Select Hopkins Miscellany

Here are some Hopkins stories and accounts over the years:

Hopcyn Ap Tomas

Hopcyn ap Tomas lived at Ynysdawy in the Swansea valley and was one of the chief patrons of the bards of his time.  He commissioned a scribe to copy much of the important Welsh writing available into one volume. The resulting collection became known as The Red Book of Hergest, one of the treasures of ancient Welsh literature.

In 1403, when Owen Glendower was at Carmarthen, messengers were sent by the prince to fetch Hopcyn ap Tomas so that he might explain to Owen what light was shed on his fate by the old bardic prophecies. Hopcyn was known as a "Maister of Brut," i.e. as an authority on the old prophesies.  He was said by some to have been related to a Hopkins family which claimed descent from Rhodri Mawr.  But there appears to be no foundation for such a connection.

In 1959 a memorial stone was raised to Hopcyn ap Tomas in Ynystrawe Park after Henry Lewis, the professor of Welsh at Swansea University, gave a talk about him to local residents.  The audience was so impressed that a person with such a romantic history had lived in the area that they decided to raise a memorial by public subscription.  The money was collected and the monument raised.

The Maid of Cefn Ydfa

Ann Thomas was the daughter of a local landowner in Llangynwyd who fell in love with a thatcher, Will Hopcyn.  When her parents found out, they were having none of it and locked her up in the farmhouse.  She still managed to sneak messages to Will through a servant who used to hide them in a tree.   The story goes that her mother found out and promptly banned Ann from using writing paper and ink.  Ann persisted and sent messages written in her own blood instead. 

Time went by.  Will moved away to Bristol docks and Ann married a gentleman by the name of Anthony Maddocks.  However, she pined desperately for Will and eventually fell ill in her grief.  On her death-bed she asked to see Will.  He was summoned and brought to see her.  She saw him, the story goes, reached up to hold him, and died.

Will himself died early after falling off a ladder while thatching a roof and both are buried in Llangynwyd churchyard.  Will has been credited as being a poet.  But no verse of his has survived or is known.

The Maid of Cefn Ydfa was made into a film in 1914 by William Haggar, one of the earliest film producers in Wales.  A 38 minute section of this film has been saved and now resides in the Welsh Film Archive in Aberstwyth.

Hopkin Hopkin the Dwarf

One of Lewis Hopkin's sons was Hopkin Hopkin, known as Hopcyn Bach, a dwarf.  He was exhibited in London and Gentleman's Magazine ran an account of him in 1754.  He never weighed more than 17 pounds and is said to have died of "mere old age."  His suit, court coat, and gauntlet are today in the National Museum of Wales. 

Hopkins and Other "-kins" Names

The suffix "-kins" is generally attached to a personal name as a pet name, usually denoting "the little one."  The suffix was apparently a Flemish import which for some reason became popular in England. 

Various "-kins" surnames also became popular in Wales, including Hopkins.  The table below shows the main "kins" names and their degree of penetration into Wales (the numbers here are taken from the 1891 census):

Pet form of:
Numbers (000's)
Share in Wales (%)
Found in England
  West Midlands          
Hobb (from Robert)
  West Midlands
  West Midlands

Many of these surnames added a "-son" suffix in the north.  Thus Atkins became Atkinson.

Hopkins in Ireland Today

A telephone directory survey in Ireland in 1992 revealed 270 Hopkins, of which:

  • 35% were to be found in Dublin
  • 18% in county Mayo
  • 12% in Belfast
  • and 35% elsewhere in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
These Hopkins represent a mix of English/Welsh and Irish stock. 

Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower

Stephen Hopkins was aboard the ship Sea Venture which left for the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1609. The ship was wrecked by a hurricane off Bermuda and Stephen was one of the 150 castaways who survived. 

After about six months in Bermuda, Stephen began to challenge the authority of the governor and organize a mutiny.  He was arrested, put in chains, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.  But the record stated: "So penitent he was and made so much moan, alleging the ruin of his wife and children in this his trespass"  that he was eventually pardoned.

Finally the castaways worked together to construct two ships and were able to sail onto Jamestown. Stephen had contact with Indians there and it is thought that the reason that he was a passenger on the Mayflower was because of his experience in the New World.

Stephen and Elizabeth and two children from his first marriage and a two year old child from their marriage sailed on the Mayflower.  In Plymouth, Stephen was one of three men designated to advise Captain Standish on the first land expedition.  He was deputized to meet the Indians and act as an interpretor.  He was called "gentleman" in the colony and served as assistant governor in 1633.

However, Stephen was not part of the inside religious clique and was therefore thought of as a "stranger."  This often got him into trouble.  He was fined for several offences, most notably for the sale of wine, beer, strong waters, and nutmeg at so-called excessive prices.  Stephen lived onto 1644.  

Johns Hopkins' Bequests

Johns Hopkins died without heirs on Christmas Eve, 1873.   He left $7 million, mostly in Baltimore & Ohio Railroad stock, to establish his namesake institutions.  This sum was the single largest philanthropic donation ever made to educational institutions up to that time.

In his will he articulated his wishes for a school of medicine, a university press, an orphanage, and a school of nursing.  Among his stipulations was that the hospital should treat anyone, regardless of race, sex, age, or ability to pay.

Thus was founded the Johns Hopkins Colored Children Orphan Asylum in 1875, the John Hopkins University in 1876, the Johns Hopkins Press in 1878, the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1889, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1893.

Bruce Hopkins' Spirits in the Field: An Appalachian Family History

In 1997 the Kentucky Department of Transportation announced plans to rebuild highway US-460 through Pike county to Virginia.  The new route would cut a wide swathe through the mountains in the valley of the Levisa and destroy the ancestral burial grounds of the Hopkins family since before the Civil War,  For six years Bruce Hopkins worked to discover the family secrets buried in the old cemetery and to reclaim its heritage.  This book Spirits in the Field is the story of his struggle with the Kentucky DOT and the unearthing of his family history back to the first settlers who came there after the Revolution.

After the book was published, Bruce Hopkins wrote in Blue Ridge Traditions:

"Occasionally some of my readers have asked me for pictures of Pike county, Kentucky. 

They say they would like to see the field where Elisha Hopkins had his final grand party in 1860 to celebrate the successful cotton crop, the same celebration where he had the vision of death and destruction that the Civil War would bring them.  They say that they would like to see where Elisha was when the Indian boy frantically ran at him to announce that the Union Army was advancing through Pike county in its mission to destroy the Virginia saltworks that were sustaining the entire South in 1864.

The field is still there, much changed of course, and changing still.  But nearly all of that era is gone and has been gone for 140 years."

Anthony Hopkins Growing Up

A.R. Hopkins & Son was a bakery in the South Wales town of Port Talbot.  Anthony Hopkins was the "Son" on the sign, but he had little interest in baked goods.   He was a poor student, dyslexic, and often in trouble for his wandering attention in class.

He knew he wanted to be an actor from his first appearance on stage, in local YMCA productions in his teens.  And he remembers well the day a regular customer at the bakery brought her brother, Richard Burton, into the shop for a pastry.  As Burton strolled away and passers-by stopped to greet him, Hopkins decided that he would not only be an actor, but a famous actor.

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