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New biography published of former Welsh Primate, Archbishop Gwilym Owen Williams

Posted on: January 15, 2018 4:51 PM
Archbishop Gwilym Owen Williams
Photo Credit: Church in Wales

One of the longest serving bishops of the Church in Wales, Archbishop Gwilym Owen Williams, is the subject of a new biography that has been written by the province’s archives advisor, Canon William Price. Archbishop G O, as he was known, was elected to lead the Church in Wales as its primate in 1971 – around 14 years after his election as Bishop of Bangor. He remained in post until his retirement in 1982 and died in 1990.

Archbishop G O was a vocal proponent of the Welsh language and opposed moves by the then-UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to downplay its official status. He was successful, instead, in persuaded her to establish a Welsh-language public service television station, S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru – Channel Four Wales), which still exists.

“G O, as he was almost universally known, was a man of outstanding intellectual ability and wide vision, often ahead of the diocese and the Church in Wales,” Canon Price said. “He sought always to be a reconciler, especially in his ecumenical endeavours and also in a bilingual society, and he has rightly been regarded as the foremost Welsh Christian leader of his time.”

The biography, Archbishop Gwilym Williams – ‘G.O.’ – His Life and Opinions, follows G O’s life from his birth in the east Finchley area of London, and explores matters of importance to him, such as bilingualism and ecumenism, and his significance to Wales. One of his successors, Dr Barry Morgan, who retired from as Archbishop of Wales last January, wrote the book’s foreword.

The biography has taken 25 to complete. Canon Price began writing it when he was a lecturer at the University of Wales’ Lampeter campus. It came about at the suggestion of another Primate of Wales, Archbishop George Noakes. “I went to Criccieth and collected G O’s papers,” Price said. “It took a long time to sort out boxes and boxes of them, and then I wrote what was about 80 per cent of the final work.

“After my departure from Lampeter into parochial ministry, however, first in Wales and then in England, I became committed to other writing projects, and I left my work on G O unfinished. But last year I decided that he deserved to be remembered and that it was foolish to abandon a largely completed typescript. So I completed the book and got it published.”

Archbishop Gwilym Williams – ‘G.O.’ – His Life and Opinions” is available from a range of suppliers, including the Bangor Cathedral bookshop.