Mr T.J. Callaghan

Tom Callaghan in 1924[1]

Mr T. J. Callaghan, 73, (1859-1935), Thomas Joseph Callaghan, known as Tom Callaghan, was a major player in Welsh industry, especially coal and had been since 1920 a board member of GKN, representing the coal industry. He was a devout Catholic, sponsor of good causes and popular with his workforce. One of the more powerful representatives of Welsh business at the dinner, networked closely with William Lysaght, the Berry brothers, Lord Camrose and Sir Gomer, and of course Lady Rhondda. Tom is probably the host or convenor of the table, as the guest is assigned to his name.

puzzle-piece2-50Any thoughts as to who else Tom might have invited to the dinner?  Right now there are varying degrees of mystery shrouding half of the six guests at this table. Perhaps his wife Elinor joined the party. 


Probably with either Gwendoline Davies, the Welsh arts philanthropist (both of them donated to the National Museum of Wales – he with money, she with her Impressionist art collection) or Mrs Lupton, whom he may well have known – unless she was seated the other side of his guest. If we are right that Florence Marshall is known to Mrs Lupton, she is probably with her, whilst Frank Marshall is a mystery, possibly related to Florence. The other guest will stay a mystery until some diary emerges that talks about the dinner, or some other surprise.


Now retired he may well have just been happy to enjoy the evening and chat.

But was he tempted to raise the pressing issue of that week, in South Wales, of an ongoing strike in Bedwas threatening to trigger wider strikes amongst the collieries? In the past fortnight the Western Mail (its owners being on the top table that evening) had been warning of how disastrous they thought that might be and on the 23rd itself negotiations were still going on. Gwendoline Davies, at the table, and her sister also owed their fortune to South Wales coal and steel profits, as did Lady Rhondda. We may assume they would be relieved when the Bedwas strike itself was ended that Saturday and the wider strike called off. As Dinner Puzzle contributor Justin Downes has recently pointed out, (see below under WHAT TOM DID NEXT), his great uncle Tom Callaghan, “much loved by his workers”, had pushed for the army to be called out at the time of the most serious coals strikes in the 1920s.

Perhaps Tom preferred to leave the subject that evening, and be relieved that he was retired.


Tom Callaghan was born in Cardiff in 1859, the third of the nine children of Sarah Hancock, (born Wells, Somerset, 1830 – 2.2.1905), servant to a priest in Cardiff before marriage, and Thomas Callaghan, Irish born potato merchant (1829 – 10.10.1899). In April 1881, when a 22 year old accountant, Tom was a patient at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. He married, in 1882, Edith Elinor Snell, the daughter of Elinor and James Pedwarden Snell, born in Bristol in 1862.

Western Mail
Western Mail 1st December 1920 [3]

Educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester (a school which he supported throughout his life), Tom first joined the coal exporters Louis Gueret in 1874. He succeeded the founder and in 1919 bought out Lord Rhondda’s holding in Gueret. In 1920 GKN took a controlling interest in L. Gueret and Co. Ltd., he became a GKN director and over time one of its largest shareholders. He held many directorships including Chairman of Cambrian Collieries Ltd. Tom was listed along with Lady Rhondda and the Berry brothers by the Daily Herald in a 28th April 1927 analysis showing the “interconnected, monopolistic nature of the press and heavy industry”. (see Lady Rhondda’s page for the Daily Herald network). A key player in the businesses of Wales and presiding over international deals such as this one trying to reduce the price of pitch.[2]

During the First World War Tom was vice-chairman of the Central Executive for the Supply of Coal to France and Italy. In 1918-19 he chaired the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce. He was popular with staff, and referred to as the “doyen of Cardiff Docksmen” having worked at the Cardiff docks for half a century.

Western Mail 29th October 1924 [4]
prince of commerce
Western Mail 29th September 1924 [5]

Tom enjoyed playing golf, cricket and football and was a devout Catholic and a supporter of the Irish National Party.  The Pope made him a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Civil Class) for his services to his co-religionists.

National Museum
Western Mail 5th February 1926 [6]



Tom (centre) and his wife (LHS) with the third Berry brother Seymour and party soaking up the Riviera sunshine, 1925 [11]

By this time Tom and his wife had lived most of their full lives. Elinor died on 30th June 1934, just a year after the dinner and Tom himself died not long afterwards, at Penarth House, Penarth, (just south of Cardiff Docks) on 19th April 1935, leaving an estate of £734,603.[7] [8] His house was sold by auction in October 1935, and the contents sold by auction in June 1938.[9] [10]

Justin Downes, great nephew to Tom Callaghan’s brother Frank has written in: “My great aunt Imelda (whose devout Catholic family done well for themselves in Birmingham after leaving Ireland after the famine) married Francis Bernard Callaghan, Tom’s brother, and I think must have been left Penarth House. I remember going there as child crossing over from Weston to Penarth by paddle steamer.

My mother used to say Tom Callaghan was very keen to use the army to put down the South Wales striking miners so I’m not sure about his credentials for being sympathetic to the workers! After the house was sold, Imelda came to live in Ennismore Gardens behind Brompton Oratory. They did very well from a poverty stricken background.”

We might note that Brompton Oratory is across the street from the Rembrandt Hotel, in one of life’s little coincidences.




[1] Western Mail, 29.9.1924 ©Mirrorpix Image created by The British Library Board, accessed from the British Newspaper Archive (

[2] Edgar Jones, A History of GKN: Volume 2 The Growth of a Business, 1918–45, Springer, 19.11.1990 online accessed 10.4.2019

[3] Western Mail, 1.12.1920 ©Mirrorpix Image created by The British Library Board, accessed from BNA (

[4] Western Mail 29.10.1924 ©Mirropix Image created by The British Library Board, accessed from BNA (

[5] Western Mail, 29.9.1924 ©Mirrorpix 

[6] Western Mail, 5.2.1926 ©Mirrorpix Image created by The British Library Board, accessed from BNA (

[7] Angela V. John (2013), Turning the Tide, Cardigan, Parthian, p271


[9] Western Mail, 21.9.1935

[10] Western Mail, 30.4.1938

[11] Western Mail, 19.2.1925 ©Mirrorpix Image created by The British Library Board, accessed from BNA (


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