Cymdeithas Dydd yr Arglwydd yng Nghymru

The Fellowship of the Lordís Day in Wales





A pulpit giant: Rev Dr Owen Thomas (1812-1891)

by Rev Dr D Ben Rees

Thirty years ago I wrote in Welsh a substantial biography on this pulpit giant, a scholarly Welsh Calvinistic Methodist minister and theologian and a supporter of every missionary effort in his church. He was born on 15 December 1812 in Holyhead, the son of Owen and Mary Thomas and a brother to Josiah Thomas. Dr John Thomas and William Thomas, all heavily involved in evangelical witness. He did not receive very much early education but overcame this disadvantage and was among the earliest students to enter Bala College in 1838, and thence to the University of Edinburgh, where his horizons were enlarged. Ordained in September 1844, he ministered to pastorates in Pwllheli and Newtown. At the end of 1851 he received a call to minister to Jewin Crescent, a Welsh-language chapel in London. In 1865 he moved to Liverpool, firstly to Netherfield Road and then in 1871 to Princes Road Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in Toxteth. He had great enthusiasm for missionary work and in 1865 his brother Josiah Thomas moved to Liverpool as Secretary of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Mission work in India and Brittany. Throughout the years he took a great deal of interest in the Khasia Hills and refers to them in some of the letters to his mother and other members of his family which are kept in his archives in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Owen Thomas was one of the outstanding pulpit giants of the 19th century and the young evangelist U Larsing from India hears him preaching in August 1861 on his visit to the Association meetings held at Newcastle Emlyn on the borders of Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire. U Larsing wrote in his diary: I saw 220 ministers seated on a platformÖ There were about 10,000 people listening to the Revd O Thomas and the Revd L Edwards, DD, Bala, who preached after him. There is some mysterious power in Godís word to make the hearers cry out together as of one heart, Amen! Amen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Owen Thomas wrote biographies of some of the great Welsh pulpit giants whom he had heard in his young Ė such as John Jones, of Talysarn (1796-1857) and Henry Rees of Liverpool. He died in the midst of his activity on 2 August 1891 and was buried at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. His grave is near to the graves of other notable preachers such as the Wesleyan Methodist pulpit giant, John Evans, Eglwysbach (1840-1897) and Griffith Ellis the saintly minister in Bootle. On the centenary of his death I brought out a study of him in English under the title of The life and work of Owen Thomas, 1812-1891: a Welsh preacher in Liverpool, published by The Edwin Mellen Press. You can find a great deal more about this pulpit giant in this biography.

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