Welsh poet R. S. Thomas was also an Anglican priest. Despite being an ardent Welsh nationalist, his poetry is noted for its critical depictions of Welsh farmers, casting them as ignorant and uninterested in wider spiritual and political matters. As such, it is easy to imagine that his relationships with his parishioners were somewhat strained.

The Wikipedia article on Thomas seems uncertain in this regard, stating:

As a priest, it seems that Thomas did not believe he was there to promote his own views, but those of the church he served, and for all his vaunted crabbiness, he seems to have been well enough regarded by parishioners, though biographies offer notable exceptions. He has been credited by some as a capable listener and counsellor at a time when such things were not common among the clergy, and to have been a devoted visitor to the sick. However, his tendency to remoteness led one of his successors to say that she had, as parish priest of Aberdaron, to "do a lot of healing"

It's that final quote that interests me: at the time of writing, it's currently flagged with a "citation needed" disclaimer. And indeed if you search for it, you get exactly three results, one of which is the Wikipedia article itself and the other two of which quote no sources and, potentially, got it from Wikipedia.

Given that the gender of the quoter is identified as female, and that there must have been a limited number of priests at St Hywyn's Church in Aberdaron since Thomas left the role in 1978, it should presumably be possible to track down who said it and where?

1 Answer 1


The quote appears to be genuine, and it seems that this was said by Evelyn Dennis, who held the position of parish priest in Aberdaron in the 1990s (the second priest to hold the position after Thomas retired). Amusingly, she noted herself that "I think R.S. would turn in his grave if he knew a woman priest was here." In his biography of R.S. Thomas, The man who went into the west: the life of R.S. Thomas, Byron Rogers quotes her as saying:

"I was told I was not to think of myself as being in the shadow of R.S. Thomas, not that that was hard. I had to do a lot of healing here."

The biography is available for free loan from the Internet Archive.

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