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Welshmen Known in London.-VII.…


Welshmen Known in London.-VII. Sir Owen Roberts, D.C.L. OUR readers will recollect that we gave them a few weeks ago a short biographical sketch of the Welshman who to-day fills the highest position in the City of London. We go to that same city once again, to find there another Welshman, who, perhaps is 'not so prominent before the public eye, but who fills positions of very great confidence and responsi- bility. Those who have followed the story of the Growth and Development of Technical Education during the last twenty years, may remember that such a familiar Welsh name as that of Owen Roberts appears in it pretty often, but about whom they do not know very much. And we doubt also whether many of them have anything like a correct idea of the diversity and breadth of this gentleman's services to his generation in connection with this great move- ment. Sir Owen Roberts was born at Tymawr, Clynnog, in the county of Carnarvon, in the year 1835. Mr. Owen Roberts, his father was estate agent to Mr. Thomas Assheton Smith, of Vaenol, and to Mr. Charles Griffith Wynne, of Cefnamwlch, two of the greatest landowners in that county, if not in North Wales and his mother was Katherine, daughter of Mr. John Roberts, of Castell, a family highly respected, and from which several of the most prominent men in North Wales to-day, have sprung. The subject of this sketch received his earlier education at Tarvin Hall School, Chester, a school out of which came some of the most renowned mathematicians of the last century. From Chester he proceeded to Oxford, becoming a scholar of Jesus College, spending four years there and graduating at the University. He is now an M.A. of Oxford; Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, and D.C.L. of the University of Durham. And, as we are mentioning honours, we may further mention that he is a J.P. and D.L. of the counties of Carnarvon and London, and one of His Majesty's Lieutenants for the City of London. On leaving Oxford, Mr. Owen Roberts, as he was then, entered the Civil Service, and was appointed on the staff of the War Office in Pall Mall. Judging from what he has done in another sphere, it is almost certain that if he had remained in the service of the Government, he would have attained to a very high position. But his fortunes1 laid elsewhere. In 1861, he entered as a law student at the Inner Temple, and was called to the Bar in 1864. But it was in 1866 that he found his proper sphere, in which his life work was to be accomplished. That year he was elected Clerk to the Clothworkers' Company, one of the great corporations that have played such a part in the history of the City of London. For nearly forty years has he held this office of great confidence and responsibility, giving the best satisfaction to his Company, and winning for himself the respect and esteem of all who come in contact with him in the busy and exacting life of the Metropolis. He is, in addition, a director of the Improved Industrial SIR OWEN ROBEHTS, D.C.L. Dwellings Association, and was for many years a director of the Imperial Fire and Life In- surance Companies, before their amalgamation with the Alliance, but he refused a seat on the board of the amalgamated Companies. Business, however, has not been allowed to absorb the thought and energy of this sturdy man of Carnarvon. London, as is well known, has a large number of organisations, civic, benevolent, and educational, supported by the wealthy companies and guilds of the City. Sir Owen Roberts has served the city of his adoption well, in connection with these various institu- tions. He has been chairman of the City Estates Committee, a committee which deals with an annual income of something like z' ^"100,000; Vice-Chairman of the City Parochial Foundation Governor of the Mitchell's-City of London-Charity; Governor of the Prison Charities Foundation; but we cannot mention all the benevolent societies and institutions that have benefited by his administrative powers. He is a Fellow of the Society of Arts, has served as its treasurer for twenty years, and in 1905 was elected Chairman of its Council. His greatest services, however, have been done for the cause of education, more par- ticularly University and Technical Education. How great his work, and how valuable his services in this cause, will be seen, if we mention some of the positions he either now holds or has held during late years. He is a Governor of the Regent Street and Northampton Poly- technics Chairman of the Polytechnics Com- mittee of the Technical Education Committee of the L.C.C. (1893-1904); Chairman of the Central Foundation Schools of London, which have in them 700 boys and 450 girls member of the Council of King's College, London; member of the Council of the University of Leeds (nominated by the Government); took a leading part in the foundation and constitution of the City and Guilds of London Institution, and in many schemes for the advancement of technical education generally, and also of the higher education of women. When the London University was reconstituted in 1898, he was one of the Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to make statutes and regulations for it, and he occupies a seat on the Senate of the University. Such a catalogue of facts speaks for itself, and is a most eloquent testimony to the incessant labours of Sir Owen, and to the con- fidence all these various important bodies have in his skill and wisdom. He has never taken a very prominent part in politics, but as regards Home Rule he is a Unionist, and as regards trade, a strong anti-Protectionist. On one occasion, some years ago, when the two parties on the London County Council agreed to divide the Aldermen's seats between them, both sent him the same day, quite independent of one another, a pressing invitation to occupy a seat. But he declined. In the year 1888, in recognition of his great and valuable services to the cause of education, Her Majesty the late Queen conferred upon him The Honour of Knighthood, and if constant and painstaking labours ever deserved such a recognition it was deserved by Sir Owen Roberts. We have no space left to dwell upon his personal characteristics and private life, and we know that he would not wish it. We may state, however, that he has been thrice married, and has brought up a large family, several of whom are now happily settled in good positions. His portrait represents the man, I the open face does not belie his character. Broad in ideas and