Professor Emrys Jones phd, dsc, duniv, frgs, fba

HD Portrait

Emrys Jones
in his Bardic Robes.
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru
Y Faenol, 2005

Emrys Jones was a professor of Geography at the London School of Economics for twenty-three years. He is credited with being a founder of the discipline of social geography that became a new field of study within his subject. He published many papers and books, many of which focused on the urban environment.

He was a man proud of his roots in the Cynon Valley and of his Welshness. Indeed, he was received into the Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod at Y Faenol in 2005. Recognising his background in Aberaman, the name he chose to be known by at the Gorsedd was ‘Crwtyn Blaengwawr’, [Blaengwawr Lad]. Despite his prominence in academia and the world of scholarship, he was a modest man ready to share his knowledge with anyone, and eager to help his fellow Welshmen in any way he could.

Emrys was born on August 17th 1920 at 3 Henry Street, off Cardiff Road, in Aberaman. He was the son of Samuel and Anne Jones who were both Welsh speaking, and Emrys was raised to be a fluent speaker of his native tongue.

He was educated at Blaengwawr Elementary School and, from 1932, the Boys County School in Aberdare. He took his School Certificate in 1936, Higher Certificate in 1938, and progressed directly to UCW Aberystwyth having gained a major entrance scholarship, which paid his fees plus £50 per annum. He graduated with a first class degree in geography and anthropology having been an outstanding student during his Aberystwyth days.

After graduating, he spent the remaining years of the War working in a hospital, and later as an ambulance driver. After the war was over, he lost no time in gaining his MSc (1945) and PhD (1947), both from Aberystwyth.

Emrys at a function

Emrys at the London Welsh
St David’s Day Dinner
at the Savoy Hotel, 1 March 2000

He then embarked upon a thirty-seven year career in higher education: assistant lectureship at University College London (1947-50), lectureship and senior lectureship at Queen’s University Belfast (1950-58), reader in social geography at LSE (1959-61), and finally as professor of geography there, (1961-84).

He wrote, and co-wrote, numerous books which were widely acclaimed by his peers and his students. Expertise in the field of social and urban geography led to several consultancies in town and regional planning schemes in both the UK and abroad. He also became involved with the CNAA, and advised the polytechnics that were introducing new degree schemes.

Emrys was the recipient of many honours: honorary degrees from Queen’s, Belfast, and the OU; and a fellowship from UCW Aberystwyth. He was also a vice president of The Royal Geographical Society and a Fellow of the British Academy. After retirement in 1984, he continued with his writing, completing many books including, The Welsh in London 1500-2000, (2002).

Emrys married an Anglesey girl, Iona V. Hughes, in 1948. They brought up two daughters, Catrin and Rhiannon. For many years Emrys and Iona lived in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, and whilst there Emrys was one of the pillars of the local Welsh society. He also gave years of service to the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, culminating with the office of President of the Society from 1989 to 2001. The Cymmrodorion Medal was presented to him by the Prince of Wales, Patron of the Society, in the year 2001 in recognition of his contribution to the Society, to scholarship, and to Wales.


presentation to R S Thomas

From the left: Emrys Jones, Robin Llywelyn, R.S. Thomas, Sir Kyffin Williams
at the presentation of the Cymmrodorion Medal to RS Thomas by Emrys as Society President
The presentation took place on 6 July 2000 in the garden of RS Thomas
Photo: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Right up to his final days, Emrys remained fully engaged in matters both Welsh and ‘urban’: indeed, on a hot July day in 2006, he led a party consisting of members of the Cymmrodorion and Montgomery Societies on a tour, which he had devised, of places in the City of London with special links to Wales. The BBC transmitted a series of programmes on the Welsh in London narrated by Huw Edwards, in which Emrys had a leading role. They were broadcast after his death and dedicated to him by the producers.

Emrys and Iona

Emrys and Iona at the St David’s Day Dinner in the year 2000

Emrys died on August 30th, 2006, aged 86. He will be well remembered, especially among the Welsh in London and surrounding areas.

This appreciation of the career of Emrys Jones is based upon the an obituary written by John Samuel (ABGS: 1952-60), and the Guardian obituary written by John Elliott. The full text from the Guardian is available here. Many thanks to John Samuel who kindly provided all the photographs.