Williams, Hugh (DNB12)

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WILLIAMS, HUGH (1843–1911), ecclesiastical historian, son of Hugh Williams (d. 1905, aged ninety-two), carrier and small freeholder, of Menai Bridge, Anglesey, by his wife Jane, was born at Porthaethwy in Anglesey on 17 Sept. 1843. He got his schooling in his native village and at Bangor, and for some years worked as a mason, at the same time continuing his studies. In 1864 he entered at the Calvinistic Methodist College, Bala, where he acted (1867–9) as one of the tutors. He graduated B.A. London in 1870 (first in second class honours in classics); M.A. London in 1871 (second in philosophy honours). He then conducted a grammar school at Menai Bridge, at the same time ministering to calvinistic methodists in Anglesey, and was ordained without charge (1873) in the presbyterian church of Wales. Appointed professor of Greek and mathematics at Bala in August 1873, he entered on his duties in the following year. In the vacation of 1874 he visited Germany for the study of the language. When the Bala College became purely theological (1891), he was appointed professor of church history. In 1903 he was moderator of the North Wales assembly of the presbyterian church. On 19 April 1904 he received the degree of D.D. in Glasgow University. His ‘high-pitched industry’ told upon his health; he was for some time troubled with a form of laryngitis. In addition to his other work he preached every Sunday, though not reckoned a popular preacher, and conducted a weekly bible class. He was a member of the theological board and court of the University of Wales; also of the council of the Bangor College. After suffering for nearly two years from arterial disease, he died at Bala on 11 May 1911, and was buried in the churchyard of Llanycil, Merionethshire, the parish in which Bala is situated. On 31 Dec. 1884 he married Mary, eldest daughter of Urias Bromley, Old Hall, Chester, who survives him without issue.

Williams made his mark by his edition of ‘Gildas, with English translation and notes,’ pt. i. 1899; pt. ii. 1901 (Cymrodorion Record series). Various magazine articles and separate papers, e.g. ‘Some Aspects of the Christian Church in Wales in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries’ (1895); ‘The Four Disciples of Illtud’ (1897); the article on the Welsh church in the new edition (1889–96) of the ‘Encyclopædia Cambrensis’ (‘Gwyddoniadur Cymreig’); a review of Heinrich Zimmer's ‘Keltische Kirche’ (1901) and ‘Pelagius in Irland’ (1901) in the ‘Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie’ (1903); the article ‘Church (British)’ in Hastings's ‘Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics’ (1910) prepared the way for his magnum opus, ‘Christianity in Early Britain,’ which was issued by the Clarendon press in February 1912. He had generally indicated his results in the Davies lecture, delivered at Birkenhead on 8 June 1905. During his last illness, Williams was engaged on a second revision of the proofs of his work, and left it to his colleagues, the Revs. D. Phillips and J. O. Thomas, to see through the press. As an historian of Celtic Christendom, Williams easily took first rank, not merely by his new and careful research into primary sources, but by his absolute freedom from sectarian bias, his excellent judgment, and his application to history, despite the Germans, of the Newtonian principle hypotheses non fingo; his work forms a basis on which all later research must build.

In addition to the above, he published, inter alia, in Welsh: 1. ‘Yr Epistol at y Colossiaid,’ &c., Bala, 1886. 2. ‘Yr Epistol at y Galatiaid: cyfiethiad newydd [together with that of 1620] … a nodiadau. Gyda map,’ Bala, 1892 (this and the preceding were new and annotated versions for Sunday school use). 3. ‘Y Sacramentau: anerchiad agoriadol,’ &c., Bala, 1894. 4. ‘De Imitatione Christi … Rhagdraeth,’ &c., Bala, 1907 (the introduction by Williams, the translation by another hand). He also edited Lewis Edwards's ‘Holiadau Athrawiaethol,’ Bala, 1897.

[Who's Who, 1911; The Times, 13 May 1911; Univ. of London, Gen. Register, 1872; Cylchgrawn Myfyrwyr y Bala (Bala Students' Mag.), 1911, pp. 148 sq.; Blwyddiadur y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd (Calvinistic Methodist Year Book), 1912; information from Mrs. Williams; Mr. W. I. Addison, Registrar, Glasgow University; Principal Edwards, Bala; and the Rev. Rees Jenkin Jones, Aberdare.]

A. G.