Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thomas, Owen

THOMAS, OWEN (1812–1891), Calvinistic methodist minister, son of Owen and Mary Thomas, was born in Edmund Street, Holyhead, on 16 Dec. 1812. John Thomas (1821–1892) [q. v.] was a younger brother. His father was a stonemason, and he followed the same occupation from the time of the removal of the family to Bangor in 1827 until he was twenty-two. In 1834 he began to preach in connection with the Calvinistic methodists, among whom his father had been a lay officer until his death in 1831, and at once took high rank as a preacher. After keeping school in Bangor for some years, he entered in 1838 the Calvinistic methodist college at Bala, and thence proceeded in 1841 to the university of Edinburgh. Lack of means, however, forced him to cut short his university course before he could graduate, and in January 1844 he became pastor of Penymount chapel, Pwllheli. In the following September he was ordained in the North Wales Association meeting at Bangor. Two years later he moved to Newtown, Montgomeryshire, to take charge of the English Calvinistic methodist church in that town, and at the end of 1851 he accepted the pastorate of the Welsh church meeting in Jewin Crescent, London. In 1865 he moved again to Liverpool, where he spent the rest of his days as pastor, first, of the Netherfield Road, and then (from 1871) of the Princes Road church of the Calvinistic methodists. He was moderator of the North Wales Association in 1863 and 1882, and of the general assembly of the denomination in 1868 and 1888. Throughout life he was a close student, and his literary work bears witness to his wide theological reading and talent for exposition. But it was as a preacher he won the commanding position he occupied in Wales; his native gifts of speech and intense earnestness enabled him to wield in the pulpit an influence which was said to recall that of John Elias [q. v.], and he never appeared to better advantage than in the great open-air services held in connection with the meetings of the two associations. In 1877 the degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by Princeton College, New Jersey. He died on 2 Aug. 1891, and was buried in Anfield cemetery, Liverpool.

The following is a list of his published works: 1. A Welsh translation of Watson's essay on ‘Sanctification,’ Llanrwst, 1839. 2. ‘Commentary on the New Testament’ (1862–1885), embodied in additional notes to a Welsh version of Kitto's ‘Commentary.’ Editions of the commentaries on ‘Hebrews’ (1889) and ‘Galatians’ (1892) were issued separately. 3. ‘Life of the Rev. John Jones, Talsarn, with a Sketch of the History of Welsh Theology and Preaching’ (Welsh), 2 vols. Wrexham, 1874. 4. ‘Life of the Rev. Henry Rees’ (Welsh), 2 vols. Wrexham, 1890. Thomas was a contributor to the ‘Traethodydd’ from its start, and for a time one of its two joint editors. Many of the articles in the first edition of the ‘Gwyddoniadur,’ a Welsh encyclopædia, in ten volumes (1857–77), were from his pen.

On 24 Jan. 1860 he married Ellen (d. 1867), youngest daughter of the Rev. William Roberts, Amlwch.

[Information kindly furnished by the Rev. Josiah Thomas, M.A. of Liverpool; articles in the Geninen (January 1892), Dysgedydd (September 1891); and Cymru (September 1891).]

J. E. L.