A Short History of ‘Welsh Rugby’ Magazine

by Ray Ruddick & Dai Richards

‘Those were the days my friend’............ while Mary Hopkin of Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley was No 1 in the UK charts in 1968 with a song of that name, I’d be sitting on the stairs waiting for my ‘Welsh Rugby Magazine’ to squeeze through the letterbox. Jam packed with information about Rugby in Wales, there was no wading through ‘Toffee Nosed Upper Class Twit RFC’s’ club profile and Hamish McDougall’s playing career, this was local, this was Welsh Rugby, Rugby in Wales, my country, my sport. Cymru am Byth ! Wales forever !

‘We’d sing and dance for ever and a day’ ............... The first edition of the magazine was published in January 1961 under the name “Rugger Sport – Wales’ Own Rugby Journal” and cost one shilling (5p). The front cover had an inset photograph of Cliff Morgan (he must have met Mary Hopkin at some time) who wrote a foreword. Other contents of this historic issue included an editorial by J Stuart Weaving, a brief history of Cardiff & District Schools Rugby Union, Glamorgan Wanderers on tour in France, Eric Evans on the laws, IG Arnold on fitness in rugby, an article by Dr Jack Matthews on “present day rugby” and rugby coaching in Wales by J Weslake-Hill. There were also short reports on current affairs by the secretaries of Pontypool United, St David’s College in Lampeter, Abertillery, University College Wales and Bridgend.

The first issue was well received by the Welsh rugby public and had almost sold out within days of publication. As with most new ideas and ventures, it had its teething problems and received criticism both constructive and otherwise. However, this was the birth of a publication that was to serve the whole of rugby in Wales greatly over the next 32 years.

Magazine and Cover Style

The magazine was known as “Rugger Sport” up to the Round-up issue of 1965. The name changed to “Welsh Rugby” for the October 1965 issue until the last edition in 1983. It had the same style cover until it changed in September 1968. Colour photos were then introduced in the new, larger magazine in October 1979. The cover changed again for the March 1981 issue and again for the May 1982 edition. 

Regular Features

There were many features and contributors over the life of the magazine. One of the articles that featured on a regular basis was “referees’ notebook” by AD (Fred) Croster, a well-respected referee from Cardiff who went on to become the magazine’s editor. This article ran from the second issue in February 1961 to Fred’s passing in 1982.

The magazine covered every aspect of rugby in Wales – British Lions tours and Welsh international matches, the club scene both first and second class clubs, rugby in all areas of Wales from Monmouthshire in the east to Pembrokeshire in the west and everything in between as well as North Wales. There was also good coverage of youth and schools rugby along with Sevens and statistics as well as rugby clubs and clubhouses and the many people involved in the game in Wales and beyond. In many issues there was a focus on a particular club and gave a potted history of that club along with some profiles of the then current players. It would also profile leading players, referees or administrators. There would be articles on exiled rugby personnel, coaching, fitness, various courses, opinions and rugby politics both home and abroad along with many action photographs. In the earlier issues it covered other sports through the summer.

Castella Award

One of the most popular and celebrated features was the Castella Award for services to rugby. The Castella Award scheme was introduced to recognise the work of many people in Welsh Rugby who, over a long period, have put many, many hours of time and effort into the running of their local rugby club. Devised by WD & HO Wills, it was a way of saying ‘thank you’ to these persons who contribute so much to amateur sport. Each person nominated for an award received an engraved silver ashtray and a drum of Castella cigars. 

There would be an evening organised at the nominated person’s club. There would be a forum, perhaps a quiz and general socialising. Then the announcement would be made as to who would receive the award, much to the surprise of the winner as this was kept secret with only the organisers knowing who would the recipient would be.

The first awards were covered in the December 1964 issue when Bill Whittaker (President of Old Penarthians RFC) and Trevor Bassett (Chairman of Barry RFC) were the first recipients. The last was Morris Davies (Chairman of Seven Sisters RFC) who appeared in the June/July 1982 edition. Almost 150 people have received this award over almost 18 years.

Special Issues

Round-up 1965 and 1966 - These issues were a review of the season covering winners of the various competitions played throughout the Principality, including news of Sevens, schoolboys, clubs and clubhouses.

September/October 1970 - This was a Cardiff Arms Park Opening Special Issue and included a collection of historical articles relating to Welsh rugby – The Cardiff Arms Park story, photos of all WRU Presidents, history of the laws and administrators, feature on all WRU Secretaries and Treasurers.

