David Dalby (1933 – 2022)

Terry David Pereira Dalby was born on 7 January 1933 and spent the first six and a half years of his life at 28 Thurlestone Road. He was annoyed that he was not woken up on the night of 30 November 1936 and therefore missed the grandstand view of the burning of the Crystal Palace enjoyed by other local residents. On one occasion, David escaped the family home whilst still under school age.  He was not apprehended until he had reached Streatham Common. In May 1938, ‘Norwood News’ contained a report that the Dumb Friends League had organised a national competition for children to design posters illustrating modern cruelty to animals and how to overcome it.  Although he was the youngest entrant, David – a pupil of the Peter Pan School in Glennie Road – won a prize of two guineas plus a box of artists’ paints and was selected to hand a bouquet to the Marchioness of Carisbrooke when she opened an exhibition of the posters submitted.

As war approached in the summer of 1939, an ‘Anderson shelter’ was constructed in the back garden of No. 28. The man who came to do the work was black – the first black person whom David had ever seen. Later that year, David was evacuated from London. But not for long. His father was called up from the reserves and, being 49 years old, was sent not to the front line but to Cardiff where he worked for the Ministry of Food. David and his mother moved there too.

From 1943-51 he attended Cardiff High School for Boys. After studying German and French at Queen Mary College in the University of London, he spent two years’ military service in Austria and Germany and three years working for the United Africa Company in London, Ghana and Nigeria, where he lived at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State.

David moved on from commerce to complete his PhD in medieval German. He began his academic career in 1961 at Fourah Bay College, the future University of Sierra Leone. For twenty years until January 1983, he was a member of the Department of Africa at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London and retained the title of Emeritus Reader in West African Languages. While teaching and researching at SOAS, he chaired the Centre of African Studies from 1971 to 1974, and directed the International African Institute in London and Paris from 1974 to 1980.

In 1995, David returned from Normandy to rural Wales, where he continued reading, writing and exchanging insights and opinions with a global range of family and friends, almost to his final day.

Linguasphere Register of the world’s languages & speech communities’ particularly stands out amongst his numerous books and articles in learned publications. It was the first classified listing of over 20,000 varieties of human speech and writing.

David died at Carmarthen on 24 August 2022 and was survived by his four children and five grandchildren.