Mr. Dan Isaac Davies (Her Majesty’s Sub-inspector of Schools, Cardiff) 1839 – 1887

Mr. Dan Isaac Davies (Her Majesty’s Sub-inspector of Schools, Cardiff) 1839 - 1887

With feelings of deep regret we record the death of a Welshman perhaps as well-known as any in the Southern part of the Principality, Mr. Dan Isaac Davies, B.Sc., who died at his residence, 12, Richmond Terrace, Park Place, Cardiff, on Saturday afternoon, from an attack of pneumonia. Mr. Davies, whose loss we now deplore, was one of the most pronounced, progressive educationists of the day.

He was born in 1839 at Llandovery, his aptitude for a scholastic sphere made itself so apparent that he was placed as a pupil teacher at the local British School. Here his studious bent was so marked that he won the highest opinions of those with whom he associated, and then, after the usual course at a Training College, he was appointed to the mastership of the British School at Aberdare the advances, he made in the profession of his choice, one in which merit only too frequently receives tardy recognition, were watched with satisfaction and approbation by the friends of his younger years. After good and sterling work at Aberdare he removed to Swansea, to take the head-mastership of the Normal College there, while in this position taking the degree of Bachelor of Science at London University. A year or so from this he accepted an assistant-inspectorship of schools, residing for several years In Cheltenham. Subsequently he returned to South Wales, taking up his residence at Cardiff, the centre of the district to which he had been called.

Here his genial and cheery presence caused him to be looked upon by all engaged in education with whom he was thrown in contact more as a friend than as an examiner, though none could have fulfilled the peculiarly onerous duties of his position, better than he, and, had he not been cut off in his prime, doubtless the highest honours of his special calling would have been his. Though inherently the very opposite of self-assertive, as a man of culture he moved and was appreciated within a very wide circle, being a member of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, the Cardiff Cymmrodorion Society, and the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, and occupying a seat on the Council of the Cambrian Society of South Wales and Monmouthshire. His name was also familiar to the newspaper-reading world, his letters to the press boing always characterised by sound, clear common sense, and logical ability of a high order. Hut, perhaps, it was for his sturdy championship of the educational value and poetic beauty of his mother tongue that he was best known. One of the originators of the Society for the Utilisation of the Welsh Language, he worked with all the ardour of a whole-souled nature for its recognition, and so successful was he and those who9tood shoulder to shoulder with him that the Privy Council was induced to give the language of the hearth a place in the class, a result in the attainment of which Mr. Davies’s advocacy was no mean factor. Indeed, in all matters of education he was an enthusiast, and he looked forward hopefully to the time when the country of his nativity should enjoy a complete system of instruction. Anxiously did he anticipate the time, which, unfortunately, he was destined never to see, when the gulf between elementary and advanced education would be bridged and Wales provided with schools of every grade.

Any proposal affecting this received from him the most exhaustive attention, in fact, at the time of his death, he was engaged in the collection and compilation of facts and figures which had a bearing upon the Bill for Welsh Intermediate Education now before Parliament, with a view to placing them before the members of the Cambrian Society. Five weeks ago only he visited London for the purpose of placing evidence in connection with the Society for the Utilisation of Welsh before the Royal Commission on Education. He then contracted a severe cold, though it was not sufficient to lead him to lay aside even for a while his work. On Friday week, however, pneumonia in a somewhat acute form set in, necessitating confinement to his room, and preventing him from attending on the Saturday the examination of Welsh Sunday Schools, in which he took a deep interest, and from which it was only at the urgent entreaty of his friends that he consented to absent himself. His illness becoming intensified, Dr. Fiddian and afterwards Dr. Edwards were called in, and up to Friday evening he seemed in a fair way towards recovery. A relapse, however, occurred, and he died, as stated above.

In theological matters Mr. Davies’s views were of the broadest, but, perhaps, were more closely identified with Congregationalism than with those of any other denomination. He was twice married, and leaves a widow and five children to mourn their bereavement.

A large and influential meeting of the Welshmen of Cardiff was held on Sunday afternoon at Pembroke Terrace Chapel to make arrangements for the funeral of Mr. D. Isaac Davies, B.Sc. Professor Powel, of the University College, was voted to the chair, and there were present, among others, Mr. Alfred Thomas, M.P. Councillor Mildon, Professor Roberts, B.A., the Rev. Aaron Davies (Rhymney), Messrs. Bassett Thomas, T. T. Jones, Davies (Mount Stuart Square), D. E. Roberts, B. Gwynfe Evans, D. Tudor Evans, “Caradog,” “Cochfarf,” “Dafydd Morganwg,” Edward Thomas (Western Mail), T. D Davies, Tom Roberts, Howell Griffiths, T. W. Lewis, T. W. Bowen, and David Morgan.

