BIOGRAPHY OF THE
Reverend R. I. Parry, M.A.
By T. J. EVANS, B.Sc.
Photograph by courtesy of Glyn Davies
Robert Ivor Parry was born in Holyhead on 7th April 1908. His father Benjamin Parry was an engineer officer employed on the Holyhead - Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) ferry service.
After attending Holyhead County School, he entered the University College of North Wales at Bangor in 1926, and graduated three years later with a first-class honours degree in history. This gained him the Robert Jones Scholarship enabling him to research for his Master’s degree which he obtained in 1931. His thesis (see bibliography) was adjudged the best in Welsh History for that year and it brought him the further award of the University’s Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Medal. He then pursued a course of postgraduate theological studies until 1933, when he accepted a call to Siloa Congregational Chapel at Aberdare. He was ordained in June of that year. Ivor Parry was only the third minister in the long history of the church, following two illustrious predecessors, the Reverend David Price (1843–78) and the Reverend D. Silyn Evans (1880-1930).
In 1940 he married Mona, the only daughter of Richard Morgan, a deacon of Siloa; this was the beginning of a splendid life-long partnership.
He resigned his pastorate in 1964 to become Head of Religious Studies at the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School1, a post which he held for ten years.
Although he came from the distant north of the principality, Ivor Parry rapidly adjusted to the environment of the South Wales valleys and the contributions he made to the religious and cultural life of Aberdare, stand comparison with those of the town’s most eminent native-born sons.
It is possible here only to mention a mere selection of his work and achievements in the many fields of his interests and activities.
Soon after his arrival in Aberdare he was recognised as an outstanding preacher and theologian, although on more than one occasion his modernistic outlook caused him to clash with the fundamentalist establishment of the town, notably on the question of Bible teaching and the young. His sermons had an intellectual rather than an emotional appeal, but they did not lack the common touch and they bore directly upon contemporary social and moral problems.
In 1950 he was elected secretary of the Glamorgan Welsh Congregational Association, five years later he became secretary of the Welsh Congregationalists’ Historical Association, and in 1959 the North Glamorgan Association of Congregational Churches nominated him as vice-president of the Congregational Union of Wales. His services as a preacher were in great demand, within and outside the borders of his native country. He was honoured by being asked to be the guest preacher at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers at Scarborough in 1967, and at the annual conference of Rotary International (Great Britain) at Bournemouth in 1974. He addressed the Welsh Congregational Union on many occasions and was a frequent broadcaster on religious affairs.
Meanwhile his abilities had been recognised in another walk of life. He was invested as High Constable of Miskin Higher in 1952, an office which he valued particularly for its historical significance. The following year he was elected President of the Aberdare Rotary Club.
His historical and theological works are listed in the accompanying bibliography2, but a brief comment is necessary here.
At the Bridgend National Eisteddfod in 1948 he won the prize for a treatise on Karl Barth the German theologian; three years later the same essay gained him the Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Prose, the first occasion this award was made. The essay was published in book form in 1949.
In 1948 under the auspices of the Extra-Mural Department, University College, Cardiff, he conducted classes at Aberdare on the theme of Christianity and Culture. These continued until 1965.
From 1962 until 1965 under the same aegis he gave a series of 72 lectures on the History of Aberdare. During the latter period he also lectured at the annual summer schools on Local History Studies held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. For several years under the nom-de-plume ‘Historicus’ he provided for the Aberdare Leader the popular and entertaining ‘Then it was News’ column which contained a wealth of carefully documented historical information.
His humour, scholarship and enthusiasm combined to make him a fluent lecturer and an inspiring teacher, and like his lectures, his written works were the products of painstaking research and are notable for their clarity of exposition and their elegance of style in both English and Welsh. In particular his book ‘Ymneilltuaeth’ commissioned to mark the 300th anniversary of Nonconformity in Wales, is regarded as a seminal study.
In spite of his many activities, this eminently civilised man found time to relax. He was a keen and knowledgeable follower of cricket and rugby and an excellent chess player.
Ivor Parry died on the 18th December 1975, two months after the death of his wife. He left a substantial sum of money to the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School to endow the ‘Mona and Ivor Parry Trust Fund’, the income from which, was to be used to promote the welfare of the boys of the school. Appropriately among the awards made possible by this legacy, there is an annual prize for local history.
I wish to thank Mr. W.T. Morgan3, M.A., of Aberystwyth for his unstinting help and advice, Mr. Richard Arnold and the staff of Aberdare Central Library, for their kind assistance, Mr. D.L. Davies, B.A., the Reverend R.O. Thomas and Mr. D.G. Roberts, M.Sc., B.D.S., L.D.S., all of Aberdare, for their valuable comments and suggestions.
The editors are most grateful to Tom Evans, the author of the original biography and to the publishers, The Cynon Valley History Society, for allowing us to use this account.
1 Mr Parry had taken up temporary teaching positions at the school
in both 1960 and 1962 prior to his permanent appointment.
2 The original article was entitled Biography and Bibliography of Reverend R.I. Parry, M.A., 1908 - 1975; the bibliography has not been included here. It can be found on page 4, Old Aberdare, Volume 3. (CVHS, 1984).
3 Walter Morgan was born and brought up in Aberdare. He was a pupil at the school from 1923 - 1930. He graduated in History at U.C. Cardiff and eventually became a Keeper at the National Library of Wales. Walter’s father Isaac was the very first pupil to be enrolled in the school in 1896.