Meredith Edwards

Meredith Edwards (1917-1999) was born in Rhosllanerchrugog and died in Abergele.  Educated at Ruabon Grammar School, his first job after leaving school was as a laboratory assistant at the Courtaulds factory in Flint. Although he had no formal acting training he became a professional actor in 1938 when he joined the Welsh National Theatre Company which Lord Howard de Walden was trying to found at Plas Newydd, Llangollen. This group taught him the rudiments of the trade and inspired in him the idea of a permanent home for the theatrical profession in Wales, for which he was to campaign long and hard – but to no avail. Edwards’s acting career proper began at the Liverpool Playhouse, where he played in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, but it was interrupted by the war when, as a conscientious objector on Christian pacifist grounds, he was set to work as a fireman in Liverpool, Chester and London. He was later drafted into the Non-Combatant Corps, where he entertained the troops with amateur theatricals sponsored by ENSA. He spent most of the war years in Palestine.
After the war he returned to the stage and quickly became a stalwart of Ealing Studios, appearing in The Cruel Sea (1953), Dunkirk (1958) and Where No Vultures Fly (1951), as well as in many comedies, including The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966) and Only Two Can Play (1962).  In Dunkirk, Edwards insisted on speaking his lines in Welsh, one of the first screen occasions when speakers of the language were truly represented. Altogether he appeared in more than 50 films, some B-movies being shot in little more than 10 days. He starred in many TV programmes, including Z Cars and Coronation Street (playing Bert, a sharp character made sharper by bow tie and long sideburns).
Another life ran parallel to his stage and screen career. He was intensely committed to Welsh politics and the Welsh language. A life-long supporter of Plaid Cymru, he stood – unsuccessfully – as the nationalist candidate in the 1966 general election for Denbigh. The seat was not particularly susceptible to the nationalist cause, but Edwards fought his corner with energy.
A familiar figure at Plaid Cymru conferences, he won respect for the consistent approach he followed in promoting Welsh. Fiercely proud of his roots, he campaigned strongly for a ‘Yes’ vote in the devolution referendum that followed the 1997 election.
A life president of Equity and a member of the board of the Royal College of Music and Drama, Meredith Edwards was awarded an honorary MA by the University of Wales in 1997.