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Newport Branch Meeting, 2003 February 28

Newport Branch Meeting, 2023 February 28

Stephen Lyons: ‘Gareth Hughes’

We welcomed back Stephen for his third talk to us. His previous have been on ‘St John’s Ambulance’ and the ‘Black Vein Disaster’ but this one was very different. His topic was Gareth Hughes, whose biographer he is.

Gareth Hughes was born William John Hughes in Llanelli in 1894 and was to become the very first Welsh film star. His career started in Welsh touring companies visiting theatres throughout Britain, performing under the name Gareth Hughes. He always received very favourable reviews.

When his company visited the United States he was talent spotted and encouraged to make his career there. He was so successful, including performances on Broadway, that when the movie industry started he was offered various roles and started a career which totalled 47 films and made him a lot of money.

Unfortunately when the Great Wall Street Crash occurred in 1929 he lost everything and became a pauper. With his film career now over he returned to the stage. However in the early 1940s he felt a religious calling and his life totally changed.

Gareth became Brother David and served as an exemplary missionary to the Paiute Indians in Nevada. He served them enthusiastically for 14 years before deciding to return to Wales. Here, however, he soon pined for the American sunshine and so after only 5 months returned to the States, this time to California where he obtained a cottage in the Motion Picture Country Home to live out his days.

He died in 1965 from a lung disease caused by fibre inhalation over the many years spent sorting donated clothing for the Indians.

Gareth has clearly extensively researched the life (or in fact the two lives) of the little known but fascinating Welshman. His website is well worth a visit at

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