Who better to kick off our blog series celebrating the Eccentrics who inspire us here at Eccentric Spirits than the controversial and curious Dr William Price? Although an infamous character in Victorian times, his wild exploits and trailblazing achievements aren’t perhaps as well-known as they should be today.

A beguiling combination of political activist, spiritual leader, incorrigible charmer and enthusiastic nudist, the good doctor was born in the South Wales Valleys in 1880. From a young age, William was the epitome of the non-conformist, butting heads with authority and forging his own extraordinary path. If ever there was anyone who didn’t give two hoots what the powers that be (or anyone else) thought of him, it was Dr Price.

A singular – if eccentric – Welshman

While it might not have taken much to be regarded as a bit ‘out there’ in the strict and stuffy Victorian era, Dr Price’s idiosyncrasies took things to a new level.

For example, he generously granted himself the grand title of ‘Archdruid of Wales’, and was often to be seen conducting spiritual ceremonies in local stone circles; his wild hair, long beard and white robes billowing in the breeze.

Ever the dandy, he regularly strode through locals towns and villages in his flowing emerald green cloak, fox fur hat, sash and sword (but never socks – he had a pathological hatred of socks). And on ‘let it all hang out’ days, he would do just that – striding through the countryside au naturale, wearing nothing but a smile and holding a book of poetry, which he’d recite out loud to no one in particular.

And if his fashion choices (or lack of them) weren’t arresting enough, he was still pretty easy to spot when out and about, as Dr Price went everywhere with his best friend. An enormous bull called Morgan. Of course.

Although his stranger habits made William something of a laughing stock, especially in later years, he was actually a complex, intelligent and highly influential man whose legacy lives on to this day.

Passionate social reformer

When he wasn’t wandering about the countryside in his birthday suit, William Price was making a tangible difference in society, both in Wales and beyond.

Price was a brilliant scholar and forward thinker. After qualifying as a surgeon in England at just 21 years old, William returned to practice medicine in South Wales. A fervent Welsh nationalist and leading light in the Chartist movement, he was at the forefront of championing greater political rights and better healthcare for the working classes. So much so, that after arming protestors with cannons, Price had to make a quick getaway to France (dressed as a woman, no less) where he lived in exile for a two years.

He was also an early supporter of women’s rights, believing marriage to be the enslavement of women (not a view that went down particularly well in Victorian times). Hardly surprising then, that the charismatic doctor had a reputation for charming the ladies, fathering three girls with three different women – a scandalous state of affairs at the time. But it was the birth and untimely death of his five-month-old son Jesus Christ (yes, really) that was the catalyst for his most enduring legacy. 

An eccentric pioneer of cremation

Perhaps the most divisive event in William Price’s already controversial life was the funeral of his infant son. He believed it was wrong to pollute the earth by burying bodies and favoured cremation, a hugely controversial issue at the time. His typically unconventional decision to burn his son’s remains on a hilltop in Llantrisant outraged Victorian Britain. A blasphemous act in those days, the cremation saw him attacked by furious locals, arrested for illegally disposing of a corpse and put on trial. Not one to take things lying down, Price’s spirited defence of his actions saw him cleared of the charges, helped change the public perception of cremation and laid the foundations for the passing of the Cremation Act 1902.

Fittingly, after Dr Price’s own death in 1893, 20,000 people gathered on the same hilltop in Llantrisant to watch his cremation and pay their respects to one of the most exceptional characters in Welsh history. Some say, one of the greatest Welshmen of all time.

When it comes to great Welsh eccentrics, the great doctor has always been at the top of our list. His maverick mentality and remarkable character are imbued in every drop of Eccentric Spirits we distil. So, next time you raise a toast, don’t forget a hearty “Iechyd da!” for Dr William Price – the original eccentric.

The Eccentric range of spirits bottles against a blue sky