Roberts, Goronwy, 1913-1981

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Roberts, Goronwy, 1913-1981

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Goronwy Owen Roberts (1913-1981) was the Labour MP for Caernarfonshire from 1945 until 1974 and was much involved in Welsh cultural life. Subsequently he was elevated to the peerage and served in the Foreign Office under George Brown.

A native of Bethesda and the son of E. E. and Amelia Roberts, Goronwy Roberts (1913-1981) enjoyed a brilliant academic career at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, where he was one of the founder members of the patriotic Gwerin movement in 1935. In 1938 he was elected a Fellow of the University of Wales. In 1942 he married Marian Ann Evans of Robertstown, Aberdare and there were a son Dafydd and daughter Ann. He served in the Army Reserve during World War Two. At the same time he was the Youth Education Officer to the Caernarfonshire Education Authority from 1941 until 1944.

Standing on a notably nationalistic platform, he captured Caernarfonshire in 1945, defeating long serving Liberal MP Major Goronwy Owen, MP for the county ever since 1923. A fervent patriotic Welshman throughout his life, he consistently advocated devolutionary solutions during the post-war Attlee administrations. He was also a notably conscientious constituency MP and generally popular with members of all parties at Westminster.

Goronwy Roberts was one of the most prominent leaders of the Parliament for Wales campaign of the early 1950s and was indeed personally responsible for presenting the petition bearing more than 250,000 signatures to parliament in May 1956. He was the chairman of the House of Commons panel of chairmen in 1963-1964. When the embryonic Welsh Office was established in 1964, he was appointed one of the first ministers of state, and worked in close harmony with James Griffiths and Harold Finch until 1966. Although he displayed an unfailing loyalty to his native land, he showed no sympathy for Welsh nationalism. It was his thankless fate to serve at a period of rift within the Labour Party and in the fortunes of Wales.

Subsequently Goronwy Roberts also served at the Department of Education and Science, 1966-1967, the Foreign and Colonial Office, 1967-1969, and the Board of Trade, 1969-1970. He was an innate negotiator, enormously efficient, placing great emphasis on reason and compromise. In 1968 Goronwy Roberts was made a Privy Councillor and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and in 1972 he was chosen a Freeman of the Royal Borough of Caernarfon.

Following his defeat at Caernarfonshire in February 1974, Goronwy Roberts was immediately awarded a peerage by Sir Harold Wilson (he became Baron Goronwy-Roberts of Caernarvon and of Ogwen in the county of Caernarvon) and served with some distinction at the Foreign Office under George Brown during the Wilson and Callaghan governments and travelled very extensively abroad. He was also Deputy Leader of the House of Lords from 1975 until 1979. In the latter year he was acutely unnerved by the outcome of the March referendum on Welsh devolution.

A highly sensitive, scholarly man, throughout his life Goronwy Roberts published and broadcast extensively on current affairs and on political and literary matters, and he was an avid walker and lover of music. He was a member of the Court of Governors of the University of Wales, the National Museum of Wales and the Fabian Society. Having battled against increasing ill-health for a number of years, he died prematurely aged 67 in July 1981.


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