Institutional Archives

Death of John Viriamu Jones, Cardiff’s First Principal

Resolution in the Council Minutes (June 1883) to appoint Viriamu Jones [Ref. UCC/CL/M/1]
Resolution in the Council Minutes (June 1883) to appoint Viriamu Jones [Ref. UCC/CL/M/1]

Today (1st June 2015) marks the 114th anniversary of the death of John Viriamu Jones, the first Principal (equivalent of the Vice-Chancellor) of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (later Cardiff University). Although a prominent physicist who worked extensively on the ohm, Viriamu Jones’ enduring work is his contribution to education.

The order of proceedings for his funeral demonstrates his social impact and esteem. The mourners included representatives from the University College, University of Wales and the various other schools and educational institutions in which he had played a leading role, and the Great Western Railway even put on a special train to carry him his final resting place at St Thomas’ Cemetery in Swansea.

Order of Proceedings for Viriamu Jones' Funeral [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]

Order of Proceedings for Viriamu Jones’ Funeral [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31] Order of Proceedings for Viriamu Jones’ Funeral [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]

He was just 27 years of age when he was appointed as Cardiff’s first Principal and just 45 at the time of his death. It would appear, however, that during his short life the impact he had on education at all levels in Wales cannot be overstated. Among other achievements, he was a strong supporter of Welsh language in education in Wales. He was a member of the Welsh Language Board that in 1900 recommended that Welsh-speaking schoolchildren should be taught in Welsh until Higher School and that there should be “systematic teaching of Welsh”. The choice of hymns for his funeral and memorial service further demonstrate his support for the Welsh language.

In a published memoir of her husband’s life and work, his widow Katherine Viriamu Jones recalls a national outpouring of emotion following his death. She writes of ‘letters flowing from every side’ which included a letter from the King.[1] Finally, she recalls an anecdote from her husband’s funeral that epitomises his contribution to the people of Wales:

As the long train of carriages paused in the streets of Swansea, his youngest brother Morlais heard a workman ask his mate, ‘Who’s this we’re waitin’ for?’ ‘Don’t you know?’ was the answer. ‘It’s him as cared for us.’ [2]

See our blog post Access and learning for all: University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire in the 1880s, for more information on this subject.

Hymns from the Memorial Service for Viriamu Jones [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]

Hymns from the Memorial Service for Viriamu Jones [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]


Hymns to be sung at the Graveside during Viriamu Jones' Funeral [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]

Hymns to be sung at the Graveside during Viriamu Jones’ Funeral [Ref.: UCC/P/L&P/31]

References

[1] Katharine Viriamu Jones, Life of John Viriamu Jones (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1915), p. 356

[2] Ibid.

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