D.O. Roberts,  M.A.
Headmaster, Educationalist, Writer, Lecturer, Champion of Wales & its Language
(Aberdare County Intermediate School 1901-1904)

David Owen Roberts

D.O. Roberts

D.O. Roberts lived his whole life in Aberdare. He trained to be a teacher, became a headmaster of a local secondary school, but in addition became a great advocate for the teaching of Welsh in schools, and at the end of his career was a prime mover in bringing the National Eisteddfod of Wales to Aberdare in 1956.

David Owen Roberts was born 6 October 1888 at 28 Church Row, Trecynon, Aberdare, the only son of Gethin Roberts and his wife Hannah1, née Jones. Both parents were Aberdare-born, and his father was a Colliery Examiner. They also had a daughter Ethyl Mary who was one year younger than her brother. The family moved to Moriah House, Llwydcoed when D.O. was six years old, so that his elementary education took place at both Park Infants and Llwydcoed Board School. He gained a place at the County Intermediate School in Trecynon in 1901 entering just before his thirteenth birthday. During the whole of his time at this school his Headmaster was W. Jenkyn Thomas, the first of the school’s eight heads. D.O. left school in 1904 and by 1907 was admitted to Bangor Normal College where he qualified as a Certificated Teacher in 1909, and where he was a college prizeman in music2.

On returning to Aberdare the family was reunited and the parents and grown-up children took up residence at 3 Holford Terrace, Cwmdare. D.O. became a member of Gobaith C.M. Chapel in the village and became actively involved in many chapel activities3. He eventually became a Blaenor (deacon), Codwr Canu (precentor) and Pregethwr Cynorthwyol (Lay Preacher) as well as the chapel treasurer. He was a class teacher at Cwmdare Board School until 1915 when he volunteered for service in the army, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery as a gunner.

Wedding 1917

Wedding of D.O. & Ann (Nancy) Edwards

He made progress in the army: promoted Corporal (1916), and Sergeant Instructor in Map Reading and Field Sketching (1917). It was at this stage in his army career, whilst stationed at Gillingham, that on 19th April 1917 he married Ann (Nancy) Edwards4 at Gobaith Chapel Cwmdare. The bride was the daughter of the late Guardian David Edwards and his wife Mary Louisa Ann, née Davies, of Cwmdare Post Office. The honeymoon was spent in London. Over the following years, Mr & Mrs Roberts lived at various addresses in Aberdare: 32, Broniestyn Terrace; 14 Park Lane, Trecynon; back to the Post Office in Cwmdare; 1 Broniestyn Terrace, which they renamed Ynyswen, and finally Park Grove, Trecynon.

In 1918 he was posted to France after winning a gunnery competition, and he was not there long before he was seriously wounded and almost lost a leg. Afterwards his left leg was 1½ inches shorter than his right and this produced a very severe limp for the rest of his life. Although he had volunteered for the Army, his experience of those years changed him and he became a Pacifist and raised his children in the rejection of violence.

On 6th September 1919, Mr. Botting, the Director of Education for Aberdare, reported to the Aberdare School Board meeting that the remaining two teachers of the Committee had now been demobilised, and had returned to their schools. They were Messrs. P. D. Davies, Aman, and D. O. Roberts, Cwmdare.

Post war, he later taught in Abernant until appointed master-in-charge of Welsh and Music at the Gadlys Central School, circa 1924, where he remained a member of the staff under the headship of William Griffiths and, later, Edward (Ted) Davies, whom he succeeded as head on the 3rd April 1940, a post he occupied with no little distinction until his retirement in 1949. Not least amongst his achievements at The Gadlys School was the establishment of the annual school Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah, which for many years was a notable feature of the musical life of Aberdare. In preparing these performances he was ably assisted by Walter Pontin, another former County School pupil who attended in the years 1908-13.

Family in 1926

Nansi, Mary, Dafydd and D.O. in 1926

Mr & Mrs D.O. Roberts raised two children a boy and a girl. Their son David (Dafydd) Gethin Edwards Roberts was born at 19 Bwllfa Road on November 20th, 1918. Dafydd Roberts entered Guy’s Hospital Medical and Dental School in October of 1936 and qualified as a dental surgeon. He was elected President of the British Dental Association in 1979. He was a very active member of the Little Theatre in Aberdare, and was the first member of Plaid Cymru to be elected, in 1968, to serve as a councillor on the Aberdare Urban District Council. Mr Roberts moved to Cardiganshire after his retirement, and currently, (2014), lives in Llanbadarn. D.O.’s daughter, Mary Beryl Roberts was born 24 August 1920 at 32, Broniestyn Terrace. She attended Cardiff School of Art and later taught at Machynlleth and Merthyr County Schools and at Brecon High School for Girls. After teaching she became a freelance artist, illustrating several Welsh books and designing a series of book dust jackets, exhibiting her work across Wales and at the National Eisteddfod. She died at the Brecon Memorial Hospital on 12th of March 2000.

