Cartoonist who 'defined' Wales

Grenfell Jones ("Gren"), cartoonist: born Hengoed, Glamorgan 13 June 1934; MBE 1989; married (two sons); died Cardiff 3 January 2007.

For the past 40 years if you wanted a slice of Welsh life you simply had to read a Gren cartoon - or buy a calendar, a book or one of his sheep. A collier's son from Hengoed, Grenfell Jones summed up Welsh life almost seven days a week with his prolific workload as a cartoonist for the South Wales Echo, Western Mail and Wales on Sunday.

He started drawing pocket cartoons at the age of eight, in the style of Ronald Niebour, the London-born and South Wales-raised cartoonist who worked as a football cartoonist for the Barry Dock News and the Cardiff Evening Express before graduating to the Daily Mail. Gren acknowledged that "Neb was responsible for my first interest in cartoons". He had his first cartoon published in Spick & Span. His first news-related cartoon was sold to the Birmingham Mail in the early 1960s. Gren received help in his early work from another great Welsh cartoonist, the Daily Mail's "Jon" and was a great admirer of the North Walian. Of his own work he said:

I was always drawing. There aren't really courses for news-related cartoons. It is a thing that you have. A natural talent in the drawing but you have to work on the humour and gradually they meet.

He spent five years working as an engineering designer before launching a freelance career as a cartoonist in the 1960s, a time when he was also close to the satirical pop group the Barron Knights. One of the founder members of the band - which formed in Leighton Buzzard in 1960 - was Tony Osmond ("The Barron"), who had been in the RAF with Gren. Pete Langford, another member, recalls him as "a great friend of the band".

Gren's big break came when he joined the Western Mail and South Wales Echo in Cardiff in 1968. It was the dawn of the "golden era" of Welsh rugby and a time when the papers had big circulations. "Before I became Editor of the South Wales Echo Gren's work was being used as a single column," said Geoff Rich, who worked alongside the cartoonist for 19 years:

On my first day in charge I splashed him across five columns. He was simply that good and became increasingly important to the paper. He was an incredible observer of the ordinary man and he was the sheer epitome of South Wales. Even people who had never met him felt they knew him so well through his work.

Every day he would come into the office with half-a-dozen offerings for that day's paper. He was never short of ideas and he never missed a deadline with his finished artwork ready by 9.50am each day. It wasn't so much that he reflected or reported the character of Wales - he was the character of Wales.

Gren's lifelong love affair with rugby came to the fore in the 1970s when he created the village of "Aberflyarff in Scrumcap Valley on the River Efflew". He brought new characters to life through his weekly "Ponty an' Pop" strips, including the local barmaid Bromide Lil and rugby players Arnold Nutstrampler and Attila Groinstomper. As the greatest Welsh rugby player of the 1970s, Gareth Edwards, put it: "He defined our character and he never failed to raise a smile." Four times in the 1980s Gren was voted the Provincial Cartoonist of the Year by the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain.

He retired from the South Wales Echo newsroom in 1999, yet still provided the paper with a daily cartoon from his home nearby in Llandaff. He even worked from his hospital bed and had his last cartoon published on the day of his death. It lampooned the New Year diet fad and had a newspaper seller asking an old lady: "Which newspaper d'you want - the lose a stone a month one or the detox for the over-fifties - or regain your schoolgirl figure with free workout DVD?" In the background, as ever, was a sheep with some writing on. "Ronaldo and Rooney for City?" it asked.

Gren created great characters out of sheep after driving some friends through the village of Pontlottyn. As one calmly crossed the road in front of him he slowed down to let it pass, to the surprise of his passengers:

They were amazed that I should be treating a sheep like one of the community which, of course, they are in the valleys. Out of that grew the idea to have Neville and Nigel as characters in the cartoons.

Those sheep, with their various sayings, are now sold and Gren merchandise, including calendars and diaries, have become must-have items at Christmas and birthdays. Among his 25 books are Welsh and Proud of It (1991), 101 Really Useful Things to Do with a Welsh Hat (1992) and We'll Keep a Welcome: a guide to Wales for the visitor and the Welsh (1994).

He also received a gold disc from EMI for his work with Max Boyce for his cover design for the album We All Had Doctors' Papers (1975).

Rob Cole

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower