Richard Burton's village pays tribute to 'exiled' actor





The Welsh village of Pontrhydyfen lies in a hollow rather than a valley. It is a cosy toad-in-the-hole sort of place, surrounded by wooded hills and crossed by two tall viaducts built in the industrial age.

In the shadow of one of the structures stands the terraced house where Richard Burton was born. Two tiny plaques record the fact of his birth inside a recently built glass porch at the front. One, barely visible, pays tribute to a "world star".

It has been an unprepossessing, unsatisfactory memorial to one of the greatest actors - and Hollywood hell-raisers - of the past half century, a man whose on-screen performances and off-screen love affairs kept millions in thrall. But yesterday, at last, Burton's family attempted to give a focal point for the hundreds of fans who make the pilgrimage to the village every year.

A new stone in black marble, etched in Welsh, was laid on the family grave commemorating not only Burton's parents, but the great man himself, who is buried at Celigny, overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where he had made his home. Among the 100 or so friends and family who attended a memorial service amid gentle drizzle on a hillside cemetery at Jerusalem chapel in Pontrhydyfen yesterday, one person was absent.

Thousands of miles away in California, as the male voice choir sung Welsh hymns, the ailing 74-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, one of the greatest Hollywood stars of all time, would have been thinking of events in the Welsh village.

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