Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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JAMES , Sir DAVID JOHN ( 1887 - 1967 ), businessman and philanthropist ;

b. 13 May 1887 in London , one of the two sons of Cathryn (née Thomas ) and John James . The family returned to the old home in Pantyfedwen , Pontrhydfendigaid, Cards. when the boys were young. In 1903 David John went to St. John's College , Ystrad Meurig , to prepare for the ministry but remained there for one term only. He returned to London to run the family dairy business and spent the rest of his life there and in Barcombe , Sussex . He m. Grace Lily Stevens on 24 Apr. 1924 . Although he maintained a business interest in the dairy industry and in buying and selling wheat he is more particularly remembered as the owner of thirteen London cinemas . He built and opened the first London super-cinema in 1920 , namely the Palladium , Palmer's Green . In the 1930s he sold them all apart from Studios 1 and 2 , a rendezvous for the London Welsh for a period. He had been chairman of three companies before retiring in 1957 .

During his life he donated substantial sums to the Nonconformist denominations and to the Church in Wales to improve the stipends and pensions of ministers , to St. David's College , Lampeter , to Pontrhydfendigaid village and to numerous other causes. In 1952 he founded the Pantyfedwen Trust which was administered from London . Its purpose was to promote religious, educational and charitable causes in Wales . This was abolished in 1957 when he founded the Cathryn and Lady Grace James Trust (named after his mother and his wife). In 1967 he founded a second Trust in the name of John (his father) and Rhys Thomas James (his brother who died young). Late in the 1950s Pantyfedwen Eisteddfodau were established in Pontrhydfendigaid ( The James Family Eisteddfod ), Cardigan ( John James Memorial Eisteddfod ) and Lampeter ( Rhys Thomas James Eisteddfod ). Sir D.J. James 's main aim was to give individuals an opportunity to compete in eisteddfodau intermediate in standard between those of local eisteddfodau and the national eisteddfod . He participated in transferring the administration of the trusts to Aberystwyth but d. before the official opening of the Trusts’ offices there in 1968 .

He received an hon. LL.D. degree of the University of Wales in 1957 , was knighted in 1959 , became a member of the Order of the White Robe of the Gorsedd in 1965 , and the following year he was granted the freedom of the borough of Aberystwyth .

His wife d. 20 Feb. 1963 and he d. 7 Mar. 1967 and they were buried in Strata Florida cemetery.

Sources:

  • Sir D.J. James papers and reports of his life and work.

Author:

Richard Harding Morgan, Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001