Bala People

Discover some Bala Born Famous People

Thomas Charles

Founder of the Welsh Circulating Schools and the British and Foreign Bible Society, Thomas was born in Carmarthenshire, of humble parentage, and was educated for the Anglican ministry at Llanddowror and Carmarthen, and at Jesus College, Oxford. After studying theology under the evangelical John Newton at Olney, he was ordained deacon in 1778 and took priests orders a few years later in 1780. Having resigned all his curacies in England, in June 1783 he returned to Wales to marry Sarah Jones of Bala, the orphan of a flourishing shopkeeper. He was clearly influenced by the great revival movement in Wales, having been converted at the age of seventeen by a sermon of Daniel Rowland. This was enough to make him unpopular with many of the Welsh clergy and he was on numerous occasions denied the privilege of preaching at churches in the area. Eventually, in 1784, he was given charge of Llanynmawddwy, a church 54 miles from Bala, but unfortunately was forced to leave after three months on account of three influential locals who persuaded the rector to dismiss him. The Church of England denied him employment, while the Methodist movement was keen to secure him. His friends advised him to return to England, but later that year he accompanied an old friend, Henry Newman, on a tour in Caernarfonshire. By December of that year he was preaching at the Bont Uchel Association, and he formally joined the Methodists. In the interim period, Charles had begun to gather the poor children of Bala into his house for instruction on reading and the scriptures. Soon, there were so many willing youngsters that he had to move the school activities to the local chapel. This was the beginning of the Welsh Circulating Schools which Charles developed on the lines adopted by Thomas Charles Griffith Jones of Llanddowror. The establishment of these schools depended upon a man firstly being trained for the teaching work by Charles himself. The man was then sent to a district for a period of six months where he taught the local children and young people reading and Christian principles. Writing was to come later. These schools were funded by collections made in the Calvinistic Methodist Societies. In 1800, Charles met a poor young Welsh girl named Mari Jones, who walked some 25 miles to purchase a Welsh Bible from him at Bala. Charles was so moved by the young woman’s efforts to secure a Bible, that he persuaded friends and colleagues in London to form a new society, whose sole object should be to supply bibles. The British and Foreign Bible Society was formally inaugurated on March 7. The first Welsh testament was issued by the society and appeared on 6 May 1806, and the full bible appeared a year later on 7 May 1807, both having been edited by Thomas Charles. Thomas Charles is remembered as one of the makers of modern Wales.

Syr Owen M Edwards

Sir Owen M Edwards was born at Coed-y-Pry, Llanuwchlyn, near Bala on 26 December 1858. He was the eldest son of Owen and Elizabeth Edwards. He attended Bala College with the intention of becoming a nonconformist minister. However, he left the college to study English, history and philosophy at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and spent a few academic years studying at Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford from which he graduated with first class honours in history in 1887. He returned to Oxford some years later in 1889 to take up the position of Fellow of Lincoln College and tutor in history. He remained in this position until 1907. For the majority of his time at Oxford, his academic works had been few, until the publication of his popular volume, Wales – a book on the history of Wales, published in 1901. He had also been engaged since 1890 in editing a number of Welsh periodicals including Cymru Fydd (begun in 1890), Cymru (1891), Cymru’r Plant (1892), Wales (1894), Y Llenor (1895) and Heddyw (1897). He was also behind a scheme to publish a number of Welsh classics through the series ‘Cyfres y Fil’. This series proved crucial to ensuring the survival of a distinctive Welsh culture by providing the Welsh people with a knowledge of their past history and literature, and in encouraging a pool of young Welsh writers. In 1906 he established Urdd y Delyn a youth society that was the precursor of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the youth movement of Wales still going strong today, which was set up by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards in 1922. Edwards was appointed the first Chief Inspector of Schools in 1907 under the direction of the recently established Welsh Education Department. Through this he was able to reform the Welsh education system by encouraging the teaching of Welsh and Welsh culture and improving the atmosphere of Welsh schools. His proud nationalism was primarily culturally motivated rather politically motivated. He was knighted for his contribution to education in January 1916. He died at his home of Neuadd Wen, Llanuwchlyn in 1920. Owen Morgan Edwards is remembered as a prominent man of letters, author, editor and educator who’s passionate love for Wales inspired his work and helped to keep the nation’s culture alive for future generations.
Ifan ab Owen Edwards

