Obituary: Aled Eames

Article excerpt

Aled Eames more than anyone else was responsible for bringing the study of the Welsh maritime heritage into the mainstream of academic and popular historical research and writing. Latterly he was spoken of as one of Wales's leading contemporary historians.

Born in Llandudno in 1921 and educated at a local grammar school, Eames joined the Royal Navy early in the Second World War to serve as a seaman in a corvette, the Narcissus, on North Atlantic convoy escort duties. Later in the war, commissioned as a Lieutenant RNVR, he commanded tank landing craft in the invasion of Europe. He was twice mentioned in despatches and wounded at the Waleheren landing of November 1944.

Release from service found him at the University College of North Wales (as it was then known) at Bangor. Here he took First Class Honours in History. He taught the subject in two schools before being appointed in 1955 Lecturer, later Senior Lecturer, in Education at Bangor, and Warden of Neuadd Reichel Students' Hostel.

By 1955 Eames's historical studies had turned to the maritime aspects of the subject, and in that year he was awarded the Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Prize for his thesis "Sea Power and Welsh History during the Reign of Charles I".

From then on his work dealt increasingly with the history of Welsh merchant shipping in the 19th and early-20th centuries. In 1973 he published Ships and Seamen of Anglesey and in 1975 Porthmadog Ships, a brilliant study of the century of shipping prosperity in Porthmadog which followed the construction of the harbour there in 1824. There were studies in Welsh - Meistri's Moroedd ("Shipmaster", 1980) and Machlud Hwylieur Cymry ("Shrouded Quays", 1992) - and in 1987 the masterly Ventures in Sail, subtitled "Aspects of the Maritime History of Gwynedd, 1840-1914, and the Liverpool Connection".

This latter work, like all Eames's books, revealed the breadth of his interest. He saw merchant shipping history as involving not only economic history and the technicalities of seamanship and ship-handling - though a sound basis in these matters he saw as absolutely essential for any scholar working in the subject - but also as social and political history. …