Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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THOMAS , WILLIAM ( Gwilym Marles ; 1834 - 1879 ), Unitarian minister, social reformer, writer, and schoolmaster .

Born at Glan Rhyd y Gwiail , near Brechfa, Carms. , son of William and Ann Thomas (née Jones ) , but adopted by his father's sister. He was educated at Ffrwd-y-fâl school , 1851 , Carmarthen College , 1852-6 , and Glasgow University , 1856-60 , where he graduated M.A. He was an Independent when he went to Carmarthen College , but a Unitarian when he left it, and when he had completed his course at Glasgow he settled down as Unitarian minister of Bwlch-y-fadfa and Llwynrhydowen , where he remained from 1860 until his death.

From Nov. 1857 to Feb. 1858 he was private tutor to Islwyn ; in 1855 he had written a novel for Seren Gomer . In 1859 he published his little book, Prydyddiaeth , and he edited and wrote a great deal for his periodical, Yr Athraw , during the short period of its existence from Sept. 1865 to Aug. 1867 . His chief contributions to the Ymofynydd were ‘ Cofion a Chyffesiadau ,’ 1861 , ‘ Hanner awr gyda'r Bardd o Bantycelyn ,’ 1863 , and ‘ Theodore Parker ,’ 1863-4 .

He was completely converted to Parker 's theological and social views and, for that reason, may be regarded as the founder of modern Unitarianism in Wales . He joined wholeheartedly in the Liberal movement in Cardiganshire , and his contributions to the Press, his speeches, and his sermons aroused the antagonism of the landlords with the result that he and his congregation were turned out of the old Llwynrhydowen chapel , 29 Oct. 1876 . He took a leading part in the 1868 election and was a strong advocate of the secret ballot . He kept a school at Llandysul , 1860-79 , and was the means of starting a new Unitarian church in the town.

He d. 11 Dec. 1879 , and was buried in the burial ground of the new chapel at Llwynrhydowen .


  • Gwilym Marles (Llanuwchllyn, 1905) ;
  • diaries and manuscripts in Llwynrhydowen library;
  • Eminent Welshmen: a short biographical dictionary of Welshmen ... from the earliest times to the present (1908) ;
  • Yr Ymofynnydd (memorial issue), Oct. 1934 ;
  • R. J. Jones , The Unitarian Students at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen … 1796–1901 (1901) .


Reverend David Jacob Davies, (1916-74), Aberdare / Alltyblaca, Llanybydder

Published date: 1959