Illtyd David and the Extra-Mural Community (1920-1981)

by Edward David

Early Life

Between June and October 1920 the foundation stone of the new University College of Swansea was laid, key appointments were made, and the first cohort of students was admitted. From the outset the new College recognised a responsibility for adult education in the industrial community of the Swansea hinterland, from Port Talbot in the east to Llanelli in the west. This aim reflected the 1919 Report of the Ministry of Reconstruction that “adult education is a permanent national necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, and therefore should be universal and lifelong” and “should be spread uniformly and systematically over the whole community” [1]. Amongst the industrialists of the College Council there was also some concern to provide an alternative to syndicalist militancy and Marxian influences in industrial south Wales.  

In September 1920 Illtyd David was appointed as Workers’ Education Trades Union Committee (WETUC) tutor-organiser for South West Wales, under the auspices of the Workers’ Educational Association. This marked the beginning of an association with the College which lasted more than sixty years. That same month the College established the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee, chaired by the Principal, Frank Sibly, with membership from both the College and the WEA, to co-ordinate the provision of adult education classes in the region.   Ernest Hughes, the Head of the History Department, offered extra-mural lectures on Welsh history as soon as he was appointed. P.S. Thomas was appointed as full-time tutor in Extra-mural Studies and started courses in politics. David’s WETUC appointment provided a direct link with the strong trade unionist workforce in the local community. That he was also expected to take university tutorial classes created an anomalous position which suited David admirably. He was to exploit this ambiguity creatively for the development of adult education generally.

Illtyd David was born in 1894 in the mining village of Nantymoel, the tenth child of the village postmaster. His father, Edward David, was a Welsh-speaking Nonconformist, well-regarded in the Ogmore Valley. As well as being postmaster he owned the general store in Nantymoel, was a founding Director of the Ogmore and Garw Water Company, a Poor Law Guardian, and Moderator of the Calvinistic Methodist Churches in Glamorgan.  Edward David was a staunch Liberal who believed in education and encouraged his children to make the most of the opportunities he provided. Of the six children who survived into adulthood, Illtyd’s eldest brother became a Church of England clergyman and two sisters were qualified teachers. Significantly, although a Welsh-speaker himself, Edward David did not encourage his children to speak Welsh.  Illtyd David never spoke Welsh.  Illtyd’s earliest memories included his older sisters making soup for the Nantymoel miners during the 1898 lockout, Mafeking Night, the funeral of Queen Victoria, and “signing the pledge” during the 1904 Welsh religious Revival. 

Outside the family the greatest influence on the young Illtyd David was that of Major Edgar Jones, the headmaster of Barry County School, regarded as the doyen of Welsh headmasters of the era. From 1909 until 1912, as a Sixth-former, Illtyd lodged with the Jones family, forming lifelong friendships with his fellow schoolboys and with Edgar Jones and his children. There he also met many of the Welsh Liberal intelligentsia, including leading supporters of the WEA in South Wales such as Tom Jones, Lleufer Thomas and Percy Watkins. He recalled debates in the Jones house about the issues of the day. It was the era of the “New Liberalism”, the “People’s Budget” and the “Lords versus the People”, and his early political heroes included Asquith, the radical C.F.G. Masterman, and, with some reservations, David Lloyd George.  

A Febrile Period

In 1912 he entered University of Wales College Aberystwyth, won a University Exhibition the following year, and after gaining 1st Class Honours in Economics and Political Science, was awarded the Keeling Research Studentship in 1916. He was President of “Lit and Deb” where he gained a reputation for eloquence as “the Member for Nantymoel”, and was elected President of the Students’ Union. In 1916 he gave evidence on behalf of the student body to the Haldane Royal Commission on the future of the University of Wales. 

In 1917 he went up to St. John's College Cambridge to read law. The next three years were a febrile period for politics in the University, with new undergraduates mixing with returning veterans of the Western Front and those who had opposed the War as “conchies”. One legacy of schooldays, a serious knee injury sustained playing rugby, had rendered him unfit for military service. In patriotic eyes his lack of war service was suspect.  David's views on the war were ambivalent. He saw thw futility of ar and rejected what he saw as the imperialist aims of this one.  He was sympathetic to the principled views of conscientious objectors but felt compelled nonetheless to enlist, especially after the death of close friends in the Somme in 1916. A Military Service Tribunal in Aberystwyth in October 1917 heard evidence that he had tried to enlist on five occasions but had been rejected  because of his knee each time. There was considerable sympathy for David's position. The Pricipal of Aberystwyth appeared as a witness on his behalf to state that David's research in Economics was 'work of national importance' to the evident chagrin of a sceptical military representative on the tribunal. [2]

By the time he arrived in Cambridge David had moved from the Liberal progressive tradition in which he had been brought up to pronounced Socialist views. In the Cambridge Union, he identified as a "radical and anti-imperialist", but was recognised as an outstanding debater and was elected to the Union Committee after just one term. [3]. Although not physically attaked as were many in those turbulent days, his rooms were ransacked by University hearties who disapproved of his opinions. When he was younger, perhaps inspired by his father's lifetime commitment as local secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he had thoughts of becoming a missionary overseas. In Cambridge he was secretary of the Student Christian Movement and an active worker in the St. John's College Settlement House in Walworth in south-east London. He was attracted by the ideals and practical solutions to social problems offered by Christian Socialism. He passed the first year of the Law Tripos with First Class marks and gained Second Class Honours in Law Tripos I in 1919. It was his misfortune that just as he was enjoying both academic and political success, lack of money forced him to go out of residence at the end of his second year. He spent the academic year 1919-20 at home in Nantymoel, only returning to St. John's for his final examinations. He graduated with a poor 3rd Class degree in Law and always regarded his Cambridge academic experience with disappointment. He also felt that he could have gained the Union Presidency had he been able to remain in residence. To remedy this academic setback he began studying externally for a Doctorate in Law at Trinity College Dublin. [4]


However, through Cambridge he had met significant figures in the adult education movement including the founders of the Workers’ Educational Association, Albert Mansbridge and R.H. Tawney, and G.D.H. Cole who initiated WETUC in 1919. Mansbridge believed that adult education should lead to “right and sound action upon municipal, national and imperial affairs” [5]. Tawney, a Christian Socialist, thought that adult education was not simply “a means of developing individual character and capacity, but an equipment for the exercise of social rights and responsibilities” [6]. Illtyd David embraced this philosophy whole-heartedly. In 1918 Tawney invited him to become a tutor at the WEA Oxford Summer School, and he taught there every year until 1930. At the 1920 summer school David met J.M. MacTavish, who had followed Mansbridge as General Secretary of the WEA. MacTavish had been looking for a candidate for the WETUC tutor-organiser post in South Wales and now encouraged him to apply for the post.
As tutor David was expected to conduct tutorial classes, to organise “pioneer” lecture courses in new localities, and to deliver short series of lectures. As organiser he was to “propagandise” for the WEA, persuading trade union branches to affiliate to WETUC to finance adult education classes for their members. This was an enormous challenge. There were in the Swansea region 126 branches of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), as well as Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (NUGMW) branches, representing significant numbers of dockers, railwaymen and postal workers. David immediately started tutorial classes in Briton Ferry and Llanelli, both founded on ISTC membership. By the end of the 1920-21 session he could report to the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee 8 tutorial and 7 pioneer classes in the region with a regular attendance of 200 students, whilst some 300 students had attended single lectures. 

Early on the College established its commitment to adult education in the community. Senate Minutes regularly record extra-mural initiatives. In 1922 Senate reported to Council that members of staff were to deliver lectures on psychology, English literature, Welsh literature and history at Resolven, “in connection with the local branch of the WEA” [7]. The College also secured a significant source of funding in the Coal Owners University Trust Fund which provided £200 per annum for extra-mural work for five years from 1923 onwards. The College committee overseeing the use of these funds was again chaired by the Principal, and included Professor Cavanagh, Ernest Hughes, Professor W.D. Thomas, Dr Trueman and the Registrar, Edwin Drew. This funding supported tutorial classes in Welsh at Cross Hands and economics at Brynamman, and short courses at Ammanford, Brynamman, Ystalyfera, Pontardawe, Pontyberem, Skewen and Ystradgynlais, in such “suitable subjects” as English Literature, Welsh History, Economics, History, Psychology, Geology and Geography. The first Annual Social Gathering, of extra-mural students and tutors, was held at the College in 1923, providing an annual celebration of the College’s commitment to extra-mural work.

