Reprinted from the Carmarthen Antiquary, Vol. 1 Part 1 (1941), pp.5-10.
The following essay was written at the time of his death in 1940

It is appropriate that a new series of the Transactions should open with a review of the life and work of our late secretary and editor, George Eyre Evans. His passing closes a chapter in the history of the Society and a new one is about to begin. When he died on November 9th, 1939, there were very few indeed of the foundation members of the Society still living, but as long as Mr. Evans remained with us the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society was very much as it had been throughout the thirty odd years of its existence. In so many ways Mr. Evans was the Society - no one could think of the Museum, the Field Days, or the Council Meetings without him. The Society's whole being centred in this picturesque figure. His passing causes an unmistakable break between the past and the future.

As is frequently the case he did not have the privilege to be born in the neighbourhood to which he devoted the labours of his lifetime. Colyton Parsonage in Devon is far removed from Carmarthenshire or Cardiganshire, but it is to his parents that we must turn if we are to obtain the secret of his many and varied interests.

His mother was the daughter of Captain George Eyre Powell, R.N., of Colyton, whose father had served on Nelson's flagship. From her he inherited all that was best in the life of the English county families of the Victorian era- their service and their loyalty to their country; their respect for the past and its treasures; their love of ceremony in the daily round and on official occasions; their love of good manners and correct behaviour at all times. His father added to his inheritance: the grandeur of another and totally different tradition. The Reverend David Lewis Evans was a scholar of many attainments. For years he held the picturesque title of Professor of Hebrew and Mathematics at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen. How many of our Professors of Hebrew at the present time could also hold chairs of Mathematics, or alternately, how many of our Professors of Mathematics can read their Old Testament in the original Hebrew ? As an Unitarian minister, David Lewis Evans held advanced views in politics and religion, views that were by no means popular or acceptable in the ordinary orthodox atmosphere of a Victorian county family. But Professor Evans knew and took a justifiable pride in the great contributions that this small, but exceedingly able, religious body had made to the advancement of science and to social studies in the England of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, George Eyre Evans inherited not only in his name, but also in his whole personality and outlook, the best of both traditions. They pervade his whole life.

Before entering Liverpool University, his early education was shared between the then strongly conservative classical traditions of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School at Carmarthen, and the much more advanced' training he received at the famous academy of Gwilym Marles in the Unitarian atmosphere of Teifiside. He was destined for the Unitarian ministry and actually held pastorates at Whitchurch and Aberystwyth, but his interests in the present seem to have been equally balanced by his interests in the past. Many years before the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society had been founded he had published a long list of valuable material - the titles of which indicate the major currents of his interests: A History of Renshaw Street Chapel, Liverpool (1887), Happy Hours of Work and Worship (1889), Whitchurch of Long Ago (1893), Record of the Provincial Assembly of Lancashire and Cheshire (1896), Vestiges of Protestant Dissent (1897), Colytonia : A chapter in the History of Devon (1898); Four volumes of Antiquarian Notes published between 1898 and 1906. The House of Peterwell: An Old Time Story (1900), Aberystwyth and its Court Leet, 1690-1900 (1902), Cardiganshire: A Personal Survey of some of its Antiquities, Chapels, Churches, Fonts, Plates and Registers (1903), Lampeter (1905), Lloyd Letters I754-I796 edited with notes (1908).

It was in 1906 that Mr. Evans became the secretary of the then newly formed Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and Field Club and at the same time the creation of a county museum became his great ambition. In both tasks he always desired that his name should be associated with those of the late E. V. Collier and M. H. Jones. Shortly afterwards we find him busy helping to form a similar society in the neighbouring county of Cardigan. Close association with at least two county antiquarian societies, and the building up of a local museum widened considerably the sphere of his public life as well as the range of his antiquarian interests. It will be useful to examine these developments in turn. Mr. Evans had been a member of the Cambrian Archaeological Society since 1903, but in 1910 he was elected its local secretary for Cardiganshire and in 1915 he sat on its general committee and three years later he became a member of its editorial board. He contributed freely to its famous journal, Archaeologia Cambrensis. A series of articles on Cardiganshire, its Plate, Records and Registers, and a paper on 'Some Radnorshire Presentments 1694 'are well known. In 1919 he was elected a member of the Court of Governors of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and two years later on to the Council of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, and in 1924 on to the Council of the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

The building up of a museum is no easy matter. Exactly how each object was collected is probably a story all of its own. Mr. Evans' graciousness of manner and effectiveness in speech worked wonders in public and in private. He was always a welcome guest at the homes of the county families and he seldom left without persuading his hosts that such and such an article or such and such a document was of public interest and should be housed henceforth 'on long loan 'at the county museum. At the other end of the scale these same powers would persuade the ploughman on the hills or the coracle fisherman by the river's bank to give to the museum a specimen of their anciently designed implement or craft. So the museum's doors were left widely open. The great need was to receive, but reception ultimately obscured the need for a balanced display of the life of the county in past ages - that is, a display where the life of the gentry could be studied alongside that of the village craftsman and peasant, and where the treasures of church and state balanced those of the publican and poacher. Another very important point should be borne in mind in attempting to assess the contents of the county museum (on which Mr. Eyre Evans spent truely affectionate care, paying it daily visits when he was not away from home) and that is that it was built up in the years when prehistory, archaeology, folk-lore and folk-culture were sciences in their infancy. It was a period when the scientific treatment of these subjects was slowly beginning to emerge out of amateur handling. That such subjects can now be scientifically handled is due in large measure to men like our late secretary whose work is now looked upon as necessarily highly adventurous. Single handed he had to pronounce judgement on objects of all sorts - prehistoric pottery, medieval armour, academic robes, old glass, china, manuscripts, furniture, and one might even add on 'ships and shoes and sealing wax." Nevertheless, Eyre Evans and Ernest Collier did a great service. They created a popular interest in the remains of the past. They created the public that helped to make possible great national institutions such as the National Museum and the National Library. Without a truely appreciative and interested public such institutions can not survive, nor can their services be valued. Mr. Evans saw clearly that the true purpose of a local museum was to create public interest, however small that interest may be. 'I never,' he once said, 'pile the rick too high lest the cattle should starve.' With admirable foresight he encouraged parties of school children, led by their schoolmasters, to visit the museum and by his lecturettes and demonstrations presented to them vivid and concrete pictures of the ways of life of their ancestors. His knowledge was always at the disposal of enquirers, however young, however old, or of whatever rank socially or academically. In truth, he seemed called upon 'to make all knowledge his province."

