Evans, George Ewart

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Evans, George Ewart

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  • Evans, George Ewart, 1909-1988

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George Ewart Evans was born in 1909, in the mining town of Abercynon, South Wales, the son of a grocer, William Evans, and his second wife, Janet. He attended Mountain Ash County School from 1921 to 1927, and University College, Cardiff, between 1927 and 1931, obtaining an honours degree in Classics and a teaching certificate. He was athletic, distinguishing himself on the rugby field, and while he was at university he sprinted professionally to ease the financial situation of his family. Shortly after this time he began to write, winning a prize for his first published work, a translation of Catullus, in the Sunday Referee in 1934. In the same year he obtained a post teaching athletics at Sawston Village College, an experimental school in Cambridgeshire, which combined the traditional syllabus with subjects of a more vocational nature. That was where he met his future wife, Florence Ellen Knappet and they married in 1938. They had four children, Jane, Susan, Mary, and Matthew, who later pursued a distinguished career with the publishing company of Faber and Faber. During the Second World War George Ewart Evans served in the RAF, but he continued to write, mainly poetry and short stories, some of which were republished in the collection entitled Let Dogs Delight (London: Faber and Faber, 1975). At that time he experienced several personal crises, including the death of his father, the loss at sea of his brother, Roy, in 1942, and the discovery that he himself was suffering from increasing deafness. His next work, based on his own childhood in the South Wales valleys, was The Voices of the Children, written in 1943-1944 and published by the Penmark Press in 1947. After the war financial pressures compelled the family to leave Sawston, and Evans took up a teaching post in Edmonton, London. Three years later, in 1948, his wife was appointed village schoolmistress at Blaxhall in Suffolk, a flat arable region which contrasted greatly with the hills and industrial valleys of his native Wales. He found that the people differed in their attitudes too, but through conversing with his neighbours he developed an interest in their dialect and the aspects of rural life which they described. They were almost all agricultural labourers, born before the turn of the century, who had worked on farms prior to the arrival of mechanisation, and who spoke a language rich in words and expressions previously only known to him from reading old English poetry. He began, with the assistance of a tape-recorder, to collect oral evidence of the dialect, rural customs, traditions and folklore, first in Blaxhall, and continuing from his later homes in Needham Market, Helmingham, and Brooke, near Norwich. This work, reinforced by careful research of documentary, historical and literary sources, provided the background for his East Anglian books. The tape recordings also formed the basis of radio scripts for features broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, in association with such producers as David Thomson and Charles Parker. George Ewart Evans was engaged in editing, reviewing and extensive teaching activities in addition to his writing. He was a tutor for the Extra-mural Department of the University of Cambridge and the Workers' Educational Association in East Anglia, and he was much in demand as a lecturer for conferences and educational courses. His contribution to oral history and education was acknowledged by the universities of Essex and Keele, both of which awarded him honorary doctorates in 1982. He died in January 1988.


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n 50009134

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