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Fame and reputation
8:00am Thursday 16th August 2012 in Letters
Sir – I write in connection with recent correspondence concerning Richard Burton’s “commitment to Oxford” and the issue of his major contribution, together with Elizabeth Taylor, to the funding for the Burton/Taylor studio in Oxford.
I knew Mr Burton well over a period of years, as we were brought up in the same part of Port Talbot in South Wales, so you may find these brief comments of some interest and relevance as background to the recent correspondence. We knew him as Richie (Jenkins).
I had a lot of contact with him, as his elder sister Cecilia (Cis) who, with her husband Elfed took him into their home, was a close and long-time friend with my mother. It was my mother who introduced Cis to Elfed. Richie lived with Cis and Elfed from the age of two, when his mother died. Also, I knew him well at grammar school, although he was four years older than me. Richie was very generous to the members of his extended family. He could show “spur of the moment” warmth and generosity to a person he had never met before, if he perceived that person as vulnerable and seriously in need of help. It seemed that he would identify strongly with the individual in need, having experienced a difficult early life himself. Port Talbot is also the home town of two other well-known actors — Sir Anthony Hopkins (whose father was our local baker) and Michael Sheen. Both of these men have given, and continue to give, generously of their time and finances to the community of their home town. I mention these two “local boys” because their commitment and continuing generosity stand in sharp contrast to that of Richie in relation to Port Talbot. Sadly, it has to be said that in relation to his home town, all he has given are his fame and his reputation.
Howard Williams, Oxford