Dec 4, 2016

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Tribute to Dillwyn Miles

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TRIBUTE TO DILLWYN  MILES

By Judith Graham Jones et al.

Introduction:  Judith  Graham Jones
Tributes to Dillwyn Miles given at the  service  in  celebration  of  his  life and achievements on Friday, 26th October 2007, in St Martin’s Church, Haverford west.

dillwyn-photo-001
Dillwyn was a unique man, often known as ‘Mr Pembrokeshire’. He was a man of letters and organisations, a workaholic – not only busy at week­ ends but even on Christmas and Boxing days. He believed that everyone should fulfil their potential and not waste their time in trivial pursuits. The public face was evidenced in the books – over twenty that he wrote and the last posthumously.

Fewer people perhaps are aware of the numerous organisations that he instigated and for which he worked,  starting with  the Welsh  Society that  he founded in Jerusalem during World War II. The tributes included  here are a selection from representatives of a small number of the organisations that  he  served to demonstrate  the wide  spectrum of Dillwyn’s interests.

It was my good fortune to be Dillwyn’s companion and soul-mate for the last twenty-five years. But it all began in Pembrokeshire where he was born and lived until the out break of World War II, when he volunteered for the army and served in Palestine before returning to Newport in 1945.

 

Robin Evans, Alderman of the Barony of  Cemais
and Vice-Chairman  of Pembrokeshire  County Council

Dillwyn was born in Newport  in May  1916. He was  educated  at New­ port Primary School and Fishguard High School, where he blossomed academically, thence to the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth.  An  important factor in his education  was Sunday School and, unusually,  he was given the choice of attending Tabernacle Chapel or St  Mary’s Church. He chose Tabernacle.

The war found Dillwyn a British army officer posted to the Middle East. He was closely involved with the peace accord signed with the Vichy French in Lebanon – an imperative at the time given the French defeat to Germany in 1940. He typed the document and kept the pen . Com­missioned, he became a ‘hirings officer’ with the duty to find land and buildings for training purposes, airfields and accommodation. I was enthralled on reading the chapter in his autobiography A Mingled Yarn to learn how he related the places he visited to his biblical knowledge . He was in a way biblical himself given that his ‘patch’ in what  was  then known as the Near East took in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordan and Mesopotamia.

He met Joyce out there and they were married on 2nd February 1944 at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. Not long after the war, Dillwyn returned to Newport with his young family, Anthony and Marilyn. He had left Wales as an undergraduate and teacher and returned a man. The family took up residence in Newport Castle, a place with a panoramic view over the old town, over the river Nevern, Newport bay and Penmorfa. Well might he have thought that he was Lord of all he surveyed – he had every right to think so – he had done his duty in the war and, besides, he knew well the workings of the town, having been clerk to the Parish Council while still a schoolboy and become a Burgess, while still under  age.

During his time as Mayor, occurred the only royal visit in living memory, when HRH the Duchess of Kent came to Newport. By all accounts it was a great success and Dillwyn and Joyce would have been admirable hosts. Later, Dillwyn wrote the Official Newport Guide that had a photo of him with the Duchess. Ever since, every revised and reprinted edition has had a similar photo: very Dillwyn  that.

I came to Newport in 1971. I can recall the time well as the currency was decimalised on 1st March. A year the following November, I was made a Bu rgess of the Court Leet. About ten years later, I had my first confronta­tion with Dillwyn. We met in Long Street. He said, ‘You are a Burgess, we a re looking for a Mayor and you are just the sort of man we need’. I started to mumble excuses but he would have none of it.

Joan and I did our duty for two years and shortly after I had left the  office of  Mayor,  I  was  appointed  the  Mayor’s  Secretary,  a post  I held for 20 years. The duties are mainly  administrative  and I must have made  some adjustments  in procedure  that did not  accord  with  the views  of  the   senior alderman,  Dillwyn  Miles.  The  phone  would  ring  and  I  would be quietly reprimanded. As the new  boy  on the block,  I would  put  my  case  forward and he would  explain the historical  significance of the matter. Later I realised he was right. He was always right!

The last  book  he  gave  me  was  The Mariners  of Newport.  Later, on  going through   the  book ,  I  was  surprised  and  delighted   to  find  that   he  had included my father. He had been a master  mariner  who was  lost with  all his  crew  in  the  Indian  Ocean  during  the  war.  He  had  no  obvious  con­nection with  Newport.  I rang Dillwyn  and said how  pleased  I was to find  him mentioned in the book but it was  a very  tenuous connection.  There  was a pause, and then he reminded me that my mother had retired to  Newport.  So that  was it.

