Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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JAMES , JAMES (SPINTHER) ( 1837 - 1914 ), Baptist historian .

Born in April 1837 at Braichgarw , Tal-y-bont, Cards. , second son of Humphrey and Catherine James ; the family removed, in his childhood, to Bwlch-y-dderwen at some distance, but retained their Baptist membership at Tal-y-bont , where James James (the ‘Spinther’ came later on) was baptized at 13. Before he migrated ( 1854 ) to a colliery at Aberdare , he was a shepherd-boy and a cattle drover .

At Aberdare , he threw himself into the literary activities fostered by his minister Thomas Price ( 1820 - 1888 ) ; but it was at Tal-y-bont , during a period of unemployment in the Aberdare mines, that he began to preach .

In 1859 he went to Haverfordwest Baptist College ; in 1861 he was ordained minister at Llanelian, Denbs. ; he built chapels at Old Colwyn and Llanddulas , and m. Elizabeth Hobson , of Llandudno . A year's ministry ( 1865-6 ) in America was followed by a period without charge (except for a few months in 1867 at Treuddyn and Leeswood, Flints. ), but in 1870 he undertook the pastorate of Glanwydden , where he remained for twenty years. He was an eloquent preacher , and a stirring political orator , but personally he was not very highly regarded.

As a littérateur and a historian , however, he displayed unbounded energy; he wrote poetry , and published collections of hymns , but his fame rests rather upon his historical work, more especially in the field of Baptist history . He contributed many articles or chapters to such works as Owen Jones 's Cymru , Gweirydd ap Rhys 's Hanes y Brytaniaid a'r Cymry , and Enwogion y Ffydd . With John Emlyn Jones he completed Y Parthsyllydd , 1870-5 (see the Cardiff Catalogue for details). But undoubtedly his magnum opus was his four volume history of the Welsh Baptists ( Hanes y Bedyddwyr yng Nghymru , 1892-1907 ), weak in plan and proportions yet extremely useful. A small book of his, Y Gwasanaeth a wnaeth y Bedyddwyr i'r Byd , 1906 , on the general contribution of the Baptist Church , had a wide circulation.

He d., suddenly, 5 Nov. 1914 .


  • Thomas Shankland in Y Geninen , March 1915 , 9-15;
  • Spinther Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959