The history of
of the Subject
Falls in Wales
An English translation of Chapter 24 of
Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr
A translation into English of Chapter 24 of Seryddiaeth a Seryddwyr
[Astronomy and Astronomers] by the Rev. J. Silas Evans.
The translation from Welsh into English is by Rhys Morris.
The chapter, entitled Seryddiaeth yng Nghymru (Astronomy
in Wales), presents the history of the science relating to Wales,
with emphasis on biographical information about characters originating
from Wales or living in Wales who have studied and contributed to
astronomy. The chapter provides an excellent summary of the subject
up to 1923, the date of publication.
I am indebted to Mr. Arthur Mee [of Cardiff] for
large parts of this chapter. He has put his wide knowledge at
my disposal, with his consent, and more, for me
to quote as much as I wish (and the more the better he says) from
his articles, in particular because I am writing in a different language
It must be said that although Wales has famous people such as
Principal Griffiths [Ernest Howard Griffiths, physicist, Principal
of the University College of South Wales, 1901-1918],
the late Sir William Preece, Principal
Viriamu Jones [John Viriamu Jones, 1856-1901, physicist, Principal
of the University College of South Wales, 1883-1901],
and Richard Roberts the famous inventor, it is not in science that
Wales excels but in other directions. Despite this, it would be
easy to show that some Welsh people in every age have cherished
Astronomy as well as astrology. Soon after the start of the Christian
period, Don, father of Amaethon, Gwdion, Govannon, Eunydd, and
Arianrhod, is mentioned. This was a famous family in relation to
astronomy and some
constellations bear their names, namely Cassiopeia- "Llys Don"; Corona
Borealis - "Caer Arianrhod", and the Milky Way "Caer Gwdion." Gwdion
flourished around 250 A.D., and in one of the triads he, and Gwyn Ab
Nudd and Idris are called the "White Star Men". Perhaps Idris "observed"
in his Observatory on the summit of Cadair Idris [the translation is Idris'
Chair]. We also know that the cromlechs [ancient megalithic
burial chambers] of the old Welsh were built to astronomical plans,
but we do not have enough space to go into the history of the old ages.
Welsh literature through the centuries is rather quiet about astronomy,
but we are not to surmise from that that no one cared about the science.
There is an interesting reference in the works of Iolo Goch, M.A.,
of Coed Panton, Llanefydd, to the appearance of a comet in 1402. About
that time the Owen Glyndwr rebellion erupted and in "Cywydd
y Seren" [Cywydd of the Star, where cywydd is a form of
poem in strict metre], Iolo
took advantage of the appearance to support the cause of Glyndwr and
by asserting that the comet was a sign of Glyndwr's success, this was
a means of persuading many to fight for him, as noted by the
Rev. J. C. Morrice.
Shakespeare places these words in Glyndwr's mouth :-
":at my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
Of burning cressets; and at my birth,
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward."
"These signs have marked me extraordinary,
And all the courses of my life do shew,
I am not in the roll of common men."
(King Henry IV, Act iii, 1)
I wonder if Huw Llwyd was an astronomer? The lines written by Huw
Machno in a poem of praise to him are suggestive:-
A'i ddrych, sy' wych o ddichell,
A wyl beth o'i law o bell.
[With his mirror, a fine trick,
sees things of his hand from
Huw Machno to Huw Llwyd, Cynfal, 1623.
(I am indebted to Principal J. H. Davies of Aberystwyth for the
quotation [John Humphreys Davies, Principal, University College
of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1919-1926].)
In 1510 a remarkable man called ROBERT RECORDE
was born in Tenby. He was the son of Thomas Recorde of Tenby, and Rose,
daughter of Thomas Jones of Machynlleth. A fellow of All Souls College,
Oxford, he was the first in this country to write on arithmetic,
mensuration, algebra and astronomy; he was generally considered the most
educated man of his day. He was also a theologian and a
doctor of the highest rank. He died in 1558.
We turn from Pembrokeshire to Carmarthenshire. Shortly after the
discovery of the principle of the telescope we hear that THOMAS HARRIOT,
the foremost authority on science in this country at that time, had sent
for some of the lenses. A close friend of Harriot was
SIR WILLIAM LOWER of Trefenty, near Laugharne, and
JOHN PRYDDERCH [or John Protheroe]
from Nantyrhebog, Sarnau, in the
same area. Harriot sent one of the glasses to Lower and Prydderch and
with this they were observing in Trefenty at the same time Galileo
was in Italy.
The history of this by Mr Mee can be found in Knowledge and The
Sir William Lower was from Cornwall, but he married the daughter of Sir
Thomas Perrot, and came to live in Trefenty. Prydderch's father was high
sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1599, and his mother was daughter of
Robert Byrt, Mayor of Carmarthen in 1593. Prydderch married one of
the Vaughans of Gelli Aur and was one of the forefathers of the
Stepneys, Hamlyn Williams and other families. We can but admire
these two praiseworthy astronomers, and I would agree with Mr. Mee's
a monument should be constructed in Trefenty to commemorate the fact
that this was where the sky was observed for the first time in this
country and this in the first year of the telescope's existence.