Mr. Dan Isaac Davies (Her Majesty’s Sub-inspector of Schools, Cardiff) 1839 - 1887

D. I Davies (Picture RCTCBC)

After a lengthened discussion, in which much depth of feeling was shown, the following arrangements were decided upon: To hold a public meeting at the Tabernacle Chapel, the Hayes, at two p.m., on Tuesday, when addresses will be delivered by a number of ne speakers from all parts of the Principality; and to form a procession from the chapel to the residence of the deceased, 12, Richmond Terrace, whence it would again start for the Cathays Cemetery at four p.m. A number of Welsh Congregational hymn tunes will be sung. A hope was expressed that the members of the Cardiff Cymmrodorion Society, the Cardiff Welsh Sunday School Union; the Society for Utilising, the Welsh Language, and the Cambrian Society would endeavour to be present at the meeting to form a distinct part of the procession.

On Monday night, at the choral Cymanfa at Penuel Chapel, Pontypridd, the Rev. Wm. Lewis made most touching allusions to the death of Mr. Dan Isaac Davies. The Rev. gentleman characterised the death of Mr. Davies as a national loss. He touched a deeply sympathetic chord in the hearts of the vast audience when he referred to the bereaved widow and the little children of the departed. In direct allusion to the sad event, the ten choirs present sang the ever popular Welsh hymn beginning with the words

Caf esgyn o’r dyrys anialwch, &c.,

Followed by

O fryniau Caersalein ceir gweled, &c.

The singing was indescribably pathetic and grand. Mr. John Thomas, Llanwrtyd Wells, was the conductor of the choir.

Mr. Dan Isaac Davies (Her Majesty’s Sub-inspector of Schools, Cardiff) 1839 - 1887

Mr Dan I. Isaac Davies Plaque Comin School (Picture courtesy RCTCBC)

(By Morien)

Before these lines will appear the mortal remains of Mr. Dan Isaac Davies will have been placed reverently in their last resting place. One would like to be able to place a wreath above his grave, as an emblem of respect for his genial qualities and admiration for his earnestness through life. In the scholastic circles of the Principality he had been long known and admired; but at the time of his death, his name was rapidly becoming a household one in the homes of his fellow-countrymen generally. His mind was not too much imbued with the spirit of the “awen” to forget the practical in the imaginative. While others simply cried, “Oes y byd ir iaith Gyinraeg,” Mr. Dan Isaac Davies worked in the paths of progress and he fell, to rise no more, whilst engaged in re-opening the national avenues of the native language of the Welsh people. We had hoped that Wales had, at last, found in him one sufficiently able and earnest to restore the Cymric tongue to its ancient dignity as one of the learned languages of Europe, by making it the channel by which the youth of Wales might reach quickly the vast treasures of knowledge contained to-day in the English tone. It is perfectly true that Mr. Davies had two objects in view by his propaganda, namely, making use of the native language of the Welsh in the work of education, and thereby facilitating the progress of Welsh children in the paths of education, and also restoring its lost dignity among scholars of the great language of the Cambro-British people. We find that Mr. Davies was actuated oy both sentiment and utilitarianism. In the first place, his knowledge of the practical work of education caused him to view with intense disapprobation the neglect in Wales of such a powerful agent as the language of the Welsh home circle in the work of the school; he saw with something like disgust the unfairness of taxing the youth of Wales with learning a foreign language, for such is English still to tens of thousands of Welsh children in rural districts, in addition to the ordinary work of English education, without according them any acknowledgment whatever for the additional labour and proficiency they had undergone. He laboured hard to bring home to the conscience of the Imperial authorities of the Education Department of the Government the anomaly in the matter of language under which myriads of Welsh children suffer even at the present day. The Education Department have acted until Mr. Davies forced the matter on their consideration from the old standpoint of those who, from the time of William of Orange down to the passing of Lord Llanover’s Act, took for granted that the Welsh language was almost dead, and that it was not worth while taking it into consideration at all, either in religious matters or in the work of secular education. The blindness and ignorance of the Imperial authority in reference to the real position of the Welsh language, the original language of the whole of Britain-brought to the verge of ruin one of the most venerable of the ecclesiastical institutions of Christendom, viz., the Ancient British Church.

