Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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EVANS , DAVID ( 1886 - 1968 ), Professor of German and author ;

b. 18 Nov. 1886 in the Blaen-ffos area of Pembs. , son of John Evans (d. 18 Jan. 1914 , 81 yrs old) and Elizabeth his wife (d. 30 Jan. 1937 , 86 yrs old) of Bwlchnewydd , parish of Castellan . He was educated at Cardigan intermediate school , where German had a prominent place in the curriculum, and after a fruitless period farming at home he entered the University College of Wales , Aberystwyth in 1907 . He graduated with honours in German in 1910 , and two years later gained his M.A. He then moved to Berlin as an English lektor and a student at the University where he became acquainted with the Celtic scholar Kuno Meyer . He was working there at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 , and was interned for the next four years as one of about five thousand civilian prisoners in the comfortable surroundings of Ruhleben race-course. His major interest there was the Camp School , formed early in 1915 , where he was head of Celtic studies and, to his great amusement later in life, president of the Irish Society . One of his students, initially, and then an assistant to him, was Ifor Leslie Evans (see below) , later Principal of the University College , Aberystwyth .

After his release he was for some three months a teacher at Wrexham and then became a lecturer at the University of Birmingham until his appointment on 24 Sept. 1920 as an Independent Lecturer and Head of the Department of German at Aberystwyth . Despite the prevailing hatred towards Germany and its people, he succeeded in creating a particularly lively department and his name symbolised the new interest being awoken in the language. His success led the college in 1936 to establish a Chair of German and elevate him as Professor . He remained in the post until his retirement in 1952 when he was made Emeritus Professor .

In addition to translating Detholiad o chwed-lau Grimm ( 1927 ) and Detholiad o storïau Andersen ( 1921 , 1931 ) and also plays by Herman Heijermans ( Ahasfer ; Y Gobaith da ) and Anatole France ( Y gwr a briododd wraig fud ), he contributed numerous articles on German education, religion and contemporary problems and literature to Welsh periodicals. He published A simplified German Grammar ( 1948 ) and Gofyniadau ac atebion i Lythyr Cyntaf Paul at y Corinthiaid ( 1926 ), but his most important work which brought him into prominence generally was Y wlad: ei bywyd, ei haddysg, a'i chrefydd ( 1933 ), a searching survey of the fundamental values of rural life (for him, around Y Frenni Fawr ) and a study for which there was a great demand for a second edition at the end of the year, partly because it was so enthusiastically recommended by David Lloyd George (see below) in a speech at Wrexham national eisteddfod .

David Evans was very active in the college at Aberystwyth . He was the prime mover in the introduction of a scheme of medical care for students , the first medical scheme to be instituted at any British university. He was president of the Old Students' Association in 1952 , and the British Council representative at Aberystwyth for many years. He was an uncompromising Baptist , and a member, deacon and Sunday school teacher at Bethel , Aberystwyth .

He m., 30 Dec. 1920 , Margaret James of Llandeilo ; her father was an Inspector of Elementary Schools in Carmarthenshire and her mother had been a member of the ‘ Côr Mawr ’ conducted by Griffith Rhys Jones (‘ Caradog ’; DWB , 465) . His wife, too, was a graduate of Aberystwyth College in 1910 , and by the time she met David Evans in Birmingham she had been appointed French teacher at Halesowen grammar school for girls . At Aberystwyth she actively supported several good causes, e.g. Friends of the Hospital and the R.S.P.C.A. Two sons and a daughter were born of the marriage. David Evans d. 26 Oct. 1968 in Bronglais Hospital , Aberystwyth and was buried in his mother-church at Blaen-ffos . His wife d. 29 Nov. 1973 aged 84 yrs. at her daughter's home in Camberley and was buried in Aldershot .

David Evans was of a companionable nature, kept rigidly to his principles, and made his views known, but occasionally he would not be bound by convention. As Principal Thomas Parry said at his funeral: ‘in spite of the infinite variety of human nature, there will never be anybody exactly like David Evans’ .

Sources:

  • University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, News Letter , 1969 , 20-1 (Thomas Parry's tribute);
  • University College of Wales Old Students' Association. Annual , 1969 , 1969 , 13-15;
  • The Times , 31 Oct. 1968 ;
  • The Daily Telegraph , 31 Oct. 1968 ;
  • The Cambrian News , 1, 8 Nov. 1968 , 7 Dec. 1973 ;
  • Seren Cymru , 10 Jan. 1969 ;
  • In Ruhleben camp , Rhif. 1-9, Berlin, June - December 1915 (later The Ruhleben camp magazine , nos. 1-6., Berlin, March 1916 - June 1917 ) and copies of the prospectus of the Camp School, from David Evans' library, at N.L.W.;
  • NLW MS 19979 (a letter from D. Lloyd George );
  • D.Ll.G.'s personal copy of Y Wlad ei bywyd, ei haddysg a'i chrefydd , Liverpool, 1933 with notes, at N.L.W.;
  • The Dragon (U.C.W., Aberystwyth, magazine), 1929 , 32-4, and 1931 , 10;
  • information from his son Roland D.W. Evans, Solihull, Birmingham , and the Rev. William Jones, Blaen-ffos ;
  • personal acquaintance.

Author:

Benjamin George Owens, M.A., Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001