Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jones, James Rhys

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JONES, JAMES RHYS (1813–1889), better known as Kilsby Jones, Welsh writer and lecturer, born on 4 Feb. 1813 at Penylan, near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, was the son of Rhys Jones, a small farmer and local preacher, who afterwards became independent minister at Ffald-y-brenin in the same county. He received his early education at Neuaddlwyd grammar school, at Rhydybont, Blackburn, and at the presbyterian college, Carmarthen. He settled as minister of the independent church at Kilsby in Northamptonshire in January 1840, and was fully ordained there on 18 June of the same year. About 1850 he removed to Birmingham, and subsequently to Bolton, whence he returned to Wales, and bought Gellifelen farm, near Llanwrtyd, Brecknockshire, his mother's birthplace, where he built a house, called Glenview. Excepting a short period spent in London as pastor of the Tonbridge congregational chapel, he passed the remainder of his life at Glenview, and filled pulpits at Rhayadr (1857–60) and at Llandrindod Wells (1868–1889), where he built Christ Church Chapel, but did no ordinary pastoral work. He died on 10 April 1889, and was buried in the parish churchyard at Llanwrtyd, where a monument was placed over his grave by public subscription. His portrait in oils by Ap Caledfryn is preserved at the congregational college at Brecon. During his stay at Kilsby he assumed the additional name of Kilsby, and on 22 April 1842 married Miss Chilcott of Leominster, who survived him, and by whom he had one son, named Ryse Valentine Chilcott.

Jones's views were unusually original and independent, and he was widely known by his ready wit and biting sarcasm. His sermons and lectures were practical rather than dogmatic, and whether in Welsh or English were delivered in an easy, conversational tone. He gained a great reputation as a lecturer, his best-known subjects being ‘Vicar Prichard,’ ‘John Penry, the Welsh Martyr,’ and ‘Self-made Men.’ He was a resolute enemy of the church establishment in Wales, and both by pen and speech he rendered an invaluable service to Welsh liberalism. He contributed largely to Welsh periodicals, commencing while at Kilsby with articles on political, social, and educational questions in ‘Y Traethodydd’ and ‘Y Byd Cymreig.’ For many years he was Welsh editor to William Mackenzie of Glasgow.

He translated into English Rees's ‘Memoirs of W. Williams of Wern,’ London, 1846, 12mo; and into Welsh ‘The second Letter on the present Defective State of Education in Wales, by W. Williams, M.P. for Lambeth,’ with a sketch by the translator of the educational policy of the government, Llanelly, 1848, 12mo, and John Brown's ‘Biblical Dictionary’ as ‘Geiriadur Beiblaidd,’ Glasgow, 1869–70, 4to. He edited ‘Holl Weithiau prydyddawl a rhyddieithol … W. Williams, o Bantycelyn’ (‘The Complete Works of Williams of Pantycelyn, with Memoir’), Glasgow, 1868, 4to; a Welsh version of Bunyan's ‘Pilgrim's Progress’ and other works, Glasgow, 1869, 4to; a Welsh ‘Family Bible,’ being a new edition of ‘Peter William's Bible,’ Glasgow, 1869, 4to. He published ‘A Lecture on the Educational Wants of Wales,’ 1851, 12mo, and ‘An Essay [by him] on the Characteristics of Welsh Preaching’ is included in ‘Echoes from the Welsh Hills,’ by the Rev. David Davies, London, 1883, 8vo, pp. 353–79. Jones was also joint author with Dr. R. Richardson of Rhayadr of ‘Breconshire and Radnorshire Mineral Springs,’ Llanidloes, 1860, 4to.

[Short Memoir (with portrait), by the Rev. D. A. Griffiths, in Y Diwygiwr, July 1889; Y Geninen, July 1889 and April 1890, also Ceninen Gwyl Dewi, 1890; Rees and Thomas's Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol Cymru, v. 251–3; Congregational Year-Book for 1890; Davies's Echoes from the Welsh Hills, pp. 329, 330, 447–8; M. E. Braddon's Hostages to Fortune (where Jones is described under the assumed name of the Rev. Slingsby Edwards); communication from the Rev. Henry Oliver, B.A., Bristol; personal knowledge.]

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