Thomas Shankland

by Anne Shankland, U.K (with thanks to the University of Wales, Bangor)

The Shankland Reading Room, University of Wales, Bangor
The Shankland Reading Room, University of Wales Bangor

(Photograph and text reproduced by kind permission of the Welsh Library, University of Wales, Bangor.)

The Welsh Library, University of Wales, Bangor, was named after Thomas Shankland (1858-1927) who was a member of staff at Bangor University Library between 1905 and 1925. The University buildings were designed by the architect Henry T. Hare (1861-1921) and officially opened in 1911. The barrel ceiling of the Shankland Room features wainscot ribs and 36 heraldic shields displaying the counties and boroughs of Wales in oak-framed panels.

Thomas Shankland was a bibliophile and a historian, who came from humble beginnings and became a Baptist minister before taking up an academic career.

He was born on 14th October 1858 in the parish of Llanginning, near St.Clears, Carmarthenshire, Wales, where he attended Pwll-trap School. By 1876, he was at Bala working as a shoemaker, but while here he came into contact with the Baptist movement as preached by some of the great men of the age. In 1879 he was baptised by immersion and in 1882 he began preaching with the Baptists. For a period he went to St. Clears Grammar School, and in 1885 was accepted as a student at Llangollen College. He opted, however, to enter the then new University College of North Wales at Bangor.

Between 1888 and 1891 Shankland was minister at Mold, then from 1891 to 1904 at Rhyl. It is thought that, possibly, the turning point of his life was when, in October 1900, he visited the old home of Joshua Thomas the historian at Leominster, and examined the manuscripts that still remained there. In 1904 he visited Bangor to reorganise the Welsh Library at the University and in 1905 he began the work of classifying and arranging material, and of travelling around the country searching for rare books.

In addition to his notable work in collecting rare books, periodicals and newspapers, Shankland published widely on the history of the Baptist denomination and hymn-writing. He wrote many articles. In 1898-1899 four of his articles appeared in Seren Cymru on the subject of Morgan John Rhys; he then wrote three articles in Cymru in 1902 on the beginnings of the Sunday School in the Principality. His most substantial work, however, was a series of sixteen articles in Seren Gomer (September 1900-January 1904) reviewing the book Diwygwyr Cymru by Beriah Evans. Shankland was editor of Seren Gomer between 1905-1906, and editor of the Transactions of the Historical Society of the Baptists in Wales from its foundation until 1925. He was a prominent figure in the founding of Cymdeithas Llawysgrifau Bangor in 1907, and was secretary during its existence. Because of his continuing work he was awarded in 1917 the degree of M.A. honoris causa by the University of Wales.

He became ill in 1925 and died on 20th February 1927.

Anne Shankland, September 2006