Olwen Davies 1924-2011

The tribute below is by Jill Gough

Olwen Davies (pictured here meeting Desmond Tutu) died peacefully in Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth last week.

Many will have known Olwen locally through Aberystwyth CND and the Aberystwyth Peace Network, as a stalwart of CND Cymru (Vice Chair for 20 years) and a representative for Cymru on British CND Council (and on the International Advisory Group) as well as her work for the Chernobyl Children's Project. I have been privileged to call Olwen a comrade and fellow campaigner over many of these years.

Olwen was a determined woman who was always truly alive. Her family came from Blaenpennal in Ceredigion. Although Welsh in her heart and her language, she spent her early years in the Old Kent Road, London where her family were part of the London-Welsh dairies. Olwen said that her mother had told her that she was always singing, even as a baby. Later she returned to Wales - I believe in 1939 - and went to school in Tregaron, and being a musical young lady was encouraged to go to College and take up singing as a profession. For several years she lived abroad, working for a while as a translator (and singing) for the UN in Rome.

When her mother became infirm in the 1980s Olwen returned again to Wales and cared so gently and tirelessly for Mary. She also taught singing in Aberystwyth University. She was well known around the town for her individual style of dressing (she made her own clothes) and her CND headgear and jewellery.

Olwen's campaigning heart for peace and justice - and a nuclear free world - are notorious. I personally recall leafleting in the town with her in 1986 raising awareness of the approaching Nuclear Free Wales Festival in Aberystwyth Arts Centre. She was dressed as Margaret Thatcher - and I as a parrot. (That was Olwen's idea). Around 2,000 people attended the festival that year - there was also a contribution for the newly declared 'Nuclear Free Aoteroa' I remember. Of course there was music at the conference - Olwen made certain of that.

Olwen visited the Soviet Union with the peace delegation and represented us at European Nuclear Disarmament conferences. Whenever on a demonstration, at a conference or a meeting, Olwen would urge us to sing. She would confidently conjure up a protest song and we, at first slightly embarrassed, but eventually, by the end of the verse, confident and strengthened by the music, would join in. I have sung (as a protestor) alongside Olwen at events at Aldermaston, Molesworth and Greenham and on the streets of London, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Brawdy, Cardiff and at Trawsfynydd.

Writing of Olwen, more is always omitted than can be included! When I told Olwen's friend Bruce Kent that she was no longer with us he wrote: 'an indomitable woman.... She will go on singing somewhere.'

Olwen wished her 'funeral' to be quiet and wanted instead for there to be an 'Olwen Party' - in Aberystwyth Museum (time and date to be confirmed). There will, of course, be music.

Jill Gough

A link to her 80th birthday BBC interview in 2004 is here