Obituary – Christine ‘Tina’ Davin­Smith

born Llywnypia, Wales 1949, died Arroyo de la Miel, Malaga, Spain 2015

It is with great sadness that we inform everyone about the untimely death of Tina Davin­Smith, a well known, and much loved face around the Manilva­Casares costa. Diagnosed with cancer in January this year, Tina had to give up her job at The Bookshop, Sabinillas, where she had loved working for the last 10 years. Tina lived and breathed books, and like most of us, came with her own fascinating story.


Born Christine Mathias in Llwynypia, Wales in 1949, she grew up one of five brothers and sisters. Her mother, who still lives in Wales, frequently rented rooms to the many visiting actors, orators and political activists who visited the valleys and coal fields during the time. She told once of a time, where as a very young girl, she sat on Paul Robeson’s knee at the family table, eating bread and jam, and being mesmerised by this ‘enchanting, deep voiced, fiery black man’.

It no doubt set Tina out on her discovery of all things to do with theatre, drama, literature and the arts.

The family eventually moved to Cardiff, where her parents ran several pubs ­ something that she would emulate with her husband, John, later on in Spain. It was in Cardiff that her rebellious nature developed, and although she did well at school, and was training to be a teacher at Cyncoed Teacher Training College (fellow students included Gareth Edwards, JJ Williams and Lynn Davies) a brighter life beckoned and as soon as she was able to she ran away to Tenby in West Wales, to join the growing number of ‘hippies’ and young people who were escaping the ‘rat race’ so defined by Derek Tangye’s ‘Minack’. It was the summer of love, and she did exactly that and fell in love.

She married John in 1968, and they had just one son, Justin, a year later. Tenby was a beautiful place to bring up a family, and the next few years were very happy. However, the pull of her family in Cardiff was strong, and increasing tension between her and John, saw her return to Cardiff. With a new sense of freedom she took a job in the Welsh Office, where she met her good friend, the poet Sheenagh Pugh. Encouraged to write herself she joined writing and drama groups, and became involved in left­wing and feminist politics. She also discovered her talent for cartoons, and created very funny (and very rude) cartoons for the local paper.

Eventually, she and John got back together when he took a job as a catering manager in Cardiff. Lessons learned they decided to give it another go and stayed together until John’s death in 2004. With a newfound sense of purpose and empowerment she enrolled at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and once again set out on becoming a teacher, but this time of Drama. It was not to be. Her first teaching practice placement was a disaster “Get that chair of your head!” “But, I’m a Dalek, miss!” “Get that [deleted expletive] chair off your [deleted expletive] head!” They didn’t invite her back. She instead joined Chapter Arts, and was an active member of the theatre company, Moving Being, as well as being prominent within the local arts scene in Cardiff.

She and John had rekindled their love for each other and had a good life in Cardiff for a great many years. Justin eventually left home and started art school, and they decided to ‘give it a go’ in another part of the world. In 1988 John found a job in Gibraltar, and Tina soon followed him to set up a life in Spain. They are probably best known for opening and running ‘The Penguin’ in Puerto Duquesa. If you remember those times, then you were never really there. The curried meatballs were famous for miles around.

John passed away suddenly after a very short illness in 2004. Tina was bereft. She never fully recovered her loss of her life partner and soulmate. She could have retreated and given up, but she forged herself a new life, and surrounded herself with the things she truly loved, books. She worked with Alma in the bookshop in Sabinillas, until it was bought by Stephen Davies in 2011.

He immediately realised what an asset Tina was for the shop, and kept her on as ‘chief librarian’. She was very happy in this role, and at home she immersed herself in books. She once said that she had three loves in her life ­ books, her son and her daughter­in­law, Sonia ­ not necessarily in that order. She also learned Spanish, was a translator, and volunteered at the Costa del Sol hospital.

It was a terrible shock in January this year to discover that she had lung cancer. She immediately blamed ‘all those smokey, dark jazz clubs in the 70s’. She passed away on 14th August, 2015 in the Cudeca hospice in Arroyo de la Miel, Benalmadena.

The family would like to thank all her friends, colleagues and the community at large for giving her such support and friendship throughout the years.

Her funeral took place in Manilva Crematorium at midday on the 19th August, 2015.

3 thoughts on “Obituary – Christine ‘Tina’ Davin­Smith”

  1. It was a pleasure and a privilege to read this story of Tina’s life. A life well lived! Rest In peace, Tina.

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