John Roberts, a former President of the Welsh Free Church of WA, sadly passed away in July 2018. John made a very large contribution to the Church until he moved to Queensland to live with his daughter and her family in recent years.
John was born in Ruthin, in North Wales in 1924. He did not speak English until he was seven years old, because his parents spoke only Welsh. School was difficult at first because lessons were conducted in English, but eventually he became fluent in the spoken and written word in both languages. He partly taught himself to read English by reading comics.
John trained as a toolmaker but when the Second World War came he was called up and joined the army. His role in liaising with the French Resistance included being parachuted into France behind enemy lines, he was later wounded and discharged. After the war John married his childhood sweetheart and eventually became a policeman. He had a successful career, but decided, with his wife, to migrate to Australia, first to Melbourne, then to Perth for the better weather, driving across the Nullarbor towing a caravan. They ran a successful restaurant business in Perth.
John and his wife were introduced to the Welsh Free Church and the Welsh Society in their early days in Perth, and became regular attendees of both. The Church offered the opportunity to hear the Welsh language and to sing the hymns of home. It was important to them that the Church was nondenominational, without either the fire and brimstone or the strictures on behaviour that were a feature of chapel in their young days in Wales. John was President of the Church for ten years from 2002 until 2012.
John was for many years a regular contributor to the Wales based magazine, Yr Enfys, which is distributed to Welsh communities, societies, and Welsh people in many countries throughout the world. He had numerous articles published, reporting on the activities of the Welsh community in Perth.
John was made a Life Member of the Welsh Society of WA in recognition of his contribution over many years, and in later times he was returning officer and chaired the Annual General meetings. John was a successful entrant in the Welsh Society’s literary competitions on a number of occasions.
A Memorial service for John will be held by The Welsh Free Church on Sunday 28th October 2018 at 3.00 pm in Trinity Church, 72 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
(Some information has been obtained from the book “Hiraeth,” a history of the Welsh and the Welsh Free Church in Western Australia, by Susan Hart)