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History of the cap, story of the Maltese Cross, the international cap






The first record of caps being worn at 'Rugby School' is in 1839 when Queen Adelaide paid a visit. The boys paraded for the royal visitor in the 'quadrangle' with plush crimson velvet caps with gold tassels. The queen, having heard of the spectacle that was football, requested a match take place later that day. The boys retained their caps and this is the first recorded occasion of a uniform being worn in a match. The practice of cap wearing was retained into the 1840s, so that fellow team players could be distinguished in a scrummage and not mercilessly hacked by a team mate. There were two classes of player at this time in Rugby School , those who wore caps and were allowed to 'follow up' or play the ball, and those without caps, normally the younger pupils who acted as 'goalkeepers'. There was no hard rule as to how a boy won his cap, it was on the whim of the the 'house captain' as to whether he was good enough, a player was 'invited' to pick up his cap.




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Rugby School Cap

A cap from Rugby School dated 1886. Each school house had caps, the Maltese Cross belonged to the house called 'Hutchinson' (see above illustration). The inside of the cap has the matches in which the pupil (F Agnew) played embroidered onto patches which are then sewn inside. The matches which include Rugby v New College Oxford and Rugby v Old Haileyburians 1887 and the 'Sixth Match (Sixth form against the rest of the school)'.  (WRM-0185)



In his 'Recollections of Rugby' dated 1848, the Reverend Charles Henry Newmarch, writing as 'Old Rugbean' states in his chapter titled 'Football' that: 

"Considerable improvement has taken place within the last few years, in the appearance of a match, not only from the great increase in the number of boys, but also in the use of a peculiar dress, consisting of velvet caps and jerseys."  

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A French bisque rugby figure. Standing at 22cm high, this 19th century porcelain rugby figure from around 1890 shows a good example of the clothing worn at the end of the 19th century including the cap.  (WRM-0313)


The Maltese cross, Neath's famous badge is said to have originated from a cap worn by 'EC Moxham' in the 1870s. Sam Clarke, writing of it in 1936 said "Moxham came on to the ground one afternoon wearing a small Maltese Cross in his cap. The boys immediately caught up a suggestion to adopt it as a badge to break up the monotonous black". And so the Maltese Cross became the emblem all Welsh clubs were to fear. It is not known where Moxham's Maltese Cross hailed from, there is no record of a Moxham having attended Rugby School during the latter part of the 19th century so this question remains unanswered.

Neath jersey

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 A Neath jersey, circa 1970s, showing the Maltese Cross (WRM-0341)


As in Rugby School, the rewarding of caps for excellence was carried into the international game and 'caps' were awarded when a player first represented his country. Occasionally they were awarded as players entered the field of play. Nowadays players are still awarded caps, a player who has represented his country 25 times is said to have earned 25 caps although only one physical cap is awarded.


Percy Bush tells how he received his cap from Walter Rees running on to the field before the All Black match in 1905. Taken from Percy's speech 'In appreciation of Walter Rees' at Walter's farewell dinner at the Castle Hotel in 1948. 

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Jack Jenkins

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The Welsh cap of Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins played in the 11 – 0 defeat against South Africa in 1906. He was handicapped in this match with a septic hand and never played for Wales again. (WRM-0278)




Who can forget the BBC Grandstand opening credits of the mid 1970s, just a short clip of Derek Quinnell pushing his way through the tunnel at Cardiff Arms Park, it didn't mean much unless you knew the full story from which this clip was taken...............Cast back your mind to those 30+ years, the match was Wales against France 1972 and there were only 2 minutes remaining of the match. Mervyn Davies is leaving the field injured and Derek Quinnell is in the stand waiting for the call to arms. Bill McLaren as only Bill McLaren could sets the scene.......... "We are into injury time and if a replacement comes on at all then he's got his cap and Derek Quinnell who's been so near his cap for so long could well come on to give him (an uncharacteristic loss of words for BM as he changed tack)........or put his name in the book.........a great ovation for Mervyn Davies who gives nothing short of 100%"...............(change of camera to Quinnell pushing his way through the crowd in the tunnel).......... and you can see how keen Derek Quinell is to get onto this field......... get out of the way he says to the policeman........ "And listen to this roar for Quinnell...... and that's one of the great moments of this international championship campaign. Derek Quinnell, a British Lion before he gets his Welsh cap and he's waited so long................... and at last he gets his first cap"


