Roy Thomas Davies (1934-2013) was bishop of Llandaff from 1985 to 1999.
Davies came from Llangennech, a village a few miles east of Llanelli. His parents were Hubert, a factory worker, and Dilys. As Llangennech was Welsh-speaking, it is said he would not have used any English until he was around seven years old. However, he was a gifted boy, winning a scholarship to Llanelli Boys’ Grammar School and then another to St David’s College, Lampeter. He graduated in 1955, with the first First in Welsh Honours to have been awarded since 1927. He went on to Jesus College Oxford; he obtained a diploma in theology and a BLitt in 1959. He next trained for ordination at the Anglo-Catholic St Stephen’s College, Oxford.
Davies spent his entire ministry in Wales. His first post was as curate of St Paul’s Church, Llanelli, where he stayed for five years. After that, he worked as vicar of Llanafan, ten miles south east of Aberystwyth, from 1964 to 1967. His next post was as Church in Wales chaplain at the University College of Wales Aberystwyth. He then became secretary of the Provincial Council for Mission and Unity of the Church in Wales. In 1979, he moved back to the parochial ministry to become vicar of St David’s Carmarthen. He was Archdeacon of Carmarthen from 1982 to 1985 and, alongside this, Vicar of Llanegwad from 1983 to 1985. In 1985, Davies was appointed Bishop of Llandaff; he remained at Llandaff until his retirement in 1999.
Davies was a committed high churchman; his faith was expressed in a deep sacramental spirituality, a focus on prayer and a love for people. Although he was not an exciting preacher, he is said to have had the gift of simple exposition from the heart. However, his commitment to catholic tradition meant he stood against the current of much popular opinion. In the 1970s, he voted in the Church of Wales’s governing body for a motion declaring there were fundamental objections to women priests. Then, in 1994, he was one of two bishops who voted against a proposal for the ordination of women. When this motion was defeated, Davies was the subject of a great deal of hostile criticism. He eventually changed his opinion. In 1996, he seconded a motion advocating women priests, arguing that ‘I cannot go on saying ‘Hold it’, because things cannot go on as they are … The danger with a stalemate is that we are going to be preoccupied with this matter at the cost of neglecting our wider mission.’ However, by doing this he aroused the hostility of his previous supporters. Sadly, the issue clouded much of his episcopate.
Davies was known for his passion for the Welsh language, encouraging its use in church services. Although he never made a political issue of it, he was sensitive to the spiritual significance of the language in which people first learnt to pray and to express their faith. After his retirement, he thoroughly appreciated ministering in Welsh speaking villages, alongside giving occasional retreats. He returned to Carmarthenshire to live in Llangunnor.
Davies died unmarried on 7 August 2013. He requested that there should be no memorial service to him in Llandaff Cathedral, and no eulogy at his funeral in Llangunnor. His successor as bishop of Llandaff, Barry Morgan, said of him ‘Bishop Roy was a true pastor of pastors …. He led a priestly life of prayer, devoted his life to the Church and he adored people …. His strong pastoral skills, coupled with a phenomenal memory for names and faces and a strong desire to foster the vocations of young people, endeared him to all who met him and he will be greatly missed throughout the diocese.’
Davies, Rt Rev. Roy Thomas, (31 Jan. 1934–7 Aug. 2013), Bishop of Llandaff, 1985–99. Who’s Who & Who Was Who. Retrieved December 16 2020, from https://www.ukwhoswho.com/view/10.1093/ww/9780199540891.001.0001/ww-9780199540884-e-13123.
The Rt Rev. Roy Davies – obituaries High church Bishop of Llandaff who changed his mind about women priests. (2013, September 2). Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 16 2020 from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/14891D8E27912A68?p=UKNB
Price, D.T.W. (1990). A History of Saint David’s University College Lampeter. Volume two: 1898-1971. Cardiff: University of Wales Press
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Williams, M. (2013, August 23). Obituary: the Rt Revd Roy Thomas Davies. Church Times. Retrieved January 4 2021 from https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/23-august/gazette/obituaries/obituary-the-rt-revd-roy-thomas-davies