Finally in 1947, on returning to Newport , Dillwyn became a member of Pembrokeshire County Council, representing Nevern. He served for 16 years. Latterly, I visited  Dillwyn  in St Anthony’s Way.  On my  last visit,  Judith warned me that he was very frail. I found him as usual in the study and we talked briefly. A few days later, Anthony phoned to say his father had died.
Peter MacGregor, Vice  President  of  the National  Association of  Local Councils

Dillwyn Miles’ local government career began before the Second World War when , aged 16, he became Clerk to the Parish council of Newport, Pembrokeshire; he was therefore the youngest Clerk ever to be   appointed to a Parish Council. After the war during the  1950’s, he became Secretary  of the Pembrokeshire Association of Parish Councils. In 1974, upon the reorganisation of Local Government, he became Secretary of the Dyfed Association  of Local Councils.

During this period, he had served as a distinguished member of the Rural District Council, chairing a number of committees in particular  the Libraries and Museums committee. He was Chairman of this association from 1975 until in 1987 I succeeded him. During that time he led the association successfully through the big changes that devolved from the Local Government act of 1972: the change of Welsh parishes to Com­ munity Councils, the creation of some 400 new Parish Councils and Community Councils in the old Municipal Boroughs  and Urban  Districts. A Forum of the larger Local Councils was also established under his guidance.

He represented the NALC abroad on several  occasions  at  international local government conferences, notably at the Hague in 1979, in Columbus, Ohio in 1981 and in Strasbourg in 1986. After stepping down from the chairmanship Dillwyn became a Vice-President and served in  that  post until  his death.

He was mayor of the Ancient Borough of Newport several times, in 1950, 1960 and 1979 and in 1961 became Mayor of Haverford west and, thereby, Admiral of the Port of Haverfordwest, an ancient custom that he had revived.
James Nicholas, former Archdruid and  Recorder  of  the Gorsedd  of Bards,·Royal National  Eisteddfod  of Wales

It was as a schoolboy at Ysgol Dewi Sant in St Davids that James Nicholas first became acquainted with Dillwyn, who was teaching at the school.  Aged 22 Mr. Miles was remembered by Nicholas as a stern disciplinarian. Dillwyn at that time had already entered the Gorsedd of the  Bards  of Britain to which he had been appointed at the age of 20 in 1936, when for the first time the Eisteddfod visited Fishguard.  He remained  in office for  60 years,  until  his  retirement  in  1996 at the  Eisteddfod  in  Llandeilo and for  many   of   these   years   he  served   as  Grand   Sword  Bearer.  At  the Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales in July 1969, it was Dillwyn as Herald Bard who led the procession through the Watergate into  Caer­narfon Castle and later, welcomed His Royal Highness to the National Eisteddfod at Flint. Between 1964 and  1972, by  virtue  of his office, he  was on the Council of the National Eisteddfod and did much to ensure that established  protocol  was followed  in its proceedings.

Poem by Dillwyn Miles, written  on his fourth St David’s Day in exile in  Cairo.

St David’s Day, 1944.
As  read  by  his daughter  Marilyn Mason

I’m home in thought tonight, under the scowl of Carn Llidi

Walking the steely slopes at the coming of  night,
In  the cathedral  church  of purple stone.
Apart from the croaking of the frogs on the ditch

There is no sound in the Vale of   Roses,
Nor dying embers on the hearth of Ty Gwyn.

The godless Boia’s sword  is a  lump of rust
And  the pirates’  ships are now  one with  the seaweed.
Where there was conflict, nothing but the murmur of a brook,

And only a red rose to remember  the  blood.
As I stroll back there tonight with the Saint

You  cannot hear even the sound of our  feet.
Colonel David Davies, High Sheriff of  Dyfed

My first knowledge of Captain Dillwyn Miles was hearing my father, who was a policeman in St Dogmaels, talking about him and all his positions of authority – as my father used to say, ‘a very important man!’

My own first contact with Dillwyn was during the middle to late 1950’s when , as a teenager, I was very interested in history, especially Local History and  my  main  point  of interest  was  St Dogmaels Abbey. At that  time Dillwyn  was  Secretary  of the Pembrokeshire  Local History  Society based at 4 Victoria Place, Haverfordwest and we corresponded on several occasions about the Abbey and its surroundings. As a result, I joined the Society and still possess volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the journal, The Pembroke­ shire Historian, edited by Dillwyn and produced by Pembrokeshire County Council.

