The Revd Dr Dafydd G Davies: 1922-2017
Prinicipal Emeritus, South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff
The late Revd Dr Dafydd G Davies, Prinicipal Emeritus, South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff, on his 95th birthday, 1 July, 2017 in his back garden with son, the Revd Gwilym Dafydd.
The Revd Dr Dafydd Gwilym Davies, BA BD, was born on 1 July 1922 in ‘Prysgol’ Four Crosses, Abererch near Pwllheli, North Wales. At that time his father, the Revd J Clement Davies, 1896-1982, was the Baptist minister of Tabor, Llithfaen and Penuel, Tyddynshon churches, 1917-1922. His mother Gwen Ellen Griffith, 1894-1970, was often described as a woman of culture. She was a native of Caernarfon and a Welsh Grammar School teacher before her wedding in 1921. A few months later the family of three undertook a journey to Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire where Clement Davies became minister of Graig Baptist Church until his retirement in 1963.
Dafydd Davies was educated at the local primary school in Newcastle Emlyn before moving to Cardigan County School until 1941 where he was chosen as a senior prefect and head boy, for two years. The Baptist Union of Wales (BUW) held its annual meetings in Treharris near Merthyr Tydfil at the end of August 1939, and there as a 17 year old school pupil he heard a calling to the Christian ministry, one hardly needs to say with the Baptists. The majority of his BUW denominational diaries have been safeguarded from 1939-2017 and it is very interesting to note the start and origins of his life of preaching in Graig vestry, on Thursday evening, 16 November 1939, ‘Deuwch ataf fi bawb ar y sydd yn flinderog.’ ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened…’ (Matthew 11.28).
The following three Sundays he preached trial sermons in local chapels. The 1939 diary records that the BUW had some 90,000 members at the end of the 1930s. Today we have less than ten thousand.
DGD was to spend the next nine years as a theological student at Bangor Baptist College, 1941-50, studying Economics, Classics and Theology before undertaking two years of New Testament research studies at Mansfield Congregational College, Oxford. In early July 1952, within four days he was ordained and inducted as minister of Moriah, Pentraeth and Seion, Llanfair M.E., Anglesey and married to his wife Kitty Jones, 1919-2005 who was born in Wattstown, Rhondda Fach, brought up in Canton, Cardiff before her family moved to Bangor circa 1935.
During the summer of 1955 Dafydd Davies was appointed as a tutor in the South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff. It came as a surprise to hear him say many a year later that he had no idea how much of a salary he was to receive in Richmond Road. It could not possibly be less than his remuneration from two small Baptist churches on Anglesey was his witty response!
In 1970 he was appointed College Principal and served for another 15 years until 1985, when he retired a year or two early because his wife’s health was starting to deteriorate. The Free Masons had a scheme to appoint a former minister to this important denominational post. Had they succeeded then DGD would have returned to the pastoral ministry!
The new principal and his wife laboured conscientiously and very diligently between 1970-85 to educate and assist scores of theological students as they prepared for Christian and mainly Baptist ministry, in those days. Their endeavours were appreciated by many as indicated by cards and all kinds of sympathy messages which came to hand late 2017 and early 2018.
He preached and lectured locally, throughout Wales, and England and a number of visits to the United States of America. His BUW diaries reveal that he undertook ‘big meetings’ (cyrddau mawr) and anniversary services on several consecutive weekends. Preaching on Saturdays, especially evenings was no strange experience. After the death of his wife Kitty, September 2005, after 53 years of happy marriage, I remember asking my father if he had any idea in how many chapels and churches he had preached. He had no idea at the time of asking but a few weeks later he came up with a grand total of 890. There is only one who claims a higher total, the Revd Dr D Ben Rees, Liverpool, who in his very interesting autobiography notes a four figure total.
He served as president of the Welsh wing of the BUW in 1986 and delivered a memorable address from the pulpit of Penuel, Rhosllannerchrugog with a theme ‘The Call of the Word’ (Galwad y Gair). DGD was a born leader and with so much denominational vision and full of ideas. Fruits of his efforts were the popular Christian ‘The Word in Song Festival’ during the late 1980s and he was one of the chief founders of Cambrensis Baptist Choir. Thousands were blessed thanks to the singing of this choir as was seen recently in one Twitter message.
During the 1960s and 1970s he was a diligent member of the Welsh Church Council and the panel which was to translate a modern version of the New Testament in Welsh which was published in 1975 and the New Welsh Bible (Beibl Cymraeg Newydd) in 1988.