From the mid 1920s, D.O. Roberts was active in a number of educational and professional fields. Many of them are listed below:


The cover of one of
D.O.’s textbooks

Hon Graduates 1950

The honorary graduates in the National Library
of Wales, 1951. D.O. 2nd from right.


In the mid-1950s, D.O.’s health began to fail. He died at his home, 4 Park Grove, on 29th August 1958. The funeral took place at Glyntaff Crematorium where a large gathering of representative personalities in the educational and cultural life of Wales was assembled10. The funeral service was conducted by Rev. D.R. Thomas from Merthyr, a close friend of the family, and Rev. H.H. Williams. The oration was delivered by Rev. R. Ivor Parry, who was for many years Mr. Roberts’ next-door neighbour in Broniestyn Terrace. Mr Parry pointed out the fact that Mr Roberts had made such a special niche in the community that many of the town’s citizens knew him as just “D.O.”

Mrs Roberts lived on for many years after husband’s death. She moved to Brecon to live with her daughter Mary Beryl Roberts, and she eventually died in January 1977 at St. David’s Hospital in the cathedral town.


Click any of the photographs below, or elsewhere on this page, to get a larger version.

D.O. with parents and sister

D.O. rear right with sister Ethel Mary,
father Gethin and mother Hannah.

BNC 1908-09

Bangor Normal College 1908-09
D.O. Roberts (front row, third from the right)

BNC Julius Caesar

Bangor Normal College production of
Julius Caesar
D.O. Roberts is between and slightly behind
the first two actors in the front row.

D.O. with parents and sister

Gadlys Central School Staff, 1920s
Back Row: ? Davies, Jack Roberts, T.J. Lewis,
T. J. Williams, ? Thomas (Abernant),
T. Picton Evans
Front Row: D.O. Roberts, William (Bill) James,
William Griffiths, ??, Thomas Thomas
Staff Ysgol Ganol Y Gadlys Aberdâr, 1920au

Barmouth 1930

On holiday in Barmouth, 1930.
Nansi, Beryl, David, Mabel, D.O.,
Gwylan, Ellis Williams
Yn Y Bermo tua 1930

Grads on NLW steps

The honorary graduates on the steps of the
National Library of Wales, 1951.
D.O. extreme right of the second row.

Ynyswen 1952

D.O. at home in Ynyswen,
Broniestyn Terrace

Plaid Cymru Group 1953

D.O. (front row, third from left),
at a meeting of Plaid Cymru, 1953.
Gwynfor Evans is to D.O.’s immediate left, and
Wynne Samuel to Gwynfor Evans’
immediate left.

Eisteddfod 1956

D.O. (front centre in dark robe),
Eisteddfod Aberdâr, 1956

DO 1956 Eisteddfod

D.O. Roberts in 1956 as Chairman
of the Executive Committee of the
National Eisteddfod at Aberdare.

1956 Eisteddfod Committee

The Executive Committee of the
National Eisteddfod at Aberdare, 1956.
D.O. Roberts front row centre.


