Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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THOMAS , DAVID EMLYN ( 1892 - 1954 ), politician and trade unionist ;

b. 16 Sept. 1892 at Maesteg, Glam. , one of nine children. His father James Thomas was a native of Cilgerran, Pembs. and his mother hailed from Newcastle Emlyn, Carms. He spent short periods of his childhood at Cilgerran and Cardigan . He was educated at elementary schools at Maesteg , and attended evening classes in mining and mine surveying which enabled him to qualify as an engineer . In 1906 , at 13 yrs. of age, he began working as clerk at the Oakwood and Garth collieries , he moved to a colliery at Llantrisant and then to the Caerau colliery , Maesteg . Thomas became a full-time official of the South Wales Miners' Federation in 1919 and served as secretary to Vernon Hartshorn ( DWB , 344-45) and Ted Williams (see Williams , Sir Edward John below) . In the same year he joined the Labour Party . He became the Aberdare area secretary of the S.W.M.F. in 1934 , and he and his family moved to live in the area. In 1936 he was elected by an overwhelming majority as the miners' agent of the Merthyr and Aberdare valleys of the south Wales area of the N.U.M. as successor to Noah Ablett ( DWB , 1113) , and he became an advisory member of the south Wales area executive of the N.U.M. He became an authority on workmen's compensation .

On 5 Dec. 1946 at a by-election Thomas became M.P. (Lab.) for the Aberdare division in succession to George Hall (see above) . He continued to represent this constituency in parliament until his death. He was re-elected with a majority of almost 28,000 votes in 1951 . Emlyn Thomas was a quiet, modest individual — ‘ the gentle man in Welsh politics ' — who always served his constituents conscientiously. He was elected chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Labour group in the House of Commons in 1949-50 . His political papers are in the custody of the National Library of Wales . He was a native Welsh -speaker, a deacon and a Sunday school teacher at Ebenezer Independent chapel , Trecynon , Aberdare . He was active in a number of cultural societies in the Cynon Valley , a member of Trecynon Choral Union and numerous eisteddfod committees. Gardening was one of his main interests.

He m. in 1923 Bessie Thomas (she d. 10 Sept. 1953 ), a schoolteacher at Maesteg . They had a son and two daughters. Following a heart attack he d. on 20 June 1954 at his home 65 Broniestyn Terrace , Trecynon , Aberdare .


  • Who was who? ;
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion ;
  • Western Mail , 31 Mar. 1936 ;
  • The Merthyr Express , 9 Aug. 1947 ;
  • Aberdare Leader , 14 Dec. 1946 , 19 Sept. 1953 and 26 June 1954 ;
  • The Times , 21 June 1954 ;
  • The Biographical Index of W. W. Price, Aberdâr (at the National Library of Wales and Aberdare Public Library) .


Dr John Graham Jones, Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001