Sir John Williams, 1st Baronet, of the City of London
Sir John Williams, 1st Baronet, GCVO (6 November 1840 – 24 May 1926), was a Welsh physician, who attended Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and was raised to the baronetcy by her in 1894. He is remembered chiefly for his contribution to the collection of the National Library of Wales. He resided for part of his life at Plas Llansteffan, a house he acquired by lease.
Education and professional career
Williams was born in Carmarthenshire, the son of a Welsh Congregational minister. He went to school in Swansea, then to the University of Glasgow, and finally to University College Hospital, London, to complete his medical studies. In 1872 he married Mary Hughes, but they had no children. In 1886, he became a private doctor to the royal family. As well as his career as an obstetric surgeon in London, he helped set up a Welsh hospital in South Africa during the Boer War, and was involved in the campaign against tuberculosis in his native country.
Contribution to the National Library
Sir John's leisure hours were largely spent in the acquisition of a large private library, and in 1898, influenced by the palaeographer John Gwenogvryn Evans, he acquired the Peniarth collection of manuscripts. These were donated to the new National Library of Wales when it was built at Aberystwyth. In 1907 he was appointed the first President of the National Library, and two years later he came to live at Aberystwyth. In 1913 he became President of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University). On his death, he bequeathed the remainder of his books, plus a large sum of money, to the National Library.
Jack the Ripper accusation
Sir John was accused of the Ripper crimes in a 2005 book, Uncle Jack, written by one of the surgeon's descendants, Tony Williams, and co-authored by Humphrey Price. The authors claim that the victims knew the doctor personally and that they were killed and mutilated in an attempt to research the causes of infertility. The book also claims that a badly blunted surgical knife, which belonged to Sir John Williams, was the murder weapon.  Jennifer Pegg demonstrated in two articles that the version of the notebook entry published in Uncle Jack to show that Sir John Williams had met Ripper victim Mary Ann Nichols had been altered for print and did not match the original document. The entry in the original document, housed in the National Library of Wales, was written in different handwriting from that found in the rest of the book. She further demonstrated that much of the other research in the book arguing for a link between Sir John Williams and the Ripper crimes was flawed. Williams' claim to have found the victim Mary Jane Kelly on the 1881 census return for Brymbo, Denbighshire, incurred the ridicule of genealogists. The base information was good - being based on the police statement and inquest evidence of Kelly's common law husband Joseph Barnett. The place, the name of Kelly's father and his occupation were all wrong. William apparently thought that these errors were obviated by the presence next door to the Kelly family of a bachelor named Jonathan Davies - Barnett had said that when she was 16, Kelly had married a "collier" named Davies or Davis who was killed three years later in a pit explosion. Williams found the report of the deaths of three miners, one named Jonathan Davies, in a mining accident and assumed that this was the man of that name in Brymbo, and that after the census was taken, he had married Kelly. However, Jonathan Davies was shown on the 1891 return for Brymbo, still alive, still in the same occupation and married to a woman named Sarah Ann Vaughan. He was working as a "stationery machine operator" at a colliery, probably meaning that he made iron pit props for use underground.
The full 1881 census return for Brymbo, showing the Kelly family, is not shown in Williams's book, possibly because it cast more doubt on the possibility that this was the family of the Ripper family. The elder Kelly children were shown as having been born in Ireland, the younger ones in Wales - but the second to youngest child was born in Ireland, and the youngest in Wales. Although it's possible that the mother returned to Ireland to have that child and then returned to Wales, it might also be that the family went back to Ireland for a while, but then returned to Wales. If so, they were not as firmly based in Wales as Williams would have liked to think and it's unlikely that the father could have attained the position of "ganger" or foreman, which Mary Kelly said he was. He is shown on the return simply as "labourer".
Another point is that the Mary Kelly on this return is sbown just as "Mary". A lot of census enumerators gave only the first Christian name of each person in a family but even so, they regarded names like Mary Ann or Mary Jane as composite names - a witness at the inquest on Mary Jane Kelly recalled addressing her as "Mary Jane" - and consequently, both names were shown on the returns, either in full or as "Mary J".
Stuart Rendel, Baron Rendel
|President of the University College of Wales Aberystwyth
Edmund Davies, Baron Edmund-Davies
- Williams, Tony; Price, Humphrey (2005). Uncle Jack. London: Orion. ISBN 978-0-7528-6708-3
- Thompson, Tony (2005-04-24). "Knife clue could solve mystery of the Ripper". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
- Pegg, Jennifer (October 2005). "Uncle Jack Under the Microscope". Ripper Notes issue #24. Inklings Press. ISBN 0-9759129-5-X.
* Pegg, Jennifer (January 2006). "'Shocked and Dismayed' - An Update on the Uncle Jack Controversy". Ripper Notes issue #25, pp.54–61. Inklings Press. ISBN 0-9759129-6-8