Glanville James “Willie” Williams (1922- 2019)
As a Welsh writer once put it: “Wales is culturally castrated by Non-conformism, politically raddled by Marxism, and economically exploited by England”. An incidental benefit to English rugby is the number of Welshmen who came to England in search of work and who have contributed so much to clubs across the land as players, coaches and administrators, for we Welsh truly love our game whoever plays it.
One such was Willie. Born the son of a miner in Clydach Vale at the side of the Rhondda Valley on 4th September 1922, and later living in the greener pastures of Llanharan towards the Vale of Glamorgan, he came to London with his family in 1936 as a result of the Depression. They settled in Northfields and the factories of the Great West Road and Perivale provided employment. The splendid names of his elder siblings, Gwyneth, Gwynfor and Tegwen show their strong cultural affinity for their homeland, which they maintained at the Welsh chapel still thriving on Ealing Green.
Willie naturally pursued another Welsh passion and joined the Club, first turning out for it as a scrum half in 1937 at the age of 15, commencing a relationship which lasted until his death in Ealing Hospital on 5th September at the age of 97.
After call up to military service in 1942 Willie had a 25 year career in the army, in which he took full advantage of the opportunity to acquire an education and hone his administrative abilities, later put to such good use professionally and in service of the Club. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps, and, for a time, served as a Physical Training Instructor, before several overseas postings. His performance won him a commission from the ranks and a final posting on the personal staff of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
He played at Ealing during his home postings and after retirement from the army worked as a financial adviser and as manager of Elton John’s backing group, while filling many administrative roles for the Club with distinction. As well as being a supreme organiser of sophisticated and successful social events, and creating and editing a club magazine, he was Secretary, and President between 1974 and 1979, following which he was awarded the rare accolade of Life Membership in which he took great pleasure.
In retirement he pursued his hobby of writing and in 1999 under the name of Jim Williams published The Miner’s Lamp, a fascinating evocation of the hardships of his coal mining ancestors in the Rhondda, which was well received.
His cremation took place on 4th October followed by a wake at the Club attended by his many friends and admirers. Our sympathies are extended to his son, Ken, also an Ealing player, and his daughter, Wendy, who had the good sense to marry an Ealing player, and her family, with thanks for the great contribution Willie made to the Club. When Sir Isaac Newton was asked how he made his discoveries in the field of gravity, he responded: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Subsequent committees at Ealing have been standing on Willie’s shoulders.
Rhidian JonesRhidian Jones
- A P (Pat) Egan
- Bob Cordiner
- Clive Benjamin
- Damian Bugeja
- David Inwood
- G J (Willie) Williams
- George Priechenfried
- Gordon Griffiths
- Jack Snell
- Joe Lecky
- Marek (Mark) Kostka
- Mike Hill
- Richard (Bully) Bull
- Steve Keen
- Stuart Laird
- Warwick Tilton
G J (Willie) Williams
Having joined Ealing straight from school as a shy 18 year old, I initially had little involvement with the senior members of the club in general and Willie in particular. That changed when I started to frequent the Wheatsheaf and got to know Willie, his wonderful wife Wyn, big Wally and the rest of the early evening crowd who would occupy the bar stools.
In later years, I became very friendly with Willie. He was always quietly spoken, but chose his words very carefully. As he got to know me better, he occasionally offered advice about how I could improve my performance on the pitch. Willie was the archetypal iron fist in the velvet glove, so his comments would be delivered in a friendly manner, but one was left in no doubt about the message.
Some of my favourite memories of Willie relate to the Cabaret Nights we used to hold. Willie was a born impresario, with extensive knowledge of the entertainment business. He used this expertise to mould the rabble, which included Messrs. Martin, Foote, Benjamin and myself, into a half decent outfit. Who could forget (some would like to!) Tom Jones and the Blossoms, Elton John and the Deep South Dingos, the Neverley Brothers and the Muddly Medley of Musicals including The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and South Pacific?
Willie was a proud Welshman and an Ealing man through and through. The contribution he made to the club was massive but, perhaps more importantly, he was a great guy and very loyal to those who were lucky enough to consider themselves his friends.
Our condolences go to his family.
Dave and Mary HorneDave & Mary Horne
Willie’s son Ken advises that “Willie’s funeral will be at Breakspear Crematorium East Chapel, Ruislip, at 11:30am on 4th October. I welcome anyone with club connections to the wake which will be held at Vallis Way.“Ken Williams
When I joined the Club in 1957 Willie was in the army stationed in Singapore but the older members at the time always spoke of Willie with glowing reports so I wandered who this guy was. Later Willie came to be stationed at SHAPE in Paris & then came out of the army. He became a major member of the Club & took on many roles over the years always with meticulous detail & so I understood the admiration for him. His posting in Paris proved useful when he organized a very successful tour to Paris. Also his army training was put to good use when at one time he took on the role of fitness trainer , & i remember, not exactly with pleasure, the struggle of running around Horsenden Hill with jog trots/sprints until totally exhausted (yes we did train in those days!)
At one time Willie had a job in the Knightsbridge area & several of the club members would sometimes meet up there with Willie on a tour of pubs & in particular a club the name of which I can’t now remember other than they were enjoyable times. Willie always supported club functions well & often brought a party to socials which helped them go with a swing.often with Willie leading the singing of the clubs repertoire of songs. In later years I remember catching up with him in Duffy’s where he would hold court with a bottle of white wine at his feet.
