GOMER ROBERTS, the historian and sometime Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, started work as a miner at the age of 13 in the anthracite coalfield of Carmarthenshire, but at the age of 19 went into further education, supported first by a Workers' Educational Association scholarship, then - to cultivate his talents as a poet - by his fellow miners.
He gained the WEA scholarship to Fircroft College in the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, and moved from there to Trefeca College. A volume of poetry, O Lwch Y Lofa (1924), written by six of his fellow miners in the Amman valley and edited by David Rees Griffiths (known as 'Amanwy' - brother of the Labour politician James Griffiths) was published to finance his educational studies. The sacrificial efforts of his fellow miners left an indelible mark on him and made him realise the value of education.
He gained immensely from his studies at the preparatory and theological colleges of his denomination. In 1930 he was ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Wales serving at Clydach in the Swansea Valley (1930-39), then Pontrhydyfen from 1939 to 1958, and Llandudoch near Cardigan. In 1968 he retired to the village where he was born, Llandybie, near Ammanford.
A year later he was elected Moderator of the South Wales Association and in 1973 Moderator of the General Assembly. He received many honours from the Church: he delivered the Davies Lecture on the Methodist reformer Howel Harris (1714-1773) of Trefeca, and in 1982 his colleagues in the Historical Society published a collection of essays in his honour, Gwanwyn Duw ('The Spring of God'). It contains a full - and impressive - bibliography of his writings.
His outstanding contribution was to the study of 18th-century Methodist revival, in particular with his two-volume biography of William Williams (1717-1791), the hymn-writer. Roberts had an amazing grasp of the history of nonconformity in Wales, as can be seen in his articles in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, in his three volumes of Welsh hymn-writers, in his biography of the 18th-century reformer Peter Williams, and in the indispensable two-volume history of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism of the 18th century (1973-78) which he edited and largely wrote.
Roberts was editor for nearly 30 years of the journal of the Calvinistic Methodist Historical Society and was responsible for the Trevecka Records Series published by the same society in the 1950s and 1960s. He collected a vast amount of archival material for the CM archives in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth.
A prolific writer, he was responsible for nearly 40 books besides the mass of articles he wrote over 50 years.
The young budding collier poet gave way to the meticulous scholarly historian. His scholarship was acknowledged by the University of Wales with the award of the prestigious Ellis Griffith Memorial Prize, on two occasions (1950 and 1966), and two honorary degrees, an MA in 1949 and later a D Litt.
After suffering a stroke Roberts experienced a long struggle to enjoy his books and journals. But a number of his ministerial colleagues kept him informed of what was happening and provided him with a point of contact with the denomination that he served so well.
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