William Edmunds (1827-1875) was first vice-principal of what was to become Trinity College, Carmarthen.

Lampeter born and bred, Edmunds was the son of a saddler, Edmund Edmunds, and his wife, Mary. He was christened on 27 December 1827. He was educated at Lampeter Grammar School, before going on to St David’s College. There he was one of the most distinguished students, becoming senior scholar and winning many prizes. He was ordained in 1849 by the bishop of St David’s, Connop Thirlwall. He was also awarded the Bishop’s Prize for the most successful candidate. However, his first post was as vice-principal of Carmarthen Training College, later to become Trinity College. He met the National Society’s condition that the vice-principal should be able to speak, read and write Welsh. Indeed, he urged the gentry to learn some common Welsh so they could communicate more meaningfully with the poor, while opposing ‘any narrow cry of exclusive patriotism.’ However, the relations between Edmunds and the college principal William Reed were often difficult. Edmunds’ diaries frequently mention Reed’s absence from college. On 2 April 1852, he wrote ‘Mr Reed not in school today! Gave his class a lesson on the Litany and two Latin lessons. Their Latin is wretched!’ He also lost confidence in the organization of curriculum, commenting ‘What we call teaching has been entirely discontinued.’ 

In 1853, Edmunds left Carmarthen to become headmaster of Lampeter Grammar School. At this time, the number of pupils there was small; there was competition from Ystrad Meurig and from the new school in Llandovery. Edmunds concentrated on strengthening the school’s academic reputation and it flourished under his leadership. Pupils attended from every county in Wales. At one time, it was said that half the students in St David’s College had previously attended the grammar school. Some of these went on to win high honours at Oxford.  

It was Edmunds who organized the appeal for the presentation of a testimonial to Llewelyn Lewellin, the long serving first principle of St David’s College. 

In 1863 Edmunds was also appointed non-resident vicar of Rhostïe, near Llanilar. He was allowed to keep a curate and lived there during the school holidays. He built a schoolhouse and restored the vicarage. 

Edmunds was a talented scholar and a keen student of local history. He was involved in the publication of the 11th edition of Theophilus Evans’ Drych y Prif Oesoedd in 1854adding a long introduction. In 1856, he published a Welsh spelling book, Gwers-lyfr Llanbedr: yn Cynwys Gwersi Hawdd i Ddysgu Sillebu a Darllen Cymraeg. Also that year, he revised Charles Edwards’ Y Ffydd Ddiffuant for its eighth editionEdmunds’ 1859 paper ‘On some old families in the neighbourhood of Lampeter’ was published in Archӕlogia Cambrensis in 1860 and then as a book shortly afterwards. 

Edmunds died at his brother’s house on 21 February 1875; he was buried in Lampeter Parish Church.

Sources 

Jones, D. G., (1959). Edmunds, William (1827 - 1875), cleric, schoolmaster, and man of letters. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Available from: https://biography.wales/article/s-EDMU-WIL-1827. [Accessed 30 April 2020] 

Price, D.T.W. (1977). A history of Saint David’s University College Lampeter. Vol 1: to 1898. Cardiff: University of Wales Press 

Visit to Lampeter. Transactions and archaeological record, Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society. 1911;1(1):32-47. Available from: https://journals.library.wales/view/1177372/1177373/59#?xywh=-2033%2C-12%2C6630%2C4058 [Accessed 30 April 2020] 

Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard. Lampeter. In memoriam. Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard. 12 March 1875. Available from: https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3307292/3307297/17/. [Accessed 30 April 2020] 

Grigg, R. (1998). History of Trinity College Carmarthen 1848-1998. Cardiff: University of Wales Press