It is necessary to skip over a period at this point, up to -
F.R.S., (1675-1749).-He was born in Llanfihangel-tre'r-Beirdd, Anglesey;
a famous mathematician and friend of Sir Isaac Newton, Halley and
Dr. Johnson. His son was the famous scholar Sir William Jones.
JOSEPH HARRIS (1702-1764).-Eldest brother of Howel Harris of Trefecca.
He was famous in science. He died in 1764 and there is a wall monument
to him in Talgarth Church.
JOHN EDWARDS (1747-92).-Astronomer and poet; born in Denbigh. He died
Founder of the Society of Gwyneddigion [Society of the people of
Gwynedd, a London-based Welsh society].
LEWIS EVANS (1755-1827). Born in Bassaleg. He built an observatory
on Woolwich Common.
NATHANIEL PIGGOT and son, Frampton House, Vale of Glamorgan.
Observers, and friends of Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal.
REV. T. W. WEBB, Vicar of Hardwick, and son of Rev. John Webb, former
vicar of St. John's, Cardiff. He is the author of the excellent
book, Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes. There is a biography
of him in Mr. Mee's book Observational Astronomy and also in
the Dictionary of National Biography by the same author.
THE VENERABLE ARCHDEACON W. CONYBEARE BRUCE (1844-1919-died 75 years old).
Eldest son of the Rev. William Bruce (brother of the first Lord
Aberdare), and therefore a first cousin of the Hon. Mrs. Wynne
Jones, wife of the Rev. J. Wynne Jones, M.A., former vicar of Caernarfon,
but now Vicar of Llantrisant, Anglesey, and living in the old family
mansion in Tre Iorwerth. The Archdeacon was educated
in Oxford and he succeeded his father as Vicar of St. Nicholas, near
Cardiff. He owned an excellent twelve-inch telescope, as
well as an observatory. He knew many famous astronomers, and was due to
become a famous astronomer himself, but devoted his life to the Church
instead, a gain to the Church but a loss to Astronomy.
In recent years he contented himself with a five-inch telescope. He was
a bright character and one it is difficult to praise too highly.
ADMIRAL SMYTH, grandfather of the hero of Mafeking. Author of
A Cycle of Celestial Objects. He lived in Cardiff for a while.
MR. FRANKLEN EVANS, who gave the current telescope and observatory as a gift
LEWIS WESTON DILLWYN (1778-1855).-Of Penlle'rgaer. Although botany was
his greatest delight, he was well known in many branches of science,
and was a friend of Woolaston and Sir Humphrey Davy.
J. D. LLEWELYN, Penlle'rgaer, was well known in science, and a
great friend of the Earl of Rosse. He raised a 4 3/4 [inch] Dollond
telescope in Penlle'rgaer, where the respectable elderly gentleman
Sir John Llewelyn, Bart., LL.D., now lives.
EDWARD MILLS, Llanidloes (1803-1865).-Useful articles can
be had by the late Rev. Mordaf Pierce in "Y Traethodydd"
[The Essayist] on the three Mills of Llanidloes, namely Richard,
John and Edward. It is said of the Rev. John Mills, F.R.A.S., that
"it is difficult to find anyone in Wales during the century [19th
century] who was more renowned and famous in so many directions."
Richard was also a character of unusual influence in his day in
music and temperance. Edward was the astronomer. He made a model of
the Solar System, 66 feet in circumference, showing all the movements
of the members of the System, and one of the "wonders of the age,"
and poets of the day sang his praises. He also published a volume
Y Darluniadur Anianyddol [An Illustrated
Physics] around 1850, 256 pages, and 80 pictures. Around that time
he moved from Llanidloes to Denbigh, where he died, and was buried
Many Welsh people have served on the staff in Greenwich from time
to time- among their ranks are the next three:-
J. W. THOMAS (Arfonwyson) (1805-1840).-He was born in the parish of
Llandygai [near Bangor], and was educated in Pentir school, and later
by Robert Roberts of Holyhead. He was a schoolmaster in Tregarth and
Ffestiniog. In 1834 he went to London and was a supervisor at the
Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and there he spent the rest of his
short life. He was buried in St. Alphege, Greenwich.
THOMAS LEWIS, who retired recently. He is considered this country's
leading authority on double stars.
EDWARD ROBERTS, chief assistant in the Nautical Almanac Office.
ROBERT ROBERTS, Holyhead.-Wales' most famous astronomer in his day.
In The Cambrian in 1828 it is chronicled that he lectured in
Welsh on the subject. He founded the Almanac Caergybi
JOHN JONES, THE ASTRONOMER.-No chapter on Astronomy in Wales would be
complete without mentioning John Jones, the Astronomer, from Bangor, who
was called "the working-man astronomer". Born in Anglesey, he lost his
father when he was 12 years old, but his whole mind was on education.
One of the first books to attract his attention was Eleazar Roberts'
translation of Dr. Dick's book on the Solar System. Within a short time
his main endeavour was to make a telescope for himself, and after that
another much larger. He also learnt Greek; indeed he said himself,
"I am fond of all branches of knowledge - fond of Dan, Reuben and
Issachar,- but I have one favourite- one Benjamin. I would sell them
all to Egypt for me just to keep Benjamin- Astronomy!" He attracted
the attention of Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help, and
Smiles visited him and
wrote about him in his book Men of Invention and Industry.
