By Gerry Harrison
The actor ‘Abi’, or Abdi Gouhad, has died recently at the age of 69 of pancreatic cancer, swiftly but also peacefully in the Marie Curie Hospice in Belsize Park. He was a very private, almost secretive, man, with a life that he tended to reserve in separate compartments, but over the years he allowed more and more of it to be known.
He was the best-known if not the only Somali actor in Britain, whose achievements were an inspiration to his own people. In later years he committed himself to improving the circumstances of Somali immigrants in London. In this context he liked to remember the words of W.H. Auden, who is lamenting the plight of Jews, in ‘Refugee Blues’: “Stood on a great plain in the falling snow/Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro/Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.”
I first met Abi on a football field on Hampstead Heath, in one of many seasons of Sunday morning ‘kickabouts’ among players of all ages and certainly varied skills known as Dartmouth Park United. He was a mid-field player, with nimble footwork and brilliantly accurate passing.