Wales

MBE for Pontypridd Groggs maker John Hughes

Groggs of Gareth Edwards, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Springsteen, Bryn Terfel as Falstaff, and George Best
Image caption John Hughes' Grogg of rugby star Gareth Edwards (left), with Muhammad Ali, Bruce Springsteen, Bryn Terfel as Falstaff, and George Best

The man who created Groggs - hand-carved caricatures celebrating sporting heroes and the famous - has been awarded an MBE for his services to ceramics.

The work of John Hughes, 74, shot to fame in 1971 with his figures of rugby stars Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams.

The figures made at the family shop in Treforest, Pontypridd, are now exported all over the world.

Groggs auctions have raised thousands for charity over the past 40 years.

Describing his work as a "45-year overnight success story," he said he was "really excited" by his award in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, and being nomimated by "people I respect" such as rugby players.

Mr Hughes explained that he took up ceramics in the late 50s when he was unable to take up a two-year photography course in London due to his growing young family.

With his wife, Pamela, working to support the family, he worked out of three sheds in his back garden, scraping a living by selling ashtrays, plates and animal figures to gift shops around the Welsh coast.

He also carved figures of giant characters from the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient Welsh folk-tales.

He said: "Since nobody knew who the giants were, I was getting tired of explaining these myths and legends.

"I suddenly thought of doing modern "giants" like the second row in the [Wales rugby] team, Brian Price and Brian Thomas.

"I put the red jerseys on them and that's how it started. Then Gareth Edwards and the glory years of the '70s came along and we haven't stopped making them."

Image caption John Hughes in the early years of his Grogg-making career

However, a key to the Groggs success was moving from his garden sheds to the Treforest Grogg shop, he said, as people were able to see them on the shelves close up.

He said: "We've got collectors with 200 or 300, in normal houses. They've got as many as we've got in the shop.

His son Richard and daughter Catherine are both heavily involved in the business and Mr Hughes, who is recovering from cancer, is taking more of a back seat.

The nomination praises his work for charity, especially in the field of disabled sports and for Cardiff Institute for the Blind.

He said: "We haven't got any money but when people have dinners and auctions, we try to do special things for them. Some do get a lot money.

A dinner marking a Grogg shop anniversary raised £20,000 for Ty Hafan, Wales' children's hospice.

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