Special Issue 1976 – This issue covered Cardiff RFC’s centenary season and the history of the club. Articles include – that old blue and black magic – focus on Cardiff RFC, profile of CRG (Redvers) Harris (Cardiff RFC), the Rolls-Royce of rugby – Cardiff RFC by John Reed (Sunday Express), an Irish Tribute to Cardiff RFC by John O’Shea, Cardiff Supporters’ Club gossip by Eddie John, believe it or not – Cardiff RFC statistics by CRG (Redvers) Harris, magic moments – AD (Fred) Croster recalls several great milestones in the history of Cardiff RFC, photo of Cardiff RFC captains, a tribute to Cardiff Youth by Graham Evans.

In Conclusion

Just when you’d forgotten who Mary Hopkin was she’s back to sing ‘We thought they’d never end’ but they did I’m afraid. My days of stair sitting were over with Championship Special 1983 and Lions Special 1983 which were the last two editions of the magazine. Although they include ‘Special’ in the title they didn’t cover anything specifically. There were the usual features and both reviewed the past season and there was good coverage of the British Lions tour in New Zealand. Sadly the Lions Special 1983 was the last issue of ‘Welsh Rugby’ magazine but in every cloud there is a silver lining. There have been over 200 issues published of Rugger Sport / Welsh Rugby magazine and it serves as a wonderful archive, covering the whole spectrum of rugby in Wales from the developing 1960s and the introduction of the first national coach, through the golden era of the 1970s to the early 1980s. It is a great source of information for anyone interested in the history of the game in Wales. Over to you Mary for the final chorus……………… 'Those were the days – oh yes ! Those were the days’



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*** 1st EDITION ***

January 1961 - Front cover photo an foreword by Cliff Morgan, Editorial by Stuart Weaving (editor), brief history of Cardiff & District Schools Rugby Union, Glamorgan Wanderers on tour in France - Eric Evans on the laws - IG Arnold on fitness for rugby - article by Jack Matthews on 'present day rugby' - Rugby Coaching in Wales by J Westlake-Hill, short reports on current affairs by the secretaries of Pontypool Utd, St David's College, Lampeter,  Abertillery, University College Wales & Bridgend.

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Volume 4 No 2 approx November 1963 – focus on Beddau RFC, New Zealand Tour to the British Isles by Wilf Wooller with photos, referees’ notes by AD (Fred) Croster, focus on Swansea RFC including a double page team photo and other photos, a French lesson by Bernard Osborne, Crawshay Trophy (District) matches, review of the clubs.

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November 1964 - Front cover photo 'The First Fiji Try' - several pages of Fijian tour photos - 10 page article on modern floodlighting, 'Floodlighting is here to stay' with a look at the history of floodlights in Wales. centre page team photo Wales team v Fiji - 7 page article titled "History of Mountain Ash", team photo of Mountain Ash 1964 - Fred Croster's appraisal of law changes - 5 pages on how rugby players are the biggest car owners and adverts of cars of the day.

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October 1965 – Wilf Wooller on coaching, Llandovery RFC, referees’ notes by AD (Fred) Croster, Treorchy RFC wins first Mid District Sevens, Kidwelly RFC West Wales Champions 1964-65, Pontardulais RFC West Wales Cup Winners and President’s Cup Winners, inter-collegiate rugby in the north west United States, the boys up north, youth rugby by Bernard Osborne, Welsh rugby profile – Danny Davies by Tony Lewis, round the clubs with Tony Lewis, Beddau RFC unbeaten for 22 games, fixtures for October, fixtures for the Australia tour of the British Isles 1966-67, focus on Penygraig RFC, dinner to honour Newbridge RFC – Welsh Champions 1965, Castella Awards won by Jack Sully (Chepstow) and Jack Hargrave (Aberaman) for services to rugby.
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September 1968 – slaughter of the Lions by Dave Phillips (Sunday Times), the Lions – a South African view by Sam Mirwis (South African Press Association), tour de force – why the Lions were “tested”...and found wanting by Stuart Weaving, neutral refereeing essential by Fred Croster, profile of Ivor Jones (WRU President), focus on Llangwm RFC, Cwmtillery RFC, from the premier clubs, Cardiff’s new golf range, news from Monmouthshire by Terry Whent, around the Pembrokeshire clubs by AH Phillips, schools’ notes, western round-up, referees’ notebook by AD (Fred) Croster, youth gossip, Rugger Sportsmen’s Club news, unit skills by Ray Williams (WRU Coaching Organiser), Swansea swimming.
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September/October 1970 - Cardiff Arms Park celebration issue. An collection of historical articles relating to Welsh rugby including Cardiff Arms Park Story, photos of all WRU Presidents, history of the laws and administrators, feature on all WRU secretaries, WRU Treasurers, all this plus regular features.

