Owain Fon Williams: Recording Welsh History In More Ways Than One

International Football - Friendly - Mexico v Wales

Far from the image of the stereotypical footballer, Williams has developed into a talented artist. Through painting, the keeper who plys his trade in The Scottish Premeirship is becoming something of a cult hero.

The Panenka takes a closer look at the Inverness Caledonian Thistle stopper and his hobby.

Artist come footballer Owain Fon Williams is Wales’ third choice goalkeeper and the Penygroes born 29-year-old however is delighted to be part of the Dragons set-up who qualified for the country’s first major tournament since 1958.

The Welshmen have made history by reaching the Euro 2016 semi-final to set up an all-star international encounter with Portugal.

The last-four spot has earned this Welsh squad a place in the record books with the appearance being the furthest the nation has ever been at an international competition.

William’s hometown of Penygroes in the North-West county of Gwynedd in Wales is the subject of William’s artistic creativity which he aims to document the history of through art. The former slate quarrying community has a population of around 2,000 people and is predominantly Welsh speaking.

With the stopper currently in France securing his place in the record books, the Inverness Caledonian Thistle number one speaks passionately over his desire to tell the history of his birthplace on canvas through oil paint..

“That’s what I’m doing, recording Welsh history,” the goalkeeper told Wales Online.

“I’m doing a collection of quarrymen at the minute; I was brought up in the area of the quarrying industry – my granddad used to cut the slates in North Wales – so that’s what I’m painting,” he explains, slightly hesitant at first to open up on his talent before becoming lost in an obvious love of something that clearly means more than a hobby.

“I’ve always loved art, it just takes it away from football. I love going into my own little world and painting away.

“At the minute, being away from Wales as well, you think of back home, and back home for me wherever you turn you see the blue slate. Obviously that industry isn’t going anymore, it’s finished.

“But the work these men did hundreds of years ago is still there – that’s Welsh history. It’s about more than just painting, it comes from the heart, it really means a lot for the family.”


Williams has turned down offers to display his oil paintings in the Welsh capital, Cardiff. Instead there is an exhibition planned for when he returns from Euro 2016 in his home village of Penygroes.

“I wanted it there, not just because it’s where I was brought up, but because around that village you just see the slate, it’s where the quarrying was at its highest. You can’t hide from it, every roof of every house is slate. What these lads did hundreds of years ago, there work is all there, they’ve left their mark,” says Williams.

“Now you’ve got divers using the quarry, but it’s important for Welsh history that we still remember the work these guys did because it was a massive industry in that part of Wales, just like the coal-mining down south. I’m a passionate Welshman, so to keep record of Welsh history is something close to my heart.”

Williams plans for the coal industry to be his next project. “I’m not throwing these paintings out, selling them for the sake of selling them. I’m doing them because it means something to me.

“I did sell a couple of small pieces to a gallery in Cardiff that went for about £500 but I wouldn’t know what it’s worth, I don’t do it for the money. I literally do it for enjoyment and what I get out of it, which is making sure the Welsh history is still there

“With a lot of artists it’s like a conveyor belt, they just paint and paint. It doesn’t happen like that with me, because I’m trying to record history as well. It can’t be just imagination.”

You would imagine that the laughs and jokes of any dressing room would not spare Williams the stick for admitting such an unusual hobby for a footballer, yet the Inverness Caldeonian Thistle stopper says that he is being pestered to put his teammates on canvas.

“It’s funny actually, because every time I see Wayne (Hennessey), he says to me: ‘You’ve promised me a painting. Any chance of you doing it?’,” Williams laughs.

“He’s asked me for a painting of just the goalies’ union, as he says. The three of us and Marg [goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson] as well. When Wayne last asked me, the other day, I said I’ll paint him, but it will have to be like what Leonardo DiCaprio did of Kate Winslet on the Titanic, I’ll paint him like that! That would be a sight wouldn’t it!”

Despite only having notched up a single appearance for Wales it is apparent that his single 16-minute appearance against Holland in 2015 friendly means the world to Williams.

The Welsh Dragons sealed their passage to Euro 2016 with a 3-0 win over Israel and the celebrations in Haifa tell you all you need to know about the tight bond between the players and coaches in the Wales ranks.

“There is a bond here, there’s something quite special when results do go our way you do get that togetherness,” smiles the 29-year-old Williams, or just Fon to his teammates.

“No one escapes, no one goes to their room, no one goes and does their own thing, we all stay together. You saw what it was like in Haifa, that’s what we’re like, get the guitar out and have a few songs. It’s a bit like a brotherhood relationship here in a way, it’s kind of like a big family where you can reply and depend on one another. It’s something I’ve not experienced at club level.”

A gifted artist at school, Williams gave the hobby up when he put all his focus into football after joining Crewe Alexandra as a scholar at the age of 16 but he decided to return to the canvas a couple of years ago.

After allowing his contract to run out at Crewe the goalkeeper signed for Stockport Country. From there he moved on to a short spell with Rochdale after a stint on loan with Bury. In 2011 Williams was signed by Tranmere Rovers where he made over 100 appearances before leaving on a free to sign with Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2015.

Wales play Portugal on July 6 in Lyon at 3:00PM ET.


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