David Richard Davies
Teacher, Headteacher, Writer & Drama Critic
ABGS 1913 – 1917

 
D R Davies 1960

D.R. in 1960 when he retired

David Richard Davies was born on 12th September, 1900, at 27, Church Row, Aberdare. He was the eldest child of Edward and Sarah Ann Davies (née James). He was aged six months when the family moved to 1, Primrose Villas, Llwydcoed, the village where he would live for most of his life.

‘D.R.’, as he was affectionately known, was a former pupil of Llwydcoed Elementary School and from 1913 to 1917 a pupil at Aberdare Boys’ County School . On leaving school with his Senior School Certificate, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and spent the remainder of the war as a look-out, at Dover. Following demobilisation, he returned to Aberdare and became an uncertificated teacher, prior to attending Caerleon Training College between the years 1920-1922. It was at Caerleon, that D.R. met his future wife, Miss. May Greenway, who lived with her family, at 3, Cross  Street, Caerleon. They were married on August 11th, 1928, and made their first home at 3,  Hillcrest Villas, Llwydcoed. They later moved to 1,  Church Avenue, Llwydcoed, where they lived until July  1979, before moving to Cemetery Road, Trecynon.

D.R.’s teaching service began at Holland Street Boys’ School, in London, where he taught between 1922 and 1924. During his time in London, D.R. visited the National Theatre, as often as he could. Two shillings bought him a seat ‘in the gods’, from which vantage point he avidly viewed opera, plays and ballets.

Whilst in London he also became a prominent member of the London Welsh community and, more particularly, of Charing Cross Welsh Presbyterian Church.

In 1924, having secured a teaching post, at Blaengwawr Boys’ Elementary school, he returned to Aberdare where he continued to teach at Blaengwawr until 1937. He then spent one year at the Town Council Boys’ School. But when, in 1938, T.J. Lewis was appointed Director of Education for Aberdare leaving his previous post as senior English master at The Gadlys Boys’ School, D.R. was appointed in his place and stayed at The Gadlys until 1951. His final appointment was to be headmaster at Llwydcoed Junior School, staying there from 1951 until his retirement in December 1960.

During his years, as a teacher, D.R. was actively involved with the Aberdare Branch of the NUT, becoming its President, in 1942. He was also the branch’s press secretary for 38 years. Some of the minutes of these NUT meetings that were held by him, have been deposited at the National Library of Wales. D.R. was also president of the Cynon Valley Retired Teachers’ Association and first secretary of the Aberdare Teachers’ Dramatic Society. He was also a WEA lecturer and on the list of lecturers, at the Selborne Trust.

D R Davies in the Navy

D.R. in the RNVR during WW1

D R and May Davies

D.R. & Mrs. May Davies.
‘Mrs. D.R.’ became Llwydcoed correspondent for the ‘Aberdare Leader’,
a post she held for many years

A member of Horeb Congregational Chapel, Llwydcoed for fifty years, D.R. acted as Sunday School teacher and Superintendent for many years. In 1951, he wrote the following pamphlet based on the Independent Chapels of Wales; ‘Canmlwyddiant Eglwys Gynulleidfaol Gwernllwyn Dowlais, 1851-1951’ (Aberdâr, 1951).

In addition to his successful career as a teacher and headmaster, D.R. was an avid disciple of all things theatrical. At the tender age of 24, his first Welsh language play was published. Titled ‘Lludw’r Gorffennol’ (‘Ashes of the Past’), the work was printed by Stephens & George, of Aberdare. His love of writing also extended into poetry and journalism, in both the English and Welsh languages. He broadcast on several occasions, in both Welsh and English, and was the first Aberdarian, in 1927, to make a broadcast.

Having written1 extensively for the ‘Aberdare Leader’, D.R. was also a drama correspondent for the Western Mail, South Wales Echo and the Daily Mail. He was the South Wales Literary & Dramatic Representative for the Daily Express, wrote for the Welsh journal Y Cymro and was a life-long member and past president of the Aberdare Cymrodorion Society.

Welsh Drama League

First National Meeting of the Welsh Drama League. D.R. Davies is seated far left, in the front row.

D.R. was involved with a number of drama leagues throughout Wales and adjudicated at a number of Eisteddfodau. He was appointed Publicity Officer and Drama Secretary, at the Mountain Ash National Eisteddfod, in 1946, and, as such, was allowed a seat ‘on the platform’, for the official opening by the then H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth. He was also Press Secretary for the 1958 National Eisteddfod, held at Aberdare.

A prolific writer2 and collector of literature, D.R. created a large number of papers and scrapbooks relating to world theatre. These were deposited, at the National Library of Wales circa 1978/79. Around this time, he donated a volume of news-cuttings relating to the Coliseum during the period 1937-1951, to the local history collection, at Aberdare Library. During World War Two, many well-known actors, such as Dame Sibyl Thorndike and her husband, Sir Lewis Casson, performed at the Coliseum. Apparently, Dame Sibyl ‘who charmed everyone’, often referred to the ‘excellent acoustics’, at the Coliseum. Another famous visitor to the Coliseum was Sir Adrian Boult who conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra there, in 1942. D.R. met them all and wrote about most of them!

DR with his brother

D.R. Davies (right) with his brother, Tom

A man of the people and a stalwart supporter of the NHS, D.R. had long been involved with the Aberdare Patients’ Committee. He was both Chairman of the Aberdare Health Centre Patients’ Committee and Press Secretary for the National Association of Patient Participation Groups. He donated Volume One of the Aberdare Patients’ Committee: Reports of Talks & Lectures to Aberdare Health Centre, in 1979. Volume Two was donated to the National Library of Wales and Volume Three was deposited at Aberdare Library’s local history collection.

In addition to all of this, D.R. loved sport – in particular, football and cricket. As a young teacher, he was actively involved with the Aberdare Schools’ Football League and he became a life-long supporter of both Cardiff City F.C. and Glamorgan Cricket Club.

D.R.’s brother Thomas Morgan Davies, who was six years his junior, was also a former pupil at Aberdare County School (1919-24), following which he too trained as a teacher, at Caerleon College. In 1952, he was appointed headmaster of a junior school, in Birmingham. An excellent pianist, he served Moriah Welsh Methodist Chapel, Llwydcoed, as an accompanist, prior to leaving for Birmingham. He was also a Sunday school-teacher, at Moriah.

A second brother Mr. Christmas Davies, three years younger than D.R., was a member of the once famous Troubadour Singers, of Cwmaman. A well-known baritone singer, he was invited to join the chorus of the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company, but preferred to remain in industry. He lived in Cwmbran.

D.R. also had a younger sister, Mrs. Blodwen Bryant, who lived with her family, in Hirwaun.

D.R. died on his 88th birthday, on 12th September, 1988. He is survived his son, Gareth; his daughter Rhiannon Williams died in May 2013.

 

DR with Bill Codd

Presentation by D.R. Davies to Dr. W.L. Codd,
on the GP’s retirement, in 1983.
D.R. was Chairman of the Aberdare Health Centre Patients’ Committee
(Bill Codd was also a pupil at the school, 1921-25)


Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Mrs Susan Williams for writing this appreciation of the life of D.R. Davies
and for permission to use the family photographs. Mrs Williams is the daughter-in-law of D.R.’s daughter Rhiannon.
 


 

  1. The written work of D.R. Davies is very extensive. The W.W.Price Biographical Index, in Aberdare Central Library, gives an indication of the newspapers and journals to which he contributed. There were regular contributions to the Western Mail over several decades, and to the journals, Wales;  Y Ford Gron under the pen name Rhys Puw;  Y Cymro under the pseudonym Y Sedd Flaen ;  Y Llenor ; Drama; and Y Fflam.
    W.W.P. also gives details of some of the broadcasts that he made for the B.B.C. For example: 19th June 1933: West Region (309.9m) at 6:50 p.m. :— Egwyl Gymraeg : Mr. D.R. Davies (Beriah Evans and the Drama in Wales); 31st January 1935 : Western Region (307.1m) :— Chwarae Drama yng Nghymru heddiw - 2. by D.R. Davies; and in English, "From Farm Work to London Stage - Lyn Harding", 10th October 1938, Welsh Region, 9:30 p.m.
  2. D.R. also translated various works into Welsh. For example the play, “The Joan Danvers” a play in three acts by Frank Stayton.
    Published 1926 by S. French, Ltd. This was performed by the Trecynon Dramatic Society at the Treorchy National Eisteddfod where they won the prize in the dramatic competition.

Welsh Drama League photograph with permission, Rhondda Cynon Tâf Libraries