Roger Samuel Williams was born in 1942 in Barnet, London, the son of Welsh émigrés who had left Wales in the 1920s and 30s. His father was an Aberdarian, John Eaton Williams1, and his mother was Marian Thomas the daughter of a family of copper workers originally from Landore, Swansea.
Roger’s Welsh speaking parents met and later, in the summer of 1935, married in Y Tabernacl, a Welsh Congregational Chapel, in Kings Cross, London.
Roger’s parents returned to Wales after WW2, settling in Aberdare having bought Fforchneol Farm2 in Godreaman in 1946. Roger attended Aman Junior School, passing the 11-plus in 1952 at the age of ten. At Aman School Roger was taught English by Roslyn Reynolds (son of ABGS Headmaster T.B. Reynolds). An aunt who also lived at the farm, Miss Dora Thomas, who was producer of the Cwmaman Players, was also instrumental in giving Roger a firm grasp of English studies, and an interest in reading that has stayed with him throughout his life.
Roger arrived at Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School in 1952. Not long after starting at the school he was cornered by a master who asked whether he had a middle name, and when he answered in the affirmative, the teacher informed him from then on he would be known as Roger S. Williams, as the school already had a Roger Williams — that teacher was Meirion Jenkins3.
Being a year younger than many of his classmates made his early studies rather difficult, but at A level his enjoyment of learning took off. He took Mathematics, Physics and Geology.
At school, light relief — or at least recreation — was provided by the School Cross-Country Team, in which Roger ran with John Godding, Cyril Knibb and Aneurin Powell amongst others. Due to the emphasis on rugby at the school, cross-country running was a rather do-it-yourself activity with fixtures and transport to away events being organised by the boys.
In 1960 Roger obtained a place at Swansea University to study Civil Engineering, but he could not cope with the transition from small-class teaching at ABGS to the classes of 135 at the university, and he was asked to leave at the end of his first year. Nevertheless, a lifelong career in civil engineering lay ahead of him!
Failure and disappointment at Swansea turned into success as he enrolled at Glamorgan College of Technology at Treforest and pursued a four-year sandwich course in civil engineering, during which time he worked in the design office at Mountain Ash UDC, and as a Site Engineer for the consortium Christiani-Shand on the construction of the multi-storey flats at Hirwaun, and finally the Heads of the Valleys Road (Dowlais to Brynmawr). Incidentally, while at Hirwaun, in the summer of ’64, Roger met former pupil and classmate, the brilliant mathematician Melvyn K. Lewis4 who was employed on site as a labourer.
Roger had met Pat Scourfield, (of Sunny Bank Street, Aberaman, AGGS 1954-1959), while at school, through the Scouts and Guides, and they married in April 1965. Pat was by then a fully qualified teacher, having trained at Swansea Training College.
In 1966 they moved to Hereford where Roger joined the County Surveyor’s Department, while his wife had been appointed to a teaching post at a local school. In 1968 he obtained leave to attend a post-graduate course at Portsmouth in Traffic Engineering, and under the auspices of the Road Research Laboratory, conducted experiments on the use of Maximum Speed Signs for bends, which were later brought into use nationally. During his time in Hereford, Roger also completed a bridge design and several road schemes for his submission for chartered membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), which he obtained in 1969.
In 1969 Roger, Pat and new daughter Kate moved to Dinas Powys as Roger had obtained a post with Howard Humphreys and Sons in their Cardiff office. He was employed on the design of bypass schemes for Carmarthen and St Clears, and proposed a new route for the A4042 Cwmbran/Pontypool/ Croesyceiliog scheme, (previously known as the New Inn Bypass). The new proposal was adopted by the Welsh Office, and, following construction, won the South Wales Prize of the ICE.
In 1970 after his son Richard was born, Roger and family were off again and moved back to Hereford as the Ministry of Transport, (as it was then known), intended dualling the A49 from Ross-on-Wye to Cheshire to relieve the M5. This did not come to fruition, the decision being to widen the M5 to three lanes instead.
Another move to Swansea to the West Glamorgan County Council came in 1974. There, Roger worked on the design of A465, the road from Aberdulais to Glynneath. He was appointed Measurement Engineer on the Resident Engineer’s team for the M4 Motorway, Margam to Stormy Down section; and later the design of bypass schemes in the Swansea valley.
With major road-building in West Glamorgan coming to an end, Roger decided on a change of direction and in the year 1986/7 obtained leave to pursue an MSc in Construction Management at Brunel University.
On returning to Swansea Roger had charge of the department’s graduate training programme, and it was working with young engineers that encouraged him in 1989 to join the staff of the Polytechnic of Wales, later to become the University of Glamorgan, as Senior Lecturer in Highway Engineering and Transportation.
One of his guiding principles as a lecturer was to ensure that his experience all those years ago in Swansea University would not be suffered by any one of his students.
Lecturing gave Roger the opportunity to travel to France, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore, and as part of an exchange scheme, one week of lectures in 1993 at the Technical University in Gliwice, Poland, on the process of planning, design and construction of major highway schemes in the UK.
Roger retired from the University of Glamorgan in 1997 and thereafter he and his wife continued their interests in music, working with the Friends of Swansea Festival, becoming members of the Gower Chorale, and organising lunchtime recitals in Mumbles. Roger was a committee member of the Mumbles Tourist Office and the local historical association, and he was one of the instigators of the Gower Walking Festival in 2005.
For a period of ten years in retirement, Roger and a former colleague provided advice gratis, on small civil engineering projects, to Brecon Beacons National Park and the National Trust in Wales.
Roger’s wife Pat passed away in 2012 concluding 47 years of marriage. Roger now resides in Burry Port, and enjoys cycling, local history, theatre and music, the company of family including five grandchildren, and the many friends, far and wide, gathered over a lifetime. The love of English continues with a particular interest in autobiography.
31 December 2018