Evan Roberts (1878-1951)
Evan John Roberts, charismatic leader of the Welsh Religious Revival of 1904-05, was born in Bwlchmynydd, Loughor, Glamorganshire in 1878. He worked in the coal mines at Loughor and Mountain Ash from the age of 12, then re-trained as a blacksmith, before turning to the ministry. Towards the end of 1903, he began to preach in Moriah, Loughor and attended theological classes in Newcastle Emlyn. After being ‘touched’ by the Holy Spirit, he abandoned his studies, and returned to Loughor to spread the Gospel.
Roberts’ preaching attracted crowds of hundreds at a time, and a powerful religious awakening soon spread through Wales. He became a prominent figure of the 1904-05 Religious Revival (as it became known). Church membership increased significantly, and a new generation of leaders and ministers were produced in the churches. The awakening spread to other parts of Britain, and further afield to missionary sites. Roberts’ style of preaching became a blueprint for new religious bodies such as the Pentecostal Movement and the Apostolic Church.
After a little more than a year in the public eye, however, Roberts retired from his high profile evangelism due to exhaustion. He recuperated in England, where he resided for several years. He took part on occasion at meetings in Wales between 1925-30, and returned to live in the Cardiff area, where he composed many hymns and poems. A collection of his hymns was published in Aberdare in 1905.
Mary Jones, Bala (1784-1866)
Mary Jones was a Welsh Protestant Christian girl, who at 16 years old, walked twenty five miles from her home to Bala, to buy a copy of the Welsh Bible, as she longed to own one. She bought the Bible from Thomas Charles (1755-1814), a notable Welsh clergyman, who was deeply committed to evangelism and education.
Her parents were staunch Calvinistic Methodists, and Mary professed the Christian faith at the age of eight. She was taught to read at the circulating schools set up by Thomas Charles, and she became preoccupied with owning a Bible of her own. She saved for six years, and in 1800 made the journey to Bala, barefoot, to purchase a Bible from Thomas Charles, although it was uncertain whether there would be a copy there for her.
It is traditionally believed that this journey by Mary left such an impact on Charles that it inspired him to propose to the Council of the Religious Tract Society to form a Society to supply Wales with Bibles. In 1804, the British and Foreign Bible Society was established in London. Mary later married and settled in Bryn-crug, Nr. Tywyn, Gwynedd.
Christmas Evans (1766-1838)
Christmas Evans was a Welsh Baptist minister, becoming one of the most renowned preachers in the history of religion in Wales. He was born in Llandysul, Ceredigion in 1838. As a youth, he became a farm labourer and servant to the renowned David Davis of Castellhywel. At the age of 18, he joined one of the churches where Davis was minister, also attending a school run by him. It was here that he learnt to read and write in Welsh and English, and subsequently began to preach.
The religious fervour present in the Baptist Chapel at Aberduar, Llandysul, influenced him, and this strengthened his preaching. He was ordained in 1789, and settled in Llŷn, North Wales, travelling long distances by foot or horseback to fulfill his preaching commitments. He moved to Anglesey, and built up a strong Baptist community there. He became an extremely popular and successful preacher.
He subsequently held ministries at Caerphilly (1826-8), Cardiff (1828-32) and Caernarvon (1832-8). He raised significant amounts of money to pay off chapel debts, and many new chapels were built. He became one of the three giants of the Welsh religious scene, in the ‘golden age’ of preaching, along with John Elias (1774-1841) and William Williams (1781-1840).
Bishop William Morgan (1545-1604)
William Morgan was born at Ty Mawr Wybrnant, in the parish of Penmachno, near Betws-y-Coed, North Wales. He studied Philosophy, Mathematics and Greek among other subjects, at Cambridge University, graduating in 1568. He received an MA in 1571, before applying himself to Biblical studies for seven years. He graduated with a BD in 1578 and a DD in 1583.
As well as being an accomplished scholar, William Morgan was an ordained minister. He was appointed vicar of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and Llanarmon from 1578, and became Bishop of Llandaf in 1595, and of St. Asaph in 1601.
William Salesbury, (b. before 1520, d. c.1580), translator and scholar, translated and published the New Testament in Welsh in 1567. Although this was a significant achievement, Morgan believed that it was also necessary to have the Old Testament translated into Welsh. He began to translate the Old Testament in the early 1580s and published this, as well as a revised version of Salesbury’s New Testament, in 1588. A thousand copies were originally printed, followed by a second edition, and a smaller Bible was available from 1630 onwards.
Morgan proceeding to work on a revision of the Prayer Book and the 1588 Bible. This work was continued after Morgan’s death by Bishop Richard Parry and Dr John Davies, and a revised version of the Bible was later published in 1620. His achievement is regarded as a major milestone in the history of the Welsh language, having given the Welsh people the chance to read the Bible in their own native-tongue.
- Culturenet Cymru, 2004. 100 Welsh heroes. Aberystwyth : Culturenet Cymru.
- John Thomas Jones, ‘Evans, Christmas (1766-1838)’ Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales, 1959
- Williams, Elisabeth, 1998. To Bala for a Bible. Bridgend: Evangelical Press of Wales
- Glanmor Williams, ‘Morgan, William (c.1545-1604)' Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales, 2001