Presidents Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes

Club President 1919/20 – 1926/27

Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes (From Wikipedia)

Lady Elizabeth Johnes,was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Johnes of Dolaucothi Mansion near Pumpsaint. In the summer of 1876, Dolaucothi made national news when ‘Judge’ John Johnes was murdered in his study on 19 August by Henry Tremble, his Irish butler of 17 years service, who killed him with his master’s shotgun.

Lady Elizabeth married Lieutenant General Sir James Hills in 1882. A Victoria Cross hero of the Indian Mutiny and former military Governor of Kabul. Sir James assumed, by royal licence, the additional name and arms of Johnes to become Lieutenant General Sir James Hills-Johnes V.C. GCB. He played a valued part in Welsh life, becoming honorary colonel of the 4th battalion of the Welch Regiment. He was a J.P. and Deputy Lieutenant for Carmarthenshire. He served as High Sheriff of that county in 1886 and was made an honorary freeman of the town of Carmarthen in 1910. He was treasurer of University College Wales, 1898–1919, and was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by the University College Wales in 1917.

Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes had, in her early days, been a ward of Lady Llanover and had moved in fashionable and literary circles, her life on one occasion being saved by the great Lord Lytton. Her correspondence with the famous Bishop of St Davids, Connop Thirlwall, was published in 1881under the title ‘Letters to a Friend’. The house was always full of guests, among them many distinguished men and women like Lord Roberts (1832–1914) and Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841–1904), the African explorer.

Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes also had a sister Charlotte, who married Captain Charles Caesar Cookman Esq., the eldest son of Edward Rogers Cookman, Esq. of Monart House, County of Wexford. Charles Cookman died on 4 June 1859 leaving Charlotte a widow. Charlotte resumed the name of Johnes under her father’s will of 1876 and lived out her days at Dolaucothi, co-inherited with her sister Elizabeth. Charlotte died in 1911.

Sir James Hills-Johnes died in 1919 and his wife Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes died at the great age of 95. Upon the death of Lady Elizabeth in 1927, the Dolaucothi estate passed through a female line to the Lloyds who added Johnes to their name. The house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Supply during World War II and during this time fell into serious disrepair including the floors collapsing and the lead taken from the roof. Dolaucothi was presented to the National Trust in 1941 subject to the life interest of the owner, Mr. Lloyd-Johnes, on whose death in 1956, it became the absolute property of the trust. The mansion was demolished in 1952. All that remains of the mansion house is one service wing that now serves as an estate farmhouse.

An obituary in the Carmarthen Journal on the 1st April 1927, mentioned that members and players of the Carmarthen Quins RFC would be saddened to hear of the death of their President, Lady Hills-Johnes who at that time still lived at Dolaucothi Mansion.

I had not come across any records to show if, and when, either Sir James Hills-Johnes or Lady Hills Johnes had taken on the role of president of Carmarthen Harlequins RFC. However, Mary Thorley, a keen Quins supporter, came across a newspaper report printed in 1927 which formed part of Lady Hills-Johns’ obituary, which stated that “she could take an interest that was both kindly and lovely in matters that could have no direct appeal to her. For instance, she was always glad to have news of the success of the Carmarthen Harlequins Rugby team, of which she was president, and to whom she always referred to as “my boys.”

I have, therefore, for the time being, placed Lady Elizabeth Hills-Johnes as president of Carmarthen Quins from 1919/20 to 1926/27. (A report in the Carmarthen Journal dated 26th September 1919 confirmed that the Quins played their first game after the end of the 1st World War against Burry Port at Carmarthen Park which they won by 3 pts to 0 pts).

The portrait above can be seen at Carmarthen Museum and I am grateful that they have allowed me to display the photograph here.

Percy Jones

Club Archivist