His story is also told by Mr Mee in
The Nationalist and by Mr. Parry Jenkins, F.R.A.S., formerly
of Colwyn Bay, now of Ontario, in his booklet A Plea for the
Reflecting Telescope. John Jones was made a member of the
Astronomical Society of Wales, and no one deserved the honour more.
He died in 1898, 80 years old.
Other astronomers of the same class as John Jones are THOMAS NORBURY
and RHYS HOWELL of Merthyr.
ELEAZAR ROBERTS (1825-1912).-He was born in Pwllheli. It worries me
that space does not allow me to go into detail, but his name is well
known and permeates throughout Wales and beyond her borders.
I am indebted to his
son-in-law the Rev. O. J. Owen, M.A., of West Kirby [Wirral],
for pictures of him and Dr. Isaac Roberts and his observatory, and
a little of the story of the two famous characters. Eleazar
Roberts published many works: a translation of Dr. Dick's
Solar System, in two volumes; a multitude of essays in
under the title "The Telescope and its Discoveries";
"Ymgom am y Ser" [a Conversation about the Stars] in
Ymwelydd Misol [Monthly Visitor]; along with a great
in Y Geninen [The Leek] and other magazines on many
subjects as well as Astronomy.
He had an observatory in Hoylake [Wirral], and he was a friend of
Dr. Isaac Roberts. It is a pity that space does not permit us to
details about such a dear and pure character, a genius so brilliant,
and a life so full of good deeds. Indeed, a star of the first magnitude
set from the heavens and from the Welsh church when this mature
Christian passed away in 1912 at the age of 87.
ISAAC ROBERTS, D.SC., F.R.S., F.R.A.S. (1829-1904). Born in Y Groes,
two miles from Denbigh. I believe he is one of the greatest astronomers,
if not the greatest of all, that Wales has ever produced. Besides
the acknowledgement made above to the Rev. O. J. Owen, I am indebted
also to Mr. Isaac Davies, 41, The Woodlands, Birkenhead, for some
details about Dr. Isaac Roberts. A good history is to be had in
Y Geninen [The Leek] in 1904 by the late Eleazar Roberts,
and again by the same author in the Ywelydd Misol [Monthly
Visitor] for August, 1905. It appears that his parents emigrated to
America when he was a child, but returned shortly to Liverpool. He was
apprenticed to the contractors Messers Johnson, and rose gradually in the
business, and secured much wealth. He cultivated his mind at the
same time, mainly through astronomy. He "observed" from Rock Park
and Maghull, and later built an observatory costing thousands of
pounds in Crowborough, Sussex. Taking photographs of the stars was
his favourite occupation. He published two valuable volumes-
Photos of Stars, Star-clusters and Nebulae [A Selection of
Photographs of Stars, Star-clusters and Nebulae, The Universal Press,
London, 1893, and Volume II in 1899]. His labours have enlarged
astronomical knowledge greatly.
In his later years he received a lot of help from his second wife,
Dorethea Klumpke Roberts, who is herself in the front ranks of astronomers,
and now lives in San Francisco. As proof of his affection for his
country which he loves constantly- he is a Welshman to the tips
of his fingers- he left a princely sum to the Colleges of Cardiff,
Bangor and Liverpool. He died suddenly in 1904 in Crawborough aged 75
years. After cremation his ashes lay there for about five years, after
which he was reburied in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery, in Birkenhead.
His epitaph is notable.
"In memory of Isaac Roberts, Fellow of the Royal Society, one of
England's pioneers in the domain of Celestial Photography. Born at
Groes, near Denbigh, January 27, 1829, died at Starfield, Crowboro,
Sussex, July 17, 1904, who spent his whole life in the search after
Truth, and the endeavour to aid the happiness of others. Heaven is
within us. This stone is erected in loving devotion by his widow
Dorethea Roberts née Klumpke."
On the other side of the stone is
"Heaven is within us, and we have the power to dwell in it all
the days of our life in full happiness, or we may decline and make
ourselves miserable with `cibau gweigion ffol' [foolish empty vessels].
Bydded inni `ddewis y rhan dda.' [May we choose the good part]."
The Astronomical Society of Wales should be mentioned now, and
here is some of the history of its founding by Mr Mee.
"When I first came to Cardiff, I asked one of Cardiff's most eminent
astronomers whether it would be possible to found an Astronomical
Society there. He feared it would be impossible. A little later,
Mr. Norman Lattey came to me to enquire further on the subject, with the
result that we called a meeting at the end of 1894, and the Society was
formed. The gentleman who feared the society could not be formed
became one of its presidents. Later its membership numbered 200.
It came to an end with the war."
Here are some of the members; space does not allow me to name many
MR. ARTHUR MEE (1860-).-He was born in Aberdeen, son of Rev. G. S. Mee
and Elizabeth, daughter of J. Phillips of Pembrokeshire. He married
in 1888 Claudia, daughter of the late D. Thomas of Llanelli.
