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British Industrial History

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David Alfred Thomas

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David Alfred Thomas, first Viscount Rhondda (1856-1918), politician and industrialist

1856 March 26th. Born the son of coal owner Samuel Thomas of Ysguborwen,

1876 Entered Cambridge University

1880 Graduated

Thomas joined Osborn Henry Riches in the sales department of the Cambrian Collieries, later moving to Clydach Vale to learn the management of the mines themselves. In the course of this work, which went on for more than a year, he descended the pit with the workers and remained underground until four in the afternoon.

1882 Thomas moved to London, where he worked in a stockbroker's Office in Cornhill. There he had an attack of rheumatic fever, a complaint which had plagued him since his youth. After the death of Mr. Riches, he returned to Cardiff to manage the Cambrian Collieries.

1882 Married Sybil Margaret Haig; they had one daughter, Margaret Haig Thomas.

1888-1910 He was MP for Merthyr Tydfil

1908 the Cambrian Combine was formed, with the merger of the Glamorgan, the Naval and the Britannic Merthyr collieries with the Cambrian Collieries. This great industrial combine would later take in further collieries. As Thomas came to realise that the golden age of the Welsh coal trade would not continue, he sought to organise the Welsh coal trade to prevent destructive competition.

c.1908 Thomas took his daughter into his business, a cross between "a highly confidential secretary and a right hand man".

1910 MP for Cardiff until the December 1910 general election, when he left politics to concentrate on his business interests.

In the pre-war years Thomas acquired tracts of coal-bearing land in North America which was not fully developed.

In May 1915 he was on the RMS Lusitania when she was torpedoed. He and his daughter, Margaret were among the survivors.

1916 He was made a member of the Privy Council.

1918 Raised to Viscount

1918 July 3rd. Died

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