To me he was very helpful over the years and a very impressive Gentleman. I was more than delighted, indeed greatly honoured, when in March of this year he accepted with Judith my invitation to witness my Declaration of Office as High sheriff of Dyfed in the Council Chamber of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Dillwyn has done and achieved so much over the years, especially  in  his public life. He was a fount of knowledge especially i n local  and  Welsh history, with such a desire  to  serve the  community  and  country  in  which he lived. It has been a great  privilege  to have known  hi m and to have  been  in his company. He enhanced the lives of those like  myself,  who  met and knew him over the years and his autobiography A Mingled Yarn records some of  what  he achieved.  I  shall  remember  him  with  respect  and admiration.
Tom Lloyd, Antiquarian and Member of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society

I knew Dillwyn for 25 years – from when I was quite young and Dillwyn already of retirement age – but he had known members  of my family all his life, from their connections with the Barony of Cemais and with Newport, the town he loved  and knew  so well and where he did so much to help people rediscover the proud roots of the place. I always enjoyed listening to his memories of the curious governance of the town and its ceremonies, several of which Dillwyn had helped to revive and of some of the old characters and their antics, best not set down  in print.

Others here have told of his dedicated career in local government. I will confine myself to his achievements with local history and  to the tireless and valuable products of his pen, mindful always, that for much  of the  time, he was also writi ng about the landscape and natural history of the county  with  equal output and understanding.

Dillwyn was a born writer. As you have heard, while serving in the Middle Fast, he contributed to journals in between the fighting  and  founded  the Welsh Society in Jerusalem – which must have been a hoot! After coming home to Wales,  he  lectured  for the Extra Mural  Department  of the Univer­sity College  of  Wales,  Aberystwyth,  both  on  the  Middle  East  and  local history.

Remarkably at this period, Pembrokeshire,  county of so many notable  historians, had no historical society – the only Welsh county without one. It took much trouble and discussion that he wrote up for the Society ‘s Journal a few years ago. Dillwyn was a key player in establishing it, becoming its first secretary from 1954. From 1971 to 1979 he was its assiduous editor, his attention to detail is clearly evident, and from 1994, in succession to the late Major Francis Jones, he was our distinguished President. In recent years, volumes of the Journal have rarely been with­ out a valuable essay by Dillwyn, wide ranging in subject and deep in their research . The Society and I had the honour to be its Chairman for a period under Dillwyn ‘s attentive leadership.

Another key achievement was the foundation of the Pembrokeshire County History Trust in 1973, with the aim of producing a definitive history of the county. Today, three out of the four volumes are on the shelf large, handsome and authoritative. A monument to the county’s past. Having myself been appointed  a trustee  some years ago, it has been  a revelation to see the determination that Dillwyn brought  to the task of getting the volumes fashioned, parcelled out to experts and written. It takes patience loo: 35 years on and not finished   yet!

He was, as we have heard , a meticulous organiser. But he was never too self-assured to take the opinion of others. This gave great integrity to his scholarship that shines through in his books. He wrote or edited  twenty­ two of them, quite a record: I was quite astonished when I was asked to write the entry for Dillwyn in the New Companion to the Literature of Wales, a few years ago. It was a humbling experience for one who  is trying to be a writer and imagines he works quite hard. Besides those on natural history and Eisteddfod subjects there are a great many on local history to which  we all refer constantly.
But I will close with mention of what was perhaps his finest work of scholarship,  his  edition  of  George Owen’s Description  of  Penbrokeshire  of 1603, published in the Welsh Classics series in 1994. I had the pleasure of discussing it soon after with the late Sir Glanmor Williams. Glanmor  was warm in its praise, deeply impressed by the qualities of Dillwyn’s learned commentary. He reviewed the work  for  the  Historical  Society  Journal,  so let me end with words of that review  from one far greater than  I, that  sum  up  Dillwyn  so finely.

“What a splendid edition it is! Edited, introduced and annotated with the greatest care by Dillwyn Miles and also with genuine affection and enthu­siasm. Nothing could be more heart warming for his readers than qualities like these. It would be difficult to draft a prescription  for the ideal editor  of George Owen and come up with a better fulfilment than Dillwyn Miles. Born in Cemais, a Welsh speaker and a man who has lived virtually all his life in the county, he knows Pembrokeshire from the inside, as few others could claim to do. An ardent local and Welsh patriot, he has a genuine feel for the cultural and artistic life of Pembrokeshire and Wales. He is also someone who has the same innate sense of duty to his county that George Owen had, and that is a characteristic that is becoming even rarer these days. In producing this edition, he has fulfilled a cherished and long standing ambition. By doing so, he has placed deeply in his debt all those who have an interest in the history and culture of Pembrokeshire and of Wales  ‘beyond  little England’.”
Lyn Hughes, Author  and Publisher

I never, I hope for obvious reasons, knew the young Dillwyn Miles: a dashing, conspicuous and gregarious fellow by all accounts, famously described  by Dylan Thomas as  ‘Mr Pembrokeshire’ .

