Dr D. TEGFAN DAVIES
Independent Chapel Minister
Christian Temple (1916–1965)
The Reverend David Tegfan Davies, known to all as just "Tegfan", was Ammanford's best known chapel minister for fifty years. He became a legend in the area and was perhaps the last of a now vanished breed - a minister who was a genuine part of his flock.
Tegfan Davies was born in 1887 in a farm called Capel Bach in Penniel, Carmarthenshire. He was one of seven children and was brought up by his grandparents.
By the time he was twelve he had read the entire Bible. Those who knew him spoke of his beautiful Welsh, full of sayings now long disappeared from Welsh speech and no doubt drawn from the Welsh of Bishop Morgan's 16th century Bible which had been his childhood reading.
His first job after school was shepherding sheep at a local farm. He was spotted by the deacons of the local chapel and he started preaching in 1903 at the age of 16. After Divinity College in Carmarthen and Bangor he was ordained as a minister in Pontypridd in 1908. In was in this mining community that he saw and sympathised with the hardship of the local miners. Glyneath was his next congregation in 1911 and then Christian Temple in Ammanford in 1916 until 1965. He unveiled the memorial stone to the First World War dead of Ammanford in 1921.
Throughout the General Strike of 1926 and the depression years of the twenties and thirties he and the local vicar R H Roberts set up food kitchens in the local church hall, often going straight from evening service to work throughout the night. He went on a delegation to Wallasey in Liverpool with the result that that town adopted Ammanford in 1928, providing crucially needed money and clothing to relieve the extreme distress in the town. When 32 council homes were built on Field Street in 1957, Tegfan was instrumental in getting it named Heol Wallasey, or Wallasey Street, in recognition of their supportthirty years earlier, and he was given the honour of cutting the first sod to commence the construction work. The official history of Christian Temple describes him thus: "He was always on the side of the poor, the unemployed, the needy, the destitute, the drunk and the vagrant." One millionaire, he once said, means one million poor. He doffed his hat to the tramp and the gypsy. What he would have made of the hatred whipped up a Labour Government against gypsy immigrants in 2001 is best left unsaid. He was quite prepared to head processions of miners to protest against pit closures.
His interests were many and varied, even surprising in a man of the cloth. They included astronomy, the Romanies and the legends associated with Carmarthenshire, writing many books on the subjects.
In 1958 he was honoured with the Chair of the Union of Welsh Independents. He was released from his duties in 1922 and again in 1958 to go to North America to preach and lecture. He was honoured with the degree of Doctor of Divinity by an American university. In 1922 he was made a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and received an OBE in 1965. He was also made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards. He is credited with saving the lives of several people in desperate circumstances, once when he dived fully clothed into the River Amman on New Year's Eve to drag an alcoholic from the flooded waters, administering artificial respiration. On another occasion he acted as midwife to a gypsy woman who gave birth on a lonely road near Llandyfan, saving both lives in the process.
He died in 1968 aged 85 and with him, surely, died an entire era and a world view that will never return again. One more memorial lives on after him, however, in the form of a nursing home in Arthur Street, Tirydail, which was built in 1972 and named Tegfan in his memory.
Source: Much of the above has been summarised from the official History of Christian Temple, written in Welsh, and which has been translated for this web site.
Tegfan's life can sometimes read as if it was written for Boy's Own, and the obituary published on his death in the local newspaper only enhances this image, but those who knew him will confirm the extaordinary nature of the man.
Dr. TEGFAN DAVIES
South Wales Guardian
August 15th, 1968
Death of a beloved pastor
Dr. D. Tegfan Davies, of 41, New-road, Ammanford, a minister at the Christian Temple for 50 years, died aged 85 on Saturday.
....In 1965, with 12 dramatic life-saving rescues to his credit, Dr. Davies was awarded the O.B.E.
....His first rescue was at the age of 12 when he saved a six-month baby from a raging fire in a farmhouse. He reached the doorstep of the house a split-second before the roof collapsed.
