The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

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home > Transactions > Volume 21 - 2015 > Eccentric: The Life of Dr William Price

Eccentric: The Life of Dr William Price

The subject of my lecture is the notorious Dr William Price, a name that is well- known and someone whose great legacy remains that landmark court case in 1884 that spearheaded the passing of the Cremation Act in 1902.

However, I do wonder whether Price had the aspirations of the Cremation Society in mind when he famously cremated his baby son, or was it simply due to his deep-rooted druidic beliefs, of which he claimed to be the master scholar, and his self-appointed role as Archdruid of Wales? There was much more to Dr William Price than his radical attitude to the disposal of the dead. He was undoubtedly one of the most flamboyant, romantic, and revolutionary characters in Welsh history.

People often forget that Price, a sparkling and dynamic character, was a brilliant scholar, an exemplary surgeon, an exiled political activist, and a pioneer in establishing an embryonic National Health Service. He established the first co- operative society in the principality, tried his utmost to create the first museum of Welsh life, and also fought gallantly for the striking miners and iron workers whilst also outraging a conventional society with his far-reaching druidic beliefs. Price is often portrayed as an eccentric individual whose obsession with druidism resulted in cremating the remains of his infant child. Price was eighty-four years of age when he committed his son’s body to the ‘cleansing flame’, but history has conveniently forgotten his great achievements up until that moment.

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