by Benjamin Wright
Richey Edwards' sister Rachel Elias has revealed he turned down a scholarship to stay with his friends
Missing Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards was offered the chance to study at a prestigious boarding school as a child - but turned down the offer so he could go to a local comp with friends instead.
Edwards, who mysteriously disappeared 20 years ago, is often heralded as one of rock's greatest lyricists and was famed for his intellect as well as ability to self-destruct.
His sister Rachel Elias, who has long campaigned for more help for the families of missing people, said she believed her older brother was always destined for greatness even from a young age.
Mrs Elias said her sibling's brainpower was soon noticed at primary school and resulted in him being offered a scholarship for Monmouthshire School for Boys.
The 400-year-old institution founded by London harberdasher William Jones is often heralded as one of Britain's best boarding schools and its famous past pupils include the 4th Baron Moynihan and acclaimed film and stage actor Victor Spinetti.
However, despite sailing through the entry exams and being offered for his fees to be paid to attend the private school, coal miner's son Edwards decided to stay closer to his working-class roots in Blackwood.
Mrs Elias, 45, said: "He always excelled at whatever he did at school, college and university as well as the band.
"When he was younger he was asked to go Monmouth boarding school to sit a private exam for a scholarship.
"He took the exams and passed them but he decided he wanted to stay in ordinary school. I have no idea why he decided to do that, possibly to stay closer to his friends in school.
"However, the decision didn't end up affecting him academically in the slightest.
"He later got three As at A-level and 2:1 in his degree - which he was really devastated by because he wanted a first so much.
"We always said he could have gone into career he wanted. When he set his mind on something, he went and did it."
His dedication was such that when he graduated from Swansea University with a degree in politics, his parents Graham and Sherry supported their son in his dream of becoming a rock star - even though he was a terrible guitar player.
"When Richard joined Manic Street Preachers I really admired his drive," Mrs Elias said.
"They weren't content with just being 'rocking rodgers' on the local music scene.
"His attitude was 'we are going to make a success of this and this is how we are going to do it'.
"He was incredibly focused. He was the force behind the band as he was the one writing reams and reams of letters to record companies, management companies and music magazines.
"Even the rejection letters that he got didn't deter him. It's quite funny because he kept them all....
"His mindset was systematic in that 'this is how we are going to do this'.
"My parents were always supportive of him - even after he finished university and told them he was going to be in a rock band.
"The irony of this was he couldn't play guitar very well, if at all. He was unplugged most of the time.
"His attitude towards musicianship flew in the face of all prog-musos at the time. He was more interested in writing reams and reams of poems with (bassist) Nicky Wire."
After signing a multi-million pound record deal, Manic Street Preachers went on to score several top 40 hits and gain a cult following across the globe for their mix of Sylvia Plath poetry and Guns N Roses-style guitar licks.
However, the rock'n'roll lifestyle began to take its toll on a sensitive Edwards - who was later admitted into a psychiatric hospital in 1994 after his alcoholism and self-harming spiralled out of control.
Then, on February 1 the following year, and hours before he was due to fly out to the US to promote his band's "masterpiece" The Holy Bible, the 27-year-old walked out of a London hotel in the early hours of the morning never to seen again.
His Vauxhall Cavalier was eventually found near the old Severn Bridge more than two weeks later - prompting fears he had committed suicide.
Despite several claimed sightings, no trace of Edwards either dead or alive has been found.
Following his disappearance, Manic Street Preachers would go on to become one of Britain's biggest bands and have since scored two number one singles and seven top-five albums.
Edwards was eventually declared presumed dead by a court order in 2008 - although Mrs Elias said she has never given up hope on finding out what happened to her brother.
'I hope people will remember the man, not the myth'
However, the star's sister said while the uncertainty remained she had plenty of fond memories she would treasure forever - and hoped in time people would remember the "man and not the myth".
Mrs Elias added: "We were really close growing up and it was nice how there were never any conflicts or arguments between us.
"When we were in junior school we used just to go to the local record shop and buy albums together like the Police and The Boomtown Rats before he got into Echo and The Bunnymen and The Smiths.
"It's these things that kind of get swept by the wayside.
"The fact that he was really intelligent and sensitive and that he was the force behind the band their lyrics just seems to get forgotten.
'He wasn't someone who self harmed'
"On one occasion the band were playing in Thailand and a fan threw some knives on stage with a note saying 'cut yourself for me'. He was genuinely appalled by it and told me 'what a shit thing to be remembered for'. He wasn't someone who just self-harmed.
"It's like now when people academically theorise over The Holy Bible - which was released before he disappeared - about what his state of mind was or what each song means.... but we don't really know.
"Some people said to me there should be a statue should be erected of him or maybe I should write a book debunking a lot of the myths and theories about him and his reappearance.
"It's still at the planning stages but I would definitely like to do something in the future to preserve Richard's legacy."
In the meantime, mental health support worker Mrs Elias said she plans to continue her campaigning work with charity Missing People, whose Rock Choir have released a fundraising single called I Miss You.
She added: "Meeting other family members via the charity who have been through similar situations has helped a great deal.
"Even though every missing person disappears for a different reason, the experiences are the same for those left behind.
"It's learning to cope with it every day."
The Missing People Rock Choir track I Miss You can be downloaded for a donation of £1 via the website www.missingpeople.org.uk/imissyou
[Originally published: walesonline.co.uk, 3 February 2015]