Since the reformation of the Treorchy Male Choir in 1946, the organisation has elected only three Presidents in over sixty years. The distinguished position of Choir President is afforded only to those whose contribution to the organisation is truly outstanding. This has most certainly been the case when recognising the immense dedication all three Presidents have shown to the benefit of the Choir.
William AbrahamThe original Choir which existed from 1883 to 1896 enjoyed the privilege of the first Member of Parliament of the Rhondda and well-known trade unionist William Abraham “Mabon” (1842-1922) holding the position of the first Choir President.
“Mabon” was born in Cwmafan and began working in the local colliery from the age of ten. A leading trade unionist, he was elected MP at the 1885 election for the new Rhondda constituency and remained in post for the next 35 years.
In 1898 he was one of the chief negotiators on behalf of the colliers in the Welsh coal strike of 1898 which saw the creation of the South Wales Miners' Federation of which he became its first President.
When the Choir was reformed towards the end of the First World War the newly established Treorchy & District Male Voice Party turned their attentions to a different individual to fill the roll of President. W.P. Thomas had been involved in the original Victorian Choir and was a leading figure in Upper Rhondda history during this period.
W.P.ThomasHe was originally a Clerk with the Ocean Coal Company in Treorchy whose local collieries, the Park and the Dare were two of the most profitable in the Rhondda. During his career he was elevated to the post of General Manager of the entire firm and as such was a hugely influential individual throughout South Wales.
Given his interest in the cultural heritage of the area and naturally his power and position, he was the obvious choice to become the new President of the Choir. He remained in the position until it disbanded n 1943. However, W.P.Thomas was also a prospective President for the reformed Choir in 1946 but was never re-appointed.
Once the present-day Choir was reformed following World War II the first President was local councillor Iorwerth Rhys Thomas. Born in 1896, “Iorrie”, as he was affectionately known, later lived in Park Road, Cwmparc with his wife Ann and two children. He was a local councillor in the upper Rhondda from 1928 to 1951 and later became Chairman of Rhondda Borough Council.
On September 28th 1947 the committee elected him as President and he held office for almost twenty years until his death in 1966. Although his position meant that he was unable to spend a great deal of time with the Choir, he nonetheless continued to support them in all fo their endeavours.
During this time he became the MP of Rhondda West from 1950 to 1966 and remained in close contact with the Choir by attending various concerts and dinner functions while also contributing regularly to the Excelsior magazine.
Upon his death the Management Committee of the Choir had little doubt on who would make hisi deal successor. Cliff Taylor, who was born in 1915, was head of the Polikoff’s Clothing Factory in Treorchy during the 1950s and 60s. He was a firm supporter of the Choir, allowing them frequent use of the factory canteen for dinner functions, broadcasts and even concerts.
During his time at the factory he also ensured the Choir were “well dressed” on stage by supplying uniforms at reduced price. It was due to his generosity and support that the Management Committee dedcided to elect him as President of the Choir in 1967 and he later became a Life Member in 1985.
Cliff, who later settled in Bridgewater, Somerset remained an active President until ill health greatly reduced his involvement with the Choir. He passed away in 1998 in Bridgewater.
The current President of the Choir is Brian Bates who was elected into the post in 1998. Originally from Narberth, Pembrokeshire, he has spent most of his life in Cheltenham where he began showing an interest in the Choir. During the early 1980s he organised a concert for a local hospice where his own wife later underwent specialist care.
For the next twenty years Brian continued organising concerts on a regular basis and raised in the region of £100,000 for Choir funds as well as a massive amount of funds for various charities.
In 2002 Brian organised the Choir’s first tour of Scotland, but relinquished his role as concert organiser in 2005. Brian, along with his close friends Nigel and Judy Chivers, remains a firm supporter of the Choir and regularly attends concert engagements and various events.
For more than 125 years, the role of the President of the Treorchy Male Choir has indeed been a very distinguished one. It has been a position filled with men of the utmost calibre and we are grateful for their immense contribution to the organisation.
Treorchy Male Choir President - January 2022 - Present
John has strong Rhondda Valley roots being the son of John David Richards who was brought up in the Parade, Ton Pentre and Megan Richards (née Edwards) who was brought up above her family's general store DC Edwards-The Royal Exchange in Treherbert. Indeed, John still has family living in the Rhondda Valley.
He recalls his mother often playing records of Welsh male choirs after the family moved to London. The sound of the Treorchy Male Choir became very familiar to him and his uncle, Ifor Hitchings was a member for many years.
John has a real affection for the choir and many of the Minstrels (a group of choristers within the choir who perform at weddings and other celebrations). The Minstrels sang at his birthday one year and at his wedding to Marianne.
John and Marianne have sponsored the choir's Junior Musician competition for the last few years before the pandemic caused a halt to this popular event.
Our President Brian Bates, who is now retiring after many years of service, presented John with Honorary Membership of the choir at a concert in the Theatr Y Parc a’r Dâr, Treorci / Park & Dare Theatre, Treorchy. We wish Brian a long, happy and healthy retirement and thank him for his incredible support.
John has a very busy business life as Chairman of Brickability Group PLC, Chairman of Pencoed based Facilities by ADF, Chairman of JR and M Investments as well as being President of Moseley RFC in Birmingham where once he was a player and where his son Jack now plays. John also has a daughter Elizabeth who works and lives in London.
He is both honoured and humbled by the invitation to become President of the choir and he recalls the words of Sir Anthony Hopkins:
" The Master Choir of them all".
He says he absolutely echoes this splendid tribute and is looking forward to a long and successful era at an exciting time for our choir.