Funny things, genes. When I became a missionary and children’s author I did not know about my great grandfather Edward Tegla Davies (my father’s father’s father), who was a Methodist minister and children’s author. When my first book was published, Dad told me about my illustrious ancestor and showed me an old copy of Nedw, one of Tegla’s best known works. Nedw in Welsh is short for Edward and is pronounced Ned-oo. The language is natural (according to Lionel Madden, author of Methodism in Wales, Tegla ‘wrote as children spoke’) and the style is gentle and wry – very different from the rather severe religious stories commonly offered to children at the time.
Nedw was illustrated by Leslie Illingworth, who was political cartoonist for the Daily Mail and contributed to Punch and other magazines.
This week I have been reading more about Tegla. It seems he made quite a splash on the Welsh literary scene, writing for adults as well as children. He has a brief wikipedia page in English (Edward Tegla Davies) and a fuller one in Welsh (Edward Tegla Davies). There is also a long entry on the website Welsh Biography Online, which includes this gem:
Tegla regarded himself as a rebel all his life. Although he was one of the most prominent preachers and one of the most influential men of his denomination, he did not refrain from criticising and satirising organizational systems, whether religious or secular.
In a phone call this morning. Dad recalled that his grandfather was kind and gentle, that he always wore his clergyman’s collar (even on the beach!) and that he had various stock party tricks to amuse the grandchildren. On country walks he used to collect acorns, turn them upside-down and draw faces on them, so that the acorn’s cup resembled a hat. Listening to Dad speak, it seems to me that Tegla possessed the rare gift of having stayed in touch with his inner ten year-old, a gift that clearly equipped him well for his children’s writing.
Edward Davies assumed the name Tegla when he was ordained as a Methodist minister – there was already an Edward Davies in the ranks and he needed a distinct appellation. He took the name Tegla from the name of his birthplace Llantegla (lit. Church of Thecla) in north Wales. Saint Thecla was a first-century saint about whom various apocryphal stories are told. The name stayed in the family for two generations – my grandfather and father were both given it as their middle name, but I was not.
More about Tegla tomorrow!