He came to Cardiff in 1892, and there he is today on the staff
of the Western Mail and lives in Tremynfa, Llanishen [a part
of Cardiff]. I can only summarise his life and work. He is a versatile
and many-faceted character - an astronomer, historian, antiquary,
and poet; author of Observational Astronomy; Heavens
at a Glance; Reminiscences of an Amateur Astronomer;
Story of the Telescope. Formerly a F.R.A.S.; now a member
of the B.A.A. and Societe Astronomique de France.
He used his eight-and-a-half-inch reflector for many years, but he
has made a gift of it to Barry, and there it is today in a convenient
place on the Buttrills. He now uses his six-inch glass.
He has lectured much in his time, and has contributed much to
publications such as Knowledge, the B.A.A. and the English
Mechanic. He publishes Who's Who in Wales.
He is one of the most modest and humble persons to walk the earth.
His favourite work is to help others in every way he can, and scores
of young astronomers today are indebted to him for his coaching, and
sing his praises.
MR. JOHN REES, F.R.A.S., F.R.G.S., Penarth (1862-), was secretary of
the Astronomical Society of Wales up to its dissolution. Hailing from
Cardiff, he was educated in Prof. Lewis' Grammar School. He uses a
four and a quarter inch refractor and has lectured widely on
Astronomy and the Pyramids of Egypt, and he fills many roles.
The late MAJOR-GEN. LEE, F.R.A.S., Dinas Powis.-An enthusiastic
astronomer and a strong character.
The late MR. T. E. HEATH, Penarth.- A very capable astronomer.
(See page 50) [where he is stated to have been a pioneer in using
stereoscopes to show relative star positions].
REV. W. E. WINKS.-He was born in Leicester in 1842 and is now
(1923) 81 years old. he has been an astronomer throughout his life; he
observed the great comet of 1858 and drew pictures of it. He has
written extensively for the Press on astronomy and has lectured
greatly. He uses a four-inch Cooke Refractor. Mr. Winks is a gentleman,
kind, wide-ranging, and a true Christian.
MR. ALBERT TAYLOR, F.R.A.S., Penarth.-An excellent astronomer; he has
been at least once abroad on behalf of the Government to observe a
total solar eclipse.
MR. NORMAN LATTEY, Bristol.-A very famous astronomer.
MR. DAN JONES, B.SC., F.R.A.S.-An enlightened astronomer. The large
Cardiff telescope is in his keeping.
REV. ELLIS GREGORY ROBERTS, M.A.-The Rector of Alberbury; the son
of the late Canon Ellis Roberts. A very capable, diligent observer.
MR. HARRY SAMUEL WILLIAMS, M.A., F.R.A.S., Swansea. A very good
MR. G. PARRY JENKINS, F.R.A.S.-He was born in Llancynfelin,
Cardiganshire, in September 1860. He was a bank manager in Colwyn
Bay for some years, where he was a diligent astronomer, observing,
writing and lecturing. He moved to Canada in 1902 and settled in
Toronto, where he still lectures. As well as being a F.R.A.S., and
a member of the British Astronomical Association, he is also a Fellow
of the [Royal] Astronomical Society of Canada.
He was a member of the Canadian Eclipse Expedition, Labrador, in 1905.
He was for some years a Vice-President of the Astronomical Society of
Wales, and he is an astronomer of good sorts, and is diligent and
industrious on behalf of the science, especially through lecturing.
MR. W. S. WARREN, F.R.A.S., Cardiff.-A hard-working member and
Vice-President of the Cardiff Astronomical Society. He recently
`invented' a very useful equatorial stand for small telescopes.
MR. J. E. JONES, Tybrith, Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.-He is a
farmer-astronomer, a keen observer, and maintains a great interest
MR. JAMES WILLIAMS, Ystalyfera, and MR. POWELL, Aberdare.-Good
A little should now be said about astronomical societies. I have not
received details about the Barry Society, but I gather it is
Cardiff Astronomical Society.-It was formed in May, 1922.
President, Mr. W. Waters, B.A. Vice-Presidents, Messers Dan Jones,
B.Sc., F.R.A.S., and Mr. W. S. Warren, F.R.A.S. Secretary,
Mr. S. Shurmer, B.A. About 40 members.
Llynfi Valley Astronomical Society, Maesteg.-It was
established in December 1921. About 50 members. Meetings
are held across the length and breadth of the valley and a
3 1/2[-inch] Cooke Refractor- the property of the Society- is
at the service of the members, the largest proportion of them
being miners. The present officers are: Rev. W. Edwards, M.A.,
F.R.A.S., President; Mr. Dan Jones, B.Sc., F.R.A.S.;
Mr. A. J. Lloyd; Mr. W. J. Waters, M.B.A.A., and Cadben D. J.
Griffiths, Vice-Presidents; and Mr. Ll. C. Lloyd, M.B.A.A.,
REV. WILLIAM EDWARDS, M.A., F.R.A.S., of Caerau, Bridgend.-He was
born in Talybont, Cardiganshire, in 1884, and was
educated at Trefecca College, and the University of Wales,
Cardiff. He takes a great interest in Astronomy, and has
lectured on the subject since 1909 in the Aberdare
and Merthyr areas. He is the President of the Llynfi Valley
Astronomical Society, Maesteg.
