Alien in Welsh Drama

John John (Jack) Williams

Written and researched by David Bohl, with the kind help of family relative Alan Roberts of Penygroes, Caernarfon

The colourful life of J.J.Williams could have easily been overlooked if it had not been for a chance revisit to his 1911 Census entry and the attraction to the name of his flatmate.

A quick google revealed Fred Levi Attenborough was to become the father of the Lord and David Attenborough, so more exploration was required.
Fred was one of JJ's closest friends since attending college in Bangor and they were both football fanatics in our great city.

Born 1884 in Caernarfon, John John (Jac) Williams was the son of a Welsh quarryman, and his mother ran a guesthouse for travellers in the town. In the early years he was educated at the local Board school but after his mother died in 1892 they moved to Pontrhythallt where he attended Llanrug British School. Pontrhythallt is on the now defunct railway line between Caernarfon and Llanberis.

After a period as a pupil-teacher he entered the Normal College, Bangor in 1905 and was awarded his teacher's certificate (first class) in 1907.
Many students from Bangor were recruited by Liverpool Education Authority, both JJ and Fred were lured to the city, JJ becoming an assistant teacher at Granby and Tiber Street schools.

Luckily he crossed paths with the Aliens and despite his diminutive frame and suffering chronic emhpysema from an early age he started playing in or before the 1910-11 season. He also joined the general committee pushing forward an important point:-

Mr Milbourn proposed and Mr Williams seconded "That the treasurer order 6 new club jerseys."

Aliens 2nd v Cosmopolitan 2nd at Clubmoor 2.45

WH Ellis, J.Rumjahn, J.Rotherham, J.Robson, H.Howarth, E.Smith, H.Bayliss, OE.Bayliss, D.Sloss, W.Sloss, J.Williams, W.Parle, N.Howe, WG.Flint, WJ.Inglis, RF.Owens

Liverpool Echo 21st January 1911

At that time there were two J.Williams' playing for the club and on committee, sadly J.G never came back from the Great War (similarly Venmore and Tolson below)

Committee Meeting held at Bee Hotel Aug. 28th 1913

Present Messrs Knipe(chairman), Applebee, Marshall, Ringrose, Helme, Lindsay, S.J.Kay, Outhwaite, King, Facey, W.H.Kay, O'Donnell, H.N.Ellis, Bishop, R.T.Robinson, D.Sloss, H.Bayliss, Venmore, Milbourn, E.Roberts, T.Madoc-Jones, W.G.Thomas, Flenley, Tolson, O.E.Bayliss, Croxford, Kearns, J.Williams, J.G.Williams.

Here he is joining in the sing-song at the Hot Pot Supper of 1913 with a rendition of  “I fear no foe”, perhaps it was a popular Music Hall song.

JJ's wife Elsie penned 17 pages of notes about his life before she passed on at the ripe age of 95, some of which appear next:-
Many Welsh people met in “The Young Wales Club” in Upper Parliament street and he became one of the Presidents there. Fred and JJ were fervent theatre goers, they frequented art galleries,  libraries and as the finances improved they would visit the Continent to take photographs. 

JJ was living life to the full, but it all came to an end when war broke out, and being medical category C3 he did not have a call up to the army. Since many of his friends were away from Liverpool, at the age of 31, he agreed to take the appointment of Head of Cefnfaes School in Bethesda. The uprooting from Liverpool proved very painful.

JJ brought a richer life to the pupils, concentrating on culture and music, the pupils would read music and appreciate the works of the great composers. This was very ambitious for a school drained of academic potential. There were portrait and landscape paintings in every classroom, the male pupils concentrated on gardening, with obvious benefits after leaving school, and the girls would concentrate on home making. Choirs from the school were successful in open competitions and the Welsh National Eisteddfod.
Attention was given to the school from His Majesty's Inspectors, yet funding was not very forthcoming.
Professor Glyn Davies of Liverpool University was a constant visitor to Cefnfaes and he stated “Mr Williams’ skill in in recognizing good teachers has produced a staff of unusual assistants who work in his own spirit.” However JJ left Bethesda and returned to Merseyside. Two of his closest friends remained, Dr Arthur Owen and Professor Garmon Jones.

After two years of being a school inspector in Birkenhead, JJ was appointed Deputy Director of Education there.

In 1917 he began working on an M.A. thesis for the University of Liverpool under the supervision of Professor Glyn Davies. His subject was “Political elements in Welsh literature, 1788-1840”. He was awarded his MA in 1923, but he also included additional papers on the organization of drama in Wales.

Between 1915-1945 he was an adjudicator in Drama for the Welsh National Eisteddfod and 1924-1930 was the producer of the Welsh Dramatic Society of UCNW, Bangor. 
JJ was also interviewed for the post of Director of the West Region for the BBC. 

A must read is the Dictionary of Welsh Biography entry by Gwilym Arthur Jones, (1925-98), Bangor.

When World War II broke out in 1939, JJ was put in charge of Operation Pied Piper, the evacuation of Birkenhead schools to Meirionethshire and Montgomeryshire. His knowledge of the proposed reception areas and of the Welsh language was of great value. See Alien Pied Pipers
He left the Birkenhead Authority in 1948 and he died on Boxing Day 1950, E.Morgan Humphreys wrote in the Liverpool Daily Post, January 1,1951 He had vision and ideas and courage”. 

[photo courtesy of family member Alan Roberts]




All Aliens RFC, Seft0n RUFC photographs, programmes and memorabilia Copyright © 2012 Sefton RUFC