Son of Thomas Ellis and Elizabeth his wife. He was born at Cynlas, Cefnddwysarn, near Bala, 16 February 1859. He was educated at the British School, Llandderfel, and at the grammar school, Bala, where his contemporaries included D. R. Daniel, O. M. Edwards, and J. Puleston Jones. In January 1875 he entered the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where he remained till 1879. In October 1880, after a year as a non-collegiate student, he matriculated at New College, Oxford, where he was a member of the Essay Society; he also took an active share in social and political activities and served on the standing committee of the Oxford Union Society. He obtained a second class in the honours school of modern history in 1884, took his B.A. in 1885, and his M.A. in 1897. After a year as tutor in the family of John Cory, S. Mellons, he became private secretary to (Sir) John Tomlinson Brunner, industrialist and Liberal M.P. for Northwich, and also engaged in intermittent journalism.
In July 1886 he was adopted Liberal candidate for Merioneth and elected to Parliament. His unsparing advocacy of Welsh interests marked him out as a leader in Welsh life, and he had a considerable share in securing the passing of the Welsh Intermediate and Technical Education Act, 1889. That winter, when on a visit to Egypt, he was taken seriously ill with typhoid fever, and after his return in 1890 he was given a national testimonial by the people of Wales. In his speech at Bala on the occasion of the presentation (September 1890) he set forth his political evangel, and postulated a legislative assembly for Wales as the chief desideratum. His appeal met with little response in Wales; and in 1892, when W. E. Gladstone formed his ministry, Ellis accepted the office of second whip. In this capacity he was largely instrumental in securing the appointment of the royal commission on land in Wales and Monmouthshire, and the promotion of measures for the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. In 1894 he was appointed chief Liberal whip. He devoted much time to educational administration in Wales, serving on the joint education committee for Merioneth under the 1889 Welsh Intermediate Education Act, the court of the University of Wales, and the Central Welsh Board; he was one of the pioneers of the movement to secure a National Library for Wales, founder and first president of the Old Students' Association of the University College of Wales, and warden (1896-9) of the Guild of Graduates of the University. He edited the first volume of the works of Morgan Llwyd, a task subsequently completed by his brother-in-law J. H. Davies.
He married Annie, daughter of R. J. Davies, Cwrt-mawr, Llangeitho, who survived him, with a son, Thomas Iorwerth Ellis. He died at Cannes, France, 5 April 1899, and was buried at Cefnddwysarn. A statue of him stands in the High Street, Bala, and another in the quadrangle of the University College of Wales. A volume of his Speeches and Addresses was published posthumously in 1912.
Published date: 1959
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