Best of 2021: Watch Carry On Star Kenneth Williams speaking Welsh on TV
It was a story that surprised many – and with good reason.
One of those – well I never knew that moments.
To all intents and purposes Kenneth Williams was the very epitome of Englishness.
With his highly pronounced and clipped accent, you would imagine that despite having the surname Williams, he was nothing other than English personified.
However, the comedy star famed for his appearances in the Carry On films, never thought of himself as such.
Wales, while not the land of his birth (he was born in London), was the land of his mother and father, who were both Welsh.
His parents were Charles George Williams, who managed a hairdressers in the Kings Cross area, and Louisa Alexandra (née Morgan), who worked in the salon.
I’m not English, I’m Welsh
With a lifelong love of language, it was in the mid-80s when he revealed a never-before-seen, publicly at least, aptitude for the Welsh language.
It was April 1986, when a then 60-year-old Williams sat in for Terry Wogan for a week on his Wogan chatshow, while the Irish host was on holiday.
He was a roaring success and at the end of a fascinating chat with fresh-faced, 28-year-old Stephen Fry, (around 8 mins, 29 secs) the Carry On Star alluded to the roses on the table in front of him.
“It’s St George’s Day today and the rose is the symbol of St George, the patron saint of England. I wouldn’t know anything about it. I’m not English, I’m Welsh,” he says.
In his own inimitable style the actor then demonstrates his Welsh language skills by proclaiming: “Mymryn bach o Gymru, Cymru fydd, Cymru sydd – Cymru am byth!”
Translated that means: “A little bit of Wales, Wales will be, Wales is – Wales forever!”
“It’s very poetic isn’t it,” he adds.
The comedy star, who died aged 62 in 1988, was evidently proud of his Welsh roots.
Interviewed on location in Snowdonia in 1968 while filming Carry On Up The Khyber (apparently Snowdonia was the only place in the UK that resembled The Khyber Pass on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan) he spoke about how much he loved coming to Wales.
“I always like being back in Wales, always, you see my parents were Welsh,” he says. “My mother was a Morgan from Pontnewydd and my father was from Port Talbot and so I always feel a hiraeth, it always comes back to you, once you step back into the place where you have atavistic memories.”
His Welshness and sense of belonging, although not widely known, was something that stayed with him to the end and something Kenneth Williams was delighted to acknowledge.