James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Work and School

At this time John was a lead miner. I was told he owned a quarry. The marriage certificate (1881) of his daughter, Louisa, stated he was a 'carpenter' but he was very definitely involved in lead mining for most, if not all, of his working life.

He may well have worked under contract rather than as an employee; the miners generally negotiated with an agent a price per ton for working a vein, the fee often being dependent on the difficulty of the job. Miners also bargained over the pay for sinking shafts and driving levels. They shouldered the burden of risk but if they were lucky they might hit a wide vein of lead. It was a precarious living. They also risked injury or death in one of the all too frequent accidents or by contracting diseases such as silicosis brought on by the dust; few of them lived beyond fifty. It may be that John was lucky and that he did eventually own a mine or a quarry.

It appears that at least some of the Shelby boys studied at the Adwy Coedpoeth British School. Both Thomas Francis and James Pritchard won school prizes and James stayed on to study as a pupil teacher. For several years while they were there the HMI for that school was their uncle, Timothy Morgan Owen. (Click here to see a summary of the events at the school, the involvement of the Shelbys and of Timothy Morgan Owen and extracts from the school log/ diary.)

While considering the children's upbringing it should be mentioned that it was clearly such as to encourage them to involve themselves in their school activities, in their community and in church matters. Several of them performed in concerts when they were young and continued to do so in adulthood, often to help to raise funds for local good causes. Some of those clearly attributed appear with information about that individual but there are others; for example, "Miss Shelby" was listed in the advertised programme for a concert on 9 November 1885 at Rhosrobin Church School to raise funds for the Organist's Salary Fund and for new hymn books