Colin Welland

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.

Colin Welland
Colin Edward Williams[1]

(1934-07-04)4 July 1934
Died2 November 2015(2015-11-02) (aged 81)
London, England[1]
OccupationActor, screenwriter
Years active1962–1998
Spouse(s)Patricia Sweeney (in 1962)
Parent(s)Jack and Norah Williams
AwardsBAFTA Award (1970)
Academy Award (1982)

Early life

Born in 1934 in Liverpool,[2][3][4][lower-alpha 1] Welland grew up in the Kensington area of Liverpool before moving to Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, (now Merseyside); 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] He later became an assistant stage manager at Manchester Library Theatre.

Acting and screenwriting career

As an actor, Welland appeared as PC David Graham in the BBC Television series Z-Cars from 1962 to 1965.[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, a newspaper editor. 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 teleplay about the strike for equal pay Leeds United (1974), 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]

When Welland 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 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).


Welland died in London in his sleep on 2 November 2015 at the age of 81.[1] He had been afflicted with 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]

Personal life

Welland married Patricia Sweeney in 1962, the marriage producing a son and three daughters.[11] He was a lifelong rugby league fan who played and supported the sport, on the field and in writing newspaper columns.[12]

Selected filmography as actor

Feature films
Year Title Role Notes
1969KesMr. Farthing
1971VillainTom Binney
1971Straw DogsRev. Barney Hood
1977Sweeney!Frank Chadwick
1990Dancin' Thru the DarkBransky's manager


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


  1. Roberts, Sam. "Colin Welland, Oscar-Winning Writer of Chariots of Fire, Dies at 81". The New York Times. 3 November 2015.
  2. "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. Birth Registry, Liverpool Registration District, County of Lancashire, July–September 1934, Volume 8B, p. 89.
  4. "Colin Welland Biography (1934-)". Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  5. "From Urchin to Oscar winner: Colin Welland" by Ray Connolly Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 November 2015
  6. Colin Welland Obituary at The Guardian Film Retrieved 4 November 2015
  7. 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.
  8. "Actor and writer Colin Welland dies". BBC News. 3 November 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  9. "Yahoo Movies UK - Yahoo". 30 October 2015. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  10. Obituary for Welland, 'The Guardian', 3 November 2015.
  11. Welland, Colin (22 October 2011). "Hard. Honest. Beautiful". The Independent. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
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