MR. WILLIAM JOHN WATERS.-He was born in Aberkenffig,
1875. A member of the B.A.A. Since a child he has been busy
"doing something." He began working at the age of thirteen.
Throughout his life he has been an insatiable reader, and
by now he has a wide knowledge of Science, Mathematics, and
model-engineering. He began on Astronomy aged thirty,
and mastered its essentials within a short time, and made
a two-and-a-half-inch refractor in 1910, and in 1913 a
six-and-a-quarter-inch reflector. Then he came into closer
contact with Mr. Mee, and by now much of his work has appeared
in the English Mechanic. He has read papers and
shown models of the Sun, the Moon and the planets, of his
own making, to the Maesteg Astronomical Society. Many visitors
have gone to Mr. Waters to look through eyepieces of his
own construction. He still observes the Moon and planets,
and has tried to discover comets. He is a worthy example
of diligence and perseverance amongst people of talent,
and at the same time, to crown it all, is one of the most
humble of men.
MR. TALIESYN KENWIN JENKINS.-He was born in Blaina, 1879,
and now lives in Nantyglo. He started observing young, and
as a child made a two-inch telescope. Much of his work has
appeared in the English Mechanic, and Knowledge.
Through the help of the Rev. W. F. A. Ellison he made a
six-and-a-quarter-inch reflector. He has also built a two-manual organ,
entirely of his own design, and is also an unrivalled designer
in wireless electrics.
MR. CARADOC MILLS, Llanrwst.- He comes from the Mills family
of Llanidloes. He was educated in the University in Bangor.
He is the author of the excellent astronomical book, Y
Bydoedd Uwchben [The Worlds Above]. The soldier
Dr. Mills Roberts also hails from the same family.
MR. ALFRED DANIELL, M.A, LL.B., D.SC, F.R.S.E. He was born
in Llanelli, 1853. He is a highly educated man in physics.
DR. PERCY BILLUPS, F.R.A.S., Barry Island.-He was born in
Deptford in 1859 and was educated in London. Since 1872 he has
been active in the field of Astronomy, theoretically and
observationally, with the telescope and the spectroscope; he has
been highly successful in relation to comets, and discovered the
comet of 1910 [this suggests that he was one of many co-discoverers
of the Daylight Comet of 1910, which with Comet Halley was one of
two very bright comets of that year]. He also found Comet Daniel at
the same time as the discoverer. He uses two reflectors, of
seven and a half inches and seven and three-quarter inches - one
during the day for the Sun and the other at night. He was
President of the old Astronomical Society of Wales, and also of
the Barry Astronomical Society.
MR. OWEN JOHN OWEN, Minerva Press, Abergavenny.-He was born
in Dolgellau, 1867. He stands highly as a choral conductor, a
man of literature, an evangelist and as an Astronomer. Much of
his work as an observer of comets, the planets and the Moon
have appeared in the English Mechanic.
MR. EDWIN VAUGHAN OWEN, brother to the above. He was born
in Dolgellau, 1870. A poet, man of literature, an evangelist
and an astronomer. He has collaborated with his brother in the
field of astronomy, and the two have been diligent and very
MR. ERNEST MADGE of Morriston.-He was born in Tongwynlais, 1876.
He takes a great interest in making mirrors for reflecting
telescopes, and has made about half a dozen, ranging from four
inches to ten and a half inches, and he has a
seven-and-three-quarter-inch reflector of his own making. He has
telescopes to taking photographs, and has succeeded in obtaining
excellent pictures of the Sun and Moon. Some of his pictures of
the solar eclipse of 1912, as well as pictures of the Moon and
sunspots, have appeared in Y Bydoedd Uwchben [the book
by Caradoc Mills].
MR. THOMAS HARRIES, Llanelli.-He was born in Felinfoel in
1871. When he was about fifteen he studied the book by
Dr. Chalmers, Darlithiau ar Seryddiaeth a'r Beibl
[Lectures on Astronomy and the Bible]; and also
the Anianydd Cristnogol [the Christian Physicist],
and Cysawd Heulog [The Solar System],
Celestial Scenery, and Sidereal Heavens,
(Dr. Dick). So great was his respect for this author that he
purchased every one of his books. Next he studied the works of
Proctor and Sir Robert Ball, and he bought a telescope made
by Browning. When he was about 26 years old he undertook to
study French and acquainted himself so thoroughly with
Flammarion's Les Etoiles that he could recite every page
of it. In 1901 he won a distinction in Astronomy (Extension
Lectures) when Prof. H. H. Turner was the examiner. He received
much direct help from Prof. C. A. Young, from Princeton, the
famous author of General Astronomy, and also by the late
able mathematician, Mr. C. T. Whitmell, M.A. He has also studied
much mathematics, and has solved difficult problems. Mr. Harries
has paid particular attention in a practical sense to sunspots,
comets, meteors and eclipses, and has contributed articles to
scientific papers, and at all times is enthusiastic about
spreading knowledge among the working classes.
