Prof D. P. Roberts, B.A., B.D. (Wales), M.A. (Oxon)
Congregational Minister and College Academic
Aberdare County Intermediate School, 1896–1902

Philip Walters, 2008

David Phillips Roberts
c 1910

David Phillips Roberts was born in Aberdare on May 4th, 1884 to William Theodore Roberts1 and his wife Mary Hannah, née Phillips2. One week after his birth, on May 11th, his mother died of puerperal fever. He had an elder sister Winifred3 who was also an entrant to the school in 1896.

Shortly after the death of his mother, D.P. Roberts, (DPR), was fostered by Mrs Jane Morris, (née Harris) of Llwydcoed. She had not long lost her husband John, a collier. She had six children of her own and by all accounts, DPR was happy in his new Welsh-speaking home at 7, Horeb Terrace.

However, his sister was sent to live with her paternal grandmother, Gwenllian Roberts, at Garth House, Llangynidr, Breconshire. At some point during her elementary schooling Winifred returned to Aberdare, and like her brother attended the Higher Grade School, which at that time occupied part of the Town Elementary School, Clifton Street. Their father continued to live in Aberaman at 343 Cardiff Road.

A third member of the Roberts family, Augustus4, a cousin of DPR, arrived at the school in 1906.

DPR transferred from the Higher Grade School to the County Intermediate School in Trecynon as one of the first cohort to enter the school in 1896. He won a full entrance scholarship, which paid the whole of his school fees. School and press reports feature his name frequently as the recipient of various prizes for his academic work — indeed after just two years he was singled out in the Headmaster’s Annual Report for his achievements in several subjects — though not as often as his sister. He took his CWB Senior Certificate in 1900 gaining distinctions in five of his eight subjects. In 1902, he was successful in the Honours Certificate, and his name, and that of his sister, were among the first three pupils to be added to the school’s honours board that hung in the school assembly hall.

The first entries on the
University Entrance Scholarships
Honours Board.

Although the board records an award for a scholarship to both Cardiff, 1900, and Bangor, 1902, it is not known what DPR did at Cardiff, or indeed, whether he took up the place there. However, his Higher Education did result in a Bachelor of Divinity degree, B.A., B.D., (Wales) from Bangor. At Bangor he was a member of the men’s hockey team, participated in athletics, and was active in the Students’ Representative Council. After Bangor he attended Brecon Congregational Memorial College, up to 1908, an institution dedicated to the education and training of students wishing to become non-conformist ministers. Whilst at Brecon he played for the college football team, where another team player was his close friend David Edwin Davies5, son of Rev William Samlet Davies of Horeb Congregational Church, Llwydcoed.

Roberts in YMCA WW1 Uniform

WW1 uniform

A degree from Oxford followed in 1910 after studying at Mansfield College, and later an M.A., (Oxon), in 1914.

From 1912 to 1931, he was minister at the English Congregational Church at Llandeilo. Whilst there, he married Myfanwy Rees Williams of Aberystwyth, the marriage being registered in Lampeter in 1923.

During WW1, DPR went to France and Belgium as a volunteer with the YMCA. These volunteers provided emotional and personal support for the soldiers, and particularly for those who were wounded. The volunteers also acted to help look after the relatives who had travelled to France to visit seriously wounded sons or husbands.

From 1931, he took up the ministry at Burry Port, staying there for five years.

In 1936, he was appointed Professor of New Testament Greek at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen. DPR’s ability in languages was prolific: he knew nine languages including Sanskrit and was passable in five more. A student6 of his at Carmarthen commented that DPR had a very dry sense of humour and cared very much about the welfare of his students.

In 1958 he moved on again, to a similar post at the Memorial College, Brecon.

Three Academic Reverands

Rev Prof D.P. Roberts, Rev Prof D.L. Trefor Evans, Rev Prof D.J. Davies. Thought to be taken on the occasion of the removal of the Memorial College from Brecon to Swansea in 1959. The Principal, not shown, was Prof W.T. Pennar Davies, of Mountain Ash.


From 1959 until his retirement7 in 1964, he acted in the same capacity at the United Memorial College at Ffynone, Swansea, when the Brecon college relocated there. At the same time, into his late 70s, he continued to preach from various pulpits in south Wales, lodging when necessary at the homes of the resident minister. Two years after his retirement, he died in 1966 at his home, 199 Glanmor Road, Swansea, aged 81. He left a wife, and an adopted daughter Mair, and two grandchildren. His wife Myfanwy Roberts died two years later at the age of 78.

  1. William Theodore Roberts, (1857–1945), was born in Llangynidr, Breconshire. He married DPR’s mother Mary Hannah Phillips in 1881. Following her death, he married secondly Mary Ann Phillips in 1890. There were two children from his first marriage and none from the second. For many years he lived at 343 Cardiff Road, and later at 21 Montague Terrace.

    WTR succeeded as headmaster a Mr. Griffiths at Llwydcoed School, in 1882, and he again followed him at Park Boys’ School, in 1911. But in the meantime, while Mr. Griffiths had remained at Park Schools, WTR had served at Blaengwawr Boys Schools, from July 5, 1886, until July 26, 1907 (a period of 21 years), and then at the Town Boys’ School, (now Caradog Primary School), from August, 1907, until the end of August, 1911, when he was transferred to Park Boys’ School. Here he remained until he retired on the last day of 1920, after serving as head-teacher of schools in Aberdare and district for nearly 39 years.

    He died in 1945 at Pyle, Glamorgan.
  2. Mary Hannah Phillips, 1864–1884, was the daughter of Rev Morgan Phillips, (old) Gwawr Baptist Chapel, Aberaman.
  3. Mary Gwenllian Winifred Roberts, “Winnie”, 1882‒1965, attended UCNW Bangor, and became a teacher. Her last post before resignation in 1909, due to her impending marriage, was as headmistress at Ystradgynlais County School. In 1910, she married John Harris, (1874–1964), a pharmaceutical chemist of Ystradgynlais. DPR was best man.
  4. Augustus David Roberts, (1892–1972), arrived at the County School from Blaengwawr elementary school, and stayed at the Trecynon school from 1906 to 1910 — after both DPR and Winnie had left. He was the son of W.T. Roberts’ brother Augustus J. Roberts, (1854–1945). Whilst at school he stayed with his uncle at Aberaman. He became Rating Officer for Radnor before WW1, and from 1921 the County Librarian for Breconshire.
  5. Though about five years older, David Edwin Davies was a close friend of DPR from their days in Aberdare. His family lived at 23 Windsor Street, in Trecynon.
  6. Rev J. Eric Jones. Unitarian Minister at Aberdare, 1962–2003.
  7. A portrait in oils of D.P. Roberts by J. Towyn Jones, dated 1964, is held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Acknowledgement: The writing of this account of the life of D. P. Roberts was made possible with information supplied by Dr David Harris to whom we are most grateful. Dr Harris, the grandson of Winnie Roberts, DPR’s sister, qualified in medicine from Leeds University in 1968. He was Consultant Psychiatrist in hospitals in Ottawa and London (Ontario). He retired in 2009 and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario.


CR 30 April 2020