Mid Wales

Ex-miner's bequest to Aberystwyth University after death at 108

  • 27 February 2013
  • From the section Mid Wales
Rhys Thomas Lewis
Image caption Rhys Lewis was born in 1903 and grew up near Llanelli

A former miner who claimed the title of the oldest Welshman has left a £10,000 bequest to his old university.

Rhys Lewis, who died last year aged 108, took night school classes before studying history and economic history at Aberystwyth University.

Mr Lewis, from Carmarthenshire, had started working in the pits aged 14 but became a teacher after graduating in 1931.

The money will be used to buy books for the history section of the library.

Mr Lewis originally began studying at the university college in Swansea in 1927 with the aim of becoming a mining engineer, but switched courses and transferred to Aberystwyth in 1928.

Once qualified, he moved to London to teach and continued his studies, eventually gaining an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics in 1946.

He became a principal lecturer and head of history at a college in Berkshire, which is now part of Reading University.

Two of Mr Lewis's sisters lived until the ages of 102 and 99.

After his death, his family said he was always proud of his Welsh roots and spoke his native language at every opportunity.


One of his two sons, John Lewis, who was also an Aberystwyth graduate, presented his father's bequest to the library at a special reception.

He said: "Aberystwyth was formative in my father's education.

"He thoroughly enjoyed his time here, even though it must have been very tough for him economically.

"He felt that he wanted to leave something of permanence and that the best way of doing this was to support the university's library."

Professor April McMahon, the university's vice-chancellor, said: "We are deeply appreciative of Mr Lewis' bequest, one which I am sure will be of great benefit to current and future generations of students.

"His story is truly inspirational and testament to what a university education has to offer mature students.

"I am particularly pleased that our history students will have the opportunity to make some recommendations for books to be purchased from this important bequest."

Image caption The Old College opened in 1865 as a hotel, but was later bought by a group who founded Aberystwyth University

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