Douglas Gordon James, B.A.
Solicitor, Town Clerk & Priest
(ABGS 1933-1939)

 
D. Gordon James

D. Gordon James, (June, 1960)

Douglas Gordon James spent most of his life in Aberdare. Uniquely he became both Town Clerk of the Aberdare Urban District Council, and later Vicar of Aberdare.

Gordon James was born 26 Mar 1922 in Abernant, Aberdare. He was the son of Lewis Nicholas James1 and his wife Sarah, (née Haslett), known as Maisie. L.N. James was a teacher who taught at Aberaman Council School, 1933-49, and later as headteacher at Abernant retiring from there in 1954.

Gordon James passed the Scholarship Examination in 1933 from Aberaman Boys School. School Certificate followed in 1937, with 6 credits, and then Higher Certificate in 1939, having studied English, Latin, French, gaining the last subject with with conversational power.

Gordon James’ education was interrupted by the WW2 when he joined H.M. Forces in 1941, with demobilisation in 1947, He served in the army with the Lancashire Fusiliers, achieving the rank of Major. After the war ended, and whilst still in the army he was involved in repatriation of displaced persons from DP camps, where some 850,000 people still lived across Western Europe.

He attended the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth where he graduated B.A., (1947). Three years later he passed the Law Society examination in 1950, serving his articles with Messrs. L.A. Wallen & Jenkins of High Street, Blaina, Monmouthshire.

In April 1951 at the age of 29, he was appointed Town Clerk of Aberdare Urban District Council2, attending his first council meeting on 7 May under the chairman Councillor James Williams. He held this post until local government reorganisation in 1974.

Rev D. Gordon James

Revd D. Gordon James

In 1957, he qualified by examination and was designated a Legal Associate Member of the Town Planning Institute, L.A.M.P.T.I. In 1963, he was appointed secretary of the Aberdare Committee of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, which aimed to raise enough money to build a new town in an undeveloped country. The chair was the AUDC Chairman, Emlyn Evans, Probation Officer was Joint Secretary, and John Clatworthy of the Midland Bank, Treasurer. Both grammar schools participated in the fundraising for this project.

Gordon James was a keen Rotarian and was elected President of the Rotary Club of Aberdare3, 1966-67. During his later years as Town Clerk he was involved with the development of the site of the Welsh Church Eglwys y Forwyn Fair, (St. Mair’s)4 in Seymour Street which became St Mair’s Day Centre for the elderly, and which opened in 1969. Indeed, the Aberdare Leader reported that he turned up unexpectedly at the public auction held at The Boot Hotel on 18th February 1964 to bid on the site for the Aberdare District Council — which he did successfully for the sum of £2,500. He undoubtedly would also have been involved in the early planning of Aberdare Library (1963), Llwydcoed Crematorium which opened in 1970, and the Dare Valley Country Park, which was opened in 1973.

After leaving the his post of Clerk to the AUDC in 1974, Gordon James underwent training for ministry in The Church in Wales. After his training, there were many positions that he held after becoming a member of the clergy:

D. Gordon James

D. Gordon James, (c.1980)

  • Became a Deacon, 28 June 1975
  • Ordained Priest, 26 June 1976
  • Curate Cwmbach 28 June 1975 – 31 March 1977
  • Curate Aberdare 01 April 1977 – 27 July 1982
  • Vicar of Aberdare 28 July 1982 – 1992
  • Honorary Canon of Llandaff Cathedral,
    17 December 1987
  • Archdeacon of Margam,
    1 February 1988 – 26 March 1992
  • Director (Clerk in Holy Orders) at The Llandaff Diocesan Board of Finance, 17 May 1991 to 26 March 1992
  • Retired 1992
  • He was also at some point in this period Clerk to Governors at St. John Baptist Church Secondary School; British Legion Chaplain in the town; and involved in the setting up of sheltered accommodation at Pen Llew Court, Park Lane, Trecynon in 1973.
    .
    Although he lived originally at 63 Broniestyn Terrace, he moved to The Retreat, Abernant Road at some point in the mid to late 1950s, and never occupied the vicarage lower down in Abernant Road.

