Some Penparcau characters: George Eyre Evans

Penparcau has never been short of colourful characters. One of the most attractive was the antiquarian George Eyre Evans (1857-1939), who moved into Tŷ Tringad in Piercefield Lane in November 1906. An eccentric bachelor, he was a native of Devon, though both his parents were Welsh. He was the eldest son of the Revd David Lewis Evans, a native of Llanybydder, and Ophelia Catherine Powell, daughter of Captain George Eyre Powell, whose father had served on Lord Nelson’s flagship. George, who was a stickler for detail, tells us that he was born on Tuesday, 8 September 1857 at 4.25 in the morning! His entries in his diaries were written in green ink and his house was full of books, manuscripts, photographs and a wonderful assortment of curiosities.

As the pictures of him show very clearly, he was different from everyone else. With his white hair, pointed beard, single-breasted jacket Norfolk jacket, plus fours and thumb-stick, he stood out in Penparcau. In fact, he was a cartoonist’s dream. He walked everywhere and used to call himself ‘the tramping enquirer’. The famous archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, claimed that his energy was ‘unbeatable’. His religion, too, marked him out as an oddity. He was an Unitarian minister (Unitarians deny the Trinity) who regularly got up the noses of snobbish Welsh Methodists in the town. He did not drink alcohol or smoke. Writing under the nickname ‘Philip Sidney’ in the Welsh Gazette, his weekly column was a must-read. He used to roam the village looking for people to interview and to tell them about the good causes he supported.

The Penparcau hub, close to his home, would do well to follow his example in getting people fit. He used to hold fitness classes in which young men (no women allowed!) used clubs, cutlasses and dumb-bells during the exercises. He was mainly responsible for raising funds to build ‘Y Darllenfa’, a reading room located opposite the present Penparcau Hub. Here, Evans used to encourage local people to read newspapers and books, learn about their past, perform plays and hold eisteddfodau. The reading room was opened on 11 February 1909 by Professor Edward Anwyl and, on his advice, the words ‘Ni bydd ddoeth ni ddarlleno’ (He who does not read will never be wise) were painted on the wall.

Another of his interests was the Boy Scout movement. He loved dressing up as a scout and gave illustrated talks on the movement. Later on, after he moved to Carmarthen in 1928, he became Deputy Scout Commissioner for Wales. The Prince of Wales, who later became the Duke of Windsor, called him ‘Sing-songs’, a nickname Evans liked very much and used regularly in Scouting circles. There’s a wonderful picture of him in his uniform eating porridge at the World Scout Jamboree in 1929.

George Eyre Evans died on 9 November 1939. How pleased he would be to see the Penparcau Hub serving the needs of local people. We salute this remarkable man who did so much for the village even though, as he claimed on his headed notepaper, he had ‘no telephone, no motor car, no umbrella, no typewriter’.

Geraint H Jenkins (2019)