Ray Gravell

Wales and British Lions rugby player who won new admirers as an actor and broadcaster


Raymond William Robert Gravell, rugby player, actor and broadcaster: born Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire 12 September 1951; married 1991 Mari Roberts (two daughters); died 31 October 2007.

Ray Gravell played rugby for Wales on 23 occasions between 1975 and 1982. He was a member of the Welsh team that won the Grand Slam and Triple Crown, and of the British Lions team which toured South Africa in 1980. He was in the Welsh side that beat Australia in 1975 and Fiji in 1985. A powerful centre, he began his career with Llanelli RFC in 1969 and in 1980-82 was the team's captain. He was also in the Scarlets' side that beat the All Blacks in 1972.

As a player he showed great respect for his opponents and made many friendships which continued long after he hung up his boots. His genial personality and exuberant commentaries on radio and television brought him many admirers, though he was more fluent in Welsh than in English. With Huw Llewelyn Davies he broadcast the first Welsh commentary on Welsh-language television in 1982.

His touch-line and half-time observations were witty, knowledgeable and highly partisan, for there was no more patriotic player than Ray Gravell. There was a boyish quality to him that endeared him to thousands. Such was the esteem in which he was held that the road where he lived in the village of Mynydd-y-garreg was renamed "Heol Gravell".

Born in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire in 1951, the son of a collier, but brought up in Mynydd-y-garreg, Ray Gravell was educated at the Queen Elisabeth Grammar School in Carmarthen, where his talent for rugby was soon noticed. For many years he was a youth officer employed by the Manpower Services Commission.

A straight runner and hard tackler, he played his début game with Lampeter in 1970 and his final appearance was with Llandovery on 26 January 1985. After playing 485 games for Llanelli and scoring 120 tries, he decided to retire and thereafter concentrated on his career in broadcasting.

He took the leading role in Bonner in 1985 on S4C and had a walk-on part in Louis Malle's 1992 film Damage, which starred Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche, as well as presenting chat shows on BBC Wales and BBC Cymru. With Frank Hennessy he presented a weekly programme called I'll Show You Mine in which his humour and wealth of anecdote from his rugby days were put to good use.

So wide was his appeal that when he had a small part in the nightly soap Pobol y Cwm, it boosted the programme's ratings overnight. He also played a farmer in Peter O'Toole's production of Dylan Thomas's Rebecca's Daughters (1992).

His catchphrase "Tip top!" (also the name of a programme he compered for BBC Cymru) became the hallmark of his television and radio appearances. Among the memorable moments associated with him was when he tried to teach the words of "Sospan Fach", the Llanelli war-song, to Simon Weston, the Falklands War survivor, on the TV show The Big Welsh Challenge.

In his autobiography, Grav (1986), he described how as a young man he had discovered the body of his father near their home and what effect this suicide had on him. He was nevertheless of a jovial disposition, and even after the amputation of his right leg earlier this year – he suffered from diabetes – he remained cheerful and grateful for the love he had been shown by friends and strangers alike.

Although cast down, he was cheered by messages of support that came in from all over the world. He even appeared on Max Boyce's chat-show on BBC Wales and proudly displayed the artificial limb he had been given. Typically altruistic, he toured Britain giving talks about diabetes and organising fundraising events such as golf tournaments.

His first public appearance after his operation was at the Eisteddfod organised by Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh League of Youth), whose activities were always near his heart. To thunderous applause he presented the BBC Cymru Talent Award.

The amputation of his leg interrupted his appearance as the Grand Sword Bearer in the ceremonies of the Gorsedd of Bards, a role he undertook with great enthusiasm. When the Archdruid cried "A oes Heddwch?" ("Is there Peace?"), Gravell, or Ray o'r Mynydd as he was known in bardic circles, held the enormous weapon aloft with pride and dignity, and always to tremendous dramatic effect. His place was taken by the formidable figure of Robin McBride, the former Lions and Wales star, at this year's Eisteddfod and at the proclamation of next year's festival to be held in Cardiff, where there will be a gap that is hard to fill.

Meic Stephens

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

News
people

London 'needs affordable housing'

Arts and Entertainment
music Band accidentally drops four-letter description at concert
Life and Style
tech
News
peopleIan Thorpe addresses Ricky Martin rumours
Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

Extras
indybest
News
Myleene Klass
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Advisor

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a global m...

Ashdown Group: Junior SQL DBA - London - £39,000

£37000 - £39000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: SQL Database Administrato...

Recruitment Genius: Business Administrator

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This donor management company are lookin...

Investigo: IT Auditor

£60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines