Born 20 May 1870, dau. of Hugh Thomas (1841 -?) and Margaret Parry (née Roberts). The family lived in Welshpool at the time of her birth, but left when she was but a few months old. At one time, her father was an inspector with an insurance company but he is said to have had literary interests also. Her mother published some poems in the strict metres under the pseudonym ‘Gwenfron’ (e.g. Baner, 19 Sept. 1860). At the time of the 1871 Census, Winnie, her mother and sister were staying with her grandfather, John Roberts, at Port Dinorwic, and it would appear that the family did not have their own home at this time. Margaret Parry d. aged 38 in 1876 in Croydon when Winnie was 6 years old, and she consequently went to live permanently with John Roberts and his wife, Ellen; she was, therefore, separated from her father, her brother and three sisters. Though there is evidence that English was her first language she was soon fluent in the colloquial speech of Port Dinorwic. No records of her attendance at the local primary schools have been found, but it is said that she was friendly with the daughter of the headmaster of the national school, so it is likely that she attended that school. She received no formal higher education, but it is said that John Roberts was a cultured man and that he had influenced his grand-daughter's inclinations. Her early years, it appears, were unhappy and lonely. Her father re-married in Swansea in 1877 a certain Martha Darroll, and by 1882 he and his entire family, apart from Winnie, had settled in South Africa, leaving her in Port Dinorwic. Shortly afterwards, her grandmother, Ellen Roberts, d. and Winnie, in a letter to John Glyn Davies , states that she lived with her grandfather from the age of thirteen until her aunt came to live with them when she was nineteen.
In 1893, at the prompting of O.M. Edwards and Edward Ffoulkes she began to contribute occasionally to Cymru, Cymru'r Plant, Y Cymro, and even The Cambrian (Utica) and Wales. Her three books, Sioned, 1906, Cerrig y rhyd, 1907, and Y ddau hogyn rheiny, 1928, were mainly selections from her contributions to periodicals. She published one serial in Y Cymro in 1896, ‘Catrin Prisiard’, which did not appear later as a book. For a time in 1895-96 she corresponded with John Glyn Davies mainly on literary matters. He used to visit her on his trips from Liverpool to Llŷn; she borrowed books from him, and he helped her to learn French and German. When John Roberts d. in 1903, Winnie went for a short time to her uncle Owen Parry, CM minister at Cemaes, Anglesey. By the beginning of 1908 her father had returned for a time to Thornton Heath, Croydon, and it seems that Winnie went to live with him.
She edited Cymru'r Plant from Croydon between 1908 and the middle of 1912 when she gave up writing altogether (though Cerrig y rhyd was reprinted in 1915 and Foyle's published Y ddau hogyn rheiny in 1928). She never married, and in London she served as secretary first to a company of engineers and also for a time to Sir Robert J. Thomas , M.P. for Anglesey, 1922-28. She adjudicated the short story at the 1932 national eisteddfod, but by then she had severed almost all connections with Wales. At the beginning of World War II E. Morgan Humphreys tried to persuade her to reprint Sioned, and the B.B.C. tried to adapt some of her work for the Welsh Children's Hour. As late as 1949 she was still looking for a publisher for Sioned, but circumstances were difficult and by then she was old and infirm. She d. in an old people's home in Croydon on 12 Feb. 1953, and her friend, Hilda Alice Moore, arranged to have her buried in Croydon.
Sioned was undoubtedly her masterpiece and it won high praise from time to time (see E.M. Humphreys, Yr Herald Cymraeg, 9 Mar. 1953). It is said that R. Williams Parry thought highly of it and referred to it in his W.E.A. lectures (but see also Kate Roberts, Baner, 29 Apr. 1953).
Published date: 2001
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