siarlot .... (6/1910-30/12/1993)
3/1. Dafydd Gruffyd Miles (12/9/1945-29/9/1974)
A Teacher who died in a car crash.
3/2. Bethan Miles. (17/2/1947-) who researched much of the Miles
1/7. Thomas Ephraim Miles, born 15/12/1870, Pontyprydd
Married in Australia, issue:
2/1. Bapsi Miles
2/2. Eric Miles.
2/3. Betty Miles
2/4. Alvin Miles
2/5. Queenie Miles.
1/8. William Henry Miles, born 10/2/1872,
Died @ Niles, Ohio.
1/9. Annie Miles, born 1/8/1874. Aberdare.
Married: 1st, Tomi Evans.
Married: possibly, 2nd, Llewellyn
2/1. Gwyn Evans.
1/10. Jennie Miles, born 9/2/1877, Ystradyfodwg, Jane on Census,
1/11. Catherine (Katie) Miles, born 20/9/1880, Ystradyfowg,
Married: Richard (Dic) Jones. Issue:
2/1. Cyril Jones.
2/2. Betty Jones, married Ronald Leigh-Hunt
3/1. Barbara Leigh-Hunt, the actress.
2/3. Harold Jones.
1/12. William Thomas Miles. Born 3/10/1882, died 12/1882
RS THOMAS, Priest/Poet
text of the sermon given by Dr Barry Morgan, Bishop of Llandaff,
4/12/2000 at St Michael's, Portmadog. (subsequently arch-bishop of Wales)
R.S. THOMAS SERMON
I have to confess that I stand in this pulpit today with considerable trepidation. First, because I am not altogether sure that RS would approve of what is being done. He did after all say that his funeral was to be simple, straightforward, with no hymns and no tribute. So he might not look kindly on a Eucharist of Thanksgiving with music. Secondly I tremble, because we are giving thanks for a man whose mastery of words was superb - for he was without doubt one of the C20 foremost poets. And I am left with the unenviable task of saying something about him and words are the only tools at my disposal. Moreover, I have been an admirer of his poetry for over 30 years and I never dreamt that I would get to know RS the man, still less be given the privilege of speaking about him at this service.
then are we holding this Eucharist of Thanksgiving for the life and work of the
priest/poet RS Thomas, if we think that he might not have approved? I like to
think that he would have been persuaded that the service was necessary - if not
for him, then for us who gained so much from knowing him and his work. And he
might have been persuaded, because he was a man of great paradoxes. He could
look fierce at times and yet could be the gentlest and most sensitive of men;
he came across as dour and yet had a delightfully impish sense of humour; he
could rail against the anglicisation of his country and yet he wrote poetry in
English and married women who spoke no Welsh; he could make the most
provocative of statements which could come across as callous and yet he was
personally kind and compassionate; he was a patriotic Welshman but when he read
his poems he sounded so English; he claimed to love nature more than humanity
and yet some of his poems are full of love and tenderness. In short, great poet
that he was, he could be as inconsistent as the rest of us.
I first met him ten years ago when he had lost his first wife. "I'm Barry Morgan" I said "the Archdeacon of Merioneth and I've come to offer you my sympathy". "I have spent my whole life", he said by way of a reply "in avoiding people like you". He then invited me in, made me a cup of tea and we spent a delightful hour chatting about all manner of things. Bishops didn't cut much ice either. "I suppose someone has to do these jobs" he said and yet when I was having my annus horribilis he was one of the first to let me know that he was thinking of me and wrote me encouraging notes. The move to Llandaff did not go down terribly well either "I do not congratulate you but commiserate with you on your demotion" were his words. Well, it certainly was a sideways move.
I am not an English Scholar, and others far more competent than I am have written and will write about his poetry. All I can do is touch on some of the qualities that make me want to thank God for his life.
To my mind you cannot really understand his poetry unless you also understand his priesthood - for he was to quote the Vicar of this church "a priest to his fingertips" - "offeiriad i flaenau'u fysedd". By that I mean that his poetry grew out of his ministry amongst people and his struggle to apprehend the Living God. It was his vocation that inspired his poetry. He was an old fashioned parish priest who was a diligent visitor of his flock. His poem
"The Priest" sums up that vocation -
'Crippled soul', do you say,.........
Limping through life
On his prayers. There are other people
In the world, sitting at table
Contented, though the broken body
And the shed blood are not on the menu.'
'Let it be so', I say. 'Amen and amen.
wrote about a whole range of issues but I would classify him above all as a
religious poet because he dealt with the fundamental issues of human existence.
