TODAY marks the centenary of the composer Mansel Thomas, who wrote many of his works while living in the Gwent countryside between Abergavenny and Monmouth.

Rhondda-born, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London at 16 and was a brilliant student, gaining awards and prizes.

Although a great songwriter throughout his life, most of his solo vocal compositions and arrangements were unknown until recent research.

He joined the BBC in Cardiff in 1936 as a music assistant and deputy conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra.

Following war service he became its principal conductor. In 1950 he was appointed head of music.

He encouraged young composers such as Alun Hoddinott and William Mathias and brought many more famous colleagues, including Sir William Walton, to hear their music performed in Wales.

Most of the research and cataloguing of his output has been done by his son-in-law, the musician and lecturer Dr Terence Gilmore-James, from Ponthir, who is married to the composer’s daughter, Grace.

“My memories of my father are of a warm, loving and modest person with a great sense of humour, who was very supportive and proud of my sister, Sion, and myself - also a very generous person, not only to us but to other young people,” said Mrs Gilmore-James.

“Composition preoccupied him from his earliest years - at a desk, on a train, anywhere in fact - and I remember my mother pulling manuscript paper out of the suitcase when going on holiday.”

Mansel Thomas took early retirement in 1965 to live in Gwent, where he helped found the Llantilio Crossenny Festival and composed his most important works, including music for the Royal Investiture in 1969.

He was awarded the OBE.

Suffering a stroke in 1979, he lived a further seven years.

Mrs Gilmore-James said: “I admire his ability to write tunes, his wonderful harmonies and great musical talent. He was a superb pianist. He found everything so easy.

“My husband and I returned to Wales when my mother formed a Trust in my father’s memory, so that his music manuscripts could be collected, copied and published.

“Terence has worked tirelessly as the editor of these publications and over 400 are now available in print. The project continues and the Trust is delighted that so many performances are taking place in this centenary year.”