William Elwyn Conway O.B.E.

If there is ever a name synonymous with Rhyl it is that of Elwyn Conway.  He dedicated his life to public service  for our community.  We are proud and delighted to publish this article about Elwyn’s life, written by his brother The Rev. Canon Glyn Conway.

“My late brother Elwyn, often known affectionately within the family as ‘Ebb’, was born inRhyl in 1925 living in The Geufron with his parents Aneurin and Elizabeth Conway, five siblings, Crid, Doris, Tim, Eddie and me, Glyn.

He was educated in Emmanuel School where he was a member of the school football team and was also a chorister in St. Thomas’s church choir.  During the Second World War aged 17, he enlisted in the Royal Marines. He took part in the Normandy Landings the following year, on the 6th June 1944 where, he said, it was a case of killing or being killed.  I found it very shocking for such a gentle man to have to do that under orders.  After landing on Gold Beach, he was part of the advance into Germany to liberate Belsen concentration camp.  The trauma of D-Day, including seeing bodies piled ten feet high on the beach, left Elwyn shell shocked and he spent six weeks recovering in a hospital in Broadstairs, Kent. Like many other ex-servicemen, he was reluctant to talk about these horrendous experiences.  It was only when discussing the war film ‘Saving Private Ryan’ many years later that he felt able to share with me some of these dramatic times.  It helped me to put into context his post war determination to help make the world a better place by
committing to a lifetime of public service.

After the war he was employed at Courtaulds in Greenfield and then a driver at Crosville Motor Services.  He was a popular member of the Rhyl and District Labour Club being captain of the snooker team there.  He was later appointed to the post of full time Secretary of the Club.  Elwyn was elected in 1958 as councillor for the South Central Ward for the Rhyl Urban District Council later becoming Chairman in 1965.  At the installation ceremony, the retiring Chairman commented that Elwyn would be the first bachelor Chairman in Rhyl’s history.  Five years later his bachelor days ended when he married his beloved Betty Carroll.  He was elected to Flintshire County Council in 1961, (later Clwyd County Council) where he also served as Chairman in 1986.  He was elected as the first Mayor of the newly created Rhuddlan Borough Council in 1974.  I was proud to be asked by Elwyn to act as chaplain to him in his civic duties.

Many of my earlier memories consisted of the family helping out on election days and of people continually knocking on the door asking for help from Elwyn which of course he was always ready to give.  As his local government career expanded, he later served as Chairman both of the North Wales Police Authority in 1992 and also of the local bench of magistrates.  In all he gave 29 years service as a local Justice of the Peace.  He served on the old Denbighshire and Flintshire Health Executive Council and the Clwyd and Deeside Hospital Management Committee.  Further afield he also served in Brussels as a local government representative on the European Commission.

William Elwyn Conway OBE

In all this he was ably supported by Betty until her untimely death in 1984 through cancer at the early age of 53.  His family life meant a great deal to Elwyn and he had great joy when their daughters Liz and Faye were born.  After Betty’s death he devotedly continued to care for them as a one parent family, balancing that with a very demanding public life which won him the admiration of all. The other local interests which he pursued were the Rhyl PSA (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) at the Vale Road Brigade Hall where he chaired the weekly meetings and he was also President of the Rhyl Operatic Society.  He was an active member of St.Ann’s Church.  He retired from local government in 1996 after 38 years making him one of the longest serving councillors in North Wales and was presented with a commemorative framed script signed by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

For his devoted service to Rhyl and the wider community he was awarded the Order of the British Empire from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1996 at which ceremony he was proudly supported by his two daughters.  He was also awarded the Queens Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977.

Towards the end of his life he took great interest in keeping up with his family and delighted in the arrival of his two grandchildren.  He regularly travelled to Normandy to attend the official remembrance ceremonies.  Until moving from his home in Vale Road to Emlyn Grove in 2003, he maintained his hobby of gardening and he was also a keen swimmer.  He died quite suddenly in 2005 not long after his 80th birthday.  My last memory of Elwyn is waving him off outside the hospital in St. Asaph after we had both been to visit our sister Doris to whom he was especially close.  They had much in common having both seen wartime military service and towards the end of their lives met regularly at Doris’s home for lunch.  His funeral service in St. Thomas’s church was attended by over a thousand people such was the affection and respect in which he was held by the community.  It was a great privilege for me to be able speak at that service and to express my pride at being so closely associated with an exceptional man who loved Rhyl.  My family has had close links with golfing over the years, our father was a one time Secretary of the Rhyl Golf Club. It is appropriate that there is a sports cup in Elwyn’s memory at the club.  Elwyn Conway served his home town, county and nation in a magnificent way throughout his life.  As the cortege travelled to his funeral, at the Vale Road Bridge we saw a glorious rainbow over St. Thomas’s!  That sight brought us much comfort and joy!”

The Rev. Canon Glyn Conway.
May, 2013

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “William Elwyn Conway O.B.E.

  1. Andrew

    It was kind of Glyn to give us all the opportunity to reflect, with huge affection, upon the life and work of his brother, Elwyn Conway. Everyone knew him, everyone liked him. My friendship with him was via school governors and the local bench. I remember him as a man of huge integrity. His honesty and leadership were characteristics that inspired all who knew him. His immense contribution to the public life of Rhyl is his legacy to us all-we should all feel very proud.

    • Robert

      Here Here. Well said Andrew, I am sure that there very many people from very many walks of life from a very wide area, who would wish to unanimously concur. The World would be a far far better place if the ‘mould’ hadn’t broken after him.

  2. Annette Roberts

    Elwyn Conway was my father’s first cousin but I didn’t get to know him until I was a cadet nurse in the Alex in the seventies,as a member of the Clwyd and Deeside hospital management committee he used to visit the wards and always had a kind and friendly word for everyone he met. He was a lovely man who yes loved Rhyl and did a lot for the people there.
    I used to cut pictures of him out of the local paper to take home to Holywell and say to my Dad “this is what cousin Elwyn has been up to this week” he never stopped. Rhyl is a sadder place without him.

  3. Gaynor Griffiths

    Nice to read the comments.Does no one remember my father John T Conway? He did so much for the Brass band world and Rhyl council.Reading all the articles about old Rhyl history I haven’t seen anything about him.It makes me sad! Gaynor Griffiths(nee Conway) Wrexham

    • Robert

      Hi Gaynor,
      Yes I remember your father John, he was very proud of the Rhyl Silver Band and did yeoman service for Rhyl.

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