The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

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Obituaries: Trefor M Owen, R Geraint Gruffydd, Emlyn I Griffith & Dewi Watkin Powell

Monday 20 July, 2015

We record with great sadness the recent deaths of four eminent colleagues who served with distinction as Vice-Presidents of the Society, which extends its deepest sympathy to their families.

Trefor M Owen MA FSA (ob. 25 February 2015)
Trefor M Owen was born in Dolgellau in 1926. After graduating in geography and anthropology from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University), he went on to the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, followed by a year studying ethnology the University of Uppsala, Sweden. A recognised authority on Welsh folk customs, in 1954 he was appointed to the staff of the Welsh Folk Museum (later the Museum of Welsh Life and now the National History Museum) at St Fagans. He was appointed Curator of the Museum in 1971, serving in that position until his retirement in 1987. The author of numerous scholarly works about Welsh folk life and its study, he is perhaps best known for his volumes, Welsh Folk Customs (first published in 1959) and The Customs and Traditions of Wales (first published 1991).

Emeritus Professor R Geraint Gruffydd DPhil DLitt FLSW FBA (ob. 24 March 2015)
Born in Tal-y-bont, Ardudwy, in 1928 and brought up in Cwm Ystwyth, Professor R Geraint Gruffydd MA DPhil DLitt FLSW FBA was a scholar of Welsh language and literature, researching and writing on a wide range of subjects across all periods, with particular expertise in medieval Welsh poetry and Renaissance literature. He was a graduate of the University College of North Wales, Bangor (now Bangor University) and Jesus College, Oxford. His first posts were as a member of the editorial staff of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the University of Wales Dictionary of the Welsh Language) and as a lecturer in Welsh at Bangor. During the latter part of his academic career, he held three major offices: Professor of Welsh language and literature at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (1970–1979); Librarian of the National Library of Wales (1980–1985); and Director of the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (1985–1993). After his academic retirement in 1993 he became President of the International Congress of Celtic Studies, serving until 2003. In 1999 he succeeded Professor J E Caerwyn Williams as Consultant Editor of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru. He was a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. He was presented with the Cymmrodorion Medal in February 2013, in recognition of his notable contribution to learning and scholarship and to Wales. The President, Professor Prys Morgan, represented the Society at Professor Gruffydd’s funeral, which was held in Aberystwyth on 1 April 2015.

The Honourable Emlyn I Griffith (ob. 12 April 2015)
Emlyn I Griffith, of Rome, New York State, was born in 1923. His forebears were Welsh and he maintained close links with the Welsh diaspora in the USA, serving as President of the National Welsh-American Foundation in 1982–1983. He graduated from Cornell University in 1950 and thereafter practised as a lawyer. At various times he was Vice President of the New York Bar Foundation, President of the National Association of State Boards of Education, a member of the New York State Board of Regents, a member of the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Education, President of the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of Rome, and editor of the New York State Bar Journal. As well as being made a Vice-President of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, he received eleven honorary doctorates from colleges, institutes, and universities in New York State and the United Kingdom.

His Honour Dewi Watkin Powell MA LLD (ob. 6 May 2015)
Former Judge Dewi Watkin Powell of Cricieth (and formerly of Radyr, Cardiff) served as a member of the Council of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion between 1965 and 1984, and as Chair of Council between 1978 and 1984, when he was appointed to be a Vice-President. He was the author (with Emrys Jones) of A Concise History of the Society, 1751 – 2001, which was published in 2001. Following undergraduate study at Jesus College Oxford, he was called to the Bar in 1949, becoming a Crown Court Judge, Official Referee in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court and Crown Court Liaison Judge for the counties of Dyfed and Mid Glamorgan. A campaigner for Welsh language provision in legal services and more widely, he was a prominent figure in Welsh public life over a period of many decades. He was an honorary member of the white order of Gorsedd y Beirdd and played a major role in higher education in Wales, as Chair of Council of the University College of Cardiff (now Cardiff University) and as a member of the Courts and Councils of the University of Wales, the University of Wales College of Medicine and the University College of Wales Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University). He also served as President of the Baptist Union of Wales and as President of the Free Church Council. The President, Professor Prys Morgan, represented the Society at his funeral, which was held in Llanfrothen on 14 May 2015.