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Obituary: Ednyfed Hudson Davies

Gwilym Ednyfed Hudson Davies

4th December 1929 - 11th January 2018

Ednyfed Hudson Davies, who has died aged 88, had a wonderfully varied life 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 was always pleased that this allowed him to be bilingual in the distinct vocabularies and idioms of 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 them.

The family later moved back 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 the year before going to Oxford he stayed on at Swansea to do an honours degree in Welsh and become President of the Student Representative Council, already demonstrating the skills of public speaking and diplomacy which he went on to practise throughout his career. In Bangor, Swansea and Oxford Ednyfed made close friends whom he continued to see all his life.

On leaving Oxford Ednyfed got a job with the Hoover vacuum cleaning company, visiting homes to try to sell new Hoovers to housewives whose current model had broken down. Unfortunately for Hoover, Ednyfed was often able to mend the machines and this love of taking things apart and repairing them was another of his enduring characteristics.  His next work was to lecture in politics at The Welsh College of Advanced Technology and undertake a social study of the effects on the local community of the development of the Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station in North Wales. 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. He thought that practical experience of campaigning in an election would be valuable for his teaching but insisted that they find him a seat he had no real chance of winning. They finally settled on Conwy which had been held by the Conservative Peter Thomas since 1951 and where Ednyfed had local connections. 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, whose leases from the Mostyn Estate were due for renewal. So, despite his intentions, he won the seat in 1966 by one of the largest swings to Labour in the country, and represented the constituency until 1970 when he lost it by one of the smallest swings to the Conservatives.

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

During this period he met Amanda Barker-Mill and they were married in 1972 and went to live on her family land in the New Forest, an environment which he quickly came to love. Their twin daughters Elinor and Rebecca were born in London in 1976. He also read for the Bar and was called at Gray’s Inn in 1975, practising for a year before taking up the position of Chairman of the Wales Tourist Board in 1976. He felt that one of his great achievements in the Tourist Board 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. This interest in agriculture and the environment continued into his life in Hampshire where he and Amanda developed a number of educational projects including a dairy show farm and the country’s first Butterfly Farm.

However he 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 was 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 having to leave Parliament. He stood for the SDP in Basingstoke in 1983 and lost, despite reducing the Tory majority.

Energetic as always, Ednyfed then threw himself into a range of Hampshire-based activities including the commercial radio station Ocean Sound, the New Forest Butterfly Farm, the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust, the New Forest Enterprise Centre and his life-long loves of sailing, ornithology, foraging, food processing, photography and cars. He kept up a connection to Wales and the Welsh language by, among other things, writing and editing the Welsh language pages of the Radio Times.

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.

He had given up the Chair of the Ninth Centenary Trust to Mary Montagu-Scott in 2011 but remained a Director and President of the charity which runs the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst. He led the team there to develop a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund with match funding from the Christopher Tower Foundation to create a dedicated library on the New Forest.

Ednyfed 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.

Ednyfed maintained a home in Anglesey where his mother’s family is still based and he enjoyed his membership of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club in Caernarfon. During his two year tenure as Commodore there he created a ‘Southern Squadron’, based at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, of local members with Welsh connections.

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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