Activities outside Parliament

Remembering Richard Burton

Opening of Richard Burton Trail, Pontrhydyfen, 10th June 2011

Mae’n anrhydedd ini gyd fod yma heddi gyda’r teulu a ffrindiau yr anfarwol Richard Burton. Mae’n anrhydedd personol i mi, fel Aelod Seneddol Aberafan, etholaeth oedd yn cynnwys yr holl o Bontrhyyfen pan gafodd Richard ei eni.

It is a privilege to be here today with family and friends to recognise the life of Richard Burton at Pontrhydyfen where he was born in 1925. At that time the whole of Pontrhydyfen was in the Aberavon constituency. My neighbouring Member of Parliament, Peter Hain sends his very good wishes and warmly welcomes this Trail as I do.

Sian and I have been asked to say something about ‘remembering Richard Burton’.

It has been said, and we all agree, his was the greatest voice of the English language.

If somehow we forget everything else, it is the voice of Richard Burton that is immortal – mae ei lais yn anfarwol.

As a sign of that immobility our grandson Evan had convinced his brothers Elis and Aled and cousins David, Elena and Efa that Richard’s narration of ‘The War of the Worlds’ is awesome.

For me, what is equally significant, is the fact that as a child growing up in the south Wales valleys in the post war world it was he that represented that sense of hope and confidence of a new generation and a new world.

A new world was being created and he was helping to create it. He was for all of us children the Aneurin Bevan of stage and screen.

Aneurin Bevan gave the world the first National Health Service.

And Richard Burton was, for us, and many across the world, the greatest film star and greatest actor of his generation and he was one of us.

He and Aneurin Bevan were both sons of south Wales miners and they represented in their different ways a creative and powerful force.

And when they spoke, they were unmistakeably Welsh and you felt they spoke for us.

I remember being taken – indeed queuing to see ‘The Robe’ – in the early 1950s. It was in Seven Sisters Miners’ Welfare Cinema.

What was most important of all was that he was a product of our mining communities and we were proud of him and his achievements.

And in turn Richard Burton always showed that he was proud of his roots and his origins.

This Trail then reminds us of Richard’s origins. And we stand here at the Miners’ Arms where Richard was interviewed by Vincent Kane of the BBC in 1977. In that interview he talked of the profound family, community and educational, values and influences on his life.

After the interview Vincent Kane said he had never felt so enriched by the experience of such an interview.

Richard’s widow , Sally – who has done so much to perpetuate his memory – send her warmest wishes to everyone here today and a special thanks to those who have brought this Trail to fruition.

It is a delight to see that one of those who has played a big part is with us today – Dick Wagstaffe – has been honoured with an MBE in today’s Queen’s Honours list.

I have also received a message from Kate, Richard’s daughter who said this:

‘Please say that I wish I could be there and cannot wait to walk the Trail as I love to walk and hike, just like my father!’

In the many discussion I have had with Sally and Graham about the way we commemorate Richard’s life, we all agreed that it should be lasting and of educational value.

That is why we have established this Trail, the Annual Richard Burton Lecture – this year it is on 4th October in Port Talbot’s Princess Royal Theatre.

And that is why we also have the Richard Burton Archives and the Richard Burton Research Centre at Swansea University; the Portrait Bench and the 10k Race at Cwmafan; as well as the dedicated room in the Afan Lodge Hotel.

In remembering Richard Burton we are doing so in a purposeful way, using his legacy to look forward.

I am confident that there will be many more local ways to commemorate Wales’ greatest actor, a proud son of Pontrhydyfen and Taibach and no doubt we could say Cwmafan as well.

After ‘The Night of the Iguana’ everyone from Tonmawr would have a claim too. We may well need to extend the Trail to include these other communities including Dyffryn Rhondda where Richard and Graham performed in Eisteddfodau and their father worked in the colliery.

As the Chair of the Richard Burton Advisory Board and the Member of Parliament for Aberavon I promise you that the new relationship between Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and Swansea University will have at its heart an ever growing recognition of the contemporary relevance of Richard Burton for succeeding generations of young people from our local communities - and for the many visitors from all over the world who will come to learn about Richard’s proud origins here in the Afan Valley.

Mwynhewch y daith a’r atgofion!

Enjoy the walk and enjoy the memories!

Diolch yn fawr.


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