Apart from rugby Willie was a gifted writer & had a way with words–he sometimes sent me copies of articles he had written & there is a book ” The Miners Lamp” which is basically an autobiography–worth a read.
He will be sadly missed & our condolences go to the family.Mike & Shirley Williams
Back in the 1970s Willie was a leading light in the very active social life of Ealing Rugby Club. He combined his passion for rugby and the club with a love of music and singing. Who could forget him singing with the other club members and players in The Kent pub, jumping up on a table to conduct his impromptu “choir”? A born organiser, and a charismatic character, people were drawn to him. He organised, with army discipline and precision, but always with a gentlemanly courtesy, many club extravaganzas, drawing on the “talents”of club members to provide enjoyable entertainment over the years. He also had a gift for words and writing (remember him as “Scoop”when he used to submit to the local rag?) He spent the latter years of his life writing stories and articles about his “observation of life” having a book “The Miner’s Lamp” published in 1999.
Willie and his dear wife Win were very close. It was very sad to see how he succumbed to the ravages of ill health after she died. But when he was no longer able to go and watch Ealing play rugby he showed great interest in reading the match programmes, and The Trailfinders Times. He kept his feisty, inventive indomitable scrum half spirit right up to the end.Pat and John Martin
I first met Willie in 1961 when I joined Ealing towards the end of that season and I had just left school. I played in the “Extra A”, there were no Colts in those days, and he was the Captain of the team. As you might expect Willie took the time to make sure that I was made welcome and properly looked after by all the other team members. He also made sure that I was fully versed in the etiquette of the game, for example, I was in the habit of shouting out at my team mates, opposition players and even the referee, a bit like today’s players, in fact. However Willie took me to one side during an early game to tell me that rugby was not like “Soccer” and that only he, as Captain and the Pack Leader were allowed to speak, and that if I were to continue “he would send me from the field”. It was a lesson well learned and which served me well not only in rugby but life itself.
Another life changing intervention happened after a few games, Willie spoke to me concerning my habit of dashing off after the game on my bike, when he suggested that rugby was about more than what happened on the field of play and that “I should not leave until the kitty had gone”. It was to shape the next twelve years of my playing career at Ealing, and provide some wonderful times, although I am not sure that Angela, my wife would agree.
Willie was a terrific man to know, and of course a great “Ealing Man”. We all used to enjoy the various social events he organised at The Club, the dances, cabaret nights and so forth, as well as appreciating all the time and effort he put into the running of The Club at all levels. I was privileged to know him.Mike Jackson
This photo of Willie was taken in The Kent. It was a meeting between Damian , Willie and me in 2004. It was for Fire and Flair. Note the date on his cap 1947 !
He once told me he was walking across Gunnersbury Park and stopped to watch a Rugby Match. A toff ( his words ) came over asked if he played `rugger` . The rest is history as he joined Ealing Rugby club. He also told me that before WW2 he was second team but after the war and club players losing their lives he was in the first team he added how this had saddened him to the core.Dave Higgins
A giant of the club in so many respects, player, committee man, Old Sweat, President and life long supporter. He was my first President when I joined back in 1979 as a junior colt. Always had time to talk to what were then the club’s kindergarten and encourage us all to think of the club as our club and I will continue to value his friendship, wise counsel and good humour. Sorely missed on the touchline for some years now, but so very sad to hear that he has finally left us all – impossible to replace him, rest in peace Willie!Les O’Gorman
I first met G.J.”Willie” Williams and his family Grace, Ken and Wendy in the 1960s when he was still in the army but planning his departure and a new life – in fact it was, for a short time, with Canada Life! He was later involved in Elton John’s admin and support team. The Ealing Evergreens Inaugural Tour of 1967 was arranged by Willie through his old Rhine Army contacts in Senelager \(?) Bielefeldt and Paderborn. Our “squad” (before it was fashionable) included Warwick Tilton, Ken Bonner, John Richards, Fintan Traynor, Ray Cusdin and many durable statesmen of Ealing by whom I was, as the baby of the tour, honoured by an invitation to join them. Some misguidedly contributed the notion that we were ” a drinking team with a rugby problem” but Cap’n Williams would have none of it – he vehemently refuted this and settled for “a highly talented company of performers and singers with a rugby future!”
Willie settled back in Ealing, holding audiences and ‘offices’ in the Horsenden Hill clubhouse, and hostelries in Pitshanger Lane, advising, affably arguing, listening to and motivating club members, hardly ever missing a game during his seamless “transitioning” from Guinness to Muscadet! In later years, Willie was joined by his soul-mate Win – they were inseparable, taking an active part in the club and community. He sadly lost Win some years ago – I last saw him around then , for a chat at the club when he was on his trike behind the trade-mark glass of Muscadet – supporting Ealing as he had always done. Like a solid item of polished furniture leaving an empty space, Willie will be sadly missed. My sincere condolences to the family.
I was privileged to have known him.Will Sinnott
Ruth and I remember Willie Williams with great affection – and his late wife Wyn. Back in the early 70s when I joined the Club he was so welcoming and with Wyn being ‘Queen of the Teas’ they were the heartbeat of the Club. Then, the Club had a central core of Welsh players and ex-players who were dedicated (in those amateur days) to making the Club as good as it could be, giving their time and experience – alongside many others – freely and willingly. As I progressed from schoolboy to senior player Willie was always encouraging and supportive. A true gentleman – as others have said – I don’t think the Club will see his like again.Sid Webber