....His own life hung in the balance for days as a result of severe burns.
Apart from three more daring rescues in the meantime, it was during his youth that Mr Davies was highly honoured for his valour in going to aid of a young police constable who was brutally attacked by a drunken mob at a Carmarthenshire fair.
....In this incident he sustained a fractured arm and severe head injuries.
....Just before entering the ministry he was severely gored while attempting to rescue schoolchildren being attacked by a ferocious bull.
....As a student at Bangor College, North Wales, he jumped fully clothed, from the Menai Strait, and rescued a bird-nesting boy of 12 caught in the strong current after a fall.
....Both the boy and Mr. Davies were severely injured.
....At the age of 26 when a young minister he jumped fully clothed overboard the British trader S.S. Lutese near Ronen, France, to save a young girl from drowning.
....In February 1914 he rescued a three-year-old girl who was swept by a strong gale into the River Neath, near Pont Walby.
....Years later, on a New Year's Eve, a man, an alcoholic, fell into the flooded River Amman, Although it was a dark night and there was a raging blizzard, Mr. Davies dived in and struggled desperately with him for a quarter of a mile.
....He successfully applied artificial respiration to the man after dragging him to the river bank.
The greatest of all his achievements came not so very long ago when a young gypsy woman was caught suddenly in distress on lonely Tyrcan Hill, Llandyfan.
....Mr. Davies acted as doctor and midwife and a male child was born in an hour.
....To carry out the operation he had to tear off his own clothes for towels and bandages.
Born in a little village near Capel Bach, Peniel, near Carmarthen. Mr. Davies began his working life as a farm labourer. He started preaching in 1903 at Peniel and became a student of the Old College School, Carmarthen.
....Shortly after he moved to Bangor College and was ordained in 1908 at Seion, Pontypridd.
....He remained there for three years before taking up a ministry at Glynneath. It was in 1915 that he moved to Christian Temple.
....During the 50 years at the chapel he drew such an attendance and membership to the church that it became recognised as the largest of its kind In Wales and had nearly 1,000 members.
In 1924 he embarked on a three-month journey in which he delivered hundreds of sermons and addresses.
....This invitation to preach and lecture in North America came from expatriates who had attended the National Eisteddfod of Wales when it was held in Ammanford in 1922.
....It was soon after he returned that he became deeply involved in the local efforts to relieve distress, and he was one of the deputation which left the town to appeal with immense success for the generous support and assistance of the people of Wallasey an act of faith later commemorated by the naming of a new street in Ammanford as Heol Wallasey.
....Dr. Davies is particularly well remembered for the great part he played in helping the miners of the town and district through the depression years of the 1930s.
....He refused his first O.B.E. in 1935 when it was offered for his hardship relief work.
Dr. Davies revisited the U.S.A. in 1958 as president of the Welsh Congregational Union, and attended religious conferences at Connecticut.
....At the same time he met former members of his congregation who had emigrated to the U.S.A.
....He acted as chairman of the local Free Church Council and Cymmrodorion on several Occasions; as president of East Carmarthenshire Congregational Association; and the County and Three Counties Associations.
....He led a deputation of the sister churches to welcome the Congregational Union to Ammanford in 1927, and on behalf of the churches invited the Congregational Union of Wales to Ammanford in May 1959.
....He had. been an active member of several Union committees and preached the official sermon at: the Swansea Union in 1945.
Dr. Davies' hobby was astrophysics. A keen astronomer, he was elected many years ago a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He first became interested in the stars as a child when this study was encouraged by his grandfather.
....Mr. Davies had been able to visit Observatories in this country, on the continent, and In the U.S.A.
....He was a member of the Gorsedd and his literary activities included authorship of Welsh books, and contributions to denominational publications.
....He was also an authority on gypsy lore and had lectured on the gypsy way of life.
Date this page last updated: October 1, 2010