Historian and BBC commentator John Davies dies aged 76

media captionHere is archive of Dr John Davies discussing the medieval Welsh prince Owain Glyndwr - and the modern royal family.

Historian and BBC Wales commentator Dr John Davies has died aged 76.

Born in Rhondda, he went to schools in Treorchy, Bwlchllan and Tregaron and attended University College, Cardiff, and Trinity College, Cambridge.

An author, broadcaster and teacher, he wrote what many consider to be the definitive book chronicling Wales: 'A History of Wales'.

He leaves his wife Janet Davies, four children and grandchildren.

image copyrightPENGUIN BOOKS
image captionPublished first in Welsh, Dr Davies's book is regarded as a definitive guide to Welsh history

During his career he taught at Swansea and Aberystwyth universities, and was also the editor and co-editor of the The Encyclopaedia of Wales.

In 2005, he received the Glyndwr Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales at the Machynlleth Festival.

Five years later he won the 2010 Wales Book of the Year for Cymru: Y 100 Lle I'w Gweld Cyn Marw (Wales: 100 Places to See Before Dying).

In 2013, an evocative film portrayal of Dr Davies in the documentary Gwirionedd y Galon was critically acclaimed - going on to win recognition from Bafta Cymru.

As well as his academic career, Dr Davies was also a popular warden for many years overseeing the student population of the Pantycelyn halls of residence at Aberystwyth University.

He was also a founder member of the the Welsh Language Society.

As the first secretary for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, he helped organise the language campaigners' first protest in 1963 at Trefechan.


image captionDr John Davies had an extensive career as a teacher, author, broadcaster and historian


BBC presenter Huw Edwards, who hosted the BBC's Story of Wales, said he was a man of "outstanding ability".

"He had an extraordinary way of sharing his message in an engaging and lively way - in both languages - and that was incontrovertibly proved in his excellent and comprehensive work A History of Wales," said the broadcaster.

"He was a colourful character and great company."


image copyrightEmyr Young
image captionDr John Davies: 1938-2015

Prof Richard Wyn Jones, from the Wales Governance Centre, said the historian will be remembered as "one of the most influential Welshmen of our era".

"It is doubtful that any one has done more to ensure that we are conscious of our history as a people," he said.

"Famous throughout the land for his eloquence and his apparently inexhaustible store of historical knowledge, he was one the great characters of our national life," added Prof Jones.

"As if this was not enough, he was also one of the founders of the Welsh Language Society and an important influence on generations of community and national leaders in Wales through his work as Warden of Pantycelyn Hall in Aberystwyth.

"He will be very greatly missed."

'Joie de vivre'

Author Jon Gower said he remembered a friend who had a legendary memory for historical facts about Wales.

"We haven't just lost a man, we have lost part of the national consciousness," he said.

"I don't think there was anyone better to go for a pint with, or a glass or bottle of wine. There was a spectacular 'joie de vivre' about the man."


First Minister Carwyn Jones said Dr Davies will be greatly missed.

"I was saddened to hear about the loss of Dr John Davies," he said.

"He'll be remembered as one of our great historians with an of Wales' past which he gladly and passionately shared through his teaching, writing and broadcasting."


image copyrightS4C

The historian was a familiar figure on BBC Wales television screens and on radio.

Director of BBC Cymru Wales Rhodri Talfan Davies paid this tribute to Dr Davies: "He didn't just bring the story of Wales and its people to life - he did so in Technicolor.

"And his infectious passion touched and enriched the lives of so many. For anybody who seriously wants to understand the forces that have shaped - and continue to shape - our nation, his work provides an indispensable legacy."