Memories from Graham Jenkins
Graham Jenkins was the younger brother of Richard Burton. Graham lived locally in Cwmafan, Port Talbot before his death in 2015. Here, Graham recalls fond memories of his older brother.
“When our mother passed away, I lived with my eldest brother Ivor. My older sister Cis brought Rich up in Taibach. Cis was a marvellous woman. I used to stay with Rich some days in Taibach, where we used to top and tail”.
Graham recalls singing in the Eisteddfod and being up against Rich; “Rich won, even though I was told I had the sweeter voice, however Rich had the stage presence. I cried over this and Rich kindly shared his winnings with me. All my brothers and sisters could sing – Cis was a wonderful singer and soprano”.
“In school, Rich read a book and remembered everything . I guess if he was still alive today, he would be writing. He was a classic scholar and won a scholarship to Oxford”.
“I acted as a double for Rich once and at one time I had to kiss Elizabeth Taylor”.
Interview with Rhiannon James Trowell
Richard Burton was brought up by his big sister Cecilia (Cis) after his mother passed away when he was just 2 years old. Richard became a son to Cis and was brought up alongside his niece Rhiannon and her sister Marian. Richard and Rhiannon grew up as brother and sister.
In this interview, Rhiannon recalls fond memories of her uncle.
How would you describe Richard?
“Amusing, generous and kind. A raconteur!”
What was Richard like as a big Brother (uncle)?
“He used to take Marian my sister, and me to the playground in Taibach. I am sure he would have preferred to play rugby with his friends but he had a great love and respect for my mother and would help out if necessary”.
“He was also ready to help us with our homework, although one had to understand it first time round as he was a bit short on patience”.
“Occasionally he looked after us when my parents went to choir rehearsals and he would tell us stories which we loved, particularly his ghost stories (he once covered himself with a sheet which was very frightening), complete with vocal sound effects such as creaking floorboards and ghostly howls. My parents were not pleased to arrive home and find us wide awake and agitated”.
Did Richard always want to be an actor?
“In his early teens, he wanted to be a schoolteacher and as time went on, he later wanted to be a writer”.
Did Richard have a Favourite book?
“Rich always had a book in his hand and would read until the early hours of the morning. My father, who was a coal miner, would get up at 5.30am for his shift and would find Rich still reading in a chair downstairs.
He loved poetry at a young age, but I can’t remember if he had a favourite poet or writer. But he spent many hours in the Taibach Carnegie Library in Port Talbot”.
What are your fondest memories of Richard?
“Our last meeting was about one and a half years before he died. At the time, Rich had been having back and neck pains and was very unwell. He was spending a few days with my mother in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire, and as I lived next door to my mother and shared a garden with her, we saw quite a lot of him at this time. There were no entourage, no photographers, no press, just Rich and the family having some quiet time which was rare. Marian, Rich and I were sitting in the garden on a sunny afternoon reminiscing. We talked about our remarkable mother and her gift for making all three of us feel very special. Each one of us had secretly felt we were the favoured one”.
“In Rich’s book, ‘A Christmas Story’ a semi autobiographical account, loosely based on my birth on the 24th December, he wrote about our mother saying “Now my sister was no ordinary woman – no woman ever is, but to me, my sister less than any. When my mother had died, she, my sister, had become my mother, and more mother to me than any mother could ever have been. I was immensely proud of her. I shone in the reflection of her green-eyed, black-haired, gypsy beauty”.
Interview with Ann Scourfield
Ann Scourfield, a local resident of Port Talbot, was a class mate and friend of Richard Burton.
Ann recalls memories of what it was like living around the corner from Richard, attending the same school and being in the same class, at Dyffryn Secondary School, 1938. Richard was known to classmates as ‘Ritchie Jenkins’.
How would you describe Ritchie?
“Blinking awful, he wasn’t very nice to look at”, she says with a smile and hint of humour. “What I mean is that he had a cheeky and naughty streak, he was always up to something”.
One particular memory that Ann recalls whilst being in class with Ritchie, was when a flying boot came towards her and hit her square in the face. “Ritchie, always the joker. It was him who had flung the boot; it was meant for his friend Dan Parr”.
Did Ritchie always want to be an actor?
“Yes, from day one! Ritchie left school to work in Taibach’s Co-operative store, as a gents’ outfitter. I don’t think he was cut out for that”, Ann said smiling.
Do you remember him living with his teacher Philip Burton?
“Yes, Philip also taught me. He was my English master and was a tall, biggish and pleasant man. Philip and Richard lived at Cannaught Street, Port Talbot. During the War, when the sirens went off, the class was designated to go to Philip Burton’s house, as a lodging home”.
What was his favourite subject in school?
“I believe his favourite subject was English. I always thought he would go far with his acting, he had a natural flair. He always had a projected voice. Ritchie got along with all his teachers, including the games master, Mr Smith. He could have easily chosen sport as a career path. He was in the school rugby team. Another man who helped influence Ritchie’s future was Leo Lloyd, he was a great man; he took an active part in all school productions”.
Quotes & memories from Fred Scourfield (Ann’s Husband):
Fred recalled the first time he met Elizabeth Taylor, when she came to put the flood lights on with Richard at Aberavon rugby ground. “It was a very cold night and there was a stove in the middle of the bar, surrounded by four men and one woman”. Fred remembers ordering a pint and the lady saying “This is the best place to be isn’t it”. Fred had no idea she was Elizabeth Taylor, until someone told him.