Born Grenfell Jones, on 13 June, 1934, in Hengoed, Rhymney Valley, Gren first became interested in cartoons as a young boy.
He started drawing caricatures of neighbours and local people in his hymn book at his local chapel, and when he was older, started sending pictures to agents.
Although he started his working life in engineering, he always continued his love for drawing and worked as a freelance cartoonist and illustrator, before joining the South Wales Echo in November 1968.
Gren, who liked working to music, drew a topical cartoon for the Echo every day from his Llandaff home in Cardiff, after retiring from the newsroom in 1999.
He created the famous fictional rugby club Royal Aberflyarff RFC, cartoon strip Ponty and Pop, Bromide Lil and his message-bearing sheep, Neville and Nigel.
Today, his unique cartoons have become instantly recognisable worldwide and his comic slant on daily news often brought a smile to readers.
He said: ‘All I ever wanted was to draw. I have an almost childish love of cartoons. I always look forward to doing them. If it wasn’t my work, I’d be doing them as a hobby.’Talking in 2004 about the job he loved so much, Gren said: ‘I get more enthusiastic as the years go on. I’m in my room for 7.30am and I watch the morning news and look through several newspapers.
‘I usually have the cartoon ready by midday, but it can be a bit of a panic sometimes. I’m just as thrilled if I see a cartoon of mine in print today as I was 30 years ago.’On another occasion he said: ‘I’m one of those rare and very lucky people who actually gets paid to do what they’ve always wanted to do.
‘I’ve never been tempted by computer graphics. I love drawing. Putting pen to paper is sheer joy for me.’Gren won the Provincial Cartoonist of the Year award four times and was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours in 1989.
Over the years he produced countless diaries, rugby and business calendars and books, including Welsh And Proud Of It, 101 Really Useful Things To Do With A Welsh Hat, and his Duffer’s Guide books.
About his MBE, Gren joked: ‘I’m absolutely delighted and I’m looking forward to going up to London, unless the Queen wants to come to Aberflyarff and present it.’In 2005, to celebrate his 40-year career Gren released a limited edition collection of his work, choosing 40 original watercolour cartoons for the collection.
One of Gren’s favourites is the cartoon he did when Charles and Diana married in 1981.
‘When I first started,’he said, ‘I spent a lot of time with Jon, of the Daily Mail. He said, draw what you know. I knew about rugby and the Valleys.’Gren said he first realised his affinity with sheep while driving with friends through Pontlottyn. He stopped his car while a sheep casually made its way across the road and was struck by the effect his road manners had on his passengers. ‘They were amazed and amused that I should be treating a sheep like one of the community which, of course, they are in the Valleys,’he said.
So were born Neville and Nigel, who cropped up in countless Gren cartoons. ‘The idea just grew from that day in Pontlottyn,’said Gren.
‘I realised that cartoon sheep could take on human values, taking the place of real people commenting on everyday issues.’Father of sons Darryl and Chris, with his first wife Anne, Gren married second wife Ann in 1993. She died last year.
See www.gren-art.co.uk for his work.
Jessica Flynn, community affairs correspondent, South Wales Echo