  1. D.O. Roberts’ mother, Hannah, was a sister of S. Glynne Jones, O.B.E., H.M. Inspector of Schools, and National Savings Commissioner for Wales.
  2. D.O. had a fine baritone voice which he sadly overworked and otherwise neglected in his great efforts on behalf of the Language.
  3. The Aberdare Leader reported in detail the activities of the large number of churches and chapels in the Cynon Valley over a period of about 70 years. A sample of some of these reports for Gobaith (C.M.) Chapel can be read here.
  4. Nancy Edwards, D.O.’s future wife, was also a pupil at the County Intermediate School in Trecynon. She started at the school in the same academic year as her future husband. She attended from September 1901 until July 1906, when she left with her CWB Senior Stage Certificate and a Certificate of the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music in pianoforte playing. At Gobaith, Cwmdare, she often played the organ.
  5. One such wireless talk was scheduled for 15th February 1938, and can be seen in the schedule of Welsh Region programmes here.
  6. Ragnor Ostberg was a Swedish architect who designed the Stockholm City Hall
  7. The Sir Owen M. Edwards Prize awarded in 1939 was “for the most signal service to the educational advancement of the youth of Wales in the year preceding the award.”
  8. His honorary degree was awarded for his services to the twin causes of education and culture in Wales, and the citation included the phrase: “he served both with a rare zeal and a fire fanned by a deep love for his native land.”
  9. In his capacity of President of the Day, he took his rightful place amongst other prominent Welsh men and women:
    Monday, August 6th: The Right Hon. James Griffiths, M.P.
    Tuesday, August 7th: Dr Kate Roberts
    Wednesday, August 8th: Professor T.H. Parry-Williams, M.A., D.Litt., Ph.D.
    Thursday, August 9th: Sir Ben Bowen Thomas, M.A.
    Friday, August 10th: Dr. Charles Evans, F.R.C.S.
    Saturday, August 11th: Mr D.O. Roberts, M.A.
  10. Mourners from Aberdare at the funeral included Revs. D.O. Davies, (Elim, Cwmdare) and Randall Jones (Cwmaman). Messrs. W.W. Price, David Howells (headmaster of Gadlys Secondary Modern School), J. Warren (headmaster of Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School), J.T. Bowen (formerly deputy headmaster of Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School, and vice-chairman Aberdare National Eisteddfod Literary Committee); J.T. Roberts (former Gadlys School colleague); Alan S. Morgan (chairman of Aberdare N.U.T. and Aberdare Little Theatre); Arthur Thomas (N.U.T. minute secretary); Idwal Rees (headmaster Cwmdare Welsh School and chairman National Eisteddfod Youth Committee); D. Herbert Davies (headmaster Cwmdare Junior School and secretary of National Eisteddfod Youth Committee); Councillor David Hill (headmaster Ynyslwyd Secondary Modern School); D.T. Price (headmaster Aman Secondary Modern School). Messrs. R.M. Beaman, Tom Davies (secretary National Eisteddfod drama committee); Alwyn John Ll. B. (chairman Aberdare National Eisteddfod financial committee); D. Joshua Davies; J.L. Thomas (Treasurer AUDC); Councillor W.S. Jones; Rev. Morgan Price (chairman Aberdare National Eisteddfod literary committee); P.G. Prosser (managing editor “Aberdare Leader”); Glyndwr Griffiths (assistant editor and chief reporter “Aberdare Leader”, and chairman of the Aberdare National Eisteddfod Press and Publicity Committee); R. Walters; D.J. Griffiths (representing Moriah, Llwydcoed), and John Morgan (Abercwmboi); Charles Morris (Trecynon).
    From outside the district: Alderman Gwynfor Evans, M.A., (LIangadog), and Mr. J.E. Jones (Cardiff), president and general secretary of the Welsh Party, Mr. T. W. Thomas (Cardiff), financial secretary of the Welsh National Eisteddfod Council; Mr. J. D. Powell, H.M.I. (representing the Welsh Department of the Ministry & Education); Mr G. Angell, H.M.I., Mr Gwyn Daniel, (general secretary of Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru), Prof Evan John Jones, M.A. (chairman of the executive committee of U.C.A.C); Hywel J. Thomas (U.C.A.C. national treasurer), Rachel Thomas (B.B.C. Repertory Company).

    Rev W Owen, M.A. (Porth), chairman of the East Glamorgan Presbytery of the Calvinistic Methodist connexion, Rev. G.H. Jones, (Blaenclydach), an official of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Rev. J. W. Maddox (Abertridwr), also representing the officials of the East Glamorgan Presbytery, Rev. D. J. Morgan (Porth), Rev. T.J. Edwards (Treorchy), Couns. Bryn John and H.P. Richards (Caerphilly), Messrs. W.R. Jones (Trealaw), Tudor Davies (Pencoed), Ieuan Owen and William Lewis (Pontypridd); David Davies and Dr Reid Thomas (Mountain Ash).

This appreciation of the life of D.O. Roberts is based almost entirely on material provided by his son Dafydd Roberts, now of Llanbadarn. I am indebted to him for his invaluable assistance. Thanks also to the staff of Aberdare Central Library.

Other sources:
Obituary, The Aberdare Leader, 6 September 1958;
The Biographical Index of W.W. Price, (at the National Library of Wales and Aberdare Public Library);
The Welsh Biography Online;
Early editions of The Aberdare Leader in Welsh Newspapers Online;
Rhaglen Y Dydd, Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru. Aberdâr a’r Cylch, 1956.

CR. 26 May 2014.