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Arthur's father, the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies

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Arthur's father, the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies, a brilliant scholar and theologian, President of the Union at Cambridge University, Honorary Chaplain to the Queen, a Radical of the Broad Church party, and a lifelong supporter of workers' rights, trade-unionism, and women's suffrage.

His reputation was such that he was widely expected to be offered a bishopric, and might well have reached the highest pinnacle of the ecclesiastical hierarchy had he not chosen to deliver in Queen Victoria's presence a blistering attack on Imperialism from the pulpit at Windsor. The Queen was outraged, and her Prime Minister, Gladstone, took some relish in seeing the Reverend John transferred to the remoter regions of Westmorland. Nevertheless, as Rector of Kirkby Lonsdale he continued to air his radical views, both from the pulpit and in print.

In his spare time he mountaineered the local heights (in 1858 he had been the first man to scale the Dom, the highest mountain in Switzerland), frequently broke the ice on his daily swim, made an authoritative translation of Plato's Republic, and fathered six boys and a girl.

His sister, Emily, in addition to founding Girton College, Cambridge, had been one of the original petitioners for women's suffrage, and in 1883 his daughter Margaret, Arthur's elder sister, became a founder member of the Women's Co-operative Guild, editing their magazine and organizing campaigns from an office in the vicarage.

There was soon so much activity there that the gardener's wheelbarrow had to be enlisted to carry all the reports, petitions and circulars to the post; indeed, had it not been for the tempering influence of Arthur's mother, Mary, the country vicarage might well have been mistaken by their staid Victorian neighbours for a den of subversive revolutionaries.

Mary Crompton had married Llewelyn (as he liked to be called) in 1859, and, while not exactly an atheist, she is said to have not attended a single sermon delivered by her husband in their thirty-six years of married life. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, they remained devoted to one another. What the Reverend John provided for his family in intellectual stimulation, Mary balanced with a presiding sense of grace and humour. Her seven children adored her, and on the last day of their holidays would follow her from room to room as she did their packing, unable to bear being out of her sight for an instant.


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