The Gold Standard

As the annual reports of WEA and the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee show, the focus was on the tutorial class as the “gold standard” of adult education. The tutorial class, requiring three years of study in the 24-week, 2-hour lecture course with consistent attendance, discussion and written work, was supposed to represent the equivalent in academic quality to an internal degree. David’s WETUC work laid foundations which led to university tutorial classes.  All classes had to fulfil Board of Education requirements regarding attendance and written work to secure grant funding. This was not easy in the prevailing economic climate. Many students were unemployed or only employed part-time. When there was work, the shift system required many classes to be delivered twice, to morning and afternoon shift workers. By 1925-6 David was teaching three tutorial classes, two on the shift system, in Swansea, Llanelli and Pontardawe. He was also experimenting with new initiatives. WEA “pioneer” or university “preparatory” classes ran for a year to try to establish the basis for tutorial classes. Day schools, with two classes held on a Saturday, encouraged workers to set up classes. Over a five-year period he organised more than seventy day schools and gave many more single lectures to stimulate interest in adult education throughout the region. By 1932 he had secured the affiliation of twelve trade unions, and more than seventy union branches, to WETUC. By 1933, two-thirds of all WEA classes and one-third of university tutorial classes originated from WETUC activity.

Illtyd David found his missionary vocation in the towns and villages of south-west Wales. But he was criticised by some in WETUC as insufficiently working class, not committed to the class struggle as were many of those he taught. Many years later David reflected “They expected the tutor to rationalise their opposition to Capitalism. I felt it was expected of me as a tutor of the WETUC to be really sympathetic to the working class movement” [8]. In fact the WEA faced criticism on both sides, by Conservatives for allegedly fostering trade union hostility to employers, and by workers of syndicalist or Marxist views demanding support in the struggle against capitalism. 

David addressed these issues in a lecture to Swansea Rotary Club in 1925. He applauded the democratic character of WEA classes but denied that they were political propaganda. Adult education was “humanistic as distinct from technical and voluntary as distinct from that controlled by a public authority”. The WEA provided a democratic opportunity for discussion of political issues and this justified public funding. Whether classes provided “education or propaganda very largely rested with the teacher”. In the same lecture he described another of his initiatives, a lecture class in Swansea prison, as essential education to foster better citizenship. He emphasised his sympathy was with the prisoners rather than their warders. [9]

David was certainly not a class warrior and never claimed to be a workingman. Always in a suit, with a Liberty’s silk tie, and well-polished shoes, his dress, bearing, and speech were those of an Edwardian gentleman. His accent owed more to Cambridge than to Nantymoel. One critic later accused him of being “a bit of a snob” and having “driven students out of his classes” [10]. He could appear so, and indeed he did so, at least on one occasion. Llewellyn Heycock, the later Lord Heycock of Taibach, was so overbearing in his Briton Ferry class that other students were unable to get their views heard. David warned him that his behaviour amounted to bullying and would not be tolerated. It continued, so he expelled him. Significantly when Heycock applied for admission to Coleg Harlech, he relied on David as a referee. Later on, by which time Heycock was a powerful figure in the Labour Party in South Wales, they worked together in supporting Dan Harry for the Coleg Harlech Wardenship. 

Illtyd David in the USA, 1925

Illtyd David in discussion with Spencer Miller, Secretary of the Workers Education Bureau, USA, July 1925

Probably Illtyd David was more at home with his university colleagues, than with members of WETUC. He represented the liberal-progressive commitment to adult education, a “top-down” university-based approach rather than the Marxian approach of some of their fellow tutors or of the Central Labour College. But David never abandoned his belief in the democratic values of the WEA.  He and his colleagues shared a commitment to their students and respect, indeed admiration, for their efforts. The issue of the written work required of students, especially in tutorial classes, was a sensitive one. Tutors were well aware of the difficulties facing their students, the hardship and uncertainty of their daily lives, the constant threat or dismal reality of unemployment. David always set high academic standards but he showed his empathy with his students in the way in which he approached and encouraged written work. His reports were perceptive and encouraging. Thus, in 1926-7 on a postal worker in Swansea “The work done by this student was excellent, He has a keenly critical mind and his essays were well balanced, the best student in the class”. Another, who had produced essays on “The Capital Levy”, “Unemployment” and “Nationality” was “a fierce opponent of vested interests”. He recognised political commitment - “a good student. Hates Capitalism and lets you know it”, and applauded combative views - “Fresh, takes his material from daily newspapers and writes with a pronounced bias towards Russia and Communism”. Ten years later, he commented on one of his classes “The length and quality of such written work varies considerably. Judged by formal literary standards, much of it is crude and elementary but such efforts, judged by other standards, of independent thinking and originality, are often praiseworthy”. P.S. Thomas shared this understanding and enthusiasm about their students. There were twenty-eight local steel and tinplate workers in his 1933-4 Briton Ferry tutorial class. He reported on their “very high quality written work. One member of class is a tutor to a WEA Tutorial Class, two have been to Coleg Harlech and one at Ruskin, if this Tutorial Class were held in London, it is my opinion that most of the students attending this class would be taking their degrees at LSE”. [11]

