Edward Thomas "Cochfarf" (9 March 1853 - 18 Nov 1912)

Born 9 March 1853 in the farmhouse of Nantywith, Betws, near Maes-teg, Glam., the son of Llewellyn Thomas and his wife (the latter a member of the Bryncethin-fawr family). He was educated at a school in Betws . His father died when the boy was about 10 years of age and the family moved to Melin Ifan Ddu. In 1876 he went to Hengoed to work as a carpenter , going to Cardiff two years later. He worked at his craft on the (old) Cardiff town hall in S. Mary Street , a building which he was to enter frequently afterwards as an elected representative of Cardiff ratepayers. He served as one of the secretaries of the national eisteddfod held at Cardiff in 1879. In 1880 Cochfarf joined the staff of the Cardiff Coffee Tavern Company. When, however, that company decided to open its houses on Sundays, Cochfarf , who disapproved of Sunday opening, opened his own coffee tavern - in Custom House Street; later he opened the Metropole, opposite the Taff Vale Railway station, and the Red Dragon in the docks district.

His career as a Cardiff boro. councillor began in 1890 ; he was elected mayor in 1902. He was deeply interested in history and antiquities; he was a most useful member of the Cardiff Free Library Committee; he was also the chairman of the sub-committee of the boro. council which arranged for the boro. records to be examined and described by John Hobson Mathews (q.v.) ; he frequently contributed to the local press and to periodicals . He was a Baptist and a staunch Liberal ; he worked for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Wales. He was a member of the Society for the Preservation of the Welsh Language . It was at his Custom House Coffee Tavern that the society known as 'Cymmrodorion Caerdydd 'was formed; Cochfarf was one of the most influential members of that society.

Cochfarf m. (1) a daughter of Dr. Cook , Ynyspenllwch, and (2) a daughter of the Rev. Richard Hughes ( Tremrudd ), Maes-teg . The second wife, Madame Hughes-Thomas, became very widely known because of her Welsh ladies' choir which toured in the U.S.A. , Canada, South Africa, etc. Cochfarf accompanied the choir to the U.S.A. , and was, therefore, able to be of considerable help when arrangements were being made, later, for an international Welsh eisteddfod held at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania , U.S.A., in 1913. He died 18 Nov. 1912.

Source : Dictionary of Welsh Biography

The many friends and admirers of the late Alderman Ed. Thomas, "Cochfarf," would surely agree with me that no account of Cardiff Bohemians would be complete without some mention of this Prince of Bohemia. He was an ardent Welsh Nationalist, an Irish Home Ruler, a stalwart Non-conformist, staunch teetotaller and a man of public affairs. His best work in Cardiff was his splendid services as Chairman of the Library Committee.

It was due to his energy that the Cardiff Library secured the Welsh portion of the famous Phillips Collection of Manuscripts. At his home at the Gordon Coffee Tavern, he was the centre of plots and plans, schemes for Irish Home Rule, for the revival of the Welsh Language, and the foundation of Welsh Societies. Here Irish M.P.'s came to confer with this big Welshman, who was the acknowledged leader of the Irish Party in Cardiff. He was a splendid specimen of a man when I knew him first, with fair hair and beard, from which they named him "Cochfarf" or red beard. He was a bard of the Gorsedd, the keeper of the Great Sword, a man deeply versed in the lore of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Island of Britain.

It was from Cochfarf that I first learned the story of peasant life in Glamorgan, and of the old hymn-writers of the Vale, so my heart warms to his memory. He was a splendid fighter - a born fighter, full of the courage of his race. His collection of notes in the "Evening Express" which ran for some time, was a fine piece of literary journalism. There was talk of a Life of Cochfarf, but I'm told that some years must elapse before the letters which he received can possibly be published. As one who has been favoured to go through them, remarked to me, Cochfarf was the clearing house for every big and little movement in Wales.

Source : J. Kyrle Fletcher. Cardiff. Notes: picturesque and biographical online