Richard Chamberlain – The man behind
By Margaret Sheard – Video by Chris Elliott
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Richard Chamberlain at The Round Tower where he had an exhibition of his photographs which were taken in Cyprus in 1954/55. What a nice and interesting man he is and I spent a long time talking to him and looking at the many photographs he had taken while in Cyprus with his little £8 French manufactured camera, which he had bought in 1951. The actual camera was there for visitors to see and even at its great age I thought it looked extremely elegant. The photographs are brilliant, they have been reproduced from the negatives which Richard’s older brother, John, discovered some 50 years later, and the quality is superb bearing in mind how many years ago they were taken.
Richard has agreed to delve into his memory and come up with some information about his time in Cyprus where he did part of his British National Service with the Royal Signals, along with his twin brother Mike. They were then 18 years old and thought they had arrived in Paradise. I am always interested in the actual person as well as their achievements so I asked Richard to tell me a little about himself. Later, when Richard returns to the UK and he has a chance to start recollecting some of his memories, I will be putting together what I hope will be an interesting and perhaps sometimes amusing account of Richard’s time in Cyprus in 1954/55, and it is hoped this will also help to promote his book “Cyprus Scenes and Way of Life in 1954” which was published in 2010 and shows many scenes of Cyprus and the people which, as Richard has said in his preface, is when the island was one entity and the Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived happily side by side in peace. There are a great many photographs which were taken in Varosha (Maraş) which of course was a thriving area at the time Richard was there. How lucky he was to have been able to freely visit this now inaccessible area and take all of his wonderful photographs.
Richard and his twin brother, Mike, were born on 20th January 1935 in Acton, London. His first marriage was in March 1960 in Ilford and there were 2 children, a son and a daughter. Richard later married again to his present wife Vivian in 1977. Richard’s daughter, Lynne lives in North Cyprus so he visits her as often as he can.
I asked Richard how he came to develop an interest in photography and he said his brother, John, who had an interest in photography, had made him a camera from an old Colman’s Mustard tin. When he was about 16 he started to take a camera to school and photographing his fellow pupils which he then had developed and sold the prints to the boys. Maybe this is where Richard’s business world started, which as you will see has been very varied.
Richard’s first job was in the printing trade as a Compositor where he did a 7 year apprenticeship and eventually with new technology emerging he went on to learn all about photo-setting. After a while with 2 friends they started up their own photo-setting business in Clerkenwell, London where they eventually had 60 employees. After about 12 years Richard decided to move on and his partners bought him out of the business.
The next venture was buying vintage Rolls Royce cars and starting a wedding car hire business, he later sold this business and opened a Gymnasium in Brentwood, Essex. Richard was very proud to say that the opening of the Gymnasium was carried out by Geoff Capes, a giant of a man who won numerous records including the World’s Strongest Man in the 1980’s. Richard ran the Gymnasium for 5-6 years and then sold it, as by then he had developed an interest in greyhound racing.
Richard bought a large house with land, this was Huntsman’s House in Billericay, England which was a hunting dog kennels so was ideal for his new venture. So started the training of greyhounds, there were 10 in all and Richard said the dogs all stayed with him to the end of their days. One of his triumphs was with a dog called Huntsman Nippy who had the track record at Brighton of 970 yards in the fastest time. Richard’s dogs raced at many of the well-known greyhound tracks in and around the London area and he continued with this business for about 15 years and then he decided to sell the house and move to Suffolk, where he and Vivian still live.
To see more of Richard’s photographs at his exhibition, see the video below.