The Extra-Mural Studies Department

There had been unsuccessful attempts in the 1920s by members of WETUC to get David to abandon his University work on the grounds that this diminished his commitment to WETUC. Such criticism was unfounded. His commitment was remarkable, given the scale of the task he faced. During his last year in the role of tutor-organiser in 1932-3 he taught four tutorial classes in Llanelli, Pontardulais, Cwmavon and Port Talbot on International Relations, formed a WETUC class in Clydach which was recognised as a University Extension Class and “will form the good nucleus of a University Tutorial class”, and delivered single lectures in Llanelli, Cwmavon, Pontardawe, Port Talbot, Clydach, Swansea, Maesteg, Barry, Llantwit Major, Neath and Treorchy. By this time ISTC had withdrawn funding for David’s WETUC post which was sustained from 1931 onwards with grants from the Cassell Trust. 

However in 1933 Illtyd David was formally appointed by the College as full-time Staff Tutor in the Extra-Mural Studies department. The appointment as Staff Tutor in International Relations reflected both David’s intellectual development and changes in demand amongst extra-mural students. He had gained his Doctorate in Law in 1923 and had been called to the Bar in 1924. In the summer of 1925 he made an extensive lecture tour of the USA. His Swansea Prison lecturing experience helped secure some support from the American League for Penal Reform. In a pre-internet age he demonstrated remarkable networking skills. His WETUC critics might have been surprised by the support he also received from two of the biggest American trade unions, the United Hatters of North America and the International Ladies’ Garment Makers Union. What too, would they have made of his visit to Sing Sing Prison in New York, where he declined an invitation by the anti-capital punishment prison reforming Warden, Lewis E. Lawes to sit in the electric chair "Old Sparky", but was impressed by the spaciousness and lightness of the execution chamber "which made it less depressing than many a Nonconformist Chapel"! his attendance at the NAACP Convention in Ku Klux Klan-ruled Denver City, or his month's lecturing at the Brynmawr University Summer Institute for women factory workers?  He made longstanding friendships with Spencer Miller, the Director of the Workers’ Education Bureau of the American Federation of Labor, the Lady Garment-workers union leader Fannia Cohen, and the leaders of Brookwood Labor College (“Labor’s Harvard”) where he lectured to students including mineworkers, machine-workers and garment-workers. 

These experiences were formative. His eyes were opened to international horizons. Over the next fifteen years he travelled to every part of Europe, to the USSR twice, and to Egypt and Palestine.  He was an acute observer of political and social conditions.  He undertook a Doctoral programme in International Relations in the University of Geneva for successive summer terms between 1928 and 1930. There he met Albert Thomas, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, and became enthused about the practical application of international law and regulations to social and economic issues. Some of these contacts bore fruit back in Wales. The WEA Report for 1928-9 records the initiative of the Cwmavon and Pontardawe classes in organising public lectures by Dr. Ludwig Hamburger, of the University of Geneva, on “Present Day Germany”. During the next few years David organised several day schools on “The League of Nations” and “The International Labour Office” in conjunction with branches of the League of Nations Union. Although in 1930-31 one-third of all WEA classes were still on economics or economic and social history, as the decade passed students’ attention turned to international affairs. In 1932-3, all of David’s tutorial classes, in Pontardawe, Cwmavon and Llanelli, and a preparatory class in Clydach, were on “International Relations”.

By the time Harold Laski was visiting speaker at the Annual Social Gathering of June 1935, the College had 690 extra-mural students enrolled, slightly more than its 672 internal students. There were still just two full-time extra-mural tutors, but in delivering 29 tutorial classes and 3 preparatory classes they were assisted by four university professors and ten university lecturers, as well as five secondary school teachers, three university graduates, two Ministers of Religion and one lecturer in architecture. Individual College staff were encouraged to see the value of extra-mural work. But there was a College rule against staff taking more than one extra-mural class per session. Nor did the College itself see the need to invest in the extra-mural department, certainly not against the claims of internal departments. The range of subjects offered by the College and the WEA was changing but there was no increase in activity at this time. Given economic conditions in South Wales this was not surprising. The long-term commitment required by the three-year tutorial class was difficult to maintain, and the proportion of manual workers in tutorial classes also fell. The connection with the unions declined. The WEA focussed more and more on one-year classes and terminal courses. In this climate it was difficult to develop the WEA ideal of interest not only in the subject studied but in the wider adult education of which the class was part.

