Professor Dai Morgan Evans passed away this week: the very best of academic friends to me. Dai will be sadly missed by current and former staff and students of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester and many more in the world of British archaeology.
Born in 1944, Dai had ties with Chester and its archaeology since childhood: he was a Chester King’s School pupil and dug with the Grosvenor Museum. His career began studying archaeology at Cardiff and he served as assistant director of the famous South Cadbury excavations under Leslie Alcock. As an Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, he was instrumental in bringing into existence the Welsh Archaeological Trusts. His case work took him across Wales and England during a career based first in Cardiff and then in London. Leaving English Heritage in 1992, he became General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London, steering it towards the institution it is now today. Leaving SAL, he became a member of the National Trust Archaeology Panel, the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Advisory Group, and chairman of the Buster Ancient Farm Trust. His extensive and indefatigable research career included published works addressing heritage management and conservation, the Roman and early medieval archaeology of western Britain, industrial archaeology and 18th-century antiquarianism.
In his long-standing capacity as Visiting Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester, Dai enriched the student experience through his teaching. I particularly recall his contributions to the final-year student module HI6001 Archaeology and Contemporary Society, where he was both popular with students and entertaining and visionary in his distinctive perspectives on the future of archaeological research and public archaeology.
Dai deployed his Chester affiliation on his many scholarly publications, and enhanced Chester’s profile through his public talks and television appearances.
Most notably for Chester’s public profile, Dai designed the ‘villa urbana’ erected at Wroxeter Roman city for the Channel 4 series Roman Wasn’t Built in a Day and appeared throughout this entertaining series. Subsequently, through the villa’s opening to the public February 2011m the structure has remained a key element of this English Heritage site’s heritage interpretation.
Dai also initiated Project Eliseg with me, Professor Nancy Edwards and Dr Gary Robinson. He was fully participatory in the first (2010) field season of Project Eliseg.
A proud London Welshman, I will remember him for his humour, goodwill, many insights, his inspiration for my research. I recall his theories and good-natured dialogues with students, including his vision the future of archaeology based on nanorobots! I recollect Dai’s enthusiasm for understanding the long-term biography of the Pillar of Eliseg from prehistory to recent times, and for the origins of Powys in particular. I also remember our many conspiratorial soup-and-sandwich meetings in a cafe near Chester’s Northgate.
Rest in peace Dai.