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 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.