David reflected on these changes in an article on “Adult Education in South Wales” in June 1939 . He thought adult education in Wales was at a critical point and needed more investment in buildings, equipment and full-time tutors. “A movement relying almost exclusively on the services of part-time tutors cannot be regarded as satisfactory. Standards will improve…as the number of full-time tutors is increased.” He warned of “the corroding influences of casualness and superficiality. The importance of maintaining the highest standards cannot be overstressed, for the movement must be satisfied with nothing less than the production of finely tempered minds disciplined by the pursuit of excellence in thought and action”.  With war looming he concluded “In the social, political and economic struggles of today the most significant weapon is the mind of the citizen.” [12]

The titles of essays by extra-mural students at this time reflected the path to war - “The German claim for the restoration of colonies”, “Relations between Germany and Czechoslovakia”, “Consequences of Economic Nationalism”, “Democracy versus Dictatorship” and “British Re-armament”. Early in 1939 one tutor noted “students are increasingly interested in the geographical background of political and economic problems and are making good use of their atlases”.

Wartime Challenges

When war came it brought disruption of public transport, intensive industrial shift working, the blackout, fuel rationing and soon actual bombing, which all made life more difficult. Classes continued with reduced attendance but without much interruption. Air raids were more of a problem for students and tutors travelling to classes than actual danger during the raid. In Felinfoel the tutor, Professor Heath, recorded that there was no public air raid shelter but the class venue, a room in the Public Hall “is fairly well protected and we do not break off when the alarm is sounded”. In Gowerton most of the students were ARP Wardens so the class dispersed when sirens sounded. Cymmer, Neath and Port Talbot rescheduled weekday classes for the weekend because of changed shift patterns. The lively WEA branch in Pontardawe took advantage of a visitor to announce a public lecture by “General de Gaulle’s Economic Adviser” a Monsieur Fauckt. A very polite letter from Vernon Lewis to the College Registrar, Edwin Drew, requested that his class in Hebrew in Swansea might be re-scheduled so that he might be able to catch the last train back to Brecon, his house in Swansea having been bombed. Yet such stoicism and examples of wry humour should not obscure the reality of war-time extra-mural work. For full-time tutors it was constant travelling, driving in the blackout, or relying on difficult public transport, to get to, and keep faith with, the loyal members of extra-mural classes. It was exhausting, sometimes dangerous, and required enormous commitment and mental and physical stamina. [13]

Classes provided fertile ground for optimistic discussion of the world after the War. As early as December 1940, A.N. Medlicott, later the renowned European historian, reported of his Mumbles class “After Christmas considerable attention will be devoted to schemes for ‘World Order’”. Even in the darkest days of the war extra-mural courses reflected a belief in a better world at its end, a desire to develop new institutions and philosophies to tackle post-war problems. A tutor of a class in Swansea in 1942 commented “They have an added zest in tackling problems of international relations in that like most of the working classes they are very concerned about what is likely to happen in the world and at home after the war is over. The course provides them with an adequate background for the discussion of such problems and there is ample opportunity for expressing differences of opinion”. [14]

The war affected the work of the full-time tutors enormously in one respect. They were expected to take on the education of the armed forces in the region. This is not the place to describe in detail the efforts which were made. The numbers of lectures and courses organised during the war years were astonishing and those for the Swansea region are no exception. The College was responsible in 1941-2 for 310 single lectures, 5 courses and 3 classes in addition to a 3-day residential school for officers. In addition, 95 single lectures were organised but had to be cancelled for operational reasons. This was just the beginning. Between 1941 and 1945 there were 2685 single lectures, 924 courses and 142 classes, together with a hundred visits to local works and several geological excursions in the region.  Additional temporary staff had to be found for the duration of the war.  [15]

This activity raised the issue of how to discuss political questions in wartime. The National Association of Adult Education Tutors defined the purpose of adult education for the forces – “its primary purpose must be the making of more alert and more efficient soldiers and citizens. The traditional method of adult education, the objective presentation of facts and theories combined with free and frank discussion, is admirably suited to this task” [16].  But some military minds found such discussion dangerous and the issue of censorship was raised. Official guidance was issued to tutors on how they should lead discussion without questioning war aims, injuring morale or appearing defeatist. Illtyd David recounted how he felt abashed and somewhat ashamed after he was “hauled over the coals” after one class by the commanding officer at Fairwood RAF base. The CO thought his considered analysis of the motives of the rival “imperialist powers” in the war was unfair to young men who were risking their lives believing they were fighting for freedom against tyranny. 