Paul Thorburn

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The Welsh cap of Paul Thorburn. The Neath man played 37 internationals for Wales including 10 as captain. In 1986 he scored 52 points in the Five Nations Championship and at one time he was the leading points scorer for Wales. (This item was on loan from Paul Thorburn)



Clubs soon adopted the ‘velvet’ cap to reward players for special deeds or for loyalty shown to the club. The earliest known Neath cap is dated 1883-4. In the 1889-90 season, 18 caps were ordered, paid for and presented to worthy individuals. The ‘worthy individuals’ turned out to be the team that played Llanelli on 18th January 1890 . So impressed were the committee about the performance of the team they arranged a special presentation before the next home game. Possibly the occasion could have been the taking of Llanelli's long standing ground record. The home team were undefeated in the 1888-89 season.



1889-90 Neath football team (WRM-0207)

In the back row W Thomas, H Evans & E Hughes are all wearing their brand new size 6 7/8 caps as sanctioned by the committee on Dec 16th 1889. 



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Illustrated left, the meeting in which it was decided to order caps and to the right a list of players who received those caps, including cap sizes.


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The caps of Fred David, Neath 1902-3, and Glamorgan County 1906/7 

David was a regular in the Neath side for over a decade and also appeared for Neath Excelsiors. He captained Neath against the 1912 Springboks. on the left is his Neath cap while the cap on the right is his Glamorgan cap.  (WRM-0184/0186)

 Bill Millett  

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The Neath cap of Bill Millett 1920-1. 

Excerpt from the Neath v Rees Stephens International XV programme 26th September 1957

No.1 Man in the Neath Rugby Club this season is a man who practically lives for sport, and indeed, who can claim to have a son (Ron) who has been " capped " at both Rugby and Soccer. Bill Millett is now the chairman of the club for which he played on the wing in 1918-19-20, and with which he has been closely associated ever since - including the past 10 years as committee-man. He also played for Swansea and Briton Ferry. With his playing days over, Bill Millett was secretary of Briton Ferry R.F.C. for about ten years, and later on he did similar work Briton Ferry Town Cricket Club for the same period of time. He has always maintained an almost passionate interest in boy's club's and has done much good work for them. He is at present the chairman of the Sports Committee of the Welsh association of Boys' Club. On top of all that, he finds time to sit on the executive committee of the Welsh Youth Rugby Union. With such a background of administrative experience, he is bound to be an asset to Neath R.F.C. during his year of office. (WRM-0183)


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The  Mountain Ash and Newport caps of Jack Jenkins. 

In his career (Jenkins Pierce & Auty, "Who's Who of Welsh International Rugby Players") Jack Jenkins is listed as having played for Long Ashton School, Bristol, Royal Military College Sandhurst, Mountain Ash, London Welsh, Newport, Newbridge, Rosslyn Park, Barbarians, Middlesex, Monmouthshire & Wales. A well travelled player, due mainly to his career in the Army where he rose eventually to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His one cap for Wales was against the Springboks in 1906, he also represented Monmouthshire and Middlesex against the same team.

Mountain Ash - M.A.F.C. 1900 embroidered to the front of the cap. It is all black with gold braid and tassel.

Newport RFC - The cap was initially awarded in 1901-02 season and also has these other seasons embroidered around the rim: 1902-03, 1903-04, 1904-05, 1905-06, 1906-07, 1907-08, 1909-10, Jack Jenkins wrote a chapter on Welsh Rugby in 'Rugby Football Up-to Date', edited by EHD Sewell, he says of this period 

"This introduction of the Rhondda element revolutionised Welsh forward play and the result was soon apparent in the play of the big clubs. Newport from 1900-05 had very fine sides but Swansea had better ones, the latter going through one season undefeated and during another only losing once to Newport. I played in that game, which we won by a dropped goal, scored in the first few minutes, to nil. For the remainder of the match we could not get out of our 25. Trew, Gordon Rees, Geo. Davies, Arnold with Owen and Jones, tried every move on the board to get a score. Once Arnold was through and over the line, when Adams came from nowhere and fairly carried the little wing and ball into touch in goal. Never before or since have I felt more thankful when the final whistle went. I shalI always remember that game as the hardest I ever took part in, and to-day I carry the remains of a ‘cauliflower' ear as it’s result."  

The cap is made or supplied by Simmonds of Newport. (WRM-RR)



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