MR. HUGH PERCIVAL WILKINS of Llanelli.-He was born in Carmarthen,
1896, and was educated in the Grammar School there. He is an
engineer by profession. He has loved astronomy since a child,
and has been an astronomer since 1908. While serving in the Royal
Army Corps in the Great War he made extensive use of the
four-and-a-half-inch Cooke Equatorial in York. He was elected a
member of the B.A.A. in 1918, through the recommendation of the
famous Mr. Denning. He has known Mr. Mee well for several years, and
has received much support from him. His specialities in Astronomy
are: the Moon and variable stars. With reference to the former he has
almost finished one of the most complete maps ever, six feet in
diameter. He has studied the winding valley near Herodotus for many
years, and his research and that of his co-worker Capt. Bourgon of
Arras about this part of the Moon has been published in the B.A.A.
Journal. Turning again to variable stars, he has conformed to the
B.A.A. strategy and has performed significant work. He is also a
successful astrophotographer, and has taken good pictures of eclipses
of the Sun and Moon, many of which have been displayed from time to time
in Cardiff central library. Mr. Wilkins is still only young, and doubtless
much can be expected of him in the future.
MR. WILLIAM JAMES LEWIS, M.A., F.R.S., F.R.A.S., Cambridge.-A fellow
of Oriel College, Oxford. He was born in 1847. Son of the late Rev.
J. Lewis, Vicar of Bonvilston. He has been twice to see total solar
eclipses, to Spain in 1870 and to Ceylon in 1871.
CAPT. T. LUTHER EVANS, F.R.A.S., F.R.G.S., Weston-super-Mare.-He was
born in 1852 in Aberaeron. He holds strong views on Astronomy,
and here is a summary of them, worth recording I believe:
"I disagree with much of Darwin's teaching that the world has come
into being through Evolution and not as we read in the Bible.
I hold tightly to the Biblical view that this and all the other worlds
have been created by the Great Creator. Take, for example, the Solar
System. It is foolish and mischievous to believe some silly theories
that no on can prove. Although now we no longer believe many of the
ideas of our ancestors, not one Physicist has been able to prove the
theory that our world was a mass of gases when in its initial state,
which gradually cooled over the course of countless millions of years,
and that life is in the end based on protoplasm. I can understand their
beliefs entirely, but they do not have proof, and will never have proof,
and I am totally opposed to beliefs which cannot be proved. My view
of Astronomy is that it is shrouded in impenetrable mystery and it
always will be. I have read
many very interesting books on the subject, but I have seen nothing
yet to impress me that there is any reason to believe that this
world came into
being other than through being created by Almighty God, the Ruler of
the Universe; all reasoning to the contrary has been founded on
scientific theories, some of them entirely healthy, but they cannot
prove that God did not make the world and everything we see by day and
night. In the course of my long experience on the sea, travelling to
distant lands, I have seen many splendid visions in the middle of
the ocean, and I believe that there are mysteries in the heavens that
no one can ever interpret."
REV. W. PHILLIPS, M.A., F.R.A.S., Llandudno.-He was born in 1870, in
Pentredwr, Llansamlet, and was educated in Arnold's College,
Swansea; the Universities of Aberystwyth, Glasgow and Durham; and he
graduated from the latter. He is an ardent observer.
REV. DR. TEGFAN DAVIES, D.D., F.R.A.S., Ammanford.-He was born in 1883
near to Peniel, in the parish of Abergwili. He was educated in
Carmarthen and Bangor. His mind became inclined towards Astronomy
first of all as a result of his grandfather who read the books of
Dr. Dick and Dr. Nicholl on the subject and he was the only person in the
rural area around Abergwili who took an interest in Astronomy at that
time. Ever since then Dr. Tegfan Davies has taken a deep interest in
Astronomy, and has visited the large observatories of this country and the
continent. He has corresponded much with Mr. Mee, who said about him,
"He takes an ardent interest in the heavens in more senses than one."
Furthermore: "I must congratulate him on having seen two daylight
meteors, a feat which very few astronomers, amateur or professional,
can boast of." (See Chapter XX [which describes a daylight meteor
observed by Dr. Davies in 1922].) He has lectured much about astronomy
and astronomers to young people and children, the whose testimony about
him is, "He has taught us to look up." He closes an interesting letter
to me in this way: "My knowledge of the science is great; despite that,
Astronomy is a leaf from my Bible - part of my religion - and it gives
me a consciousness of the Great God! After something disturbs the
stillness of my heart during the day, when night comes communion
with the stars gives me a quiet peace which fills my heart. After that
I spend the night in a placid temperament without a care within me."
Very charming, isn't it?
REV. DAVID EVANS, B.A. (1858-1910).-Vicar of Cynwyl Elfed, Carmarthen.
He was born in Bwlchygraig, Lledrod, and was educated in the ancient
school of Ystradmeurig, and in the Colleges of Aberystwyth and
Durham (B.A.). He had the largest telescope in Wales by far -
18 inches - a reflector made by T. Cooke, London, in an observatory
on a hill above Cynwyl. The late Vicar was an enlightened
astronomer. After his death in 1910 the telescope was sold to Mr. Field,
Hazlewood, Dunton Green, Kent.
