Daniel Simon Evans (1921-1998) was a Celtic scholar and an expert on the early British saints.

Simon was the eldest child of David Evans, secretary of the local branch of the Farmers’ Union and a minor tax official, and his wife Sarah Jane née Lewis. He had a sister and a younger brother, David Ellis Evans, who was also to become a professor of Celtic Studies. He was born in Llanfynydd in Carmarthenshire, and attended Llanfynydd Primary School, as well as the Calvinist Methodist chapel in the village. He went on to Llandeilo Grammar School, where he became head boy. He studied at University of Wales, Swansea, where he won the Mary Towyn Jones scholarship. He graduated in Greek and Latin in 1942, and with first class honours in Welsh in 1943. His next destination was the United Theological College in Aberystwyth, where he did a degree in theology. After this, he spent a year at Jesus College, Oxford.  

In October 1946, Evans went back to University College, Swansea, as assistant lecturer in Welsh (and for a few years as honorary lecturer in Hebrew). A series of academic posts followed.  He was Professor of Welsh at University College, Dublin, from 1952 to 1962 and then lecturer in Welsh at St David’s College until 1966. During his stay in Lampeter, he seems to have raised the idea of publishing a learned journal in the college. He was the editor of the first volume of Trivium, which appeared in May 1966. After this, Evans was head of Celtic Studies in the University of Liverpool from 1974 to 1988, before returning to Lampeter as Professor of Welsh. He worked diligently to develop the Welsh department into a strong academic unit. Besides this, he was Deputy-Principal for four years. After his retirement, he continued as Honorary Director of the Centre for Research and Scholarship.  

Evans’ main research was in the grammar and syntax of Middle Welsh prose, and so on the language of the transition between Middle Welsh and Modern Welsh. He published a number of significant articles, on Cornish as well as on Welsh. His grammars of Middle Welsh, Gramadeg Cymraeg Canol  (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1951) and A Grammar of Middle Welsh (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1964) have become classics. 

Alongside this, Evans worked on medieval religious literature, including lives of the saints. His book, Medieval Religious Literature (University of Wales Press for the Welsh Arts Council, 1986) was part of the Writers of Wales series. Scattergood described the volume as outlining in a brief but authoritative way the subject matter, themes, and styles of the surviving Welsh prose and verse from before the Reformation. It was aimed at the non-specialist and non-Welsh speaker. In 1959, Evans brought out Buched Dewi (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru), an edition of the 14th century Middle Welsh version of the life of St David, taken from Llanstephan MS.27 with variations from Jesus College, Oxford, MS.1.19. (Although the Welsh life is clearly based on that written by Rhygyfarch, it omits most of the material connecting David with Ireland.) In 1988, Evans published an English translation, The Welsh Life of St David, (University of Wales Press), based on Jesus College, Oxford, MS.1.19. This was aimed at students who might not have coped with reading the Welsh edition. Evans revised and expanded the introduction and notes from the 1959 Welsh edition. He also brought together and edited, with a new introduction, G.H. Dobles’s pamphlets, Lives of the Welsh Saints (University of Wales Press, 1993). 

In 1977, Evans brought out an edition of Historia Gruffud vab Kenan (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru). This presented the biography of Gruffydd ap Cynan, probably written by a cleric towards the end of the 12th century. Although the text was only just over thirty pages long, the introduction contained three hundred pages and the notes and indexes another hundred. Evans followed this up with an English translation of the Middle Welsh text, A Mediaeval Prince of Wales, (Llanerch, 1990). With Rachel Bromwich, he published the standard edition of the Medieval prose-tale, Culhwch ac Olwen, (Welsh edition in 1988, with an English translation published in 1992). Evans’ last book was O Fanc y Spite: atgofion am Gapel y Methodistiaid yn Llanfynydd, a’r Fro, (Mellen, 1997), a history of his home village and chapel. 

Evans was awarded a D.Litt by the University of Wales in 1979. He served as secretary of the University of Wales Board of Celtic Studies. He was twice awarded the Vernam Hull Memorial Prize and gave the G.J. Williams Memorial Lecture in 1980 on ‘Llafar a Llên yn yr hen gyfnod.’  

Evans and his wife, Frances, had one son, Dafydd H. Evans, who was to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Welsh scholar.   

Evans died in Carmarthen on 4 March 1998. A hall of residence at Lampeter is named after him. 

Sources 

Ben Rees, D. (1998, April 18). Obituary: Professor D. Simon Evans. Independent. Retrieved March 1 2021 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/13204E3319A21A70?p=UKNB 

Williams, J.E.C. (1998, January 1). Obituaries. Professor Emeritus D. Simon Evans, MA, BD, BLitt, DLitt, 29 May 1921 – 4 March 1998. Journal of Welsh Religious History, 6,60-61. Retrieved March 1 2021 from https://datasyllwr.llgc.org.uk/journals/pdf/AWJCG006006.pdf 

Roberts, B.F. (2015). EVANS, DANIEL SIMON (1921-1998), Welsh scholar. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved March 1 2021 from https://biography.wales/article/s10-EVAN-SIM-1921 

Price, D.T.W. (1990). A History of Saint David’s University College Lampeter. Volume two: 1898-1971. Cardiff: University of Wales Press 

Scattergood, J. (1989). [Review: untitled]. The Yearbook of English Studies,19, 301-304. doi:10.2307/3508061 

Dewi Sant (St David). (485?) [n.d.] In: A Welsh Classical Dictionary. Retrieved March 1 2021 from https://www.library.wales/fileadmin/fileadmin/docs_gwefan/casgliadau/Drych_Digidol/Deunydd_print/Welsh_Classical_Dictionary/05_D-E-F.pdf