Daniel Dawson, Professor of Modern History

Daniel Dawson was a member of the college staff from 1923 until his death on December 28th, 1961 at the age of 65. Principal J.R. Lloyd Thomas wrote about his long career and dedicated service to St David’s College for The Bulletin of the Lampeter Society.

Professor Dawson was a Yorkshireman of the West Riding. He showed his early ability by winning one of the two State Scholarships in those days awarded for the whole of Yorkshire. He entered Leeds University, where Professor A. J. Grant described him as his outstanding student in a remarkable year. He took a First in History and then joined the West Yorkshire Regiment. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant but was soon severely wounded on the Somme. On the way home the hospital ship was sunk and this experience impeded his recovery and he spent many months in hospital. Afterwards, with a research scholarship he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and at Cambridge took first place among notable contemporaries. His research work took him to Vienna, and was subsequently published as The Mexican Adventure and for this he obtained the M.Litt. 

When he came to St. David’s College in 1923, he was still a sick man, and the present writer well remembers how the College “nurse”, Mrs Williams, helped to bring him back to health with rough but loving care. He made a remarkable recovery, and quickly took up tennis and golf, in both of which he was no mean performer, playing regularly for the College. 

During the first war, when numbers at College fell to almost nothing, the History honours school had been suspended, and Mr Dawson, as lecturer in charge, had to rebuild it. This he quickly did and soon established it as the strongest honours school in the College. In 1931 he was joined by one of his own students, the Rev. F.J.T. David, and together they have maintained a standard of scholarship which commanded the respect of the Board of Examiners, and which produced a steady crop of sound Firsts. Meanwhile it was not until 1940 that a vacant Chair was found for him to become Professor of History. 

The heavy burden of teaching put an end to the production of books, but this meant no neglect of serious study. He kept abreast of every development and his wide reading in many fields made him one of the best informed men and a stimulating and delightful companion. He became a great teacher and his demands upon himself were quite relentless. He expected much of his men, but his own example was the greatest inspiration to them. After his marriage to Mary Bartlett, the sister of one of his colleagues, their home became an open house to all who passed through the College, and few of his former men failed to call there whenever anywhere near Lampeter. 

In the second world war he became one of the deputy commissioners of Civil Defence for Cardiganshire and was co-opted on the Borough Council, and from then onwards he took an increasing interest in town affairs, and was soon accepted by all as if he had been born and bred a Cardi. After the war he succeeded the late Professor Cayo Evans as College Bursar (having been himself Censor for many years), an honorary post but one making heavy demands on time, he showed himself to be a practical man of affairs and a most conscientious steward of the meagre resources of the College. He held this post until illness forced him to give it up, much to the regret of the domestic staff of the College who loved him for his essential fairness and integrity and for his genuine concern for their welfare. 

No one rejoiced more than he did when the settlement with the University Grants Committee secured the future of the College, and it is part of our sorrow that he did not live long enough to enjoy some of the fruits of the settlement, such as the greater leisure which an expanding department would have brought to him. He reached the age of retirement in October 1961, but agreed to accept an extension urged on him by the College Council, although not in the best of health at that time. In the last few years the History department had grown steadily, with more men reading honours than ever before, and there is no doubt that this was a great burden to carry after his serious illness a few years ago. 

As with many another before him he probably came to St. David’s College expecting to stay for a few years and then move on. He stayed for a lifetime, with forty years of unremitting work. His life and work will always be a living part of the College.’ 

A Memorial History Prize was later established in his name. 

Sources: 

Lloyd Thomas, J.R., (1962) Professor Dawson, 1896-1961. Bulletin of the Lampeter Society, April XV, 12-14. 

‘Daniel Dawson Obituary’, (1962). Gateway. The Student Journal of the University College of St David’s, Lampeter, March XV, 2.