Douglas Gordon James, B.A.
Solicitor, Town Clerk & Priest
Douglas Gordon James spent most of his life in Aberdare. Uniquely he became both Town Clerk of the Aberdare Urban District Council, and later Vicar of Aberdare.
Gordon James was born 26 Mar 1922 in Abernant, Aberdare. He was the son of Lewis Nicholas James1 and his wife Sarah, (née Haslett), known as Maisie. L.N. James was a teacher who taught at Aberaman Council School, 1933–49, and later as headteacher at Abernant retiring from there in 1954.
Gordon James passed the Scholarship Examination in 1933 from Aberaman Boys School. School Certificate followed in 1937, with 6 credits, and then Higher Certificate in 1939, having studied English, Latin, French, gaining the last subject with with conversational power.
Gordon James’ education was interrupted by the WW2 when he joined H.M. Forces in 1941, with demobilisation in 1947, He served in the army with the Lancashire Fusiliers, achieving the rank of Major. After the war ended, and whilst still in the army he was involved in repatriation of displaced persons from DP camps, where some 850,000 people still lived across Western Europe.
He attended the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth where he graduated B.A., (1947). Three years later he passed the Law Society examination in 1950, serving his articles with Messrs. L.A. Wallen & Jenkins of High Street, Blaina, Monmouthshire.
In April 1951 at the age of 29, he was appointed Town Clerk of Aberdare Urban District Council2, attending his first council meeting on 7 May under the chairman Councillor James Williams. He held this post until local government reorganisation in 1974.
In 1957, he qualified by examination and was designated a Legal Associate Member of the Town Planning Institute, L.A.M.P.T.I. In 1963, he was appointed secretary of the Aberdare Committee of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, which aimed to raise enough money to build a new town in an undeveloped country. The chair was the AUDC Chairman, Emlyn Evans, Probation Officer was Joint Secretary, and John Clatworthy of the Midland Bank, Treasurer. Both grammar schools participated in the fundraising for this project.
Gordon James was a keen Rotarian and was elected President of the Rotary Club of Aberdare3, 1966–67. During his later years as Town Clerk he was involved with the development of the site of the Welsh Church Eglwys y Forwyn Fair, (St. Mair’s)4 in Seymour Street which became St Mair’s Day Centre for the elderly, and which opened in 1969. Indeed, the Aberdare Leader reported that he turned up unexpectedly at the public auction held at The Boot Hotel on 18th February 1964 to bid on the site for the Aberdare District Council — which he did successfully for the sum of £2,500. He undoubtedly would also have been involved in the early planning of Aberdare Library (1963), Llwydcoed Crematorium which opened in 1970, and the Dare Valley Country Park, which was opened in 1973.
After leaving the his post of Clerk to the AUDC in 1974, Gordon James underwent training for ministry in The Church in Wales. After his training, there were many positions that he held after becoming a member of the clergy:
Gordon James had a sister Lorna Auriel James, who after marriage became Mrs Evans. He also had a brother Roy, who was injured in the war. He became a teacher at Aberystwyth and the secretary of Aberystwyth Rugby Club.
As The Venerable Archdeacon of Margam, Gordon James died a bachelor on Oct 2nd 2000. His funeral was held at St. Fagan’s Church, Trecynon on Friday October 6th, when the service was officiated by the Reverend Christopher Smith and the Reverend Steven Ryan, prior to Cremation at Llwydcoed Crematorium. He was the last of three generations of the James family to live in Abernant.
After his death, townspeople and parishioners were surprised to hear of the fortune accumulated by Gordon James when in April 2001 his will was made public. The community in Abernant was amazed that a millionaire had been living in their midst. He left an estate with a net value of £1,079,2845. The main beneficiaries were his niece J.L.James and her son.
A former friend and fellow Rotarian Geoffrey Hosgood6 of Llwydcoed described The Archdeacon as a careful man who had lived his life quite frugally. He added that he was a very clever man who commanded great respect in the community.