Colin Welland

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Colin Welland
Born Colin Edward Williams[1]
(1934-07-04)4 July 1934
Liverpool, England[2][3][4][a]
Died 2 November 2015(2015-11-02) (aged 81)
London, England[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Actor, screenwriter
Years active 1962–1998
Spouse(s) Patricia Sweeney (in 1962)
Parent(s) Jack and Norah Williams
Awards BAFTA Award (1970)
Academy Award (1982)

Colin Welland (4 July 1934 – 2 November 2015), born Colin Edward Williams, was a British actor and screenwriter. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his script for Chariots of Fire (1981). He won a BAFTA Award for his performance as the empathetic teacher Mr Farthing in the 1969 film Kes.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1934 in Liverpool,[2][3][4][a] Welland grew up in the Kensington area of Liverpool before moving to Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, while still a young child. His parents were John Arthur (Jack) and Norah Williams.[5] He attended Newton-le-Willows Grammar School and after National Service[6] he studied at Goldsmiths College and Bretton Hall College of Education, where he gained a teaching diploma and qualified as a teacher.[7]

He then taught art at Manchester Road Secondary Modern school in Leigh, Lancashire, where he was known as "Ted" Williams because of his Teddy Boy curly hair style.[8] Afterwards he became an assistant stage manager at Manchester Library Theatre.

Acting and screenwriting career[edit]

As an actor, Welland appeared as PC David Graham in the BBC Television series Z-Cars from 1962 to 1978.[9] He was a sympathetic schoolteacher in a BAFTA-winning performance in the film Kes (1969), and a detective in the Richard Burton film Villain (1971). He appeared as a villain in one 1975 episode of The Sweeney, and was in the series' first cinema spin-off Sweeney! (1977) as Frank Chadwick, an editor of a newspaper. His other film appearances include Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills (1979) as the character Willie, and Dancin' thru the Dark (1990). He was also in the television series Cowboys (1980), a comedy about a dodgy builder, with Roy Kinnear.

Welland's screenwriting credits include the film Yanks (1979), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Gere, which was directed by John Schlesinger, and Twice in a Lifetime (1985), starring Gene Hackman, Ellen Burstyn and Ann-Margret.[9]

Welland won the award for Best Original Screenplay for Chariots of Fire (1981) at the 1982 Academy Awards, and his acceptance speech included the phrase: "The British are coming!"[9][10] (a quotation from Paul Revere).[8] In the film Chariots of Fire, the sign outside the Church of Scotland in Paris shows the preacher for the 9 am worship to be "C.M. Welland"; he had played a vicar in Straw Dogs (1971). Following Chariots of Fire, he was again commissioned by David Puttnam to write the screenplay for War of the Buttons (1994).

Personal life[edit]

Welland died in London in his sleep on 2 November 2015 at the age of 81.[1] He had Alzheimer's disease for several years prior to his death.[9][8]

On his death, Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam said Welland was "an unswervingly good man; a fine actor, and a seriously gifted screenwriter". Nigel Havers, who had appeared in the film, told BBC News: "I remember him being great fun with a great sense of humour and a very honest man. He had a tremendous honesty about everything he wrote. I'm just very surprised he never made more films in Hollywood. It's a great loss to us all." Z Cars co-star Brian Blessed described Welland as "a great writer and a very natural actor," adding "He had a tremendous ability for writing. He could write anything, any style."[9]

When Welland had appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 1973 he said that most of his own plays "usually champion the individual against the system". He said: "I usually find that it's one man's effort to break through what is usually expected of an individual."[9]

Welland was also a lifelong Rugby League fan who played and supported the sport, on the field and in his writing.[11]

Selected filmography as actor[edit]

Feature films


  1. ^ a b Welland's birthplace was erroneously given as Leigh in obituaries and on the Internet Movie Database prior to 5 November 2015.


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, Sam. "Colin Welland, Oscar-Winning Writer of Chariots of Fire, Dies at 81". New York Times. 3 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Colin E Williams, 1934. England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008". Birth Registration, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England. From "England & Wales Births, 1837-2006" database,, 2012. database. Accessed 6 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b Birth Registry, Liverpool Registration District, County of Lancashire, July–September 1934, Volume 8B, p. 89.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ "Colin Welland Biography (1934-)". Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "From Urchin to Oscar winner: Colin Welland" by Ray Connolly Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 November 2015
  7. ^ Colin Welland Obituary at The Guardian Film Retrieved 4 November 2015
  8. ^ a b c Boyle, Danny (3 November 2015). "Colin Welland, actor and Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire writer, dies at 81". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Actor and writer Colin Welland dies". BBC News. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "Yahoo Movies UK - Yahoo". 30 October 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015. 
  11. ^ Welland, Colin (22 October 2011). "Hard. Honest. Beautiful". The Independent. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 

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