Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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ROBERTS family, of Mynydd-y-gof , Bodedern , Anglesey .

DAVID ROBERTS ( 1788? - 1869 )

was the son of John and Catherine Roberts of Aberalaw , Llanfachraeth ; the origins of the family were in Llanddeusant parish. David Roberts was apprenticed with a physician at Holyhead ; after assisting a physician in London for a while, he returned to Anglesey to practise (and to farm ) at Mynydd-y-gof . In 1815 he m. Sarah Foulkes ( 1788 - 1879 ), daughter of Thomas Foulkes (q.v.) of Machynlleth , and niece of Simon Lloyd (q.v.) of Bala . Fortified by this dynastic connection with Methodism , he became, long before his death, the chief Calvinistic Methodist elder in Anglesey ; a serious man, frugal though not miserly, somewhat autocratic — in a way an incarnation of the rather dour older Methodism of the island. He d. 12 Jan. 1869 , ‘ in his 81st year ’ says his son Robert , and was buried at Llanfachraeth . He had a large family, of ten children ( J. E. Griffith , Pedigrees , 383 — but the order of the children is there incorrectly given), of whom eight sons grew to maturity ( Y Drysorfa , 1870 , 428-9 and 466-9, and the volume Mynydd-y-gof , see below). Three of the sons call for notice:

(1) JOHN ROBERTS ( 1817 - 1902 ),

the second son, a merchant . He went to Manchester in 1838 ; later on, he and his brother Hugh founded the prosperous firm ‘ J. F. and H. Roberts .’ Like his father, he was extremely conscientious, took Samuel Smiles as his mentor , and strove after self-culture (e.g. he learned some Greek ). He showed no zeal for the Welsh language, and indeed joined an English Congregational church , but was not behind-hand in supporting Welsh interests at Manchester . Over and above this, he took a prominent part in the public life of the city , and was lord mayor in 1896-7 . He was a zealous promoter of higher education in Wales , and from the foundation of University College , Aberystwyth , till his own death — a period of thirty years — he was one of its vice-presidents . [It may now be added that the recent publication of the Thomas Charles Edwards Letters (ed. T. I. Ellis , 1952-3 ) has brought into fuller light his inestimably valuable services to the college in very critical days.] He d. 5 Nov. 1902 . ( Mynydd-y-gof ; obituary notices in the press.) His son,

FREDERICK ROBERTS ( 1862 - 1894 ), medical missionary ,

a Congregationalist by upbringing, was educated at Manchester grammar school , at Aberystwyth College , and at Edinburgh , graduating there in medicine . In 1887 he went to China , at first to assist James Gilmour in Mongolia , but settling afterwards in Tien-tsin , where he d. in June 1894 ; his sister MARY ROBERTS had joined him there in 1888 — afterwards she took charge of the hospital named after her brother, and d. in 1933 [ Bryson , Fred C. Roberts of Tientsin ].

(2) ROBERT ROBERTS ( 1828 - 1916 ) ,

the sixth son, also a Manchester business-man ; he launched out on his own there in 1855 , but closed his business down c. 1870 , and from that time till his retirement in 1885 acted as an agent . He is nothing like as well known as his two brothers who are noticed here, but was in some ways a more interesting man — notably as reflected in his privately-printed book Mynydd-y-gof, or the History of a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Family ( 1905 , under the significant pseudonym ‘ A Lax ’), to which the present notice owes much. It is not only an autobiography and a family history but also a valuable account of Anglesey Methodism and its leaders during the first half of the 19th cent. — and also of Welsh life in Manchester . He d. 28 Jan. 1916 (information from his grand-daughter, Mrs. Bulman ).

(3) Sir WILLIAM ROBERTS ( 1830 - 1899 ),

the eighth of the sons, a physician . He went to Mill Hill school and University College , London , graduating in 1851 ( M.D. , 1854 ), and afterwards studied in Paris and Berlin ; he was elected F.R.S. in 1877 [and knighted in 1885 ]. He settled at Manchester in 1854 , was chief physician of the Royal Infirmary there from 1855 till 1883 , and was from 1863 till [1873 lecturer , and from 1873 till] 1889 professor of medicine at Owens College (later the Victoria University ). In 1889 he removed to London . He received almost every honour that can be conferred by the medical profession. He specialized in kidney diseases , but made important contributions in other fields, notably in physiology . For twenty years before his death he had owned the estate of Bryn in Llan-ym-Mawddwy, Mer. , and used it as a summer retreat; there he d. 16 April 1899 , and was buried in the churchyard. ( D.N.B. First Supplement ; Mynydd-y-gof ; Trans. Cymm. , 1932-3 , with a list of his papers.)


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

Published date: 1959