Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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THOMAS , Sir WILLIAM JAMES ( 1867 - 1945 ), BARONET, coalowner, philanthropist .

Born 10 Mar. 1867 at Caerphilly, Glam. , s. of Thomas James and Jane Thomas . Orphaned at an early age he was cared for by his paternal grandmother during his schooldays at Mynyddislwyn and Pontypridd . He then entered the service of his grandfather, James Thomas ( 1817 - 1901 ), a pioneer of the coal industry in the Rhondda Fach valley , who at the age of 60 sank the Standard and Ynyshir pits . He left the greater part of his fortune to his grandson who displayed business acumen in the management of the mines and great consideration for the workers’ welfare. Sir William , who was a director of the Great Western Railway , the Barry Dock and Railway and other companies, disposed of his mining interests in 1914 to the United National Collieries Ltd .

Among his public gifts were £100,000 to the Welsh National school of Medicine , over £20,000 for the endowment of beds at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary , £5,000 to the Welsh National Memorial Anti-tuberculosis fund , £2,500 to the Welsh National Hospital for the treatment of wounded in World War I , and several thousand for other hospitals at Newport , Porth and Cardiff and for various religious causes.

He was knighted in 1914 and created baronet five years later. He was a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant for Glamorgan , High Sheriff in 1936 and member of the county council for many years. He became a Freeman of Cardiff in 1915 , was awarded the honorary degree LL.D. by the University of Wales in 1931 , and elected vice-president of the University College , Cardiff , in 1931 .

He remained a member of Saron Welsh (Congl.) church , Ynyshir even after his removal to Cardiff . He m. in 1917 Maud Mary , eldest dau. of George Cooper , of Bexhill-on-Sea and deputy matron of Cardiff Royal Infirmary . Sir William d. 3 Jan. 1945 and was buried at the Cardiff Cemetery .


  • Western Mail , 4 Jan. 1945 ;
  • Elizabeth Phillips , A history of the pioneers of the Welsh coalfield (1925) ;
  • Who's who in Wales (1937) .


Owen Picton Davies, (1882-1970), Cardiff / Bangor

Published date: 2001