You may think that some of his insights into his fellow human beings were at
times harsh but they often reflected the uncomfortable reality of things as
"Dreams clustering thick on his sallow skull,
Dark as curls, he comes, ambling with his cattle
from the starved pastures"
"Iago Prydderch his name,though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills, who
pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud".
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his
But there was also a great tenderness there, betraying a pastoral heart - of a priest who visited his people every afternoon and who shared their joys and sorrows - so he goes on to say of Iago Prydderch
"Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind's attrition,
Preserves his stock.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.
One of the young priests of the Llandaff diocese told me that 'for him,
he was a poet who loved with the eyes of truth'.
In other words his poetry was unsentimental.
Before his death he told me of the great welcome and courtesy he had always
received from his farmland parishes - always generous with their produce to the
parson, and often accompanying him home from the dark hills to his rectory.
His poetry like that of his great mentor George Herbert, another priest poet
arose from his work as priest and pastor and it is significant that one of
Herbert's poems was to be found just inside the entrance of his home.
So too, his poetry right up to the very end of his life reflects his struggle to get to know the Living God. Not for him the bland platitudes of religion. Not for him the acceptance of the creeds and dogmas of the church which were not to be questioned. Rather, his poems honestly faced the struggle one has, whether one is ordained or not, of praying to God and trying to worship him. Yet only a man who has spent hours on his knees can write as he does in his poem 'In Church'
Is this where God hides
From my searching?
There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
on emptiness, nailing his questions
one by one to an untenanted Cross
or again in his poem revealingly entitled 'Kneeling'.
Moment of great calm,
kneeling before an altar
of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God to speak.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.
Far from being a man of no faith - here was a man of Job-like faith, struggling to make sense of the world, and belief in a God of love. Conventional theological answers did not satisfy him nor the facile fundamentalism of a faith that asked no questions. No, he saw the real problems of trying to believe in God and struggled with those questions throughout his ministry. By articulating them in his poetry, he helped those of us who were also struggling, in our belief and faith. Which one of us has not had doubts about the efficacy of prayer or indeed the existence of God?
To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind's song.
I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
Yet amidst the seeming despair his faith shines through.
A faith that had been tested by the silence of God.
His are the echoes
we follow, the footprints he has just left.
We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
expression of the problem of belief may have been unique but he stood in a long
tradition of those who had wrestled with God back to Jacob, Isaiah, St John of
the Cross, Master Eckhart and Luther who echoing Isaiah said "Truly thou
art a God that hidest thyself'. RS knew that God is ultimately unknowable in
himself - He is a mystery to which our human words point only by analogy.
Our statements, pictures, words about him are always incomplete and provisional.
It is this great absence
That is like a presence, that compels me to address
it without hope of a reply..............
My equations fail as my words do. He himself said in his autobiography that there was nothing more important than the relationship between man and God nor anything more difficult than establishing it.
have to live virtually the whole of our lives in the presence of an invisible
and mute God" he writes. "But that was never a bar to anyone seeking
to come into contact with him. That is what prayer is".
Yet RS was no deist. Jesus was the window into God. Again and again he refers to the centrality of the cross and resurrection.
He saw love in a dark crown
of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man's body.
I have looked in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place by themselves
like the piled grave clothes of love's risen body
Now you can only write poetry like that if you've thought long and deep about your faith. Those poems are to my mind meditations - the meditations of a man on his knees and a man who had looked deeply into the heart of things. You only had to look at his books to see the breadth of his mind. He had read classics and he drew on classical literature as a kind of backdrop to his poetry. Quite apart from the books on birds there was the poetry of Yeats, Wallace Stevens, Edward Thomas, the Works of Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, the theological writings of Kierkergaard, Paul Tillich and John Oman. He had absorbed what the great theologians and philosophers had to say about existence and from them forged his own unique poetry. He wore his learning lightly and there was great economy and discipline in his poetry. He could say so much in a few words.
We live best, within listening distance
Of the silence we call God.
Those lines, unconsciously perhaps, reveal as much about R S Thomas as they do about what he thought of God.
His poetry is scattered will allusions to literature, paintings, the classics, theology - and obviously the scriptures. Only a man grounded in them could write
I would have
things to say to this God
at the judgement, storming at him,
as Job stormed, with the eloquence
of the abused heart.
Circular as our way
is, it leads not back to that snake - haunted
garden, but onward to the tall city
of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.
In four lines he has taken us from Genesis to Revelation from the garden of God to the city of God.