He published his commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Romans for adult Sunday School classes in 1984, ‘To Come and to Be a Christian’, (Dod a Bod yn Gristion) and a Sir D J James Pantyfedwen Lecture, 1986, ‘The Canon of the New Testament in its Formation and its Message’ (Canon y Testament Newydd Ei Ffurfiad a’i Genadwri).
One must refer to his long life interest in sport, football, cricket and he took to playing golf when 40 years of age. How wonderful it was more than once to hear him retelling his adventure of a very long journey by car from Anglesey to Cardiff and back on Saturday, 19 December, 1953. It was the last time that Wales beat the mighty All Blacks, 13-8. Just six days before Christmas day 1953. He was there!
He died at home on Wednesday evening 13 December, no illness as such but old age, the burden of the long years, 95 years of age. Father of Gwilym and twin sisters Gwen and Megan, Taid, grandfather of Owain and Geraint and their families. He was a remarkable man, full of appreciation for all the help and care which he received during his final years and who possessed an incredible memory until those last few autumn weeks.
And a ‘Real Madrid’ of a powerful preacher during his years of strength 1939-1989.
His funeral service was held at Tonyfelin, Welsh Baptist Church Caerphilly, where the famous the Revd Christmas Evans, 1766-1838, had once been a minister, and Wenallt Chapel, Thornhill. Some 170 gathered on a very wet day to pay their last respects on 2 January 2018.
Dafydd G Davies had an excellent sense of humour and if I were to say that there were at least 30 preachers present, enough to form a new denomination, he would undoubtedly smile, if not laugh!
Gwilym Dafydd, Cardiff, March 2018
Dafydd G. Davies, the Principal Emeritus of the South Wales Baptist College died aged 95 at home, having been cared for by his three children and their families. He was a respected person who had sensed the call to ministry in his formative years, and was well advised by his father, the Revd Clement Davies, the minister of Graig Baptist Church in Newcastle Emlyn, Cardiganshire. Both father and son were honoured by being presidents of the Welsh Wing of the Baptist Union of Wales, and were deemed natural leaders within the Union. Dafydd was a family orientated person who delighted in his children, Gwilym, Megan and Gwen, and grandsons Owain and Geraint, and was privileged to have known his great-grand-daughter Martha.
Dafydd was a student at the Bangor Baptist College, where he attained three degrees, one in Economics, the second in Classical Greek and the third in Divinity. During his years at Bangor, he became the President of the Students Union and captained the college soccer team. He later became a student at Oxford and he thrived on the academic work there. Whilst many assumed that he would be invited to serve on the teaching staff of a theological college, he accepted a call in 1952 to minister to two churches on Anglesey namely Llanfair M.E. and Pentraeth on the eastern coast of the island. This was also the year that he and his fiancee Kitty were married.
Within three years, he was duly invited to the post of New Testament tutor at the South Wales Baptist College, and in 1970, he became the principal until his retirement in 1985. Dafydd was privileged to be involved in the translation of the the 1988 New Welsh Bible. He was an extensive reader and could evaluate the material concerned in a balanced and objective way.
Through his endeavours, Cardiff Baptist College developed a close relationship with the Campbell University in North Carolina in the USA. He served the denomination in many areas and was invited to be the President of the Baptist Union of Wales in 1986. In his presidential address, he presented a prophetical analysis of the Association and churches, and proposed practical ideas that could be considered to maintain and develop church ministry. One of his suggestions was realised when the Union arranged a day of celebration called “A festival of Word and Song’ which became an annual event for several years.
At the age of 40, he started playing golf, and the sport became his past-time for a further 40 years. He was a keen follower of many sports, particularly his beloved football. As his eyesight deteriorated, he valued his radio and was an avid listener to the very end.
When the minister of Tonyfelin Baptist Church became the minister of Tabernacle, Cardiff, where he and his wife were members, Dafydd was invited to become the moderator at Tonyfelin, and served them in that capacity for almost three years. He sought to direct them to secure a minister, and the Revd Milton Jenkins was duly inducted to the pastorate. Both became close friends, and for the next 23 years, they valued each other’s support and encouragement.
In 2005, his beloved wife died, but Dafydd continued to give sterling service to the community at Tonyfelin and they valued the warm friendship which developed between them. He was a good friend to all ministers, especially his former students, and he leaves this life the richer for all the grace revealed in his living.