Wellington Scoop

A life as an actor: death of Ray Henwood

Leading Wellington actor Ray Henwood has died at the age of 82.

A pillar of Circa Theatre since co-founding it in 1976, the Welsh-born actor appeared in many plays, films and television programmes, most famously the TV sitcom Gliding On written by Roger Hall, which screened on TV between 1981 and 1985. It was a comedy that “satirised a paper-pushing working life then-familiar to many Kiwis”.

He also presented one-man performances as the poet Dylan Thomas and the actor Richard Burton – both fellow Welshmen.

Mr Henwood graduated in chemistry at Swansea University before emigrating to New Zealand aged 25. He worked as a teacher at Mana College and then was a forensic toxicologist at the DSIR, while developing a second career as an actor, first as an amateur, then turning professional in 1970.

Drawing on his work as a forensic chemist, he campaigned against the use of cannabis and was author of the 1970 book A Turned On World – Drugs in New Zealand.

Ray Henwood is survived by his wife, retired judge Carolyn Henwood. Comedian Dai Henwood is their son.

Ray Henwood: the voice
Gliding On – Episode One

Tribute from WCC
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester has paid tribute to Ray Henwood, following the actor’s death at the age of 82.

“Ray was an absolute stalwart of the Wellington drama scene. His contribution to what we have today cannot be understated,” the Mayor says. “His first love was stage work and we are thankful he graced the stage in Wellington. He loved the city and we also loved him. If you went to see a play with Ray in the credits you knew you were going to see something special.”

In 1964, he helped establish Downstage, Wellington’s first professional theatre. In 1976, he and his wife Carolyn decided it was time for a second theatre and Circa Theatre was born.

Ray’s performance career encompassed radio, television and film. He became a household name through a series of Moro Bar advertisements in the 70s and as Hugh in Roger Hall’s Gliding On.

Ray was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 for his services to theatre and the arts.

Earlier this year, he accepted an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Award for his contribution to the city’s theatre scene.

“My personal and heart-felt condolences go to his family,” the Mayor says.


  1. Grant Robertson, 26. August 2019, 18:45

    Devastated to learn of Ray’s passing. A kind, generous and talented man. All my love and support to Carolyn, Dai and family. Rest easy Ray.

  2. David Geary, 26. August 2019, 18:46

    RIP Ray Henwood. You were a great artist and true gentleman. Love and hugs to all your family.

  3. Sunny Amey, 27. August 2019, 9:30

    A mighty kauri of our stage has fallen. Ray will always be remembered from his early days, as a professional, at Downstage through to his extraordinary support of his beloved Circa. His benign personality and mellifluous voice will always be remembered. Haere ra.