Mr. Dan Isaac Davies sought to do in secular education what Sir Benjamin Hall, afterwards Lord Llanover, accomplished for the Church, namely, to place the language of Wales in its proper position in relation to the education of the Welsh masses. We are, as a people, so accustomed to the existing anomaly that we do not see its absurdity. Were we to be told that Russia, in the schools of Poland, ignores the Polish language and forces the youth of downtrodden Poland to acquire the Russian language only we should feel disgusted and regard Russia as the bugbear of the nations, and the oppressor of smaller nationalities. But we forget, owing to long usage, the disgusting fact that England, during more than three centuries, has played that game in reference to the Welsh language with gallant and loyal little Wales! Mr. Dan Isaac Davies went, as it were, to the foot of the Throne of Great Britain, and pleaded on behalf of the monoglot children of Wales for fair play, nothing more! and it was when returning home from London after, as he told me himself a fortnight ago, he had “been pleading before the authorities on behalf of Welsh children” that he contracted a cold, which, alas terminated fatally. Had the heads of the Education Department witnessed this Whitsuntide the vast gatherings of Welsh choirs, clad in holiday attire, rendering in sonorous Cymraeg, Caf esgyn o’r dyrys anialwch,” and kindred Welsh hymns, they would have been thoroughly convinced that the old language is not yet even sick, much less near its death! In the second place, Mr. Dan Isaac Davies viewed the question from a sentimental or patriotic point of view. There are some Welshmen and Welshwomen, no doubt, who view with disapproval the encouragement to learn Welsh. I would say to them, the Welsh language needs not your assistance. It was the tongue of the mountains and the vales of the Principality before ye came, and it will remain there after ye are gone. To the bulk of the Welsh nation today the English tongue is the language of commerce only; but the Cymraeg is the language of their religious sentiments and of their poetry. Those among them who have not ascended to the height of the Welsh religious and b poetical sentiment are called with contempt by them “Children of Dic Shon Dafydd.” Poor Dan Isaac Davies! With tears we lament thy death; thy work is done, for, doubtless, thou wert, in the mysterious ways of Providence, only to inaugurate a movement which will be long associated with thy name. Thou wert only to utter the old cry, “I’r lan a’r gain faner goch!” Thy early death seems to sanctify the movement! “Gorphwys, frawd, mewn tangnefedd!

The Funeral
An Imposing Spectacle

There have, doubtless, been funerals at Cardiff more largely attended than that of Mr. Dan Isaac Davies, which took place on Tuesday, but we take leave to doubt whether for many a long year there has been one which summoned together so much of the intellect and influence of the essentially Welsh element in the Principality. A pure-minded patriot had died, and the occasion of the interment of his mortal remains afforded an opportunity for the marshalling of kindred spirits and for the giving of a mightier impulse to the various patriotic movements with which he had been actively associated. How large a place was occupied by the deceased in the minds of the best and wisest of his Cymric contemporaries, how successfully he had laid hold of their affectious and placed his imprint on national sentiment, let those speak who witnessed the imposing pageant and heard the testimonies offered by men high in authority, speaking, not empty platitudes and affected panegyrics, but words that flowed straight from the heart and fell on sympathetic ears.

The funeral had more than a personal meaning it was the outward and visible sign of that newer growth of patriotism which seeks to preserve, revivify, and develop whatever is best in the national character and to direct the racial aspirations in the right direction. In Mr Dan Isaac Davies the assembled host honoured the natural leader of the advanced section of the new school, the men who, having thought and resolved, hastened to give effect to their resolutions, and thereby vitalised the languid longings of the dreamers and spurred them into action.

