TRIBUTES have been paid to the iconic cartoonist Gren, who died yesterday at the age of 72.
He died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff with his sons Darryl and Chris at his side after being taken ill at his home in Llandaff on Wednesday morning.
Born Grenfell Jones in 1934, he joined the South Wales Echo in 1968 and quickly gained a cult following across South Wales.
He remained with the paper until his retirement from the full-time staff in 1999, creating, among other things, the Valleys town of Aberflyarff and the comic strip Ponty an' Pop.
His friend, the singer and comedian Max Boyce, yesterday praised Gren's contribution to Welsh life, but added that it was the Hengoed-born cartoonist's unfailing kindness and generosity that would live longest in his memory.
"Through his drawings, he captured Welsh life in a unique way, better than anyone else," he said.
"But above that he was simply the most generous of people, and certainly one of the most kind and generous I have ever met.
"He was known for his cartoons, but what people don't realise is that he raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity, but never asked for anything in return.
"He was a wonderfully warm and generous person, who I thought the world of. He was a very special person, and I'm so sad to hear this news.
"He will be sadly missed by millions of people for his books and his calendars, but it's his immense generosity that I will remember him for. He had an ability to capture Welsh life without being bitter.
"He did it in a kind way, but in an acute way. He was a huge talent - as good as anyone, and up there with the very best of British cartoonists.
"A kinder friend I have never met."
Many of Gren's most famous drawings centred on the fortunes of the Welsh rugby team, bringing him into contact with players of many different eras.
Gareth Edwards, arguably the greatest player to be depicted in any of Gren's cartoons, paid tribute to his eternal ability to strike a nerve with his audience.
"He defined our character in the way that he put his ideas over," he said.
"His cartoons always hit the spot with his caricatures and just one or two words. He always managed to hit the right note and never failed to raise a smile, which allowed us to laugh at ourselves.
"He had a uncanny knack of putting his finger right on the nub of what was going on.
"I didn't see him that often, but when I did, we would always have a good chat.
"He would send me some originals of cartoons that had been in the paper, and I've kept those and cherish them to this day. I think one of the funniest ones he ever did was when I was appointed to a post at Welsh Water. He drew a cartoon of me in a river with a pair of waders on, with adidas stripes on the side.
"This is very, very sad news and he will be a great loss to all of us."
After officially leaving the Echo in 1999, Gren continued to produce daily cartoons right until his death, with the final one appearing in yesterday's edition of the Cardiff evening paper.
His son Darryl said yesterday that it had been his father's desire to keep working until the end. "He always said he would never stop drawing, and he didn't," he said.
"He'd been asked not long ago how he wanted to go. He said, 'Over a drawing board with my pen sliding down the page'.
"It's a funny thing to say, but that was Dad."
Geoff Rich, who worked alongside Gren as the Echo's editor for 19 years between 1971 and 1990, described the artist as the sheer epitome of South Wales.
"He didn't really reflect the character of Wales, he didn't report it, he was the character of Wales. He had that sense of humour, that quick, acid sense of humour of the Welsh. He was an incredible observer of the ordinary man.
"He never got on with the crachach too well - he was from Hengoed, and you don't get too many pink coats of the huntsmen in those parts.
"But that's South Wales, you don't get landed gentry in these parts, they are all great people, and Gren was able to look at people and report them how they were. And yet they always came out new and fresh.
"He was a great friend of mine. I knew him before I became editor of the Echo of course. Before I arrived there, my predecessor used him as a single column. I had him across five on the first day I was there.
"He was that good - he was more important than most.
"The great thing about working with him was that you could always be real with him. I could say to him that a cartoon was just not funny, or that it was nasty or vicious - because he could be vicious - but he would take it on board, and he would never have meant it to be.
"I don't think you would ever accuse him of being a Rembrandt or a Renoir, but he was much more fun. He had a very distinct style - he couldn't draw a rugby boot without putting a smile on the toe."
First minister Rhodri Morgan described Gren as a "true legend".
"I remember when I was first elected to parliament in 1987, reading the Evening Standard and the cartoons were so laboured and unfunny compared to Gren.
"I hope there is some young cartoonist, perhaps in art college, who will be able to step into Gren's giant shoes.
"He was a true legend."
A much-loved colleague who won many honours for his original work
Grenfell Jones, who died aged 72, was born in Hengoed, in the Rhymney Valley, on 13 June 1934.
His interest in drawing cartoons started at an early age when he started producing caricatures of people from his neighbourhood, but his first steps into a professional career were as an engineering designer between 1958 and 1963.
After leaving the trade, he began working full-time as a freelance cartoonist, before earning a staff job on the South Wales Echo in 1968.
He was given a daily slot on the paper, and over the 38 years until his death produced thousands of comic drawings of famous characters like Bromide Lil, Ponty an' Pop, and the sheep Neville and Nigel. His rugby-inspired cartoons were among his most famous, with Wales' successful team of the 1970s providing the backdrop to several of his most renowned creations, among them the fictional Valleys town of Aberflyarff, in Scrum Cap Valley.
His dedication made him a much-loved figure among colleagues, while his skill was also honoured with the title of Provincial Cartoonist of the Year by the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain on four occasions in the space of five years between 1983 and 1987. He was also awarded an MBE in 1989 for his services to newspapers.
As well as his contributions to the Echo, he also produced an annual rugby calendar, and 25 books of his etchings.