Huw Ceredig: Actor who was a mainstay of the Welsh soap opera 'Pobol y Cwm' for 29 years

 

Huw Ceredig's best-known role was as Reg Harries in the long-running nightly soap-opera Pobol y Cwm ("People of the valley"), the most popular programme in the history of television in Wales, which has been broadcast by BBC Cymru and S4C since 1974 and is now a cornerstone of the service.

From the first episode he had a huge screen presence that never faltered – he was a large man with a gravelly, instantly recognisable voice and a bushy beard – and the part established him as one of the most talented and well-liked television actors of his generation.

The story is set in Cwmderi, afictitious village which, if it were on the map, would be located somewhereto the west of Llanelli. Conveniently for the plot, it has both a rural andindustrial character, and is not far from Llanarthur, a thinly disguisedCarmarthen town. It is predominantly Welsh-speaking and, as society in Wales has changed over the years so has life in the village, which now has its share of unemployment, crime, divorce, domestic violence and the problems associated with drug addiction. Adeliberate attempt was made fromthe start to appeal to the whole of Wales by featuring characters, accentsand idioms from all parts of the country. The series is filmed on location in and around Cardiff or in the BBC's studios in Llandaf.

The series has provided many actors, directors and scriptwriters with a living, not least Huw Ceredig, who acted in it for 29 years and thus became a household name. At the outset, when the series went out weekly, Reg Harries was a union official and local councillor striving to keep his pit open. But like many talented working-class men in south Wales he goes up to Ruskin College to get an education. After the miners' strike of 1984-85 and the closure of so many pits by the Thatcher government, the village's social life declines and Reg marries Megan James (played by Lisabeth Miles), the licensee of the Deri Arms, and it is as the pub's landlord that many viewers will remember him. Warm-hearted Reg listens to everyone's problems and tries to solve them, with tact and a twinkle in his eye.

When his own marital difficulties come to a head Reg separates from his wife and marries again. Eventually, after many twists and turns that are the stuff of soap operas, he sees his old mine acquired by his arch-rival Ieuan Griffiths, one of the villains of the series whom everyone loves to boo and hiss. Reg's son, Gareth Wyn, was played by a young Ioan Gruffudd, who has joined many of his fellow-actors in paying tribute to Huw Ceredig's generosity and patience in taking novices under his wing and putting them at their ease in front of the camera. Ceredig's part was eventually written out of the series against the actor's wishes.

Born in 1942 in Brynaman in the industrial part of Carmarthenshire, a village not unlike Cwmderi, Huw Ceredig Jones spent part of his youth in Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, in Merioneth. Educated at Llandovery and Trinity College, Carmarthen, he taught at the village school in Laleston, near Bridgend, until he became a full-time actor. He was one of the four sons of Fred Jones, a minister who was among the early members of Plaid Cymru.

Although he dropped the surname Jones for professional purposes he was always proud to be known as hisfather's son. One of his brothers,Dafydd Iwan, is a professional folk-singer and leading member of Plaid Cymru; another, Alun Ffred Jones, is a prominent Plaid member of the National Assembly and has held ministerial posts in Cardiff Bay; and another, Arthur Morus, owns a woollen mill in Drefach Felindre.

Besides his Welsh television work, including voice-overs for the Super Ted series, Ceredig had smaller parts in London soaps such as Z Cars, Ennal's Point, District Nurse, Emmerdale, Heartbeat and Doctors, and in the BBC Wales series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George. The last of these was made in 2005, after which he had to retire from television owing to ill-health. But he was seen in the visually stunning, though factually risible Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Love in 2008, which starred Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Mathew Rhys and Simon Armstrong. His most memorable screen appearance was in Twin Town (1997), the anarchic revenge comedy set in the "ugly lovely town" of Swansea, in which the careers of Rhys Ifans (Spikey in Notting Hill) and his brother Llyr were launched. Ceredig played his father, Fatty Lewis. He was also a memorable First Voice in Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, played the Judge in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler and was seen in Y Llosgwr, about the Chartist and pioneer of cremation, Dr William Price.

In 2006 he published his autobiography (co-written with Aled Islwyn), Cofio Pwy Ydw I ("Remembering who I am"), where something of his larger-than-life personality shines through. He revelled in good company, particularly late at night, and was among those who founded Clwb Ifor Bach, a club for Welsh-speakers in Cardiff. He gave substantial sums to Welsh causes like the Welsh Language Society and Plaid Cymru, usually without fuss and anyone knowing. For a while he was Chairman of Bridgend Rugby Club. A lifelong fan of Manchester United, he never missed a game and, in 1999, flew to Barcelona to see his team play, returning the same day in order not to miss rehearsals for Pobol y Cwm.

Huw Ceredig Jones (Huw Ceredig), actor: born Brynaman, Carmarthenshire 22 June 1942; married 1965 Margaret Grey (two daughters); died Morriston, Swansea 16 August 2011.

Comments