Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards 1934-2010
19th Century Welsh Literature was Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards’ main subject area and he was the most prominent authority on the history of the National Eisteddfod and Wales in the Victorian Age. Until his retirement in 1995, he was head of Swansea University’s Welsh Department, where he spent his entire academic career, but he was also an eloquent and passionate spokesman for his nation and the Welsh language. He would often address Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg and Plaid Cymru rallies and meetings and was an unrivalled public lecturer, whether it be at the National Eisteddfod of Wales or in village halls all over Wales.
Video: A session held in the 'Lolfa Lên' at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod, with Professor M. Wynn Thomas, Dr Gwenno Ffrancon and Lord Dafydd Wigley, celebrating the multi-faceted contributions of the late Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards to politics, Welsh scholarship and culture.
Born in Llanddewi Aberarth, a village on the Ceredigion coast, in 1934, he was a keen footballer in his youth – his passion for the game and for Arsenal, his favourite team, lasted throughout his lifetime. After graduating in Welsh from Aberystwyth University, he taught at Garw Grammar School in Bridgend, before being appointed lecturer at Swansea University. He met Aerona in Blaengarw whom he later married and they went on to have a son, Huw, (the television broadcaster) and a daughter, Meinir. In 1966, the family moved to Llangennech, a village located between Llanelli and Swansea, where he contributed significantly to his community by establishing a literary society in the village, serving as a school governor and an elder in the local Presbyterian chapel, and later becoming a Plaid Cymru Councillor for Dyfed County Council. He died on the 4th of January 2010 and is buried in Llanddewi Aberarth cemetery.
An expert on the life and culture of Wales during Victorian times, Hywel Teifi published his first book on the history of the National Eisteddfod, Yr Eisteddfod 1176–1976 (Gomer 1976), and Gwyl Gwalia: Yr Eisteddfod yn Oes Aur Victoria 1858–1868 (Gomer 1980) is considered to be his magnum opus.
Further volumes on Welsh history and literature followed: Codi'r hen wlad yn ei hôl, 1850–1914 (Gomer 1989) and Eisteddfod Ffair y Byd, Chicago, 1893, (Gomer 1990). A scholar who’s roots were very much grounded in the south Wales valleys, he greatly respected those he met in the adult learning classes which he held all over the old coal mining areas, and he wrote a book on the image of the coal mines in Welsh prose and poetry between 1850 and 1950, Arwr Glew Erwau'r Glo (Gomer 1990). He edited 10 unique volumes of Cyfres y Cymoedd which focused on the history and literature of the valleys (Gomer 1993-2003); this was also an attempt to make up for the failure of conveying the experience of the industrial community within Welsh literature.
Video: An appraisal of Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards’ scholarly contribution is available in this lecture by Professor Geraint H. Jenkins.