In Memoriam: Gwilym Ednyfed Hudson Davies 1940 – 1945

Ednyfed Hudson Davies attended Dynevor from 1940 to 1945 and went on to enjoy a varied career which included being a Member of Parliament twice, a barrister, Chairman of the Wales Tourist Board, a broadcaster and Chairman of a group of commercial radio stations.

Ednyfed was born in Llanelli in 1929 to the Rev Ebenezer Curig Davies of Pembrokeshire and Mrs Enid Davies (nee Hughes) of Anglesey. The family moved to Bangor when Ednyfed was 4 years old and he always remained pleased that this allowed him to be bilingual in the distinct dialects and vocabularies of both North and South Wales. He enjoyed telling the story of the first meeting of his two sets of grandparents who found it so hard to understand each other that they were forced to converse in English, very much a second language for all.

The family later moved to Swansea where Ednyfed attended Dynevor Grammar School and then Swansea University where he read Politics and Philosophy. He graduated early and won a place to read PPE at Balliol College Oxford. In his year before Oxford, he stayed on at Swansea University to do an honours degree in Welsh and become President of the Student Representative Council, already demonstrating his skills of public speaking and diplomacy. In Bangor, Swansea and Oxford, Ednyfed made close friends whom he continued to see throughout his life.

On leaving Oxford, Ednyfed got a job with Hoover and visited homes trying to sell new vacuum cleaners to housewives. Unfortunately for Hoover, however, Ednyfed was often able to mend the machines as he always loved to take things apart and repair them! His next job was as a Lecturer in politics at The Welsh College of Advanced Technology, Cardiff. Here, he conducted research into the effects of the development of Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station in North Wales on the local community. It was during this period that he was approached by the Labour Party in Cardiff to stand as a candidate in the next general election. Ednyfed believed that practical experience of campaigning in an election would be invaluable for his teaching practice and agreed to stand, but insisted that they find him a seat where he had no real chance of winning.

Conwy, which had been held by the Conservative Peter Thomas since 1951 and where Ednyfed had local connections, was finally selected. Events overtook them, however, when Harold Wilson called a snap election only 18 months into the life of his parliament in order to improve his majority. Ednyfed centred his campaign on the Labour Party’s Leasehold Reform policy which was of great benefit to residents of Llandudno, the largest concentration of population in the constituency. Despite his intentions, Ednyfed won the seat in 1966, with one of the largest swings to Labour in the country, and continued to represent the constituency until 1970 when he lost it by one of the smallest swings to the Conservatives.

Ednyfed then returned to a career in broadcasting, working mainly for the BBC in Wales and presenting news and current affairs programmes. He also presented a series, called “Cywain” (“Gathering in the harvest”), of 26 topical travelogues, which allowed him to visit countries around the world interviewing ordinary people as well as world leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, and Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus. He also made both Welsh and English versions of a programme on the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

During this period Ednyfed met Amanda Barker-Mill and they were married in 1972, with twin daughters Elinor and Rebecca being born in London in 1976. Ednyfed read for the Bar and was called at Gray’s Inn in 1975; he practised as a barrister for a year before taking up the position of Chairman of the Wales Tourist Board in 1976. In this role, he felt that one of his great achievements was to champion the development of farm-based tourism as a way of encouraging the continued existence of small farms and limiting rural de-population.

Ednyfed, nevertheless, was still interested in politics and applied for the safe Labour seat of Caerphilly which he won in the 1979 general election. During that parliament, he became a founder member of the Select Committee on Energy and used his interest in science, technology and engineering to energetically pursue its work of investigating a new generation of power stations. Other aspects of his parliamentary work were not going so smoothly however, and Ednyfed was increasingly concerned with the influence of the Militant Tendency on the Labour Party and what he considered to be the inability of the Parliamentary Party to counter this. He left the Party to join the newly founded SDP in 1981, realising that this would mean losing a safe seat and probably result in him having to leave Parliament. He stood for the SDP in Basingstoke in 1983 and lost, despite reducing the Tory majority.

Ednyfed and Amanda lived in the New Forest, Hampshire, and after leaving Parliament, he became involved in a range of Hampshire-based activities including the commercial radio station Ocean Sound, the New Forest Butterfly Farm, the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust and his life-long loves of sailing, ornithology, foraging, food processing, photography and cars. He was a founder member of the New Forest Enterprise Centre in Totton, which was constructed in 1991 to provide space for growing businesses on simple terms. He became Chairman of its Board in 2013 and remained active in that role until his death.

Ocean Sound led to a partnership with Michael Betton, with whom he successfully applied for the licence for a new station in Lincolnshire. Lincs FM went on the air in 1992, eventually leading to the Lincs FM Group of eight local radio stations in Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Ednyfed was still Chair of the Group at his death.

Ednyfed always retained his connections to Wales and the Welsh language by, among other things, writing and editing the Welsh language pages of the Radio Times. He maintained a home in Anglesey and enjoyed his membership of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club in Caernarfon.

Ednyfed and Amanda’s marriage was dissolved in 1994 and in 2016 he married Sue Owen, his long-term partner. He is survived by Sue, Amanda, Ellie and Becca, grandson Oscar Rensten and Katharyn Owen, Sue’s daughter.

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