Culture

Watch: Carry On Star Kenneth Williams speaking Welsh on TV show

19 Nov 2021 3 minutes Read
Kenneth Williams sitting in for Wogan and filming Carry On Up The Khyber in Snowdonia

David Owens

Kenneth Williams was to all intents and purposes 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.

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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
8 days ago

As a big fan of the Carry On’s and have read the Kenneth Williams diaries, was aware that Kenneth Williams was Welsh not English as some might think. Sure he was born in London, initially had a Cockney accent before having elocution lessons, but is Welsh through and through. And anyone who doubts this should remember that Windsor Davies was also born in London and nobody doubts his Welsh credentials. Only difference is. Williams was raised in London where Davies in Nant-y-Moel, Bridgend. The clip shown was filmed by locals when the Carry On team chose the Horseshoe Pass to… Read more »

David Hodgkinson 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
David Hodgkinson 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
8 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Some of the best English is spoken by the Welsh!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
8 days ago

Yes, and the dulcet tones of Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins reading a phone directory would make it sound inviting to anyone’s ears.

Last edited 8 days ago by Y Cymro
Jacqui
Jacqui
6 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I lived in London in the 80s. I was coming out of a shop in Oxford Street one day and a girl in front said to her friend ‘That’s Kenneth Williams’. I turned to look and was shocked by his appearance. No one else recognised him. He had on a long black coat which looked like it had seen better days. He looked like he hadn’t bathed or shaved for years and I mistook him initially for a tramp. It was so sad to see him that way.

Robert Downing
Robert Downing
7 days ago

Loved Kenneth in everything he did but didn’t know he claimed affinity. Love him even more now.

Dilwyn Roberts
Dilwyn Roberts
7 days ago

A missed opportunity to refer to the ‘archetypal British gent” who was “not an archetypal British gent” at all – but Welsh!

Christopher McKenzie
Christopher McKenzie
7 days ago

I know what he means about Hiraeth. I was brought up in Liverpool and felt the Clwyd and Snowdonia ranges always inviting me back like a forgiving father. Welsh forebears from Wirral.

j humphrys
j humphrys
7 days ago

Clwyd ranges best viewed at dusk……..on the way home?

Wynford Jones
Wynford Jones
7 days ago

Another anglocentric piece of fluff from nation.cymru . Failed to notice a young(ish) Gwilym Owen interviewing in the 2nd clip. 4/10 Must try harder

j humphrys
j humphrys
7 days ago

Funny how you think you know, then you know you don’t.

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