In 1941 P.S. Thomas died and Illtyd David succeeded him as Senior Staff Tutor. Tom Hughes Griffiths was appointed as Staff Tutor. For the next twenty years David led extra-mural work in the region. He maintained the principles of democratic adult education he had learned from the founders of the WEA. In the middle of the war he saw adult education as the bulwark of a free society against tyranny. His philosophy was expressed in a trenchant memorandum he produced in 1942 for the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee on the future of extra-mural work, lamenting the state of the tutorial class movement in the region [17]

“A Tutorial class is something more than a group of students pursuing a course of study. It is a self-governing body of adult citizens conscious alike of their own cultural needs and their obligations to the community and giving proof in their class studies and in extra class activity of their vitality and their sense of citizenship. That some classes give little evidence of such vitality over a long period of years must be regarded as a serious weakness.”

He urged classes to seek fresh impetus by collaborating with other voluntary bodies such as the trade unions, Co-operative Societies, Workingmen’s Clubs and Institutes, Churches, Guilds, and youth organisations. He criticised the failure of the WEA to establish more branches in west Wales due to this failure to work more generally with the voluntary sector.

As for tutors, they “need to be reminded of the special place they fill in the adult education movement and of the influence they exercise, consciously or unconsciously, upon its development. The tutor is not merely a class teacher, he is the friend and counsellor of his students, and by his values and example are their own standards influenced and their judgements formed. Upon his personal energy and integrity depends in large measure the quality of the movement he serves.”

He criticised the lack of contact with industrial workers, a symptom of which was the decline in the number of courses in Economics. He pointed to the unexplored field of adult education for women and urged contact with women’s organisations such as the Townswomen’s Guild and, in rural areas, the Women’s Institute. It was suggested that subject fields should be widened to include music and the visual arts. The Committee was currently responsible for 26 tutorial classes, but this was a very small number compared with the opportunities presented by the region. He identified three distinct industrial areas within the Swansea region - the coastal arc of steel and tinplate from Port Talbot to Llanelli, the Afan, Neath and Dulais coalmining valleys, and the anthracite districts of the Swansea, Amman and Gwendraeth valleys. He proposed that there should be at least four additional full-time tutors, two of which should be tutor-organisers, working to establish new classes in these target areas, and two tutors in the subjects most in demand. 

David set out this blueprint in 1942 and developed his strategy in successive years thereafter. During the war years there was no hope of implementing these ideas. After the war his persistence finally produced the appointment in the 1946-7 session of T.G. Jones, T.W. Thomas and G.I. Lewis to develop extra-mural work in the Afan, Neath and Swansea Valleys, and Gower. David welcomed these “long overdue” appointments and returned to the fray, arguing the case for specialist subject tutors for those subjects most in demand, English literature, Economics or Geography or Philosophy, Drama and or Music, and Art or Science. In his annual memorandum to the Committee he argued “If the needs of the Swansea area are to be adequately met, we should envisage a development within the next five years of an Extra-Mural Department staffed by at least 10 tutors (five organising tutors and five staff tutors) in additional to the present Senior Staff Tutor who should be relieved of most of his teaching work in the interests of administration and direction”. Over the next ten years he fought a continuous battle for resources. He was not over-popular with some rival heads of department, but he found allies in Edwin Drew and the Principal, John Fulton, who was a longstanding champion of adult education.

David’s ideas in the 1940s included the proposal that the Department should set up research groups to examine social and industrial issues in the area; that there should be an expansion of University Extension Courses working in conjunction with WEA branches, trade unions and women’s groups; and that there should be adult education teachers training courses. “The training of tutors for elementary work among the trade union population should be regarded as an integral part of extra-mural work”. The Extension courses grew as he suggested but the other ideas were ahead of their time, only to be developed many years later in different forms by his successors.  

The Heyday of Extra-Mural Studies

One successful innovation from 1949 onwards was a residential extra-mural summer school in Swansea run in collaboration with Liverpool University. As well as students from South Wales this attracted students from Lancashire, Hull, and London, and from Germany, thereby providing an international dimension. In 1951 John Fulton demonstrated his personal interest in the work of the Department by lecturing at the summer school on the pertinent question “Is adult education doing its job?”  The answer, at least for the next decade, seemed to be “yes”.

For years David argued for the establishment of a centre for extra-mural studies in Swansea to serve the needs of the borough and provide a focus for work in the region. For several years the Department rented small offices in High Street and then St Helens Road. Then in 1953 the opportunity arose to purchase Berwick House in Uplands Terrace. It was bought in 1954 with a UGC grant of £4500. It provided rooms for meetings and lectures, a library, an office for the Senior Staff Tutor, and a department office. This was to be the centre of the College’s extra-mural activity for the next thirty years.

