Evan Williams’ Story

Story compiled by Glynis,  Evan’s Grandaughter.

Evan was born 6th September 1879 at Warrenhill, Briton Ferry, Neath, Glamorgan, South Wales. His mother was 18 year old Mary Jane Cullis. She was a Piler in the Iron Works. We do not know who Evan’s father was as he is not named on Evan’s Birth Certificate. Evan was named Evan Cullis.

By 1881 Mary was either married to or living with William Williams and Evan took his surname. William was a Blacksmith in the 1881 and 1891 Census. We do not know if Evan was William Williams’ biological son. He may have been because it was not uncommon at that time for couples to marry after they had had children together.  Nor do we know if William formally adopted Evan. There is a family story that Evan’s real father was someone “big in the Chapel”.

Evan lived with William and Mary and his siblings until he joined the Cardiff Militia in 1897. In 1881 they lived at 13, Furnace Row, Michaelstone, South Wales and in 1891 they lived at 58, Terrig Clwydon, Pontythyafen or Pontethygafen, Michaelstone. Sometime between 1891 and 1901 they moved to Blaengarw. William was a fitter at coal mine in Blaengarw in the 1901 census.

William and Mary had thirteen children. Four of their children had died by the 1911 census. Evan’s living siblings were: John, Daniel, William, Lizzie Jane, Blodwen, Mary Hannah, Annie and David.

Evan names William and Mary, and John, Daniel, William and David as Next-of-kin in his army small book. He did not mention his sisters.

Page from Evan’s Army Small Book
1911 Census completed by William Williams

Evan left their house at 27, Gwendoline Street, BLAENGARW at the age of 18 years.

William and Mary continued to live at 27, Gwendoline Street until they died. It is likely that they are buried at the graveyard at Pontycymer.

Jennet Mary entered this in the Family Bible

We do not yet know when they died but they were still living at Gwendoline Street in the 1911 census. William was then a Colliery Fitter.

Evan left the Cardiff Militia and joined the Aberystwyth Militia in 1899 and, after 3 months, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery 19/6/1899, aged 19 years 9 months. The Royal Garrison Artillery was formed 1st July 1899 so Evan was one of its first recruits. His number was 274. Evan served for 8 years and a further 4 years in reserve.

Evan as a young Recruit to Royal Garrison Artillery

The jacket was royal blue. The trousers were dark blue. The collar and piping were red, the buttons were gold and the belt was buff with a gold buckle. The stick was called a “walking out cane” or “pace stick”.

Page from Evan’s Army Small Book

Evan served abroad for 4 years and 352 days. He was in South Africa, India and Aden. He was a Gunner (60 Pounder) and there is a family story that he was a Batman in Aden. He was discharged 18/6/1911

“  in consequence of the termination of his first period of engagement”. During this service he received The Queen’s South Africa medal with four clasps: South Africa 1901, Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony. It is inscribed “4390 GNR E Williams 28th BTY RFA”.

RFA is the Royal Field Artillery so Evan must have transferred to them before he went to Africa to fight in the Boer War.

Evan’s watch and medals

This time in Evan’s life must have been very different to his life before and after the Army. Evan was very smart and relatively very well off financially. Soldiers received a shilling a day and an extra penny a day for good conduct and Evan had at least two good conduct tapes. This was good pay for the time. He was gunner (60 pounder), which must have been very exciting as well as terrifying. The Gun was hauled by a team of up to six horses with one man riding on the horses and the other two or three men riding the huge gun. They would race into battle, set up the gun and fire it at the enemy lines.

Page from Evan’s Army Small Book
Evan Williams Evan (on right) at Aden

At Blaengarw his family were probably very poor and at that time the valley was very dirty from all the coal mines. Evan probably worked at one of the mines before he joined the army as he is described as a miner in his army records. In 1911 there were ten people living in the small house at Gwendoline Street. Only four were under 18 years old. After his time in the army Evan went back to the mines and all through the rest of his life Evan and his family were very poor. Evan tried many times to claim a pension for his army service and also for compensation for his lung condition, probably pneumoconiosis, which he contracted from his work as a coal miner. He failed to get any of these payments. During the 1926 General Strike Evan had to send one of his daughters away to live with a family in London as he was too poor to feed all of his family at this time.

Between 1911 and 1918 Evan presented himself for service on many occasions but was refused or discharged on medical grounds. On 15/4/1918 he rejoined the RGA when, surprisingly, his medical category was said to be A1. On 19/1/1919 he was transferred to Army Reserve at Dover where he was discharged. The reason for early release was “coal mining” and he was still Medical category A.

We have another medal inscribed “to Private E. Williams, Kenfig Hill in recognition of his services in the Great War 1914-1918” and another similar medal which is not inscribed. We also have another titled National Reserve Glamorgan.

It appears that at least two of Evan’s brothers left Blaengarw to join the Army. Daniel fought in WW1 and there is also a picture of Evan’s brother’s John and William where one of them is wearing an army uniform.

1) Daniel 2) John and William 3) Daniel and unknown man

In 1910 Evan married Jennet Mary Thomas and they had five children, four daughters and one son, born between 1911 and 1919. They were Olwyn, Minnie, Iris, Nancy and William. Jennet Mary had another son, Yorwerth, before she met Evan. His father is said to have emigrated to Australia but Jennet did not wish to leave her family. Yorwerth was brought up by Jennet’s parents as her brother.

Entries in Family Bible
1) Jennet Mary with their oldest child, Olwyn. 2) Evan and Jennet with baby 3) Evan and Jennet with their four daughters

Evan continued to be a coal miner. We do not know when he had to stop work but he was in the Home Guard in WW2. He resigned from the 3rd BN Glamorgan Home Guard “B” COY. Kenfig Hill Section on 3/4/1942. Evan and his family were living at Pyle, Glamorgan in 1941.We do not yet know how long they had been there.

Evan and Jennet Mary

Evan died 23rd November 1947 aged 68 years. His grave is at Cornelly. His wife, Jennet Mary, is buried in the same plot. She died 16th September 1965 aged 77 years.

Story compiled by Glynis,  Evan’s Grand daughter.

One comment Add yours
  1. Hi i would like to try and contact glynis the author of this very interesting story,, we live in pyle, nr k-hill and my husband descends from a grandfather daniel williams who married late in life his wifes name was beatrice thomas and what little research we have done so farwe believe daniel lived at gwendoline street,, we know he had a brither john,, john never married and was a traveler .. kind regards philippa

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