Wallace James Grant-Davidson, F.R.S.A

W. J. Grant-Davidson, always known as `Grant’, was born in 1911 in Montrose and went to school there. As a young man he moved to Dundee to take up an apprenticeship with a firm of organ builders which led to a successful career as a restorer and designer of organs, though it was his ceramic research which earned him his Fellowship of the Antiquaries. During the war Grant-Davidson served in the Middle East with the RASC and, a pleasing singer and pianist as well as an organist, he was later recruited into ENSA, the forces entertainment organization. While stationed in Aden, he rebuilt the organ of the Anglican church there. In 1949 Grant-Davidson’s work as an organ builder took him to Swansea, where he soon felt at home and became known locally for his organ and piano recitals. His interest in ceramics, however, was as great as in music, and Swansea’s great attraction for him was as the centre of the Cambrian and Glamorgan potteries in the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His boyhood enthusiasm for Worcester and Staffordshire pottery developed into a serious study of ceramics and he began a campaign to `put Swansea pottery on the map’ as he put it. The quality of Swansea porcelain had, of course, long been recognized by collectors and curators, though it was produced for only a few years between 1814-7, but Swansea pottery, with a production span of a century or more, 1778-1920, was virtually unknown and certainly unappreciated. For fifty years Grant-Davidson devoted his leisure to the study of Swansea pottery while also becoming an acknowledged expert on Llanelli and Nantgarw porcelain. He identified and catalogued three important collections of Swansea pottery: at the Royal Institution of South Wales (now Swansea Museum), the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea and the National Museum of Wales. In 1968 he was responsible for the Swansea Pottery Bicentenary Exhibition at the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery and, though some of his attributions have been dismissed, he brought Welsh pottery out from the shadow of the more celebrated Swansea and Nantgarw porcelain. A discriminating collector, he donated forty pieces to the National Museum in 1993, chosen in collaboration with Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art. Among the ten English pieces in the gift was his greatest treasure, a creamware teapot of the early 1740s decorated in manganese and underglaze blue. As his reputation grew Grant-Davidson was much in demand as a lecturer on both sides of the Atlantic but his major work on the pottery of South Wales, completed in 1979, was never published, although discussions are now afoot to remedy this. He was president of the Royal Institution of South Wales from 1977-9 and curator of its ceramics collection until his death. In September 1999 the Swansea Museum mounted a special exhibition to commemorate his pioneer work in identifying sherds of Swansea pottery from archaeological digs. He and his wife, who shared his enthusiasm for pottery, and also astronomy and wine, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 1997. He died on 19 January 1999.