Wrexham-born Baby Reindeer actor receives Honorary Fellowship

Date: Friday, May 31, 2024

It was a full circle moment for actor Mark Lewis Jones today when he stepped onto the William Aston Hall stage to receive his Honorary Fellowship from Wrexham University for his services to theatre and performing arts.

That's because the last time he appeared on that same stage, he was treading the boards in a youth theatre production of Vincent Van Gogh more than 40 years ago.

Born in 1964 in Rhosllanerchrugog, where his family still resides, Mark attended Ysgol y Rhos and Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrexham – and it was secondary school, which proved to be a formative place for him thanks to his drama teacher, Gwawr Mason, who encouraged him to perform in the school play when he was 16.

He joined the Clwyd Youth Theatre, before going on to train at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, from which he graduated in 1986. 

His illustrious career has spanned stage acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Globe Theatre in London as well as roles on television and in blockbuster movies. 

Mark’s list of television and film credits are extensive – ranging from Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Keeping Faith, The Crown, Chernobyl, Stella to one of this year’s most talked about series, Baby Reindeer – playing the role of Donny’s father, Gerald.

Speaking about being named an Honorary Fellow, Mark said: “I’m Rhosllanerchrugog born and bred, so to be awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Wrexham University is extra special, it’s rather lovely and it means a great deal to me.

“Many years ago, I came back home to Rhos and I was having a drink with a lad I knew from the village that was doing well with his rugby – just as my acting career was taking off. And he said to me ‘it’s amazing – we’re both from Rhos, and we’re making a name for ourselves’ – and straight away I said: ‘it’s because we’re from Rhos, that we are.

“I want local young people to realise that where you are from doesn’t hold you back – if you’ve got the drive and the hunger, that’s what’s important.

“How I got into acting is thanks to my wonderful, late high school drama teacher, Gwawr Mason. During my teenage years, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. My dad was a joiner – and my two brothers followed in his footsteps but I just knew that wasn’t for me.

“Previously I’d shown no interest in acting at all – nobody from my family had gone into the arts, so it definitely came as a surprise to everyone but once she asked me to perform in that show, that was it – my life had changed from that point.

“She was a truly special person, I will always be grateful for her encouragement and influence. It really goes to show the power of education but also the power of those teachers and lecturers, who see something in a young person and give them the confidence to push forward in life.”

During his ceremony speech, Mark vowed to maintain a special relationship with the University.

He said: “I am so grateful to this university, this young university that I am now part of the family of and I can tell you today, that I will do everything I can to help this university and remain a part of it for the rest of my life.”

As well as Mark, the University bestowed Honorary Fellowships onto four other individuals this week:

  • Musician Andrew Scott for his services to Wrexham AFC and the wider community.
  • Zip World founder Sean Taylor for his services to tourism, Welsh heritage and culture.
  • Professor John Moses for his services to the sciences.
  • Co-founder of Focus Wales, Neal Thompson for his services to the University, Wrexham and the local economy.
  • Academic and alumni, Jon Laughton for his services to the University.

The University confers Honorary Fellowships upon individuals in recognition of their significant commitment to the University and the wider community.

Addressing the crowd of graduands as he received his Fellowship this week, Andrew Scott, who is best known for being the lead guitarist and a backing vocalist in the glam rock band Sweet, said: “As a ‘Wrexhamian’, who was born in Maesydre brought up in Acton and eventually flew the nest, there’s a word called ‘hiraeth’ and it’s what I carry with me all over the world.

“I have to say coming back to Wrexham has been fantastic, and all I can say is if I can do what I’ve done, you can do whatever you want to do. It’s not something that’s written, write your own future.”