by Mary James MBe Bsc FRags, former assistant secretary and Director of Policy, FUW
IT was with great sadness that last month family, friends and former colleagues both staff and members from across Wales said a very fond farewell to evan Lewis MBe Ba, (pictured right), the last General Secretary of the FUW.
Despite his advanced years (95 years) and though by now physically frail, his mind was to the end as sharp as ever and he still, in his capacity as a life member, continued to submit his views to Grand Council for consideration.
evan Lewis was born into a farming family in Tywyn, Merioneth, and this is where he spent his formative years. he subsequently joined the war effort and as a young and gallant pilot flew spitfires and hurricanes during WW11. at the end of the war this courageous young man from rural Wales was to join the Colonial Service and was destined to become District Commissioner following placements in africa and before returning a decade later to Wales as the FUW’s assistant General Secretary. a position he held for five years.
after a brief spell working for Cardiganshire County Council he returned to the FUW in 1968 as General Secretary, a position he retained until his retirement in 1989, some 21 years later.
I had the privilege of working for evan Lewis for the last 12 years of his service to the FUW and I owe much to him. he was generous with his advice and guidance, kind and compassionate and always quick to defend all his staff. he was deeply principled, tenacious in reasoned argument and meticulous in his attention to detail which made him a natural administrator. But to view him in this light only would be to grossly underestimate the measure of the man.
Though reserved and a person who shunned the limelight, in his capacity as Secretary to the Union’s Finance and Organisation Committee he was an “accountant”. he guided the FUW’s Governing Body, Grand Council, through “legal” minefields and as secretary to the Union’s Parliamentary and Land Use Committee he was a policy guru. his ability to commit words to paper with clarity, passion and vision was exemplary and these attributes were all the more honed because he preferred not to be the public face of the Union. No one, however, should underestimate the role he played in gaining the FUW official Government recognition.
he, with former President, Myrddin evans, was to steer the FUW through critical years of development culminating in 1978 in Official Government recognition and the attendant responsibilities thereof. everyone with whom he engaged – staff, members and external bodies – knew that it was his drive, commitment and determination that finally won the FUW the recognition it deserved. Fittingly, he was awarded the MBe upon retirement in recognition of his outstanding services to farming in Wales which was richly deserved.
evan Lewis was a gentle man in the true sense of the words and it was both an honour and a privilege to work with him. The memories we hold of him are dear.
Whilst we all knew that the FUW was, throughout his life close to his heart, none of us who knew him could fail to appreciate that it was his family – his beloved wife of 71 years eirwen, and his girls Branwen and Carys of whom he was so immensely proud and their families that were the dearest loves of his life.
Mr Lewis, evan, was not just “the boss” but a real friend for 42 years and all who knew him, as I, will miss him profoundly.