By 1950 when David’s former mentor Tawney was guest speaker at the Annual Social Gathering, the number of extra-mural classes had almost doubled since the War.  The missionary work in the Afan Valley, in the Vale of Neath, the Dulais Valley, Swansea Valley and East Carmarthenshire had born fruit. But the extra-mural constituency was changing. The bulk of classes were in the social studies and in Literature and the Arts. The Department had 884 students enrolled in 55 classes, of which 32 were tutorial classes. 41% of extra-mural students were now teachers and professional workers, with only 28% manual workers. There was an increasing demand for classes in the sciences. The expansion of extra-mural teaching in the 1950s was in Extension courses and short courses not in Tutorial classes. By 1956-7 there were 92 classes, of which 31 were Tutorial, 44 were Extension and the remainder short courses. Students numbers rose to a peak of 1455 in 1955-6, greatly outnumbering internal College students. 

This was the heyday of liberal studies extra-mural activity. There were extra-mural classes across the region, from Sennybridge to Mumbles, from Ammanford to Cwmavon. Berwick House provided a focus for classes in Swansea borough itself. A sample week in Berwick House in 1954-5 presented a remarkable range of lecture classes from some of the leading  College academics of the time. Monday was Professor A.E. Heath on Philosophy. Tuesday gave a choice of Professor Glanmor Williams on the History of Swansea; Eileen Llewellyn Jones on “The Theatre”; Mr, later Professor, Brian Simpson on Geology; Professor J.R. Jones on the Philosophy of Religion; Dr Gwyn Griffiths on Ancient Civilisations; or Illtyd David on English Social History. Wednesday offered Professor Victor Morgan on Economic Planning, Thursday saw Illtyd David providing An Introduction to English Law, and Friday heralded Neville Masterman on Rebels and Reformers of the Nineteenth Century. What a feast of liberal education!

David encouraged all College staff to take on extra-mural courses, “not for extra income” but so that they might experience the different challenge of teaching to an adult audience. He was proud that “during 1955-6 nearly every department of the College was represented in some form of extra-mural class activity – a development significant alike for the College and for the adult population.”  More important, “in this provision of University studies, men and women will find, if they have the will to seize them, opportunities for broadening their outlook and enriching their lives, and experience in extra-mural work may give the university teacher an opportunity to share his knowledge by making it intelligible to ordinary people and showing its relevance to their lives.” [18]  

There was in the Department an intellectual self-confidence and a desire to engage with big questions and themes. Greater interest was being shown in science and technology and university staff such as Professors Frank Llewellyn Jones, Brian Simpson and Ivor Isaac pioneered courses in these fields. Cross-disciplinary approaches were encouraged. Perhaps the apotheosis of this self-confidence was a sessional class in Seven Sisters in 1954-5 on “The Prospects for Western Civilisation” by the five full-time tutors of the Extra-Mural Department, Illtyd David, G.I Lewis, T.G. Jones, T.W. Thomas and C.R. Williams. This was also evidence of David’s longstanding admiration for the historian Arnold Toynbee and his “Study of History”. But this was perhaps the summit of this kind of extra-mural work. In successive years total enrolment declined. In 1959 David noted a slight but “disquieting” drop in the number of Tutorial classes, and the greater need to collaborate with the voluntary sector to establish Extension and Short courses. Whether through greater prosperity, more recreational opportunities, or simply the impact of television, there were signs of change in the social climate by the end of the decade which foretold even greater impact on the adult education movement in coming years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
In March 1949 the University of Wales Extension Board had approved the appointment of Directors of Extra-Mural studies at all the Colleges, having succeeded in obtaining from the University the funds necessary to finance such appointments. Aberystwyth and Bangor having already appointed Directors, it was then proposed that there should be one joint appointment as Director of Extra-mural Studies for Cardiff and Swansea. Inevitably neither College was enthusiastic about this suggestion, and after candidates, including David, had actually applied for the post, no interviews were held and the proposal was quietly dropped. David continued to lead the Extra-Mural Department as Senior Staff Tutor and Secretary of the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee. Early in 1959, David having reached normal retirement age, was invited by Senate to stay on for another year. That summer Council approved Senate’s recommendation that a Directorship of Extra-Mural Studies be established in the College. Illtyd David retired in September 1960, exactly forty years since his first appointment as WETUC tutor-organiser.  

