Richard Rhys O’Brien is an economist and futurist turned singer/songwriter and historian. His link to this whole affair is from discovering the guest list for the dinner amongst the wonderful legacy of the papers of his grandfather, the Rev. J.T Rhys, guest on Table 20, Congregational minister, temperance campaigner, private secretary to Dame Margaret Lloyd George in the Downing Street years and at one time working for the Dowager Viscountess Sibyl Rhondda. Two treasured and related documents are his unpublished letter “Lady Rhondda’s Maiden Speech” with his recollections of both Ladies Rhondda, probably written around the time of the dinner, and the letter from Lady (Margaret) Rhondda politely declining, on behalf of herself and the Editor of Time & Tide, to publish articles in support for prohibition of alcohol – but that was eight years prior to the dinner – which ironically occurred within a few hours of President Roosevelt signing the first law to remove prohibition in America.
“Discovering who was who at this dinner has been an exciting time of discovery of many great pioneering people, especially in this instance, women, at a time when the suffrage anniversary has also been in the news. No wonder my grandfather kept this little gem – you can even feel it was left there, waiting to be rediscovered. And when I unearth little nuggets of information that allow me to correct accepted facts I can confess to a little satisfaction as an amateur historian – whilst, the more I learn, the more I admire and appreciate the forensic and careful biographical work that historians do.”
Whilst Chief Economist of American Express Bank, Richard wrote one of the “iconic” books on globalisation, “The End of Geography”, for the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House, edited more than a dozen other volumes on international finance, and was Editor of the monthly publication The AMEX Bank Review. As a futurist through his company Outsights he established the UK Government’s first online database on future trends, whilst consulting for more than 100 organisations worldwide: governments, companies, charities. He also enjoyed serving on numerous councils and advisory boards.
More recently, in addition to curating a small exhibit “A Lampeter Family Story / Hanes Teulu O Lambed 1870-1971” on the Rhys/Rees family, and working through the J.T. Rhys archive, Richard has published four albums of his songs on love, life and contemporary issues, and two narrated song cycle albums with a historical bent: “The Ballad of Highbury Barn” on the history of one of London’s most notorious 19thc pleasure gardens, and “Wherever the Moon Is: Songs of Migration” on his Irish ancestors’ experiences when leaving Ireland in 1844 for Dickensian London. You can listen to them all on his website www.richardrhysobrien.com. Richard continues to be a member of the Advisory Board of The Annual Register, the longest uninterrupted record on world affairs, first published by Edmund Burke in 1758. J.T. Rhys had his own treasured collection of Annual Registers. Richard has served as Chair of Highbury Opera Theatre and is a tenor with Eclectic Voices.
Currently his time is increasingly absorbed in researching the background to the J.T. Rhys archive of letters and speeches, with the ambition of being able to making these available to the wider research community with the assistance of the National Library of Wales.