The day’s proceedings began at the Tabernacle Chapel, the Hayes, where Professor T. F. Roberts, B.A., presided over a congregation that nearly filled the large building, and included his Worship the Mayor of Cardiff, Judge Gwilym Williams, Mr. Alfred Thomas, M.P., Mr. Arthur Williams, M.P., Mr. W. Abraham, M.P., the Ven. Archdeacon Griffiths, Principal Viriamu Jones, Professors Powel and Barbier, Major Jones (American Consul), Mr. Daniel Owen J.P. (Ash Hall), Mr. James Harris (deputy-editor Western Mail), Messrs. C. T. Whitmell, W. Williams, and W. Edwards (her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools), Mr. Thomas Williams (Gwaelod y garth), Mr. Beriah Gwynfe Evans, Mr. W. Williams (Principal of Swansea Training College), Dr. Roberts (Pontypridd College), Mr. Ivor James (registrar South Wales University), Mr. Griffith Jones, “Caradog”, Mr. S. Shipton (clerk of the Llanwonno School Board), Mr. T. Pyke Thompson, Mr. Tudor Evans, Councillor Mildon, Mr I,. H. Jones (Bedwellty School Board Inspector), and the Revs. Nathaniel Thomas, J. Morgan Jones, T. L. Roberts (Maesteg), J. Lloyd Williams, T J. Jones, W. Roderick, W. Jones, Bassett Thomas. D. R. Morgan, D. E. Roberts, J. P. Davies, E. Rees (“Dyfed”), Sub-Inspector Gomer Jones, Dr. P. Rhys Griffiths, Dr. Fiddian, Mr. John Duncan, “Dafydd Morganwg,” “Dewi Wyn o Essyllt,” Mr. D. Bowen (Abercarn), “Degwel,” T. John (“Ffagan”), J. S. Parry (Llan), Mr. J. P. Williams (“luan “), J. Evans (Hafod), and Messrs. R. Davies, E. Owen, W. Rees (Cardiff), &c.

The singing of the Old Hundredth was followed by prayer being offered up by the Rev. J. Morgan Jones, and then came the hymn “Pan ballo ffafrau pawb a’u hedd,” which led up to the opening address of the chairman. To reproduce even the bare outlines of this and the subsequent speeches would serve only to reveal the perfect unanimity which obtained in regard to the many estimable qualities of the deceased. It was the same song throughout pitched in different key-notes. Professor Roberts dwelt on the dual principle that impelled Mr. Davies to action, his sturdy faith in Wales and all that appertained thereto, the intense enthusiasm which burned intensely in his soul, and which he communicated to others. “How can we best perpetuate his memory?” the speaker queried, with a ring of sadness in his voice, and then, supplying the answer, added, “By carrying on the mission to which our friend brought an unselfish devotion and zeal rare among men.” Mr. Alfred Thomas, M.P., who followed, sought to show that the extent of the loss sustained was the extent of the need for redoubled efforts on the part of the survivors, and, extracting comfort from the character of the gathering, he went on to predict that, like unto Samson, Davies would produce his mightiest work in death. Davies seemed charged with electricity, and no one could long be associated with him without becoming affected by reason of this. His Worship the Mayor described Dan Isaac Davies as being above all things a broad-minded Welshman, and said he ungrudgingly devoted his whole life, with singular ardour and persistency, to promote the welfare of his fellow-countrymen. “Mabon” came next with a fervent tribute to the fidelity and patriotism of the dead Welshman, whom he described as the good and faithful servant, assuredly certain of being invited to share the joys of his Lord. Mr. Davies’s life, Mr. A. J. Williams, M.P., declared, was a life full of earnestness, of unselfishness, and of broad and kindly sympathies. He had lived a short life and had departed, but not before leaving a permanent impress upon the character of the Welsh nation. More touching, perhaps, than any of the preceding addresses was that of Mr. Thomas Williams, Gwaelodygarth, who, speaking as a close friend for a quarter of a century, provided suggestive reminiscences of Mr. Davies’s earlier days. “His work has not been useless here,” continued the venerable old gentleman, his voice quivering as he spoke, “scores of masters and mistresses are today reaping the benefits of his guidance and help.” His Honour Judge Gwilym Williams pointed out how Mr. Davies had influenced national aspirations, and this had come to the speaker with the force of a revelation, had proved that something could be done towards realising, the hopes of patriotic Welshmen. Principal Jones referred to the death as an event for national sorrow. Mr. D. I. Davies had a profound faith in the high destinies of the Welsh nation. Living nobly, he had fought the good fight; his country was made better for his life and poorer by his death. Mr. W. Edwards (her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools) and Mr. T. John (schoolmaster, Llwynypia) also added their testimony to the worth of the deceased. Other speakers had been expected, but various circumstances had interposed. Letters or telegrams apologising for absence and expressing sentiments akin to those outlined above were received from Mr. Marchant Williams, Dr. Isambard Owen, Mr. E. Roberts (Inspector of Schools, Carnarvon), the Rector of Vaynor, Mr. Cadwaladr Davies (Bangor), Mr. W. E. Davies (London), Mr. Williams (Teignmouth), Professor Rowlands (Brecon), and Mr. J. T. D. Llewelyn, the last mentioned gentleman’s communication being of a peculiarly sympathetic and patriotic nature.

