Edwards, Wil John

First name/s: Wil John
Last name: Edwards
Known names / nicknames:
Date of birth: 01/01/1888
Year of birth: 1888

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: Sometime in January 1888 in Cynon Valley, Wales


Work: worked as a coal miner

Politics/Trade union activity:ILP

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin)

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: 1908 -9

Source of funding:Scholarship through the Ruskin Correspondence Society (went back to work after a year because of financial hardship

Campaigns/political activity:Pitched battles with Oxford undergraduates! Protested against a mock prayer meeting held by other students (bucket of water from first floor.)Ruskin men broke up a meeting on the new Licensing Act in Oxford Town Hall. Various other brawls included one where Annie Kenney [ of the WSPU] was prevented from speaking by Oxford undergraduates, and Edwards took her place briefly before being pulled down.


Qualification: Studied Political Economy (protested against the lecturer, Mr Furness, who had written, ‘A jolly good essay, spoilt by discussing the Marxian theory of value’) – many other students had also requested NOT to attend Furness’ lectures.They got Noah Ablett to take his place, unofficially. Sociology (Dennis Hird, excellent)

Life after Ruskin


Work: Back down the mine. Checkweigher

Politics/trade union activity:Trade union, county council, taught Marxist economics


Place & date of death:


Date of death:
Year of death: 0

Achievements / Publications

Book From the Valley I Came (Angus and Robertson 1957). He gives details of negotiations between Ruskin and the University in 1907 -8; the College rejected overtures from a ‘committee of Oxford dons interested in working-class education’.There were visits from A Lees Smith of Balliol and Lord Curzon, then Chancellor of the University.

Material in archives or already published articles


Notes on Image/s

Comment of contributor/s and sources

Everything I know about Wil John Edwards is from his book From the Valley I Came.

I was asked to send in this bit of information in the hope that others will be able to add to it.


Caroline Williamson

created 16/01/2015 at 6:47 pm, updated 16/01/2015 at 6:56 pm

4 thoughts on “Edwards, Wil John

  1. Colin Rees

    I remember Wil John Edwards when he lived in Rhigos, near Aberdare – I played with his son David in the period 1950-53. David is mentioned in the introduction of the book ‘From the Valley Came,’ published when Wil John was 68.

    There is a short article in The Aberdare Leader of May 12 1956, which mentions his career: a checkweigher at River Level Colliery, 1916-1939; Labour County Councillor 1920-1946; Chair of Governors Aberdare County Schools 1937-40; when living at Rhigos he lectured at Croesffordd Comunity Centre and acted as vice-chairman of the village Gardeners’ Society. The main point of the article was that he was leaving the Cynon Valley to live in Stratford-upon-Avon for health reasons, associated with his chest.

    It is not known whether he remained there. Others report his death in 1973.

  2. Colin Rees

    Update on previous comment:
    Date of death – BMD records list a death at Stratford-upon-Avon in the first quarter of 1962 for a William John Edwards, (born in 1888). This is six years after we know he went to that town for health reasons.

  3. Julie Nicholas

    Hi, my name is Julie. Wil John Edwards was my great great (I think) uncle. I’d love to hear any memories or information you have on the family. I’ve also be trying to track down a copy of the book which seems an impossible task. Any help you can give would be more than appreciated. Regards Julie.

    1. Gareth John Edwards

      Hello Julie, My name is Gareth John Edwards. Wil Jon Edwards was my grandfather. My father was William Keir Edwards. I do have a copy of ‘From the Valley I Came’ which I found for sale on the internet. The seller was located in the USA. I’m sure you will find a copy.
      There is a mention in the introduction of the book of his son David who was the younger half brother of my father.


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