MR. H. W. EVANS, J.P., F.R.A.S., Harbour House, Solva, Pembrokeshire.-He
was born in Solva, 1859, and he was educated there and also in
Dr. Propert's School, St. David's. A very versatile man - a builder,
ornithologist, tanner, politician, eisteddfod participant, man of
literature, conductor, adjudicator, and musician - and remarkably
capable in all of them. As an astronomer, even as a child he took
a great interest in the realm of the suns and in the moons of
Jupiter, and he has studied the works of Dr. Dick, and more recently
of Ball, Dunkin, Proctor, Heath, Maunder, etc. He has lectured and
written much on the stars, and about the Pyramid of Cheops
in Egypt: and he published
a reprint of this work which appeared in Y Cymro [The
Welshman, a weekly newspaper] (Dolgellau), on 17th, 24th and 31st
January, 1923; as well as an article in Y Cymro, 4th October,
1922: "An Excursion to the Expanses"; another astronomical and
musical article on The First Anthem and its Composer, on the
subject "When the stars of the morning sing together." This is in
English, and a reprint can be had from the County Echo,
Fishguard, 21st October, 1920. It is interesting to add that this truly
versatile man is as fully at home in the English language as he is
in the old Welsh.
The following are found on the list of the F.R.A.S.:-
MR. JOHN A. RUPERT-JONES, Commander, R.D., R.N.R., of Tide House,
Milford Haven.-He was born in Sandhurst in 1874, and educated
in Christ's Hospital
in surveying and nautical astronomy. He has studied greatly the laws of the
tides of the sea, has published a history of Rosyth, and has assisted
the Navy in many ways.
MR. DONALD LUTHER EDWARDS of the Norman Lockyer Observatory, Sidmouth.-He
was born in Peterborough, 1884.
MR. JOSEPH EDWARD EVANS, B.A., Beulah, Redhill, Surrey.
MR. LEWIS EVANS, J.P., F.S.A., Sidmouth.
MR. E. LEWIS JONES, B.SC. Troedyrhiw, Merthyr Tydfil.
MR. RHISHARD LLEWELYN JONES, M.A., Glanmerin, Machynlleth.
REV. J. PIERCE PRICE, Bryn Wynno, Porth, Rhondda.
MR. JAMES S. LEWIS, Jesmond Dene, Airdrie, Scotland.
MR. WILLIAM H. REES, B.SC., Pontypridd.
MR. DAVID WILLIAMS, B.SC., Rhodes University, Grahamstown.
MR. J. E. GRIFFITH, Bryn Dinas, Bangor.
On the membership list of the British Astronomical Association (B.A.A.)
are found the next three.
REV. FREDERICK CHARLES DAVIES, The Vicarage, Reigate.
MR. JOHN BENNETT PRICE, Dyserth Castle, Flintshire.
MR. THOMAS JOSEPH REES, 2, Hall Street, Ammanford.
MR. J. C. M. MORGAN-JONES, of The Cottage, Llanllechid. He was born in
1895 in The Vicarage, Abererch, where his father, the late Rev. J.
Morgan-Jones, was Vicar at the time. He was educated at St. Edmund School,
Canterbury, from 1907 to 1914, when he joined the Army as an officer
in the 14th Batt. R.W.F. [Royal Welch Fusiliers]. He takes a great
interest in astronomy, and has carried out much astronomical work in
connection with the R.G.S. [Royal Geographical Society], London.
In a letter to me he says: "It is good for me to hear that your book
is being written in Welsh, because I believe it will satisfy a need,
as is shown by the following little incident. Last summer, as I was
making a measurement of the position of some particular star, I was
standing in the middle of a field, when a farmer came to me, and
after understanding the nature of the work in hand, kindly advised
me to go to the other end of the field to be closer to the star and
therefore see it much more clearly!"
JOHN ALUN LLOYD, M.B.A.A., of Telpyn Smithy, Rhewl, Ruthin.-Here is
his own story, word for word, in response to my request:-
"I feel a little unprepared to lift my pen for the purpose of writing
any of the story of my life. I am a rather young lad, twenty-seven
years old, and I have not done so much in astronomy yet; I have
dreams, not memories.
"I was born in Gwern-y-Mynydd, near Mold, on the second of September,
in the year 1895. From there my parents moved to the town of Mold
where I followed my father's calling as a blacksmith in the service of
the contractor Mr. Thomas Roberts.
"When I was about three years old, I moved to Penycae near Ruabon. My
father kept the smithy in Penycae for fourteen years, but I should say
that the smithy kept him.
"I was at Penycae elementary school for a term, and then at the Council
School, Acrefair, under Mr. William Parry, without doubt the best
schoolmaster I ever came to know.
"There was also there a teacher who has had an influence on me to today,
namely Mr. Ll. Moss Davies. I shall have a deep respect for the man as
long as I live.
"From there I went to Ruabon Grammar School, where I was for a time,
and from there I came to work for my father at the smithy.
"In 1912 I moved to Woodseaves in Staffordshire, but although the
countryside was beautiful, it was a very remote place - six miles
from the nearest station. I was there for a year. Then to Rhewl,
near Ruthin, where I follow the same calling.