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August 1971 – BRITISH LIONS TOUR TO NEW ZEALAND – that fatal second test penalty try – Lions in New Zealand, Welsh Rugby magazine New Zealand tour, how Lions prepared – fit, for what? by Ray Williams (WRU Coaching Organiser), profile of Olympic gold medallist Lynn “The Leap” Davies by Fred Croster, focus on Swansea RFC, referees’ notebook by AD (Fred) Croster, the new WRU Challenge Cup Competition rules, exiles corner by Gwyn Bayliss, 122 Brynamman rugby fans bound for Canada, American visitors – Boston RFC, WRU annual meeting, the Gwent scene, western round-up by TG Cadwalladr, Mid Glamorgan news.
WR-Apr76.jpg (98654 bytes) April 1976 – WALES GRAND SLAM SPECIAL – “Le Grand Slam-Bang” by Dave Phillips (Sunday Times), England – a time for change! by John Reed (Sunday Express), the great con by Reg Prophit (Edinburgh Evening News), WRU National Squad 1975-76 photo plus many action photos, an Irish Tribute by John O’Shea (Dublin), French respect by Alex Potter (Paris), profile of JPR Williams by Mel Davies, sobering thoughts by Graham Evans, exiles corner by Gwyn Bayliss, referees’ notebook by AD (Fred) Croster, Young Player of the Month – Don Ridout (Cwmbran Youth), cause for concern! – young players, around the clubs, UAU Champions – Cardiff University defeating Swansea University in the final at Twickenham, line-out – readers’ letters. 
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October 1979 – principal fixtures 1979-80, Bridgend RFC’s Steve Fenwick chats with Fred Croster, hymns and arias – for ten triumphant years didn’t we do well? If you want to play for Wales it’s 8 miles over the mountain – Graham Price (Pontypool RFC), Welsh Brewers’ annual tribute – Terry Holmes (Cardiff RFC) is Player of the Year, Peter Morgan (Llanelli RFC) is Most Promising Young Player, Western Mail Shield was presented to Pontypridd RFC captain Tommy David and special awards to former WRU President Les Spence (President of Cardiff Athletic Club) and Dennis Hughes (Newbridge RFC), Big Four, make Big Five, watch it says Carwyn, John Mason (former Secretary of Glais RFC) receives Castella Award, Wales v Ireland and Wales v England colour action photos, rugby’s growth needs a World Cup, the law makers…by Fred Croster, triple chances with changes? by GV Wynne-Jones (South Wales Echo), profile and double page poster of Terry Homes (Cardiff & Wales), do you remember? – a look back at 5 and 10 years of Welsh rugby by Bruce J Hawksbee, Wooller’s world – a question of loyalty by Wilf Wooller (Sunday Telegraph), top clubs, club captains, Berkshire interlude by Dick Williams, blood – the 1st in a 3 part series by Dr Ralph Vaughan, public eye, South African safaris – Llanelli, Newport and Cardiff in South Africa, woman’s way, Welsh team v Ireland 1979 – colour photo on back page.


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Lions Special 1983 (last issue) – BRITISH LIONS IN NEW ZEALAND – what went wrong with the Lions – two controversial views from Irish journalists in New Zealand by Edmund van Esbeck (Irish Times) and Sean Diffley (Irish Independent), WRU official news – WRU Coaching Organiser John Dawes looks ahead – the game in Spain is mainly in need of experience and size…but the young tourists will have gained much, draw for the preliminary rounds of the 1983-84 Schweppes WRU Cup, Crawshay’s Welsh RFC’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a chance to vet South Africa?, why the road to an English cap goes by way of Gwent by Robin Davey, focus on Swansea RFC by JBG Thomas including a double page team photo in colour, the flying Bishop – David Bishop in action for Steepholme in the International Sevens in Amsterdam, where are they now – BEW (Barney) McCall by Wayne Thomas, Wooller’s world – my reaction to the rugby coup is codswallop by Wilf Wooller (Sunday Telegraph), who are they? by Wayne Thomas – Brian Sparks, the renegade – “what on earth made you throw away an almost certain Welsh cap?” by JR Jones, North Wales news – Llandudno spread their wings by Dick Williams, Midlands’ news – a Midlands trial that ends memorably in Risca…by Dick Williams, Pentyrch RFC – much more than a story of a club…by JBG Thomas, Baglan take Welsh Brewers’ Cup – team photos of the finalists Baglan and Heol y Cyw.


Ref: mgwa-wr-83-lions - £7.50


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TRIVIA TIME – What have Max Boyce & Mary Hopkin got in common ?

They both started their recording careers at Cambrian Records of Pontardawe.


To watch Mary Hopkin sing “Those Were the Days” on Youtube – please click on the link below

Illustrated right - Mary Hopkin in the late 1960s. 





Ray Ruddick & Dai Richards - World Rugby Museum 



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