Rail passengers hear work of great war poet

Phil Gwilliam
Phil Gwilliam
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An actor from St Helens regaled unsuspecting train passengers with poignant readings of Wilfred Owen’s war poetry – 100 years on from the beginning of the First World War.

Phil Gwilliam, who played rugby as a youngster alongside the likes of Paul Sculthorpe and Paul Wellens, read Owen’s poetry – including the classic Dulce Et Decorum Est – to passing commuters at New Brighton station on the Wirral on Saturday.

He is set to portray the great wartime poet in the West End production of Bullets and Daffodils this weekend.

Phil said: “I got a few funny looks but quite a few people stuck around to hear me recite a few poems too. I also got quite a few knowing looks from people who were obviously well up with their history.

“I was just glad we did it on Saturday, not Sunday, when the weather was still nice!

“Wilfred Owen’s poems are just as relevant today as they were when they were written. His masterpiece, Dulce Et Decorum Est, is about young lads going to their deaths without realising.

“In many ways we’ve still not learnt from it. We’re still sending our young men off to war.”

Phil, whose father Alan played rugby for Saints and Warrington, was in the same Saints academy team as Sculthorpe, Wellens and Lee Briers - playing as a winger or full-back - before suffering an injury and pursuing acting instead.

As well as reading Dulce Et Decorum Est, the former St Augustine’s High pupil, of Laffak, read other Wilfred Owen poems such as Anthem For Doomed Youth and Futility - while dressed up in First World War uniform.

He also handed out flyers ahead of his show at New Brighton Pavilion, which also stars Billy Butler and Dean Sullivan, this Saturday (August 16).

He added: “Reading the poems in New Brighton was particularly poignant as it was where Owen’s father worked as a station master.”