William Arthur James (pictured left with his wife Agnes Davies) was born in 1871 in The Castle Inn, Cwm, Victoria, Ebbw Vale, parish of Aberystruth, Monmouthshire, South Wales. He was the son of William P James (1843-1924), a coal miner, and Margaret Edmunds (1839-1877). He spent his childhood on the South Wales coalfield, mainly in the Rhondda and Rhymney districts. He may have spent some time in Pennsylvania, USA, in the late 1870s and early 1880s, with his uncle, John Phillip James.
In the 1890s, having returned to Wales, he obtained his 2nd and 1st class certificates in mining, and followed a career in mine management. He was good at mathematics, and could play the violin.
In 1901, at Pentrebach, near Merthyr Tydfil, he was married to Agnes Davies (1878-1956), a younger daughter of John Davies, late inkeeper of the Wyndham Arms, Merthyr Tydfil, and Sarah Morgan. Their first two children, John Gwilym James (1902-1935) and Blodwen James (later Greenwood) (1904-1987), were born in Merthyr Tydfil. (For some further information on Blodwen, see Jack and Blod, Character Duetists).
Their remaining four children, Agnes Madeline James (later James) (1907-1990), William Charles Edward James (1913-1983), and twins Daisy Margaret Louvain James (later Hollingworth and Pooley) and Ivy Edith Cavell James (later Elliott) (born 1915), were all born at Aberbargoed in the Rhymney valley. William senior followed his mine management career at Deri pit.
In 1922, the family emigrated to New South Wales, Australia, to be reunited with William's father and brothers, who had emigrated in 1883. William, Agnes and children took a passage on the Largs Bay. They settled at Abermain, in the South Maitland Coalfields, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, where William took a position as Deputy at Abermain No 1 Colliery.
The family prospered until the Lockout of 1929, which ushered in the Great Depression. Tragedy struck the family in 1935. William's daughter-in-law, Daisy Evelyn James (wife of John Gwilym), escaped from hospital and was found in the bush three days later, dead. The distraught husband shot himself in his father's house in the presence of a police guard. The couple left five children under the age of 9 years.
In the early 1940s, William and Agnes moved to Randwick, an eastern suburb of Sydney. They took a flat above shop in the main street, and enjoyed the advantages and convenience of living in the city. William died in 1948 and Agnes in 1956.
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Peter J Williams