At the period when the building up of the Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire societies and the county -museum at Carmarthen were engaging his attention he was called upon to undertake another allied task. His love for the open air and for walking were apparent at a very early date and most early photographs of him show him in. walking habit clutching his famous thumb-stick. He was in his element as a field archaeologist, although this must not be taken to mean that he had ever been associated with any scientific excavation. But in 1 g 1 o no one could have been more appropriately selected to be the Inspecting Officer of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire. The work of the Royal Commission led him to visit in person almost every ancient monument or site in the Principality - a record that any one could be well proud of. He retained this post until 1928, during which period seven volumes (each being an inventory of the antiquities of an individual county) were published by the authority of His Majesty's Stationery Office. The Carmarthenshire volume is among the seven. It is well known that Mr. Eyre Evans was mainly responsible for their contents. It was unfortunate that the Royal Commissioners decided to confine their labours to antiquities of pre -seventeenth century date. Folk-culture was not included, although, for example, archaeological finds associated with prehistoric cultures were. Thus Mr. Evans and his fellow workers were forced back on prehistory, the dark ages and the castles and churches of medieval times and all this at a period when, as we have already seen, archaeology and prehistory in particular were in embryo as exact sciences. Consequently, these volumes suffer considerably - they are in many ways premature and lacking in the exactitude demanded by a more mature discipline.

It can now be said that Mr. Evans' best written work was completed before 1910, and that his most important contributions lie in local history and in the transcription and editing of original sources of information more particularly with regard to early Puritan congregations. The editing of The Lloyd Letters I754-96 and the Particulars of the life of a Dissenting minister, and his Vestiges of Protestant Dissent, together with the re-printing of non-parochial registers deposited at Somerset House and his notes on the Society of Friends in the early volumes of our Transactions are extremely valuable source material, and future scholars will be greatly indebted to him. It was, however, characteristic of Mr. Evans (as has been made abundantly clear above) that he was no narrow specialist, or no partizan, and his transcription of the Cwmgwili letters towards the close of his life and their publication in the Transactions between 1932 and 1939 shows that he understood perfectly the part played by this well known family in the political and social life of the county in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Philippses of Cwmgwili moved in a very different world from the Lloyds of Bryn Llefrith. It is only to be regretted that at his advanced age Mr. Evans lacked the drive and power necessary to edit these letters in book form and show their relation to the wider political history of their age. It is this balanced view of local history that has made the direction of our Transactions in the past so outstandingly successful and the credit for it goes entirely to Mr. Evans. One of the greatest living authorities on the history of religious life in Wales has recently written, 'No student of Carmarthenshire history is likely to ignore the Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and Field Club which (unlike the general run of' antiquarian 'journals) gives ample space to Nonconformist history and prints copious extracts from original sources." In the light of what has been said about Mr. Evans' early days we are able to appreciate this compliment all the more.

The emphasis that has been placed in this review on the early work of our Secretary should not blind us to the fact that the latter half of his life was not equally full of energy and activity. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have already referred to the enormous output of energy expended on the Royal Commission for Ancient Monuments, while those members of our Society who attended our Field Days have many memories of what his energy was like on those occasions. Mr. Evans continued with unabated zeal to organize and carry through the Society's Field Days until the year of his death. All the time the Transactions continued to have his most enthusiastic support and his articles, reports and notes remained a constant feature throughout the years. As we have seen he continued to attend more and more public and administrative meetings, while as an indication of his remarkable youth it should be recalled that he joined the Boy Scout movement at the age of 67! He participated in all the joys of youth and the open air and soon became County Scout Commissioner for Carmarthenshire and in 1928 became deputy Scout Commissioner for Wales. His services to the town and county of Carmarthen were manifold and reached into many and varied spheres, and in recognition of it all he was received with due ceremony by the Mayor and Corporation on July 22nd, 1937, as a Freeman of the Ancient Borough of Carmarthen, an honour he so richly deserved and one he valued so greatly.

The end came suddenly in his 82nd year when he was still in full harness. His life had been a pleasant one, free from the ordinary cares of this world; a life spent in the service of others and one lived to the full. When he was 32 he had written about his 'Happy Hours of Work and Worship', if he had chosen to do so he could have re-issued this book under the same title when he was 82. In many ways, however, he had outlived his age, and in his closing years was a picturesque figure surviving from an era of peace and leisure into the gloom that had gathered around our speed-loving mechanical life which he so thoroughly detested. As was most fitting, his cremated remains were placed near those of his father, from whom he had inherited so much, in the burial ground of Alltyblacca Unitarian Chapel, which lies near the river Teifi between the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen - those parts of Wales whose distant past he had striven so hard to illuminate.