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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 15:57 GMT
Thousands bid farewell to 'Grav'
A mourner at Stradey Park
Mourners travelled from around Wales to attend the funeral

Thousands of mourners have paid their final tributes to rugby international, broadcaster and actor Ray Gravell at his funeral at Llanelli's Stradey Park.

Former teammate Gerald Davies said he had a heart of gold "and he was happy to share it not just with the measured few, but with the whole world".

The flag-draped coffin was carried onto the field by six former and current Llanelli players.

The former British Lion was 56 and died suddenly in Spain last month.

Gerald Davies, who was also a Welsh international and Lion, told the service his friend never accepted how good he really was.

"He became a man who could inspire and did inspire without him realising the enormity of what he was doing," he said.

Ray Gravell
I'm quite convinced that stories were fashioned with Grav in mind centuries ago
Historian Hywel Teifi Edwards on Ray Gravell (pictured)

First Minister Rhodri Morgan told mourners: "Why was he regarded with such huge affection and respect? It was a combination of his common humanity and his almost Bambi-like vulnerability."

Mr Morgan said: "We politicians rate communicators, but few of us ever touch people's souls like Grav did. That is why there are so many people here today or watching on television."

Historian Hywel Teifi Edwards told the service: "Stories will be told about him with gusto in years to come by people who never met him, and I'm quite convinced that stories were fashioned with Grav in mind centuries ago".

Folk singer and Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Iwan sang in Welsh the song "My Lord /God I Know You Will Come".

Role model

Top - a mourner at Stradey, bottom left Aled Jones and right Max Boyce arrive
Mourners included fans and friends from the world of entertainment

Mourners travelled from around Wales to attend the funeral.

Rhiannon Tomos, from Caernarfon, said: "I used to be a singer when I was younger and Ray was a fan which was fantastic because he was my hero.

"But today is a celebration of his life. What is wonderful is that what is happening is verging on a state funeral. It's fantastic."

Nicola Phillips, 36, of Llanelli, said: "People are not mourning him, they are celebrating his life.

"I think he was so full of life himself he was a great role model for Llanelli and Wales."

The public ceremony followed a private service at Gravell's home at Mynydygarreg, near Kidwelly.

The cortege then set off, with a Welsh flag draped over the coffin. There were three roses on top from his wife Mari and daughters Manon and Gwenan, aged 11 and eight, and white flowers spelling "Dad".

On top of the hearse were scarlet and red roses, again drawing on Gravell's connection with the Scarlets.

Ray Gravell's coffin
Ray Gravell's coffin is carried off Stradey Park as the service ends

In the ground floral tributes included a rugby ball with the name "Grav", a shamrock and the flag of 15th Century Welsh warrior Owain Glyndwr.

The scoreboard at the town end of Stradey had the score, in Welsh, Llanelli 9 - New Zealand 3, reminding mourners of the great victory on 31 October 1972 in which Gravell played.

Swordbearer

A guard of honour from the current Llanelli squad and another from the players of that 1972 team met the coffin, which was taken into the dressing rooms for a private service before the public memorial began outside.

Then the coffin was carried in by pall bearers from the Llanelli team of today and yesterday - Simon Easterby, Gareth Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Dwayne Peel, Derek Quinnell and Delme Thomas.

At the head of the procession were three flag-bearing children, and former Llanelli player Robin McBryde, who succeeded Gravell as ceremonial eisteddfod swordbearer, earlier this year.

Gareth Edwards
Rugby great Gareth Edwards listens to the tributes

It was the first time the sword had been used without the Gorsedd of Bards being present.

The coffin was placed on a stand on a red carpet on the pitch he loved and Robyn McBryde, with the eisteddfod sword, stood at its head.

The service, which included the Welsh hymns Calon Lan and Cwm Rhondda, was conducted by the Reverend Meirion Evans, a former archdruid and friend.

Many of rugby's leading figures were among the mourners alongside politicians and dignitaries from all walks of life.

Many members of the public dressed in rugby shirts and scarves to say an emotional goodbye, as was the family's wish.

After the public funeral, the cortege travelled to Llanelli crematorium for a private service for family and friends.





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