Gordon James had a sister Lorna Muriel James, who after marriage became Mrs Evans. He also had a brother Roy, who was injured in the war. He became a teacher at Aberystwyth and the secretary of Aberystwyth Rugby Club.

Gordon 1938

D. Gordon James, (1938)

As The Venerable Archdeacon of Margam, Gordon James died a bachelor on Oct 2nd 2000. His funeral was held at St. Fagan’s Church, Trecynon on Friday October 6th, when the service was officiated by the Reverend Christopher Smith and the Reverend Steven Ryan, prior to Cremation at Llwydcoed Crematorium. He was the last of three generations of the James family to live in Abernant.

After his death, townspeople and parishioners were surprised to hear of the fortune accumulated by Gordon James when in April 2001 his will was made public. The community in Abernant was amazed that a millionaire had been living in their midst. He left an estate with a net value of £1,079,2845. The main beneficiaries were his niece J.L.James and her son.

A former friend and fellow Rotarian Geoffrey Hosgood6 of Llwydcoed described The Archdeacon as a careful man who had lived his life quite frugally. He added that he was a very clever man who commanded great respect in the community.

 


Footnotes

  1. Some comments about the James family of Abernant:: Gordon James’ grandfather was David James, who lived at 3 Foreman’s Row. he was a checkweigher at the Werfa Colliery, a deacon at Bethel, Abernant and a Town Councillor on Aberdare UDC. One of David James’ achievements was to secure a football pitch (i.e. goalposts) and children’s swings and roundabout at the top of Abernant village - between the end of Colliers’ Row and the Golf Course and south of the railway line. David’s son, and Gordon James’ father, was Lewis Nicholas James, (1892-1975).a pupil at the County School in Trecynon from 1905 to 1911 until he left for the Carmarthen Training College. He returned to Aberdare for his teaching career as mentioned above. He was also a stalwart organiser of Schoolboy football and cricket. He liked all sports and in his retirement used to act as an official at school athletics meetings. Gordon James’ mother Sarah, "Maisie", came from Narberth in Pembrokeshire and it was her Anglican religious affiliations that her son followed, rather than that of his father, who was a Welsh Baptist at Bethel, Abernant where he was a deacon.
  2. His fellow Chief Officers during nearly the whole of his tenure were J. L. Thomas the Treasurer, Dr H. Crowther-Green the Surveyor & Engineer, Dr J. Llewelyn Williams, the Medical Officer of Health, with Glyn Ivor John, Librarian.
  3. A list of Past Presidents of the Rotary Club of Aberdare can be found on their website here. Select the tab ‘The Club Team’, then ‘Past Club Presidents’.
  4. St Mair’s was built in 1864 to serve the Welsh speaking Anglican congregation of Aberdare Parish. It was situated in Seymour St, and the last service was held there on 5th April 1964. St Mair’s Social Centre was built on the site and opened in 1969. It is reputed that the writer Thomas Hardy was involved in the design work for the building, but direct evidence for this is unavailable, although at the time when the church was being designed by the London architect Arthur W. Blomfield, Hardy was indeed employed at the same firm working as a junior assistant architect. The photograph shows the distinctive saddle roof on the bell tower; the road running to the left is Seymour Street, and that to the right is Weatheral Street. Further information about this church, and all the others in the Cynon Valley, can be found in Alan Vernon Jones’ book, Churches of the Cynon Valley, (2012), ISBN: 978 0 9517081 1 8.
  5. Cynon Valley Leader, issues April 5th and April 12th, 2001.
  6. Geoffrey Hosgood was not only a friend, but he was also a professional colleague, being the Town Clerk of Mountain Ash UDC, who became Chief Executive of Cynon Valley Borough Council on reorganisation in 1974, and on Gordon James’ retirement.


Acknowledgements

  1. The W.W. Price Biographical Index, and the help of Steven Graham at Aberdare Library for locating the relevant entries.
  2. Elizabeth Makin for research in Aberdare Library.
  3. Geoffrey Evans and John Samuel who were able to add many details.
  4. RCT Library Service for permission to use the first two photographs.
  5. Geoff Kerley for scanning the 1938 School Panoramic Photograph.