Great Gravell dies suddenly

Ray Gravell, Wales and British Lions centre and a great rugby man, died suddenly on 31 October while on holiday with his family in Majorca.

A West Walian, Gravell played for Wales with a great sense of Welshness, a rugged and outgoing man of great popularity. He epitomised all that was best in rugby football as played in days closer to amateurism.

He was a strong and adventurous centre of great courage who got on well with the people he played with an against and the rugby followers that he met. A Welsh speaker he also learnt some Afrikaans on his tour with the 1980 Lions, inevitably much of it not of the sort used in church.

He was born in Mynydd-y-garreg, Carmarthenshire, was educated at Burry Port Secondary Modern School and Carmarthen Grammar School and lived in Mynydd-y-garreg with his wife Mari and their two young daughters, Gwennan and Manon, in a street named after him, Heol Ray Gravell. His heart so belonged to Wales that it is strange that it should have stopped in Spain.

A loyal man, he started playing for Llanelli in 1970, captained the club for two seasons and went on to become the president of Llanelli and then of the Llanelli Scarlets.

He played in the centre for Wales 23 times between 1975 and 1982, twice in teams which won the Grand Slam. In 1980 he played in all four Tests on the Lions’ tour to South Africa.

In 1986 Gravell’s autobiography Grav was published.

His first job was with an electricity board and then he was a sales representative but he became more famous as a radio and television broadcaster for the BBC whom he joined in 1985. He had a role in a Welsh-language film for BBC Cymru, then in the BBC film Filipina Dreamgirls and then in the film Damage. His role in the BBC was varied from rugby commentator to chat-show host.

Gravell suffered from diabetes and earlier this year had his right leg amputated below the knee. He became ill on Majorca and died that night. He was 56.

The Welsh Rugby Union’s CEO Roger Lewis said: “We are all in total shock because Ray was so full of life even through the difficult health problems he suffered recently.

“He was a wonderful ambassador for rugby and for Wales and a great example of how the game can bring out the best in a man.

“As a player, he always gave a huge amount of respect to his opponents but never gave an inch of ground to anyone he faced on the field of play.

“It is a measure of the man that he forged rugby friendships which lasted long after his playing days up until the present day.

“Most recently, he stayed close to rugby as a broadcaster and was always in the tunnel to greet the teams with a handshake and a hug before and after big games.

“It is typical of the man that he became part of the tradition of our game and he was delighted when we asked him to present the jerseys to the Welsh players in the changing rooms before Wales play South Africa at the Millennium Stadium later in November.

“Before the Rugby World Cup, it was Ray who came to the Stadium with his wife and children to announce the names of the Welsh squad to the media. He was the right man for that role because of the pride and passion he clearly displayed when he read out the list of names.

“We will miss him as a rugby legend but more importantly, we will miss Ray as a great friend and a fine, family man.”

Raymond William Robert Gravell was born on 12 September 1951. He died on 31 October 2007.


365 Digital

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