Minnie James’s Descendants offer ‘Key to the Past’ from Temple’s 1938 Opening

The Descendants of Minnie James, ‘Mother of the Temple of Peace’ – and the ‘Key to the Past’

Minnie James, ‘Mother of the Temple of Peace’ at the Opening Ceremony in November 1938

Marguerite, Robin and Jeanne are the great-grandchildren, and James and Emily the great-great-grandchildren of Minnie James – the war-bereaved mother from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil who opened the Temple of Peace, accompanied by ‘mothers of Wales and the World’ – and became an inspiration to a whole generation of peacemakers and women.

Previous research had suggested that Minnie had no living descendants, the loss of her 3 sons in WW1 having been the reason she was invited to open the Temple of Peace, as Wales’ ‘most tragic mother’- representing the loss of a whole generation.

However, as well as her daughters that were on record (all of whom died without children), Minnie had another daughter, Letty – who had escaped research, having been living with her aunts in Merthyr at the time of the 1911 census. Letty went on to serve as a nurse in World War 1 with the Red Cross in the Channel Islands, where she met her future husband, Jack Martel. Jack and Letty had 3 children, David, Elizabeth (Betty) & Daphne, who spent their childhoods on Guernsey – but with stories of their ‘grandmother of peace’, Minnie. With the occupation of Guernsey by Nazi forces in 1940 all three children were evacuated to the UK (David to live with Minnie and her two youngest children, Win and Bill, in Dowlais – where Minnie’s husband was in the Home Guard). At the end of the war, David and Betty returned to live on Guernsey while Daphne stayed on in England.

Robin Paul, Great Grandson of Minnie James

Millie and Henry, Great Great Great Grandchildren of Minnie James

In October 2019, Wales for Peace received a call from Robin Paul, who had been researching family history whilst his mother Daphne, Minnie’s grand-daughter, was unwell – and had stumbled across WCIA’s recently published ‘Peacemakers Feature’ article on Minnie and the Mothers of Peace. Tragically, on 7th November 2019, Daphne passed away aged 94, her brother David having died in 2012 and sister Betty (Marguerite and Jeanne’s mother) in 2016.  But Robin’s son James has two children, and James’ sister, Emily, Daphne’s grandchild and Robin’s daughter, will be getting married this December, age 32… and so the circle of life, and Minnie’s legacy, continues.

WCIA’s understanding had always been that Minnie was buried 1954, in Pant Cemetery, Merthyr, with the Silver Key (below) with which she opened the Temple of Peace – and the letters and mementoes from her sons who died in WW1.

But in a remarkable twist of history, these mementoes were actually passed on to her daughter Winifred, and thence to Betty and Daphne. With Daphne’s sad passing this November, the family have expressed their incredibly kind support to loan these incredible historical heirlooms to WCIA at the Temple of Peace, hopefully from the Spring of 2020, to create a display dedicated to Minnie and her sons as part of the Temple’s public exhibitions.

The Welsh Centre for International Affairs / WCIA are very grateful for this gesture of goodwill, which will offer a profound connection for visitors to the building with not only the causes for which it was built – peace, health and justice – but the very individuals who inspired its construction, and continue to inspire generations of internationalists today.

“Minnie’s Key’ from 1938 opens locks linking generations past, present and future in the Temple’s story… Generations working to shape Wales’ role in building a better world of peace, justice and health.” 

Newspaper clipping from Nov 1938

Craig Owen, Head of Wales for Peace, Nov 2019

Recent picture of the beautifully inscribed key which opened Wales’ Temple of Peace, presented to Mrs Minnie James of Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil by Temple Architect Sir Percy Thomas on 23rd Nov 1938. Thought to have been buried with Minnie in 1954, the key has recently come to light through descendants of Minnie James just prior to #Temple81 – the 81st Anniversary of the opening which will be marked on 23rd Nov 2019.

Gold.. or Silver? Newspaper clippings from the time may stand to be corrected in light of the key’s rediscovery!

Press Cuttings from the Opening Ceremony of Wales’ Temple of Peace