Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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DAVIES , JONATHAN CEREDIG ( 1859 - 1932 ), traveller, genealogist, and folk-lorist .

Born 22 May 1859 , at Llangunllo, Cards. , son of J. C. Davies , he traced his descent from Walter Morgan , of Tangogoyan (b. 1729 ), who is recorded as a landed proprietor in the parish of Llanddewi-brefi . At the age of 16, in 1875 , Davies went to the newly-founded Welsh colony in Patagonia . He returned to Wales in 1891 [and in 1892 was editor of Yr Athrofa , in which ‘ Anturiaethau yn Nhir y Cewri ,’ which was published in English (see below) as Adventures in the Land of Giants , appeared as a serial]. In 1898 he visited western Australia , where he spent four years. In both countries he made a study of the native populations, but also did much to further the spiritual and cultural movements among the English and Welsh colonists . On his return, apart from a brief visit to western Australia in 1907 and a visit to Spain and France in 1924 , he spent the remaining years of his life in Wales , devoting himself entirely to the study of Welsh history, folk-lore, and genealogy . He d. at Llanddewi-brefi , 29 March 1932 . Davies was a keen observer with a retentive memory. His works are a mine of information on the folk-customs of many countries, but his conclusions must be accepted with caution. His chief works are: Darlith ar Patagonia ( Treherbert , 1891 ); Patagonia: a description of the country ( Treorky , 1892 ); Adventures in the land of giants: a Patagonian tale ( Lampeter , 1892 ); Western Australia: its history and progress ( Nantymoel , 1902 ); Awstralia Orllewinol ( Treorchy , 1903 ); Folk-lore of West and Mid-Wales ( Aberystwyth , 1911 ); and two privately printed books, Welsh and Oriental Languages ( Llanddewi Brefi , 1927 ) and Life, travels, and reminiscences of Jonathan Ceredig Davies ( Llanddewi Brefi , 1927 ). The first of these privately printed books was reprinted in the Life, travels, and reminiscences .

The story of the latter book is a remarkable one. Judged by ordinary standards it cannot be compared with the work of the trained craftsman, but it would be difficult to find a finer example of dogged perseverance. Old age, failing health and sight, and fear of poverty, all made it seem impossible for him to achieve his purpose. His equipment consisted of a small quantity of type and a platen press. Setting up and printing off one page at a time, he grimly held on until the book was finished, a quarto work of 438 pages, ‘written, set up, printed off and published by himself.’ Apart from the mechanical aspect of its production the book bears the impress of a man who had travelled much, read widely, and was possessed of much courage and tenacity of purpose.

Sources:

  • Life, Travels, and Reminiscences of Jonathan Ceredig Davies (Llandewi-brefi, 1927) , 1927 ;
  • West Wales Historical Records (1910–29) ;
  • Annual Report of the National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth) ;
  • press notices and information supplied by friends of J.C.D.;
  • information from the late W. J. Gruffydd .

Author:

William Williams, F.L.A. (1885-1950), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959