the light project TFW : a biography

The story of a life well lived

Thomas Fredrick Willetts lived life in the town of Treharris, South Wales, a former mining community famed for the high grade coal it produced for the Cunard line and many of the world’s growing industrial corporate giants. The Town has other claims to fame too, as the home town of great names such as David Davies, Welsh international footballer, the artist Ivor Davies and more recently X-Factor finalist Lloyd Daniels. There is also a family link with Victor Spinetti the Welsh comedy actor, author, poet and raconteur.

TFW and FatherOn the 10th March 1930 Thomas Fredrick Willetts was born to Alfred Emlyn (a minor in the town) and Amy Willetts at 14 Susannah Place, Treharris and was commonly known in the community as Fred. Fred and Alfred are pictured here together. His passion for music grew from his church, the Willetts family having been part of it since it arrived in the town in 1895. His formative years were inspired by many musicians including Mrs Jenkins from Fox Street, the town’s music teacher. On the 27th March 1946 at the age of 16, Fred was appointed deputy music director of his church to William Davies, another family with strong links to the town.

In 1948 Fred went into military service as a conscript and gunner within the Royal Artillery, where he served in Tripoli. On his return to Treharris in 1950 Fred continued his service within his church and on 9th February 1952 was appointed as music director.

Over the years his leadership and example has inspired many musicians and his creative outreach saw the church ensemble being one of the first to become members of the Welsh Amateur Arts Federation. His work was not only centred on music; his passion for his community was evident when on 21 October 1966 he was one of the first on the first on the scene, assisting in counselling family members from the Aberfan Disaster. Musicians from the church played under his direction at the funeral of those who perished in the disaster attended by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1973 Fred created the Aberfan Festival in memory of those who had passed away and who had suffered the tragic events of 1966.

TFWThomas Fredrick Willetts was passionate about his faith as a Christian. He was always determined to give of his very best; he loved Treharris and the people who made up the community. He would often be seen playing his accordion on the street corners of the town, proclaiming the gospel message. His favourite hymn was one that resonates with so many in Wales and across the world as it shouts aloud from its text; ‘Songs of Praises, I will ever give to thee’. It was written by the Baptist congregational leader and miner John Hughes from Pontrypridd, just a few miles South of Treharris.

Fred’s life was one given to uncompromising care and love expressed to his family, committed service as music director of his church and as a gentle and compassionate Christian witness within his community. On his retirement as music director his contribution was described by his church as ‘exemplary’.

In 2007, prior to his passing, Thomas Fredrick Willetts, shared his desire that the education of young people be continued through the creation off the Foundation and that new life would return to the town. His wish was that those same passions showed by those who created the town would be driven forward to build a better society, and that where once people worked in darkness down the mines, people today would be linked to a new identity. The Light seeks to realise that vision, with music and the arts playing their part in bringing joy and empowerment to all who participate.

Within communities across the UK the aim of the Foundation is to bring renewed pride and passion in their identity through the arts. Using a variety of programmes we want to encourage its peoples to find joy, empowerment and enrichment, bringing new life and a strong heart beat at the centre of the community with the young and old coming together to bring light and hope for the future through the arts!