Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-11 > 1195301256

From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] GRAVELL: Raymond William Robert Gravell
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2007 12:07:36 -0000

Ray Gravell
Last Updated: 3:07am GMT 03/11/2007

Gravell: a fine ambassador

Ray Gravell, who died on Wednesday aged 56, was one of the most admired
figures in the world of Welsh rugby; he was capped 23 times for his country
and played in all four Tests during the 1980 British Lions tour of South

Gravell's playing record, however, told only half the story and spoke little
of his dedication, commitment, humour and skills. After retiring from the
sport he forged a successful second career as a bilingual actor and
broadcaster for the BBC.

He was fiercely patriotic, and when he first turned out for Wales, in 1975,
tears streamed down his face as he took the field. His passion for the game
was accompanied by an impeccable sense of sportsmanship; in the tunnel he
would make a point of greeting both friend and foe with a handshake and a

He brought the same commitment to his work as a BBC and S4C commentator,
during which he would enjoy exchanging banter with the players he was

During a lengthy career, the bearded Gravell became Wales's senior player,
but it was the remarkable match between his club, Llanelli, and the touring
All Blacks in October 1972 that remained one of his most memorable.

Llanelli beat the New Zealanders 9-3 at Stradey Park, and Peter West
recalled in The Daily Telegraph: "That encounter, and the supercharged
atmosphere in which it was contested, will be etched forever in the memories
of all concerned."

Raymond William Robert Gravell was born on September 12 1951 at
Mynydd-y-Garreg, near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, and educated at Burry Port
secondary modern and Carmarthen grammar schools.

He made his name in rugby as a hard-running centre for Llanelli, the club he
joined in 1970 and which he captained for two seasons in the early 1980s.
Known throughout the game as "Grav", he was first capped for Wales in 1975
when they won 25-10 against France in Paris, a match that Gravell himself
considered the stuff of fairy tales.

Gravell became a key member of the Welsh sides of the late 1970s and early
1980s which dominated the Five Nations championship, winning two Grand
Slams, four titles and four Triple Crowns. Although a shoulder injury kept
him out of the 1977 Lions tour of New Zealand, he did make the tour to South
Africa three years later.

He played his last club match for Llanelli in 1985, the year he joined the

Making his debut as an actor, Gravell starred in Bonner, a BBC Wales film
for the Welsh language channel S4C. An assortment of roles followed, and
Gravell's appearance in the film Filipina Dreamgirls (1991) led to his being
cast as Jeremy Irons's chauffeur in Louis Malle's Damage (1992).

He was cast in a film adaptation of Dylan Thomas's book Rebecca's Daughters
(1992), starring Peter O'Toole, and in 1996 appeared with Sir Anthony
Hopkins and Tony Curtis in Valley Girls.

During the 1990s Gravell was a regular presenter for both BBC Radio Wales
and the Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru.

He became a member of the BBC's Welsh language rugby commentary team, and
worked as an interviewer during Celtic League, Powergen and Heineken Cup

Gravell also hosted a breakfast show on Radio Cymru in south-west Wales,
co-presented I'll Show You Mine on Radio Wales, and on television fronted
two series of Tip Top, a popular amateur talent competition series produced
by BBC Wales for S4C.

He was particularly proud of his membership of the Gorsedd of Bards, and was
keeper of the ceremonial sword at the National Eisteddfod until earlier this
year, when illness forced him to relinquish the post.

He was widely regarded as a fine ambassador, not only for the game of rugby
but also for Wales, its language, history and culture.

In later life Gravell was plagued by ill-health, and in 2000 was diagnosed
with diabetes, which resulted in the loss of two of his toes. Last April he
was readmitted to hospital to have his right leg amputated below the knee.

His fellow countryman Gareth Edwards regarded Gravell as the most passionate
player he had ever seen; while the prop forward Barry Llewellyn once
recalled: "Half an hour before the kick-off at an international in Cardiff
'Grav' was sitting on the loo singing Welsh songs at the top of his voice."

It was typical of Gravell's indomitable style that he had Llanelli's livery
proudly emblazoned on his artifical leg.

Ray Gravell is survived by his wife, Mari, and their two young daughters.

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