Symud i'r prif gynnwys

MATTHEW LEWIS VAUGHAN DAVIES AMBITIOUS CAD OR ASSIDUOUS POLITICIAN?1 Little has been written about Vaughan Davies of Tan-y-bwlch, later Lord Ystwyth. He has been dismissed by contemporary historians as 'a small fox-hunting squire', 'ill educated, uncultured and ill informed'.2 K. O. Morgan describes him as 'an extraordinary choice of candidate, a silent backbencher during whose time interest in parliamentary politics was large- ly suppressed for a generation'.3 W. J. Lewis concurs in dismissing him as 'a silent backbencher, bad for the morale of true Liberals in the County'. Lewis asserts that his conversion to the Liberal cause was a consequence of the influence of his wealthy and ardently liberal wife. Rumour and innuendo abound in the oral history: gentry families apparently disliked him, he is rec- ollected as 'a dreadful man'.4 Although he married late, it has been alleged that he was prone to adultery to an advanced age. It has been claimed that he conducted a far from clandestine affair with Mrs Powell of Nanteos, who is said to have signalled her husband's absence from home by running a white flag or bed sheet up the Nanteos flagpole.5 He is also believed to have con- ducted an affair with the beautiful socialite and antiquarian Gladys Ashton of Welston Court Pembrokeshire.6 Both these women were his junior by far. Such dismissive judgements on a man whose contribution to public life spanned seven decades is remarkable in the light of the evidence which can be mustered from printed sources. While his character seems to have been less than diplomatic, indeed rude, his diligence in representing his con- stituents seems not to have been questioned in his lifetime. His philandering tendencies make him seem, at the very least, a sprightly seventy-year-old. While recent opinion has dismissed the peerage he was granted in 1921 as a stratagem for getting rid of the eighty-one year old M.P., to make way for Lloyd George's protege, Ernest Evans, it is harder to explain his election as Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Aberystwyth in 1923 if he were gen- uinely viewed by his constituents in so poor a light. His own words on that occasion, perhaps best sum up the nature of this relationship: I can go back over a period of over sixty one years in the history of the public life of Cardiganshire, and naturally you cannot go through a period of sixty-one years of life without treading on somebody's toes (Laughter) but like true Cardis they have returned the com- pliment by treading on mine.7