Peggy Davis, wife of the late Maxi Davis, of Abercych

PEGGY passed away on December 8th, 2018 aged 98. She was cremated in Shrewsbury on January 10th 2019.

Peggy was born in Ilkley in 1920 and volunteered for the WAAF when she was 22. After photographic training in Blackpool she was stationed at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

By coincidence her future husband Maxi Davis was also posted there. He had joined the RAF as a boy entrant and became a skilled photographer and subsequently a member of the RAF’s Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.

Their courtship, and marriage in December1943 was interrupted however because Maxi was sent to North Russia where his job was to print the surveillance pictures taken by the RAF Spitfires of the German battleships hiding in the Norwegian fjords.

Little did they know that the photographic skills they had both acquired would prove so valuable in their retirement years later.

After the war Maxi left the RAF and worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough as a principal photographer. In 1953 he was appointed chief photographer at the RAE Aberporth and Peggy and their two daughters Jane and Geraldine, then aged five and seven, lived at ‘Clifton’ in Tresaith for their first year. Then the family moved to Parcllyn near the RAE where they built a bungalow called ‘Saffron’.

It was from there that Maxi worked his way up the promotion ladder, becoming the principal photographer of the missile testing range, and then a senior experimental officer.

In 1961 the family moved to the village of Abercych, about six miles from Cardigan, a pretty town on the River Teifi. Peggy kept the local store and Post Office for a while until 1966 when they bought and renovated an old double cowshed-cum-milking parlour and attached cottages next door to Penlancych on a hill overlooking the Teifi Valley; they called their new home ‘Derwenlas’.

Peggy turned her hand to all kinds of jobs during the conversion of their new home…and still found time to keep a few geese and ducks! Maxi retired from the RAE in 1980 but not to a life of leisure.

He found time to be a local councillor and brew his own beer, but his crowning achievement happened by accident. On visiting a local pub in Cilgerran he was told about a pile of glass plate negatives in a shed at house called Aberdyfan that had been recently bought.

There they lay undisturbed but Maxi discovered they were pictures taken by a well-known local photographer, Tom Mathias, who had died in 1940.

The pictures turned out to be a vivid illustration of life in West Wales at the turn of the twentieth century. Converting a room in their house into a dark room, Maxi began the time-consuming task of turning these fragile negatives into photographs.

Once enough pictures had been produced, Peggy had them printed in the local newspaper, the Tivyside Advertiser, and also took them to festivals, carnivals and meetings in nearby towns and villages, managing to collect a growing number of names of the people in the photographs.

Such was the interest created that the National Museum of Wales at St Fagans in Cardiff published a book of the pictures in 1995 with captions in English and Welsh.

The then Director of Collections and Research, John Williams-Davies, himself a writer on Welsh life, was full of praise for the work that Peggy had contributed: “I am deeply indebted,” he wrote, “for her help and encouragement not only with the publication of the book but also with the staging of an earlier exhibition of the photographs at the Welsh Folk Museum in St. Fagans.”

That she did so well would have been no surprise to those who knew her, particularly the Group Captain at RAF Benson when she left the WAAF in the mid-1940s: “This airwoman has proved herself an excellent worker who could fit into any photographic organization.”

After a short illness, Maxi died in 1990 before the book was published. John Williams-Davies’ words about Maxi serve as a fitting epitaph. Maxi, he wrote, “…was familiar with the most sophisticated technology…[and] instantly recognized the underlying qualities of Mathias’s work, and using all the skills he had accumulated over a long and distinguished career [Maxi] set about the task of conserving and restoring the photographs.

"It is thanks to his efforts that Tom Mathias’s photographs have been saved for posterity.”

Peggy said that these were always going to be the best and most memorable10 years of her life.

After Maxi’s death Peggy spent a few years living in Aberporth before she moved to Shrewsbury in 1997 to be closer to Geraldine and her husband Graham. Jane and her husband Peter lived in Canada.

Peggy soon enrolled in the local college to study craftwork (she was already a very accomplished seamstress) and by doing so made many new friends. She used to say this gave her a whole new life which she relished. She will be sadly missed.