For another twenty years Illtyd David continued to lecture part-time for the Extra-Mural department. Ieuan Williams, newly appointed as Swansea’s first Director of Extra-Mural Studies, in a generous gesture, invited him to be the guest speaker at the 1962 Annual Social Gathering, where he delivered a passionate lecture on the future of the European Community. Ieuan Williams also encouraged him to continue his classes and he lectured in Pontardawe, Llanelli and Swansea into the 1980s. David’s interest focussed increasingly on the importance of developing international organisations to deal with world problems. He became an ardent advocate of the European Community and the development of the international law of Human Rights. He was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in Cardiff, and a regular lecturer for the Council for Education in World Citizenship. His legacy included the Eileen Illtyd David Memorial Fund to establish an annual University public lecture and an essay competition on Human Rights. He was still teaching extra-mural classes in his 87th year. Appropriately his last lecture course was in Berwick House in November 1981, just three months before his death, on "Human Rights Today - The Universal Declaration in its international context”.

Illtyd David’s values were formed within his family and early education in Wales. His academic career took him to Aberystwyth, Cambridge, Dublin and Geneva but he found his vocation in the valleys of south-west Wales. Throughout his career he upheld the democratic principles of the WEA in enabling access to higher education for all, and for more than sixty years he sustained Swansea University’s commitment to adult education in the community. 

On his death one of his former students wrote “He was very good to and for me. I met him first in August 1934 when I was an unemployed miner. I ended my working life as a College lecturer and as an Open University Counsellor, thanks initially, and subsequently, to Illtyd David who opened so many avenues and better horizons for me, as for so many others”. [19]

The “Member for Nantymoel” would have been pleased with that.

Edward David won an Open Scholarship to Swansea University in 1962 and graduated in History in 1965. As an undergraduate he was Union House Secretary, Chairman of the History Society, and represented the University of Wales in athletics. After postgraduate research in early twentieth century British politics at St John’s College Cambridge, he was a lecturer at Bristol University from 1969 to 1975. His subsequent career has included twenty years working for the British Council, mainly in Asia, including management of World Bank and Asian Development Bank education projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and later Director of the British Council in Wales; Quality Assessment for the Welsh Higher Education Funding Council; and devising and managing international strategies for UK Universities. Since January 2020 he has been a Member of Swansea University Council.


[1] Final Report of the Ministry of Reconstruction, 1919, p.5

[2] Cambrian News 5 October 1917.

[3] Demosthenes Demobilised: A Record of Cambridge Union Society Debates February 1919-June 1920, by the four Presidents, W.Heffer and Sons, Cambridge 1920.

[4] He worked for his LL.D with his blind cousin, George Llewellyn, whose family owned the Gwalia Stores in Ogmore Vale, later Vicar of Llandow, and grandfather of David Owen, Lord Owen, former Foreign Secretary and founder of the SDP. Illtyd David and George Llewellyn were awarded their LL.Ds together in 1923.

[5] Albert Mansbridge “Co-operation, Trade Unionism and University Extension”, University Extension Journal, 8 (January-April 1903), p. 118

[6] G H Tawney quoting WEA Statement of Policy in “The Adult Student as Citizen – The Record of Service by WEA Students”, 1938

[7] Report by College Senate to Council, 13 January 1922, Richard Burton Archives

[8] Illtyd David interview, 16 May 1972, cited in Richard Lewis, Leaders and Teachers: Adult Education and the Challenge of Labour in South Wales 1906-40, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1993 pp.171-3

[9] South Wales Evening Post 4 February 1925

[10] Llew Williams, Oral History interview, 21 May 1974, South Wales Miners’ Library’

[11] All comments taken from reports on individual classes, University College Annual Reports, Richard Burton Archives.

[12] Illtyd David, Adult Education in South Wales, Journal of Adult Education, (USA) June 1939.

[13] Reports to Joint Tutorial Classes Committee; correspondence of Edwin Drew, Richard Burton Archives.

[14] Tutors. reports, Richard Burton Archives, 11/X/119.

[15] University Extension Board Annual Reports 1941-1945

[16] Association of Tutors in Adult Education, Statement of Policy, September 1941.

[17] Memorandum by Dr.I.David on Tutorial Classes organised under the Joint Tutorial Classes Committee of the University College of Swansea, 1942. This document and all subsequent such memoranda referred to are in Illtyd David’s Papers which will in due course be deposited in the South Wales Miners Library.

[18] University Extension Board 35th Annual Report 1955/6.

[19] Letter from George Greening to the author, 18 February 1982