John was born at Moss House, Abernant, the home of his maternal grandfather. Both his grandfathers were local coalminers. He is the son of David Hopkin and Gwenllian Samuel, née Forey, and the eldest of their three children. He has two sisters, both musicians: Rhian, the retired Professor of Music and Composition at City University, London and Mair, who was a peripatetic teacher of wind instruments in various schools at locations in England where she lived.
Both his parents were schoolteachers in the Aberdare area for the major part of their careers. His father was initially Music and PE master at Aman Secondary School in Godreaman, before successive appointments as Head teacher at Abernant and Cwmdare Primary Schools. He was in post at Cwmdare when he died suddenly in 1975. After raising her family, his mother taught at various Aberdare schools including Aberdare Girls’ Grammar School and Ysgol Gymraeg Aberdâr at Ynyslwyd. She died in 1980.
John received his education at Abernant Primary School, Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School (where he enrolled at the age of 10! — and left with A levels in Geography, Pure Maths, Applied Maths and Physics) and Keele University, Staffordshire. He graduated in Political Institutions and Social Studies and also obtained a Diploma in Social Studies. While at Keele he was elected Treasurer of the Students’ Union and came under the influence of Percy Walker, the then City Treasurer of Stoke-on-Trent.
That steered him into a career in local government finance in London, where he qualified as a public sector accountant (CPFA). He worked at the London Boroughs of Ealing, Bexley (he still lives in Sidcup, Kent, part of Bexley borough) and Newham in east London. At Newham he was appointed Director of Finance in 1978 and Chief Executive in 1985. Following early retirement, he worked for a small not-for-profit company in Bexley, managing residential and day care for clients with learning difficulties. He retired at the end of 2002 in order to help care for his mother-in-law.
John and Janice (who is a native of Hackney in East London) met at a ‘Prom’ concert at the Royal Albert Hall and were married in the Welsh Presbyterian Church at Ealing Green in west London in 1968. Since then they have been members at the Welsh Congregational Church in Woolwich, South East London and in recent years at the United Welsh Church of Central London, near Oxford Circus.
He has been involved in the activities of the London Welsh for many years, in the churches, in the London Welsh Centre and as Hon. Secretary of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion for a decade. John has been a fluent Welsh speaker throughout his life. He was admitted to Gorsedd y Beirdd at the National Eisteddfod in 2001, in recognition of his efforts among the Welsh in London. His only recent regret is that the London Welsh Rugby Club, of which he was a member for nearly 50 years, has gone out of existence.
John still maintains regular contact with many relatives and friends both in Aberdare and the rest of Wales. He jokingly says that he is currently employed at home in the garden, an interest he inherited from his grandfather, Sam Forey, whose garden at Moss House was indeed something to behold.
30 April 2017