Biography of soldier who hated War marks centenary of Military Concription Act

Welsh Books Council

Biography of soldier who hated War marks centenary of Military Concription Act - 17 February 2016

Almost hundred years to the day the Military Conscription Act came into force, the life of one of the most famous Welsh pacifists of the 20th century is remembered.

'A Pilgrim of Peace' by Jen Llywelyn is the biography of the Welsh pacifist, George M. Ll. Davies.

Born in 1880, George M. Ll. Davies is best remembered and most revered as a peacemaker but his full life reflected a broader spectrum of interests and activities that place him at the heart of life in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Wales. He was also a non-Conformist minister in Tywyn and became MP for the University of Wales.

'This charismatic Welshman worked ceaselessly, with quiet strength and humour, to achieve reconciliation between individuals, and in industry and politics.' said author, Jen Llywelyn. 'He suffered with mental illness all his life, but few knew.' He committed suicide in Denbigh Hospital in 1949.

'From his roots in the Liverpool Welsh community, his life, with its complicated relationship with organised religion and his uncertain engagement with party politics, embodied change and uncertainty as much as constancy.' says Professor Paul O'Leary of Aberystwyth University, 'He was a complex figure, whose life reveals much about the challenges and pressures of his period.'   

'This is a lasting testimony to a true son of Wales – which is, I now have no doubt, as far removed from England as my native Scotland.' Academic Frank McGinnis added 'The author has ensured the reader understood the love George had for his country and his people.'

This is the first major work on George M. Ll. Davies in English. Author Jen Llywelyn wrote her PhD thesis on George M. Ll. Davies, with encouragement and anecdotes from his family, and others who knew, loved and worked with George. She was able to include previously unseen letters from Leslie, George's wife.

'In my penultimate year at the Open University I undertook an Oral History project, and decided that my six interviewees would be six World War Two Conscientious Objectors. Three of those six had been influenced by one George M. Ll. Davies.' said Jen, who currently lives in Trisant in Ceredigion. 'The first, Iorwerth John from Cwmystwyth, introduced me to George, and I immediately wanted to know more about him. The more I heard, the more I wanted to formally research him.

'George had ties to many different parts of Wales and loved Wales deeply. He always maintained his Welsh, spoke in a protest in 1936 against the Bombing School at Penyberth, and was increasingly angry at the way Wales was treated.' said Jen.

'Almost every time George M. Ll. Davies is mentioned in Wales, he is described as 'saintly', or 'a saint'.' Jen continues 'I don't want to undermine that. He has my total respect, always. But getting to know him as I have, I know that this 'saint' was also a man, fully human, and in many ways flawed. I love him no less for that.'

Pilgrim of Peace  will be launched at Y Drwm at the National Library of Wales at 6.30pm on the 2nd of March - a hundred years since the Military Conscription Act came into force.

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