The scriptures were his daily diet. That is why in his last radio broadcast in June he wanted read six passages from them as well as from Spenser, Hardy, Wordsworth, Eliot, Yeats and Edward Thomas and Aled can testify that his devotion was touching in his approach to the sacraments. He may have railed against God and His seeming absence from our world, but he came to worship for 'the verities remain'-
'the chalice's ichor; and
one crumb of bread
on the tongue for the bird - like intelligence to be
made tame by.'
He was also lucky in coming to worship here for this parish too has thank God an unconventional and literary priest.
The Church in Wales should be proud of this priest - one of her sons, just as he was proud to be Welsh and proud to be a priest in the Church in Wales "The Church gave me a living" he said "and as a result of her generosity I have been able to write poetry". But the kind of poetry he wrote was determined by his vocation and calling as a priest in that church. Long after bishops and archbishops have been forgotten, these poems of this priest poet will live on.
The Puritan divine, Richard Baxter, said of George Herbert, one of RS's heroes, that 'Herbert spoke to God as one who really believes in God'. The same could be said of RS. Like Job he can rail against God because God has given us 'the freedom to bellow our defiance at him over the grave's maw.
For me, his faith is summed up in a hitherto unpublished poem about Easter. In it he shows clearly his understanding of the problems that the Easter stories as recorded in the Gospels pose - for we do not have one story but a series of stories, some concentrating on the empty tomb, some on the resurrection appearances. So he writes,
I have nothing to hold on
to, an absence so much richer
than a presence, offering
instead of the skull's
leer an impalpable possibility
for faith's finger tips to explore.
In that brief verse he puts his finger on what many theologians would take tomes to expound. Tennyson's, In Memoriam which he once quoted to me summed up his position.
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
God said RS, "reveals himself to us according to our capacity to receive him".
RS's marriage to Betty - "hen wr yn ei wythdegau" transformed his life. He said that and it was obvious to all who knew him that this partnership gave him a new lease of life, mellowed him, gave him contentment and deep happiness. Here again the paradox of the man - slightly abashed at finding love again, yet at the same time rejoicing in his great good fortune. "Rwyf wedi cael bywyd breintiedig" he said to me - "I've had a privileged life".
'ac mae'r blynyddoedd diwethaf wedi bod yn hynod hapus'
- and the last years have been wonderfully happy.
No wonder in his last radio broadcast he said that nothing can compare with or replace love - both human and divine, and caused to be read passages from scripture and St Augustine which spoke about the passion and demands of love.
felt that he had not loved his fellow human beings enough and that that was
what was ultimately important.
Not long before he died he had a book by his side entitled "Time and Eternity". I tentatively asked him how he felt about death. "We come from God and go to God" he replied "that was good enough for Augustine and it is good enough for me. For He who created us will at the last receive us". It is into the hands of that God, whom he strove to serve all his life that we now commit him in the faith that he at last "knows as he is known".
On his death, Obituaries were carried in all the major national papers, but the one below contains more of relevance to our Alice and Betty's family.
From the Mid Wales Journal, 29/9/2000.
Death of Welsh poet the Rev RS. Thomas
Thomas, the foremost Welsh poet writing in the English language, who died this
week, was no stranger to the Presteigne area, for he lived in a cottage close
to the town for some time, a few years ago.
He later married Betty Vernon, the widow of his close friend Major Richard Vernon of Burcher Cottage, Titley, who survives him, and with whom he lived near Criccieth in North Wales.
The Rev Ronald Stuart Thomas, to give him his little used full name, was 87 and a former priest of the Church in Wales, and he had been ill for some time. His friendship with the Vernons goes back many years, at least as far as the days when they were neighbours in North Wales and he pursued his hobby of bird watching, which he shared with Major Vernon.
Mr Thomas was greatly attached to Alice, Mrs Vernon's daughter by a previous marriage, who later lived at Norton, near Presteigne, and following her untimely death a few years ago, he read a poem which he had specially written for her funeral service.
He had taken part in the Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature,and published his first, deceptively simple, volume of poetry, The Stones of the Field, in 1946.
Later volumes of his poetry, published between 1958 and 1981, deal with
pastoral themes and the nature of God, coupled with an intense love of
Wales and its people, evoked by his use of nature imagery.
He was the subject of a biography written by R. George Thomas which appeared in 1964, under the title of RS Thomas.
Changes: 5/12/2000: added sermon and obituary.
6/6/2001: resaved from Word
17/1/2010: added Elsie Eldridge