Gwynfor Evans


He was the eldest of the three children of Daniel James (‘Dan’) Evans (1883-1972), an industrious and highly successful shopkeeper, and Catherine Mary (née Richard) (1879-1969), herself a shopkeeper from a chapel-going London Welsh background, originally from Cydweli.

Gwynfor Evans was above all the product of Welsh nonconformist Christianity.

Gwynfor was steeped, through the religious and social activities of his grandfather’s chapel, where his father was a deacon, in the liberal-radical, internationalist version of the nonconformist tradition.

He adhered to that tradition’s values throughout his life and relied heavily on ministerial friends at times of crisis and in making decisions. This inheritance is probably what accounts for the moral seriousness, missionary zeal and self-sacrificing commitment which typified him in his political career, which he regarded, he said, as ‘a kind of ministry’.

Making the connection between the nonconformist ethic of his unbringing and Welsh patriotism, and then nationalism, was a somewhat gradual process.

English was the main language of Dan and Catherine Evans’s household, and certainly the first language of Gwynfor, his sister Ceridwen and his brother Alcwyn. His interest in Welsh literature and history was aroused under the influence of some inspirational teachers while a pupil at Barry grammar school.

However, when he entered the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, to study law in 1931 it was the Student Christian Movement and the activities of the International Relations Club that attracted him. He then came under the influence of certain young members of Plaid Cymru, and reading The Economics of Welsh Self-Government by D. J. Davies convinced him that a self-governing Wales was feasible.

Gwynfor’s unique contribution to the national cause would have been impossible were it not for his relatively privileged family background.

He was able to establish a business which afforded him financial independence for a time, but drew too upon the financial generosity of his closest relatives. He was also supported by other admirers who saw his contribution to the national cause as essential.

However, it was Gwynfor’s own exceptional character which more than anything was responsible for the unique, utterly formative contribution he made to the growth of Welsh nationalism and the establishment of the incipient Welsh state which exists today. Through his incredibly single-minded persistence, his tireless campaigning and his political acumen he did more than anyone to convince his compatriots that they could indeed be a political nation.

He was also a remarkably prolific author who produced a constant flow of articles and pamphlets as well as several books such as Rhagom i Ryddid (‘Onward to Freedom’) in 1964 and Aros Mae (1971, later translated as Land of my Fathers), his popular, pioneering and influential history of Wales.

Gwynfor died at his home, Talar Wen, Pencarreg, on April 21 2005, and his funeral, which was televised, was held at Seion chapel, Aberystwyth. His remains were cremated at Aberystwyth crematorium and his ashes scatterred on the Garn Goch hillfort near Llangadog, where he had regularly sought solace and inspiration, and where a memorial now stands to him. His widow Rhiannon died eight months later.

For further information check out our source at the dictionary of Welsh biography.



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