Soul of the party

Anthony Hayward looks back on the life of Huw Ceredig, a Welsh actor known for playing Reg Harries in TV soap Pobol y Cwm

Twenty-nine years of playing the political activist turned pub landlord Reg Harries in the Welsh-language serial Pobol y Cwm made Huw Ceredig, who has died aged 69 after suffering from diabetes and pneumonia, one of Britain’s longest-running soap actors and a familiar face to television viewers across Wales.

He joined the BBC Wales programme (whose title translates as People of the Valley) from its second episode in 1974. Set in the fictional village of Cwmderi, it began as a weekly programme, switched to the Welsh fourth channel, S4C, on the station’s launch in 1982, and six years later went up to five episodes a week. Reg, a union official and former miner, was originally seen as a socialist councillor fighting for local causes – partly reflecting Ceredig’s own political activism of the time as secretary of the Welsh Language Society, which led him to be jailed for several weeks following his participation in a demonstration and refusal to pay a fine.

Later in the programme, Reg ran Y Deri, the pub at the heart of the community. Throughout the show, the character was a father figure to whom people turned for advice. He was written out in 2003, carried off by a heart attack.

Ceredig was himself a guiding influence on cast members such as Ioan Gruffudd, who played Reg’s adopted son before finding film stardom. Cast and crew knew Ceredig as a bon vivant who regularly arranged coach trips to restaurants where he had booked singers or comedians.

Born Huw Ceredig Jones in the village of Brynamman in Carmarthenshire, he was the son of a Congregationalist minister and a teacher. One of his three brothers is Alun Ffred Jones, now a member of the Welsh Assembly, and another is Dafydd Iwan, a folk singer who has served as president of Plaid Cymru. The brothers’ grandfather, the Rev Fred Jones, was one of the founders of the Welsh nationalist party.

When Ceredig was 13, his family moved to Llanuwchllyn in Gwynedd, where he claimed to be the first teddy boy in the area. As the son of a minister, he was entitled to a scholarship to Llandovery College but soon moved to Ty Tan Domen school in Bala, before training to be a teacher at Trinity College in Carmarthen, where he gained an interest in drama and acted in plays.

While teaching at Maesteg primary school in Mid Glamorgan, he performed as an amateur with the Bridgend Castle Players and the Swansea Welsh Drama Society, changing his name to Huw Ceredig by deed poll. This acting experience led to work with BBC Wales, and by the time he joined Pobol y Cwm, he had given up teaching. Some of his earliest screen work was presenting children’s programmes. As well as appearing in Welsh-language productions, Ceredig popped up in series screened across Britain, such as Z Cars (1977), The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981), The District Nurse (1984), A Mind to Kill (1997) and Heartbeat (2005).

He also had a regular role as Jim Powell in the ITV drama serial We Are Seven (1989), set in a sleepy Welsh village rocked by the scandal of half a dozen illegitimate births, and he provided voices for the animated children’s television programmes SuperTed and Meees.

In the cinema, Ceredig was seen in the cult comedy Twin Town (1997) as Fatty Lewis, who falls off a ladder while doing a roofing job for a wealthy businessman; the actor brothers Rhys and Llyˆr Ifans played his sons, who try to exact revenge. More recently, Ceredig played a barman in the Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Love (2008).

The actor’s 2006 autobiography was titled Cofio Pwy Ydw I (Remembering Who I Am). In 1966, he married Margaret Grey, who survives him, along with their daughters Lowri and Leah. Their first-born daughter, Llinos, died as a baby.

Anthony Hayward is a journalist

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