Ifan ab Owen Edwards was born in Llanuwchllyn near Bala in Gwynedd in 1895 the son of Syr Owen M. Edwards. He read history at the University of Wales Aberystwyth. After serving as a soldier in the First World War he taught in Dolgellau. He was greatly influenced by his father and also wished to preserve the Welsh language and culture. He was the editor of the children’s magazine ‘Cymru’r Plant’ and in 1922 he wrote a letter for insertion saying " "What shall we the children of Wales do to keep the language alive. We will establish a new Urdd and we will try to get every young person under eighteen to join us." This lead to the founding of the Welsh leauge of Youth (Urdd Gobaith Cymru) and there is a camp here at Llyn Tegid still today. He opened the first Welsh language primary school in Wales in 1939 and was the first person ever to make a Welsh film "Y Chwarelwr"(The Quarryman) in 1937. He went on to tour the cinemas throughout Wales promoting the film and his passion for the Welsh language.

Christopher Timothy

Actor, presenter, director and producer Christopher Timothy was born in Bala on 14 October 1940. He is probably best known for his role as James Herriot in All Creatures Creat and Small. He spent his early years in Bala before his parents moved to London when he was six year old. His television career began with the 1969 series Take Three Girls and he went on to appear in the sit-com Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em in 1973 and Murder Most English in 1977. From there he secured the role of the vet James Herriot which he played from 1978 until 1980, and again between 1988 and 1990.

Compiled by Tourism Partnership Mid Wales

Augustus John

The artists, Augustus John and James Dickson Innes, lived in a cottage “Nant Ddu” at the foot of the mountain Arenig Fawr (1911 - 1912). This inspired them to paint views of the Arenig mountain under different light and seasonal conditions. Nant Ddu is situated to the west of the hamlet of Arenig, not far from Bala.

Betsi Cadwaladr

The small town of Bala lies in beautiful surroundings beside Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales. Two hundred years ago, the area was known for its knitted stockings and religious meetings. One of its local preachers was Dafydd Cadwaladr, whose daughter Betsi travelled all over the world and served at the field hospital Balaclava during the Crimean War.

Born in 1789 on the outskirts of Bala, Betsi`s adventurous, restless spirit drove her to leave home as a young girl. She found employment as a domestic servant with a rich family and travelled with them on tours of Scotland, Ireland and Europe. She never seemed keen on the idea of marriage, although she made a promise to marry Captain Harris, a friend of her father. However, he died at sea when his ship, the Perseverance, wrecked on a rock.

Later, she went to London and, after a few years in domestic service, became a maid to a captain`s wife on a ship sailing to the West Indies and back. She took work on other trading ships and travelled to Cape Town, Singapore, Calcutta, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro among other places. She changed her name to Elizabeth Davies because her English employers found the name Cadwaladr difficult to pronounce.

After settling for a time in England again, Betsi took up nursing, and when she heard about the Crimea War, she resolved to go out there and care for the wounded, although by now she was in her sixties. She sailed out with other nurses recruited by Florence Nightingale to Scutari base hospital. Betsi wanted to nurse closer to the battlefield and, without Florence Nightingale`s approval, went out to Balaclava military hospital where sick soldiers lived in atrocious conditions with maggots infesting their wounds. She quickly organised the place, instructing orderlies in caring for the men. Betsi took charge of the kitchen but, as she also tended the sick at night, her health suffered because of little sleep. Eventually she returned to England and died in London on 17 July 1860.

Betsi's names lives on as the "Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board" which is the largest health organisation in Wales.

Betsi Cadwaladr information with kind permission of: Dorothy Hamilton and Walking Wales Magazine

Augustus John & James Dickson Innes:

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