Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sir Samuel Thomas Evans at 150

There was a marvellous commemorative service at St John the Baptist, Neath Abbey, this afternoon. It was attended by two Lords (both former MPs), the High Sheriff and the Lord Lieutenant of the county, members of the legal profession, three AMs, the mayor of Neath Port Talbot, the mayor of Neath, county borough councillors, and chairmen and councillors from Coedffranc and Dyffryn Clydach communities. (This is all from memory; I hope to fill out the list after comparing notes with Cllr. Keith Davies, who was the prime mover of the celebration.)

Lord Morris of Aberavon, a former attorney-general, gave the address, pitched perfectly for the occasion and the audience. He was obviously well aware, even before being invited to speak to this occasion, of the career of his predecessor as a senior elected law officer (Sir Samuel had been solicitor-general in the Asquith ministry). Sir Samuel made less of an impact as a politician, though, than on his appointment as president of the divorce, probate and admiralty division. Lord Morris said that he had brought admiralty law, in particular prize law, into the twentieth century after it had been virtually moribund since the days of the Crimean war. In doing so, he had earned an international reputation.

There was some splendid singing by the Skewen chorale. The service in the church was followed by a short ceremony at the graveside, during which flowers were laid on behalf of the county borough council and Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats. Afterwards, we repaired to the hall in the nearby school which Sam Evans had attended as a child, for tea and cakes.

The picture shows Lord Morris, the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, the Mayor of Neath and Lord Livsey after the graveside ceremony, with the Rev. Mark Williams in the background.


Anonymous said...

....only goes to show, how important it is to reform the House of Lords....

Frank H Little said...

Yes, in that both Lord Livsey and Lord Morris have shown themselves to be worthy of their places in the second chamber, even though they were appointed rather than elected.

We may live to see the day when the upper chamber is predominantly elected. I'm sure that the present prime minister is more open to that possibility than his more conservative predecessor, but Gordon Brown is not going to move in that direction when any form of fair election is going to produce a massively anti-Labour majority.

Peter said...

As a distant relative of Samuel Evans, I wish I had known about this event. I too spent much of my career working in the House of Commons, always aware of Samuel's contribution to politics and law.

Peter Wynne Davies

Frank H Little said...

I knew when we (I say we, but the impetus for the event came from Cllr Keith Davies) embarked on this commemoration that we were failing to reach many of the people we would have liked to be present. It's in the nature of things these days. It is difficult to get a distinctive message through the media fug.

We did our best. We trailed it on the Web, both here and on an international Welsh site. We cleaned up the grave the year before, on a separate anniversary, and publicised this in the press. We wrote to all the parliamentarians likely to be interested, well in advance. I even wrote to Radio Wales' "Look up your Genes" on the off-chance that they might have leads to descendants of Sir Samuel.

Through an article in the Neath Guardian, we managed to establish two local collateral descendants, including a member of Neath Town Council, but we still don't know whether Sir Samuel had any grandchildren.

We haven't lost interest in this search.

Thank you, Peter, for your message.