D.R. (Dai) Owen
Rugby Expert and Education Office Clerk
David Richard Owen, (his full name was always used in Bethel, Abernant) was known as Dai by most people, but as ‘Titch’ in his schooldays. That was hardly a fair description of him, as his photograph testifies. He was born on 12 September 1928, in Llwydcoed, the home village of his father Joe. His mother Bessie’s home (née Evans) was at 19 Richmond Terrace, Abernant. It was there, at what was originally the home of his maternal grandparents, that Dai spent most of his life, moving to a flat at Heol y Parc, at the top of Abernant, in his last decade.
He entered the Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School at the beginning of the Autumn term 1940, leaving with his CWB School Certificate at the end of July 1946. He played rugby at school, though he does not feature in any of the first team photographs of that time. One of his favourite stories told how he had played opposite Glyn Davies, then a budding star from Pontypridd, the Saturday before the latter was awarded his first full cap for Wales.
Dai then joined the RAF to undertake his national service, where he played a lot of rugby, as a full back or outside half. At that time his path crossed those of many rugby players who had yet to make a name for themselves, but with whom he kept in touch in later life. Among them was Bleddyn Williams, who remained one of Dai’s lifelong friends.
Dai never married, but said that he had some particular passions in life instead. The first was undoubtedly rugby, on which subject he was a walking encyclopaedia. Another was cricket – he was a keen follower of Glamorgan, but one of his delights was to attend the end-of-season Scarborough Cricket Festival in the company of friends, such as Gwyn Morgan. Another was beer. Heol y Parc was just down the road from the Rhos Wenallt, behind the bar of which he kept his own pewter tankard. Lastly, and perhaps surprisingly to many people, was his chapel, Bethel Welsh Baptist Chapel, Abernant, where he was a lifelong member. It was, and is, even closer to Heol y Parc than the Rhos Wenallt. Dai’s theology was extremely liberal and tolerant. He hated religious narrow-mindedness or bigotry.
Dai’s cousin and great friend was Rev M.J.Williams (also a former pupil of the school) who became the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales. One of Dai’s prized possessions was the box of sermons, which he kept in his living room, left to him by his cousin. Dai was actively studying these in the last weeks of his life.
Following his national service, Dai found employment as a Clerical Officer in the Education Department of Glamorgan County Hall in Cardiff. He had fine, clear handwriting dating from that time. He then worked in the College of Further Education at Cwmdare, before transferring to the Divisional Education Office at the Rock Grounds, Aberdare, where he stayed until his retirement.
A lifelong member of Cardiff Rugby Club (and subsequently the Blues) he was one of the founders of the itinerant rugby club for budding Welsh players, the Welsh Academicals, the Accies, where he served for many years as Secretary and subsequently, Chairman. He was also active in the administration of Crawshay’s Rugby Club, accompanying the team to several touring games. He knew rugby players from all over the world. He loved to show off the Wallabies tie, given to him in Hong Kong by Michael Lynagh, as a swap for an Accies tie.
Dai’s other abiding interest was the school’s Past Students’ Association, on whose committee he served for a number of years and appears in photographs of their functions.
Dai Owen suffered from indifferent health towards the end of his life, but he enjoyed the love, support and care of his sister Margaret Whitmarsh (who still lives in Abernant) and her family. After a very brief illness, he died at Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr, on 25 September 2006. He had celebrated his 78th birthday in the Rhos Wenallt only days before his final illness.
His funeral at Llwydcoed Crematorium was attended by hundreds of people, with six former rugby players, nearly all well-known internationals, bearing his coffin. He would have been proud of that, but especially the fact that Keith Rowlands and Arwyn Richards, who, like him, were proud former pupils of Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School, were two of the six.