Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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NICHOLAS , JAMES ( 1877 - 1963 ), Baptist minister ;

b. 12 Jan. 1877 at y Bryn , Cwmfelinmynach , Llanwinio, Carm. , the son of Benjamin Nicholas (d. 10 Aug. 1931 aged 88) and Mary Nicholas (d. 23 Oct. 1900 aged 56). His father was a member of the Independent church at Llanboidy and his mother at the Baptist church at Ramoth , Cwmfelinmynach . It is recorded on the gravestone of his parents in Ramoth graveyard that they both came from Blaendyffryn . William Thomas , the Independent minister at Llanboidy , influenced him greatly, but he became a member at Ramoth with his mother. He was baptized, aged 16, by the minister , D.S. Davies ( Dafis Login ) and he delivered his first sermon in April 1898 . Following nine months at the Old College School at Carmarthen , he became a student at the Presbyterian College Carmarthen 1899-1901 .

He was ordained as the minister of Moreia , Tonypandy on 14 Oct. 1901 . He saw a recently founded church develop into a thriving cause, designing for itself a new place of worship in 1906 . He also saw the Rhondda valley roused by the Revival of 1904-05 and the growth of the Labour Movement . Like William John , the secretary of Moreia , he was one of the few who tried to avoid the estrangement and separation that occurred between these two forces: for his own reaction to the situation see the articles O fwg Morgannwg by O.K. ' that can be safely attributed to him in the period Oct 1907 — Mar. 1908 in Y Piwritan Newydd (the magazine of the Baptists of south-west Wales ). He was temporarily released from his pastorate in 1915 to serve with the Y.M.C.A. in France but within a year he accepted an invitation to become the minister of Castle Street church , London . He was installed there on 26 Oct. 1916 with David Lloyd George (see above) presiding at the service. The next years were in many senses a memorable period in the history of the church, e.g. renovating the chapel building in 1924 , sponsoring churches in distress in the Rhondda valley from 1928 onward, establishing churches in suburbs like Dagenham in 1928 . A feature of his ministry lay in welcoming and succouring the host of young people who thronged to London in the years of the depression and, in his own words, ‘ being a friend to young Welsh people away from home ’, thereby swelling the ranks of the church, by 1931 , to a membership of over 1000. He was also prominent in LondonWelsh circles, e.g. he was the president of the Carmarthenshire Society 1954-56 . He was elevated to become the president of the Welsh section of the Baptist Union of Wales in 1952-53 and the subject of his address in Llandudno was ‘ Yr Uchel Alwedigaeth ’. Ill-health caused him to retire in 1934 and again in 1938 after having returned to the pastorate in 1937 .

He died on 10 July 1963 at his home at 122 Rivermead Court , Hurlingham , and he was cremated on 13 July at Golders Green . Memorial services were held at Moreia , Tonypandy and at Castle Street on 18 July and at Ramoth , Cwmfelinmynach on 21 July 1963 . He m. 18 Feb. 1936 , Gertrude Thomas (née Crocker ) of Epsom . She died on 9 Dec. 1942 .

Sources:

  • NLW MS 10329;
  • Seren Cymru , 8 Nov. 1901 , 24 Nov. 1916 , 28 Aug. 1931 , 15 Jan. 1943 , 9 Nov. 1951 , 12 Jan. 1962 , 19, 26 July, 9, 16 Aug. 1963 ;
  • Y Greal sef Cylchgrawn Misol at wasanaeth y Bedyddwyr , 1906 , 51-2, 1908 , 163;
  • Seren Gomer , 1953 , 5-8;
  • Y Cymro , 25 Jul. 1963 ;
  • The Baptist Union of Wales Handbook and Diary , 1964 , 118-19;
  • Baptist Handbook , 1964 , 366;
  • Walter P. John and Gwilym T. Hughes , Hanes Castle Street a'r Bedyddwyr Cymraeg yn Llundain , Llandysul, 1959 (1959) , 72-3, 81-2;
  • The Biographical Index of W.W. Price, Aberdâr (at the National Library of Wales and Aberdare Public Library) ;
  • information provided by Nansi Evans, Cwmfelinmynach .

Author:

Benjamin George Owens, M.A., Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001