We first met in the late seventies when he was nearing retirement  from  official public life. I,  as  a  book  publisher,  had  had  the  temerity  to  edit  his books The Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales and A Pembrokeshire Anthology: I must have come up to scratch for, thereafter we became firm friends. He later contributed his masterly George Owen of Henllys to  my Welsh   Classics   series  for  Gomer  Press.  Despite  the  age  difference,   we were always soul-mate friends, sharing the same interests in life and literature, politics and people – and the same sense of humour. He knew, or had known, everyone in Wales worth knowing – and many who were not! – and was at his best when  telling their story. Dillwyn  was a delicious – but  never malicious – gossip.

But, I  am  here  to  talk  about  his  contribution  to  wild  life  conservation.  Dillwyn met Ronald Lockley in 1958, and assisted him with seal ringing. Lockley soon persuaded him to become Honorary Secretary of the then West Wales Field Society – previously The Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society  that had been founded in 1938 – a position he held until 1976, by which  time  it was  known  as the West Wales  Naturalists Trust.

From   1 971  he  was  managing  editor  of  Nature   in  Wales,  that  demised  ignominiously when he  was  obliged  to  let go the  reins  in 1980. In 1973  Dillwyn founded the Association of Trusts for Nature  Conservation  in Wales. All these were major undertakings and splendid achievements. One  day,  he  bestowed  on  me  a bound  copy  in  three  volumes of  his Nature in
Wales. Beautifully produced, it is a treasure-trove of curious and scholarly information, and one of my  most precious possessions.

It cannot be said that Dillwyn was a field naturalist, not a man that got his boots muddy very often, but as an administrator, organiser  and  leader of  men  he was without  doubt unique. And  an  indefatigable  hard  worker.

After the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park had been designated and accepted by the Countryside Council for Wales in the early fifties, Dillwyn, Ronald Lockley, William Condry, H.R.H. Vaughan and others conceived the idea of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. After Lockley had surveyed the route’. Dillwyn was involved in painstakingly negotiating rights-of-way over its – then – 167 mile length. Many were the tales of his convoluted dealings with the many different land-holders. During his term of office, he was also involved in the leasing of Cardigan Marsh, the purchase of Cardigan Island and Skomer, and he lived to see Skokholm taken into care. These were adventurous ambitions, all realised, though not always without mishap: he recalled having to deal with a goat, destined for Skomer, stranded on Haverfordwest station that ate all the luggage labels; ridding Cardigan Island of rats and finding decoy puffins; and the ignomy of falling into  the sea  on  one  occasion  while  landing  on  Skomer,  and  wandering  about  the island  swathed  in  a bath towel  while his clothes dried out.

It is on Skokholm island that my mental image of Dillwyn endures. I was producing and narrating a film for S4C on the life and times of R. M. Lockley – who had  not  revisited  the  island  since he was forced  to quit in 1 939 by Herr Hitler. A veteran radio broadcaster and TV front man , Dillwyn was involved and in hi s element. We had  flown  the 90-year-old Lock ley over from N ew Zealand for the filming – he stayed for three months, a guest of  Dillwyn and Judith ‘s generosity.

It was the ideal May day;

Blue sky, blue-green sea,

Bluebells, red campion

And  sea pinks.

Little, white-haired Ronald

And tall, dark Dillwyn stood.

Leaning  on  their sticks
Looking out to sea –
A Kyffin Williams cameo.

They  were reminiscing and  laughing

In  a squawking, crying
Blizzard  of sea birds.

Simon Hancock, Curator, Haverfordwest Town  Museum

The contribution of Dillwyn Miles to museum developments in Pem­brokeshi re i s an aspect of his long and distinguished life which should not be overlooked. During the 1950s and 1960s he was a member of  the nascent Museum s and Libraries Committee of the original Pembrokeshire County Council which hoped to use Foley House as a museum. Sadly the project never came to fruition and only a few cabinets containing artefacts in  the  library  on  St. Thomas’ Green  could  be achieved.

Nevertheless, he was an ardent supporter of local museums and he was scathing of the decision by Dyfed County Council to close the Haverfordwest Castle Museum after 27 years in 1994. When  the opportunity ca me to take a lease of Castle House, the old prison governor ‘s house as a home for the proposed new Haverfordwest Town Museum, he assisted the project in many ways. Dillwyn attended many early meetings of the Trust, provided many useful suggestions regarding themes and displays and he assisted with Welsh Language translation of the museum’s interpretive panels. When  I met him  at  the official opening of  the museum  in May  1996 he was very pleased with the end result. Dillwyn continued to attend meetings of the museum’s research committee well into his 80s offering words of advice and encouragement to future plans and displays.
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