As a lad growing up in the seventies I often saw Rupert Davies in lots of films; he had an average-looking face that kept him in regular work. As a jobbing actor his ordinary features ensured he made a good living and he was in 34 films.
While slowly making my way up the coastal road in North Wales I stopped in a layby and walked in hot sun down to a quaint churchyard where Rupert lies. A friendly-faced lady who was just exiting the church said, “Will you make sure you lock the door - the goats get in and eat everything.” There was a handwritten note on the door repeating this and a wee brass lock. The ancient St Beuno’s Church had straw on the floor though I’m not sure why.
The churchyard is small so I soon found Rupert buried on the hill above the church near the wall. He was born in Liverpool and was with the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. Aged 24 he nearly died. He was a gunner in a plane that crashed (or was shot down) while laying mines in the Scheldt estuary off the Dutch coast. He and the pilot clung to a dingy and it took eleven hours for them to paddle to shore. Here they spotted Nazi soldiers on the beach and quickly swam back out to sea. Fortunately they were not shot but unfortunately they were taken prisoner and eventually placed in the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp (which inspired the film The Great Escape.) For five years of his incarceration Rupert tormented the Nazi guards with three escape attempts. It’s a wonder he wasn’t shot. In one attempt he hid inside a tower for over three weeks before trying to clamber down 100ft to freedom. Perhaps he wouldn’t have become an actor had it not been for the war as, while captive, he took part in theatre performances to entertain the other prisoners.
After his release from the war camp he started acting almost immediately and never had to get a “proper job.” He wasn’t blessed with film-star looks but his unruly mop of hair and friendly face gave him many supporting roles that made him a staple of British television. His gentle slightly-authoritative demeanour meant he played priests, detectives and doctors. There even some low-budget horror movies, often starring Vincent Price.
His most famous role was in the BBC’s Chief Inspector Maigret series over four years. The fame from this ensured he did some commercials that made him far more money than the Maigret series did. He died of cancer in London in 1976 and left a wife and two sons.
This church is down an unnamed road and looks out onto the ocean. I’m not sure why Rupert is buried here (with his wife) as it’s a long way from the metro-buzz London gives off. It couldn’t be more peaceful and serene. I stood on a snail and felt guilty.
Note the straw on the floor…