IN June 1972 Carmarthenshire County Council opened Tegfan Nursing Home in Tirydail, a state-of-the-art facility for its day.

It was built on what those of us from Tirydail knew as ‘Jones Tomatoes’, as it had previously been the site of a nursery and market garden business owned by one John Jones.

The man it was named after – the Rev David Tegfan Davies, long-serving minister of Ammanford’s Christian Temple – was Ammanford’s best-known chapel minister for 50 years.

He became a legend in the area – a minister who was a genuine part of his flock.

Tegfan was born in 1887 on a farm in Penniel, one of seven children. By the time he was 12 he had read the entire Bible. His first job after school was shepherding sheep at a local farm. He was spotted by the deacons of the local chapel and started preaching in 1903 at the age of 16.

After Divinity College in Carmarthen and Bangor he was ordained as a minister in Pontypridd in 1908. It was in this mining community that he saw and deeply sympathised with the hardship of the local miners.

Glyneath was his next congregation in 1911 and then Christian Temple in Ammanford in 1916 until 1965.

The official history of Christian Temple describes him thus: “He was always on the side of the poor, the unemployed, the needy, the destitute, the drunk and the vagrant.”

One millionaire, he once said, means one million poor. He doffed his hat to the tramp and the gypsy. He was quite prepared to head processions of miners to protest against pit closures.

His interests included astronomy, the Romanies and the legends associated with Carmarthenshire, writing many books on the subjects.

Tegfan died, aged 85, in August 1968 and his life story reads as if it was written for Boy’s Own magazine, full of derring-do and astounding bravery.

In 1965, with 12 dramatic life-saving rescues to his credit, Dr Davies was awarded the OBE. His obituary listed these exploits: ● His first rescue was at the age of twelve when he saved a six-month baby from a raging fire in a farmhouse.

He reached the doorstep of the house a split-second before the roof collapsed.

His own life hung in the balance for days as a result of severe burns.

●During his youth Mr Davies was highly honoured for going to the aid of a young police constable who was brutally attacked by a drunken mob at a Carmarthenshire fair.

Tegfan sustained a fractured arm and severe head injuries.

●Just before entering the ministry he was severely gored while attempting to rescue schoolchildren being attacked by a ferocious bull.

●As a student at Bangor College, North Wales, he jumped fully clothed, from the Menai Straits, and rescued a boy of 12 caught in the strong current. Both were severely injured.

●At the age of 26, when a young minister he jumped fully clothed overboard the British trader SS Lutese near Ronen, France, to save a young girl from drowning.

●In February 1914 he rescued a three-year-old girl being swept by a strong gale into the River Neath, near Pont Walby.

●Years later, on New Year’s Eve, a man, an alcoholic, fell into the flooded River Amman, Although it was a dark night and there was a raging blizzard, Mr Davies dived in and struggled desperately with him for a quarter of a mile. He successfully applied artificial respiration to the man after dragging him to the river bank.

● Perhaps the most notable of all his heroic exploits came when a young pregnant gypsy woman was caught suddenly in distress on lonely Tyrcan Hill, Llandyfan. Mr Davies acted as doctor and midwife and a male child was born in an hour. To carry out the operation he had to tear off his own clothes for towels and bandages.

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

It was soon after Tegfan returned from a threemonth tour of the USA in 1924 that he became deeply involved in the local efforts to relieve distress during the worst economic depression Ammanford has ever known helping to set up food kitchens and often working throughout the night.

Tegfan was one of a deputation which left the town to appeal, with immense success, for the generous support and assistance of the people of Wallasey on Merseyside, an act of faith later commemorated by the naming of a new street in Ammanford as Heol Wallasey.

With regular threats of closure to Tegfan Nursing Home let us hope that it continues to serve the community of Ammanford.

Let’s hope, too, that our county councillors take inspiration from Tegfan Davies’s many selfless acts and realise that they were elected to serve their community, not their own interests.