Wyn Calvin

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Wyn Calvin at the Grand Order of Water Rats 2014

Wyn Calvin, MBE OStJ (born Joseph Wyndham Calvin-Thomas, 28 August 1925), known affectionately as "The Clown Prince of Wales" and "The Welsh Prince of Laughter",[1] is a Welsh comedian, pantomime dame, actor (theatre and television), radio personality, television chat show host, after-dinner speaker, lecturer, philanthropist and newspaper columnist.[2] He has worked with numerous stars within the entertainment industry including Harry Secombe, Bob Hope, Christopher Biggins, Shirley Bassey, Frankie Vaughan, Vic Morrow, Bud Flanagan, Roy Hudd, Max Boyce, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, he was the seventh of eight children in the Calvin-Thomas family. At the age of four, the family left for Cardiff. His father John Calvin Thomas felt there would be a better chance of employment there.[4] Calvin was a pupil of Kitchner Road School and Radnor Road School before attending Canton High School for Boys in Cardiff.[5] In 1944 he was called up and enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps aged 17. He collapsed during training and, when a heart condition was diagnosed, was invalided out.[4]

Having left the army, he went straight into entertainment, breaking the family tradition of producing Presbyterian preachers. He auditioned at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for He served with ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association), the forces entertainment service. during World War II. With war still raging he toured camps in Britain and a few weeks later, on May 14, six days after fighting in Europe ended, his troupe sailed to France to entertain allied soldiers in newly liberated France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.[6]

After leaving ENSA he spent five years in (rep|repertory theatre) touring Great Britain.[2] It was here where he found his forte as a comedian.

His first big break on stage came in the 1960s in the guise of Humpty Dumpty in a part written for Sir Harry Secombe who performed it at the London Palladium but Wyn took the show on the road from London to Manchester.

As a comedy performer he appeared in variety theatres around the country including summer shows (seven in Llandudno and four in Blackpool where he was referred to as "Blackpool's favourite Welsh comedian").[7] He is particularly well known for pantomime. Appearing annually in over 50 pantomimes, he achieved the status of one of Britain's premier pantomime dames especially renowned as a classic Widow Twankey[8] in Aladdin which he played until 2011 . Prior to Ian McKellen playing the role in an Old Vic production (2004 and 2005), he contacted Calvin for guidance.

He broke into radio in the 1950s as Tommy Trotter in the classic radio show Welsh Rarebit on BBC Wales. He appeared on the BBC Light Programme's Workers’ Playtime on 47 separate occasions from 1951 to 1964 and on Midday Music Hall on 13 occasions from 1953 to 1964 as well as many other programmes.[9]

He was a columnist in the Western Mail for many years.

He has supported many charities. In 1991 he became the first Welshman ever to be elected King Rat[10] of the Grand Order of Water Rats, a show business fraternity and charity, and has also been the Welsh chairman of the Variety Club of Great Britain,[11] executive member of The Royal Variety Charity[12] and supported the Cerebral Palsy charity. Calvin-Thomas received the MBE for charitable services in 1991[13] and the OStJ in 1993.[14]

Wyn as an accomplished after-dinner speaker, has also spoken at St. David's Day events all over the world. He has lectured on the subject 'Laughter - The Antidote to Stress'. His appearances have varied between Malaysia, Jakarta and Vietnam in the Far East and many American states in the West.[7]

In 1994 he was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He became Vice President of both the British Music Hall Society and the Max Miller Appreciation Society.

Personal life[edit]

Calvin was a founding member and trustee of the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital Charity.[15] He has been married to wife Carole Calvin, a former dancer from Tenby since 1985.


  1. ^ "'The longest six months of my life': Wyn Calvin MBE". Western Telegraph. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b The incredibly colourful life of the Welshman celebrating 75 years in showbiz - Wales Online
  3. ^ "Wyn Calvin celebrates 90th birthday and 70th year being an entertainer". Wales Online. 1 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Sinclair, Bruce (1 November 2020). "Longest Six Months of my Life". Western Telegraph. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  5. ^ Sharkey, Moira (13 October 2007). "Ex-pupils are set to reunite for centenary". South Wales Echo. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  6. ^ Jenkins, Gareth (9 March 1995). "Heydays: A man of many faces". The Stage. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Past King Rat". GOWR. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  8. ^ "My Christmas: confessions of a pantomime dame". BBC. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  9. ^ "BBC Genome Project". Radio Times 1923-2008. BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Past King Rats of The Grand Order of Water Rats". Gowr.net. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  11. ^ "Chairman of the Welsh Regional Committee". The Stage. 5 June 1980.
  12. ^ "Executive member". The Stage. 26 February 1976.
  13. ^ "MBE". The London Gazette. 51772: 12. 16 June 1989.
  14. ^ "OStJ". The London Gazette. 53253: 5136. 22 March 1993.
  15. ^ "Founding members". Noah's Ark. Noah's Ark Charity. Retrieved 10 March 2021.

External links[edit]