Scroll down to view

Eric Wynn-Owen tribute

On reading about Eric Wynn-Owen on this site, a former pupil at Sir William Collins School wrote in 2012:

He may have given up treading the boards officially but he was a very theatrical year master and teacher and a brilliant orator. He was very passionate about his very Welsh brand of Christianity. I always imagined him to be a ‘born again Christian’ because he so often quoted the bible and Shakespeare when addressing the assembly. He would use a comparison with the biblical stories to explain or offer a bit of gentle guidance to us ruffian boys about perhaps some of the goings on in the playground (it was a boys’ school in my time) i.e. fighting and all the usual misdemeanours that boys get up to. He would give the impression that he was personally hurt when the boys behaved badly. Rowdy goings on were all too common at the school but Eric would become very emotional at some assemblies rather like a father who felt he had failed his child; sometimes he would actually cry over some of the more awful, thuggish things he was witness to at the school. On these occasions I remember feeling genuinely sorry for him because of how some of the kids had let him down. There were more cynical types of kids and teachers who I remember having a bit of a cruel giggle on leaving assembly about his emotional response to whatever event had occurred.

As I said I remember him with great fondness he could be a bit strict and did once administer me a caning with the brush when I, uncharacteristically, got caught by him shouting once on the stairs in one of my more boisterous moments.

I am amazed to read he wasn’t actually born in the valleys of Wales; he was to my mind utterly Welsh in character, through and through, and his height the very stature of many from the mining communities. He was Welsh in the great lyrical, theatrical and literary sense. I remember he was beautifully well spoken; Robert Hardy always reminds me of him. I sort of remember him having a bit of a Welsh lilt. That must be my memory embellishing things though.

I did not grow up in a religious home and am not religious myself but I always enjoyed his assemblies even if sometimes they were saddened by the wrong doings of some of the boys he had to discuss. His assemblies could be a genteel, religious and theatrical experience so I guess he never really gave up being an actor he just took the dramatic art to another stage.

My late brother Paul who dreamed of being an actor knew Eric much better than me. Being the shy bookworm I was and probably still am, I really only knew of Eric from his public persona, i.e. the Eric you saw at assembly, but to me he came across as a really caring man who really wanted to give the poor kids of Camden a good start even though his efforts were often thwarted by the shortcomings of their humble backgrounds where education wasn’t always deemed of much importance.

Eric was a very good man and a great character, one who left a good impression on me that lasts until now and I am delighted to read he lived to a good age.

[ Close ]