"What made me an astronomer? That question is often asked of me.
I cannot answer the question except by saying that I had some tendency
towards Astronomy since childhood. I remember well how I looked at Comet
Halley through a binocular fieldglass [in 1910]. This was my first
instrument. I marked on an atlas its position among the stars. I read
everything I could get a hold of relating to Astronomy. I toiled over
them until they were understood. Sometimes I would be in an angry despair
through failing to understand them, and with no one around who could
"I saw in the window of a pawn-shop in Wrexham an excellent telescope,
opening out to about two feet in length and with an object-glass an inch
and a half in diameter. What was its price ? A sovereign, said the
shopkeeper. But I did not have a sovereign on me at the time, remember
that I was just a boy. I then returned home, and through careful
searching came across some shillings and had the remainder from my
father to complete the sovereign. That night I returned to Wrexham
and bought the instrument.
"It was a good little telescope, and I kept it for years. I have
the note books somewhere, I believe, where I wrote down my observations
in pen and ink.
"I saw many pretty double stars through the little telescope. With it
I saw my first ever glimpse of the belts of Jupiter and the rings of
Saturn. With it I had my first quick look at the glory of the Great
Nebula in Orion. And with it I saw the volcanoes [sic.] on the Moon,
and this encouraged me to make the Moon my main field of study.
"Soon, I got one of Mr. Burnerd's cardboard telescopes, and no
young astronomer could desire anything more. This was without doubt
the most perfect little telescope if ever there was one. It had no defect
at all. It showed the stars as little objects, small, clean, with
perfect diffraction rings. I regretted a hundred times, yes a
thousand times, selling it. Two inches was the diameter of
the lens. But I did sell it, and bought a three-inch telescope made by
Broadhurst Clarkson. It is again an excellent instrument, but I
sometimes have fond memories of the little two-inch Burnerd. I have
such dear memories of it. I still have the three-inch telescope, and
will have it for ever as far as I know.
"But by now, through hard work and diligence and also some economy,
I have succeeded in obtaining an instrument which will be a means
of doing work of some standard, I anticipate, as long as I have
the years and health to use it. It is a reflector, twelve and a
half inches in diameter, with unsurpassed mirrors which have been
tested and found to be perfect by the Rev. W. F. A. Ellison.
"Well, as I have said, I have had dreams up to now. I study the
Moon carefully with the large telescope every night when I have the
opportunity. I have not published very much of value yet. But I can
say that my sympathy is with Mr. Nasmyth concerning the existence
of the small craterlets on the floor of the crater [literally,
mountain] Plato. I know that experienced astronomers deny their
existence, by asserting that Nasmyth is wrong. But I can say without
hesitation that they are there. I can see them easily.
"On looking at Schroeter's Valley, my honest opinion is that the
valley does not break into the crater [literally, mountain] Herodotus.
In this I differ with Nasmyth.
"I also pay attention to planets which are as distant as possible,
especially to Jupiter and Saturn. I have not had much luck with
Mars yet. I hope to have more luck in 1924, when Mars will be
higher than it was in 1922.
"I use the three-inch telescope to look at sunspots at every
opportunity. You can see one of my sketches in the English
Mechanic for August 25th, 1922. A picture of my large telescope
and its building also appeared there a while ago.
J. Alun Lloyd."
There we are, children of Wales, an example worthy of immitation.
I hope it will be an encouragement to you you and all to strive
to achieve knowledge and to conquer all hindrance.
Doubtless there are many others throughout Wales, if I could find
them, who would deserve a prominent place in this book. However,
I ought to mention the following:-
Rev. John Griffith, the Vicar of Llangwm, Abergavenny, who was born
in 1860 in Brynchwith, Ponterwyd, near Aberystwyth, who has spent
years researching into the principles on which the cromlechs were
built according to astronomical designs, under the guidance of the
late Sir Norman Lockyer, and he published the lecture of that
famous astronomer on the `Henafiaeth yr Orsedd' [Antiquity
of the Gorsedd].
Two others who have a great enthusiasm for science are Chancellor G. C.
Joyce, D.D., former Principal of St. David's College [Dr. Gilbert
Joyce, later Bishop of Monmouth and Pro-Chancellor of the University
of Wales, 1934-1941], and Canon M. Jones Powell, D.D., Vicar of
Cardiff. Mention should also be made of Prof. G. H. Bryan, F.R.S.,
D.SC., Professor of Mathematics at the University College in Bangor:
he was co-author of the excellent astronomical book `Barlow and
Bryan's Astronomy'; a very educated man - `a fine man,' according
to the description I received of him. Certainly I could also apply the
same words to Prof. Gwilym Owen, M.A., B.SC., Professor of Physics
in the University College, Aberystwyth, a scientist and a Welshman of
the right sort, and author of that excellent book `Cwrr y Llen.'
This translation was made by Rhys Morris, February 1995.
The original computer readable version was prepared by Dr. Gabrielle Allen.
Some additional translation and typing was by Bryn Jones.
University of Wales, Cardiff, June 1995.
If you use any of this translation, please acknowledge Rhys Morris
as the author.