A short prayer closed the meeting, and the congregation, acting upon the instructions of “Cochfarf,” who had charge of the arrangements, leaving the building, reassembled in the square near the chapel, where a procession was formed, which was made up of the clergy and ministers of all denominations, inspectors of schools, and elementary teachers; representatives of the University College, the Utilisation of the Welsh Language and Cymmrodorion Societies, the Cambrian Society (represented by Mr. Tudor Evans), Cardiff Band of Hope Union (by Messrs. T. S. Jones, A. A. Bryan, and Geo. Shepherd); Liberal Club (by Messrs. J. B. Vivian and A. E. Evans), and the National Institute of Wales (by Mr. J. Pyke Thompson). The Naturalists’ and Literary Societies had deputies in attendance, and following them came members of the Welsh Sunday School Union, and the congregation of Charles Street the rear being brought up by the general public.

The old home of the deceased at Aberdare, had representatives in the Rev. John Foulkes and others. Scarcely had the multitude fallen into the order arranged ere the rain began to descend, and for a time it seemed as if a comfortless journey was to be the result. However, the gigantic cortege slowly deployed, a long extending black line, into Queen-street, and thence to Richmond Terrace, where the deceased resided. Here a brief halt took place while the usual Burial Service was gone through in the house, Before the mournful march was resumed the body, contained in a plain coffin of oak, which was almost completely hidden from sight by floral tributes, had been conveyed to the hearse, and the two carriages bearing relatives of the deceased had joined the procession. In the first of the vehicles were Mrs. Davies, Miss Davies, Mrs Powell, and Mrs. Remus (sisters of the deceased), and Miss Mirauld (sister of Mrs. Davies); and in the second Mrs. J. Williams (Merthyr), Mrs. Evans (Cefn),Miss Morgan (Cwmonny), and Mrs. Jones (Tonypandy). Among those who sent wreaths or flowers were: Judge and Mrs. Gwilym Williams, Dr. Isambard Owen, London Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, The Court, Merthyr; Mr. and Mrs. John Rees and Mr. and Mrs. Gomer Jones, Merthyr; Mr. Taylor and family, Newport; the Rhondda Valley and Pontypridd District Teachers’ Association Miss Hannah Williams, Stacey Road; the members of Mrs. Davies’s Sunday School class; Miss Marychurch, Windsor Place Mr. and Mrs. J. E. George, Hirwain; Mr. Caleb Lewis, Blaina, Mon.; and Mrs. Kelly, The Elms, Canton.

When leaving the house the ever popular and peculiarly Welsh hymn, “Yn y dyfroedd mawr a’r tonau,” was sung by the choir, the members of which had terminated their afternoon musical festival at Wood Street Chapel in order to attend the funeral. It was past five o’clock when the mortal remains of the deceased gentleman, borne (at the special request of the family) by Mr. T. Williams, J.P., Professors Powel and Roberts, Major Jones, “Cochfarf,” Mr. Beriah Gwynfe Evans, and “Dafydd Morganwg,” were carried into the sweetly sequestered Cathays Cemetery, “that place where human harvests grow.” The grave was surrounded by a throng which numbered fully 2,000. Following the beautiful service, which was feelingly read by the Rev. J. Williamson, M.A., Archdeacon Griffiths delivered a speech which was as tenderly sympathetic as it was passionately eloquent in words which visibly moved the people, the venerable divine spoke of the life’s work of Mr. Davies so satisfactory in all respects, and in a peroration of singular beauty presented the deceased in various characters, as friend, patriot, and Christian. The “old man eloquent” has seldom more effectively played with the heart-strings of his auditors than he did on this occasion, for the subject was a congenial one, and afforded ample play for those tender touches characteristic of the archdeacon when in his happiest mood. Afterwards Major Jones delivered an address. Then occurred one of the most striking features of that service, “Bydd myrdd o ryfeddodau;” being rendered by the multitude present. The effect was thrilling. Again and again was the old tune, so true to the genius of Welsh choral singing, rolled forth, full of plaintive soul-inspiring melody An extempore prayer by the venerable archdeacon followed, terminating the proceedings, which throughout bad been maintained fervently and reverently. We are requested to state that the widow and family of Mr. Davies are thankful above all expression for the honour paid to the departed, and for the universal sympathy shown to them.