David writes...

I was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland in 1941, and spent my early years in Holyhead, North Wales, before moving to Liverpool, where I was a pupil at St Mary's College, Crosby, run by the Christian Brothers. I went to London to study English at University College, and after graduation joined the department there as a research assistant on the Survey of English Usage.

There followed an academic career in linguistics, first at Bangor, then at Reading, where I became professor of linguisic science. It's this varied background that explains the 'mongrel' accent you hear in the recordings - a mix of northern, Welsh, and southern.

I left full-time university work in 1984 and returned to Holyhead, where I've since worked from home as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster, continuing my association with the academic world as an honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor. That decade was the one where I began to do more broadcasting, mainly for BBC Radio 4 in the long-running series English Now. Since then, the best part of half a year has been taken up by public-speaking events in literary festivals, bookshops, and schools, and the occasional training course for people who make public announcements. I brought those experiences together for a book, The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works (2016). A full academic biography and list of publications can be found on my website www.davidcrystal.com.

I am married, with five children (one deceased), three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and (at the last count) sixteen grand-dogs. I wrote an autobiographical memoire, Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language (2009), but - as its sub-title indicates - this had an academic focus, and didn't include much on the background that explains my involvement with Lectionary Readings - hence the following few paragraphs.

RC connections

During my Liverpool years I was a member of the local Legion of Mary, and a regular visitor to the Montfort Missonaries' house in Blundellsands, helping to send out their Queen and Mother magazine, for which I wrote my first publications - two short stories. Having experienced Catholic Chaplaincy life during my academic time in Bangor, I led the team that set up a similar Chaplaincy at Reading. My interest in religious language began with my first book, Linguistics, Language and Religion, published by Burns & Oates in 1964 for its Faith and Fact series; and this was followed by several articles on this topic (it would later be called theolinguistics) for New Blackfriars, The Tablet, and other magazines. Many are downloadable here. In the mid-1960s I carried out a language preference survey on behalf of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy. More recently, I commemorated the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011 by a book on its language: Begat.

I wrote quite a lot of devotional poetry in the 1980s, most of which was published in Pilgrimage (1988) and Happenings (2000). Other creative writing included Convent (with photographer J C Davies, 1989), a book on the founding of the Ucheldre community arts centre in Holyhead, built around the former chapel of the Bon Sauveur convent school. During the 1990s, I began editing the poetry of the missionary John Bradburne, carer of lepers in Zimbabwe, whose cause for beatification is currently being progressed in Rome. Although little known, Bradburne was the most prolific poet in the English language, with over 5000 poems to his name. The project took over a decade to complete, and is now available here. Selections have been published in anthologies, with the collaboration of my wife, Hilary, and I contributed readings to a CD of his poems. In 2018 I wrote a general account of his work: A Life Made of Words: the Poetry and Thought of John Bradburne . As a result of the fresh interest in Bradburne, I've been involved in several expository events focussed on his life and poetry.

While carrying out lecture tours abroad for the British Council, I often worked with authors presenting readings from literature, and during the 1980s this led to a series of evenings of readings that have continued to the present day, often with Hilary and actor son Ben. My reading of the St John Gospel, with musical interludes, was recorded as a CD for the Ucheldre Centre, now available here, and a reading of William Tyndale's St Matthew Gospel in original pronunciation was made as a CD for the British Library. As the Ministry of the Word grew, I developed a course for readers, the notes for which are downloadable here, and it is this that has motivated the present initiative.


Begat: the King James Bible and the English Language

(Oxford University Press, 2010)


(Holy Island Press, 2000, £5 + postage; contact Hilary Crystal to order)

Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language

(Routledge, 2009)


(Holy Island Press, 1988, £5 + postage; contact Hilary Crystal to order)

Reading the Word: The Lector's Ministry

downloadable here

The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works

(Yale University Press, 2016)

The St John Gospel 

(2000, Sain, TRF CD407)

Tyndale's Bible: Saint Matthew's Gospel

(2013, The British Library, NSACD 112-113).