Rev. J. Gwynno James, M.A.
(ABGS 1926-1931)

J. Gwynno James

The Very Rev Gwynno James
formerly Dean of Brecon

John Gwynno James was born in Llanwynno on 7th September 1912. He had a long career in the Anglican church in Wales fulfilling many roles including Vicar of Roath and Dean of Brecon.

He was the son of Rev. John Richard James and his wife Anne Maria James1. John Richard James was curate at Llanwynno 1904-14, and later at Cilfynydd, and at St Brides Minor. In the Aberdare area he was Vicar of Aberaman from 1926 until he died on December 8th 1941. John Gwynno James was his second son; the eldest being Richard Noel James and the youngest Henry Anthony James. All three boys attended Aberdare Boys County School, all went to Oxford, and all became priests. The three boys started at the school in 1926 when their parents arrived at The Vicarage in Aberaman. They left the school in 1928, 1931 and 1932 - in order of oldest to youngest. Richard and Gwynno both entered Keble College Oxford with Church Scholarships, and Richard was one of the few boys from the school ever to take Greek Responsions2 at Oxford, which he did in 1927.

Reflecting the earlier posts of their father in various parts of Glamorgan, Richard entered the school from Bargoed Secondary School, Gwynno from Tondu Elementary School and Bridgend Country School, and Henry arrived from Tondu Elementary School to enter Form 1 at Aberdare.

Gwynno James gained his B.A. (1934), Diploma in Theology, (1935), and an M.A. was awarded in 1937. He was at St. Michael’sCollege3, Llandaff 1936-38.

His career in the Church involved several different types of positions:

Whilst at Llandaff he married Mary David, one of the twin daughters of Col. Charles H. David and his wife Feronia (née Washer), The Lodge, Llandaff. The marriage took place at Llandaff Cathedral on June 3rd, 1947. The couple raised a son and a daughter.

J. Gwynno James

Coun. J.W. Richards, (Chairman of Governors),
The Very Rev Gwynno James Dean of Brecon,
and Mr Jess Warren (Headmaster), at the 1965 Prize Day.

Gwynno James was a competent musician, indeed he was organist at a wedding in St. Margaret’s Church, Aberaman in May 1939. But he is best remembered in this respect for his association with Alan Hoddinot and William Mathias. With music by Alan Hoddinot, he set the words to the anthem5 "Great art Thou, O God." This was first performed at a wedding at Llandaff Cathedral in 19616. He collaborated with the same composer in providing the text for “Dives and Lazarus”, a cantata7 for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus and orchestra. With Mathias he wrote the words for "St. Teilo Masque" (1962)8: a dramatic cantata. This was fêted as the highlight of the week at the Llandaff Festival in June 1963. Mathias dedicated his work, "Aedes Christi", to Gwynno James on his installation at Brecon in 1964.

As well as setting words for sacred music, it was decided at a later date to publish a collection of his sermons: “Alight with love: A collection of sermons”.9  He also fulfilled his duties on committees, serving as a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Church in Wales.

In February 1965, he was guest of honour at the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School Certificate Ceremony. As part of his address he expressed his gratitude to the headmaster when he was at school, Walter Charlton Cox, who taught him all the Greek he ever knew. Mr Cox was well known for his ability to teach a range of subjects, stepping in to teach mathematics, the classical languages and English when it became necessary.

Gwynno James was struck down at the relatively early age of 54. He died on 18th February, 1967 at Brecon War Memorial Hospital. Four days later, on February 22nd, following an early morning Requiem, there was, at noon, a funeral service held at Brecon Cathedral. It was indicative of the esteem in which he was held that it was attended by the Archbishop of Wales, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Deans of St David’s, St Asaph and Llandaff; the Principal of Trinity College, Carmarthen; The Lord Lieutenant of Breconshire; the Mayor and Corporation of Brecon and many other distinguished individuals. Interment followed later in the day at Llandaff, when the Bishop of Llandaff conducted the committal service, assisted by Bishop T.M. Hughes and the Dean of Llandaff.

His wife Mary lived for another 35 years, she died on 31st January, 2003. The gravestone for Gwynno James, his wife and a grand daughter can be found at Llandaff - engraved “O Quanta Qualia.”

We are most grateful to The Very Reverend Geoffrey Marshall, Dean of Brecon, for providing the main photograph of the late Rev Gwynno James.


  1. Anne Maria James also appears in census returns as Annie Marie. In the 1891 census, when she was 15, her father was listed as John James, Curate of Llanwonno.
  2. In the twentieth century, Responsions became an entrance examination for the colleges of Oxford University. It was abolished in 1960
  3. St. Michael’s & All Angels’ Theological College had its first home in Aberdare. The College opened on March 1st, 1892, occupying Abernant House, originally the home successively of ironmasters James Birch, Rowland Fothergill & Richard Fothergill, and from 1917 the location of Aberdare General Hospital. In 1907 the college relocated to Llandaff, Cardiff.
  4. During his period at Roath, Gwynno James was instrumental in commissioning the replacement of the great east window, which was destroyed as a result of bomb blast damage in World War 2.
  5. ‘Great art Thou, O God’, Words by Gwynno James. (Oxford Anthems) Oxford University Press (1962).
  6. The wedding was that of Miss Joanna Gethyn Lewis (Cliffside, Penarth) and Mr Christopher Gordon LL. Cory (The Grange, St. Brides-super-Ely) on 30th September 1961 at Llandaff Cathedral. Reported in The Times, Oct 2, 1961, page 14.
  7. ‘Dives and Lazarus’, A cantata for soprano and baritone soloists, mixed chorus and orchestra (or organ), Oxford University Press (1965). This was first performed at The 1965 Farnham Festival in The Parish Church of St. Andrew on 20 May 1965. The performance received a praiseworthy review in The Times of Friday, May 21, 1965; page 17, in which the reviewer comments: “The author, who is Dean of Brecon, uses language both simple and extremely vivid; and it has evidently spurred the composer’s invention”. An LP recording was available, and was marketed by Argo on ZRG 824.
  8. ‘St. Teilo. A Dramatic Cantata’, University Of Wales Press (1970).
  9. ‘Alight with love: A collection of sermons’, Church in Wales Publications (1975).