Howell Elfed Lewis
Coffa Elfed / Elfed Museum
Elfed learned the alphabet by studying the capital letters in the Bible. He received his early education at the Sunday School and a ‘British’ school set up at Blaen-y-coed chapel vestry, before he moved on to a school at Newcastle Emlyn. It is said that he was such a competent pupil that he would often help his fellow pupils with their lessons. His work was always thorough and proficient. The same traits were to be seen during Elfed’s four years at the Presbyterian College, Carmarthen.
He studied the classics as well as Welsh and English literature and learnt the intricate form of ‘cynghanedd’ – alliterative – poetry. His Sundays without a preaching engagement would have been few during those student days. Elfed could easily have gone on to Glasgow University to study for a degree emulating many of his college contemporaries at Carmarthen.
But as his parents had already sacrificed greatly he believed his duty was to find a pastorate as soon as possible. When only 20 years of age he accepted a call to minister at an English Congregational chapel at Buckley, Flintshire. When quizzed later in his life why he had accepted a call from an English medium chapel Elfed’s answer was that it was the only call he had received.
During his lifetime he was honoured with degrees in recognition of his numerous publications on theological and literary topics. Elfed was the first to receive three honorary degrees from the University of Wales – M.A, D.D. and Ll D.
He published books on such literary figures as Ceiriog, Ann Griffiths and Morgan Rhys as well as a volume on the history of Welsh sermons and hymnology. Elfed was much in demand as a popular lecturer. He spent three months in America in 1910 and stayed with the family of D. L. Moody, the well-known Evangelist. He also visited Madagascar ten years later on the occasion of the centenary of the first missionaries to arrive on the island who hailed from Neuaddlwyd in Cardiganshire.
Elfed was regarded as a knowledgeable rather than a penetrative scholar.