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'Rugby's Man of a MiIlion Words'

An appreciation by John Griffiths

JBG Thomas was rugby’s man of a million words. In a lifetime devoted to chronicling the game he loved, he wrote more words than any other critic, past or present, about rugby football. Books, magazine articles and programme notes flowed effortlessly from the proud Welshman’s battered typewriter, but it was as the chief rugby correspondent of the Cardiff Western Mail that he achieved lasting fame.

                His stint with the national newspaper of Wales established him as a household name in rugby circles, and arguably he did more than any other of his contemporaries to raise the Mail’s profile during his long service from January 1946 until May 1982, when he retired as the paper’s assistant editor.

Rugby was in the blood. John Brinley George – he was known as Bryn – Thomas was born in Pontypridd, but his paternal grandparents were of Carmarthenshire stock and keen Llanelli supporters. The 1920s were not golden days for Welsh rugby, but family summer holidays spent in Loughor inevitably involved trips to Stradey Park to see Dai and Arthur John and Albert Jenkins, Llanelli and Wales’s outstanding centre of the day, parading their rugby skills.

                The young JBG saw his first match there as a six-year-old, Llanelli v Pontypridd. He was hooked. He avidly began collecting everything related to the game that he could set his hands on. Cigarette cards, programmes and newspaper cuttings were all assiduously stored for future reference. His father was a butcher in Ponty and as a youth JBG was always the first to unwrap the parcel of recycled newspapers that came into the shop to be used as wrapping paper. These were plundered for match reports and pictures – rugby in winter; cricket in the summer. All were kept, meticulously labelled in manila folders, for the rest of his life. Later, after moving to Cardiff, where he was a pupil at Cathays High School, he began collecting books and caught the rugby-writing bug.

               He captained his school’s senior side as a full back but in his teens he was already finding his name in print. The BBC had pioneered outside broadcasting in the late 1920s with Captain Teddy Wakelam’s live radio commentaries of international rugby matches. JBG followed these intently, charting match facts from the remarkably detailed coverage. At length, he was bold enough to write to the Radio Times, where its then editor Gordon Stowell was an encouraging influence on the young rugby writer. The Western Mail and News Chronicle were other outlets for his freelance work as a youth.......... here



We have available for sale several items from the collection of JBG Thomas. Click on the links below for individual sections or scroll down the page to view the great selection of memorabilia available.

Each item sold from this collection is accompanied by a JBG Thomas postcard. (illustrated below). The postcard will include a unique World Rugby Museum reference code which is shown on the JBG Thomas museum page. The postcard will act as a certificate of authenticity for the item and guarantee that the item is genuine.






I-54.jpg (35178 bytes) England v Ireland 13 Feb 1954 Twickenham 14 - 3 spine parted

Ref: PC11-prenir54 - £15.00

77.jpg (57665 bytes) England v New Zealand 30 Jan 1954 Twickenham 0 - 5 excellent

Ref: PC11-prennz54 - £15.00

S-63.jpg (39196 bytes) England v Scotland 16 Mar 1963 Twickenham 10 - 8 Excellent

Ref: PC11-prensc63 - £7.50

SA-52.jpg (37486 bytes) England v South Africa 5 Jan  1952 Twickenham 8 - 3 spine almost completely parted, small mark to front 

Ref: PC11-prensa52 - £17.50

W-52.jpg (47165 bytes) England v Wales

Grand Slam season for Wales

19 Jan  1952 Twickenham 8 - 6 single crease down centre

Ref: PC11-prenwa52 - £17.50

24.jpg (59249 bytes) France v Wales 23 Mar 1957 Paris   excellent

Ref: PC11-prfrwa57 - £137.50

F-55.jpg (34323 bytes) Ireland v France 22 Jan 1955 Dublin 3 - 5  Excellent

Ref: PC11-prirfr55 - £8.00

09.jpg (68667 bytes) Ireland v Scotland 25 Feb 1956 Dublin   very slight crease

Ref: PC11-prirsc56 - £10.00

W-52.jpg (47897 bytes) Ireland v Wales

Grand Slam season for Wales

8 Mar 1952 Dublin   slight crease

Ref: PC11-prirwa52 - £72.50

W-54.jpg (36540 bytes) Ireland v Wales 13 Mar 1954 Dublin 9 - 12 some light creasing

Ref: PC11-prirwa54 - £30.00

61.jpg (53171 bytes) New Zealand v South Africa 1st Test 14 Jul 1956 Dunedin 10 - 6  excellent

Ref: PC11-prnzsa56nz1 - £22.50

E-54.jpg (36639 bytes) Scotland v England

Triple Crown season for England

20 Mar 1954 Murrayfield 3 - 13 excellent

Ref: PC11-prscen54 - £14.50

80.jpg (44909 bytes) Scotland v New Zealand 13 Feb 1954 Murrayfield 0 - 3 excellent

 Ref: PC11-prscnz54 - £22.50

W-59.jpg (40592 bytes) Scotland v Wales 7 Feb 1959 Murrayfield 6 - 5  very good

Ref: PC11-prscwa59 - £7.50

81.jpg (62140 bytes) Scotland v Wales 11 Feb 1961 Murrayfield 3 - 0 2 small punched holes, slight crease

Ref: PC11-prscwa61 - £7.00

26.jpg (38829 bytes) Wales v England 20 Jan 1934 Cardiff 0 - 9 some staining to front cover

Ref: PC11-prwaen34 - £87.50

E-61.jpg (35654 bytes) Wales v England 21 Jan 1961 Cardiff  6 - 3 2 small holes & small mark to front cover

Ref: PC11-prwaen61 - £6.00

99.jpg (295156 bytes) Wales v France 21 Feb 1948 Cardiff  11 - 3 very good

Ref: PC11-prwafr48 - £24.50

F-50.jpg (45152 bytes) Wales v France


25 Mar 1950 Cardiff  21 - 0 good

Ref: PC11-prwafr50 - £22.50

F-52.jpg (43742 bytes) Wales v France


22 Mar 1952 Cardiff  9 - 5 slight crease

Ref: PC11-prwafr52 - £22.50

F-56.jpg (31282 bytes) Wales v France 24 Mar 1956 Cardiff 5 - 3 no front cover 

Ref: PC11-prwafr56 - £2.50

F-62.jpg (32438 bytes) Wales v France 24 Mar 1962 Cardiff 3 - 0 Excellent

Ref: PC11-prwafr62 - £4.50

95.jpg (28622 bytes) Wales v Ireland 12 Mar 1932 Cardiff   very slight crease

Ref: PC11-prwair32 - £82.50

I-53.jpg (44799 bytes) Wales v Ireland 14 Mar 1953 Swansea 5 - 3 small mark on the front

Ref: PC11-prwair53 - £15.00

I-59.jpg (33976 bytes) Wales v Ireland 14 Mar 1959 Cardiff  8 - 6 Excellent

Ref: PC11-prwair59 - £6.00

j-73.jpg (35617 bytes) Wales v Japan 6 Oct 1973 Cardiff  62 - 14 writing on front

Ref: PC11-prwaja73 - £2.50

S-50.jpg (46631 bytes) Wales v Scotland

Grand Slam season for Wales

4 Feb 1950 Swansea 12 - 0 good

Ref: PC11-prwasc50 - £22.50

S-52.jpg (48261 bytes) Wales v Scotland

Grand Slam season for Wales 

2 Feb 1952 Cardiff 11 - 0 excellent

Ref: PC11-prwasc52 - £14.50

S-54.jpg (34056 bytes) Wales v Scotland 10 Apr  1954 Swansea 15 - 3 very good

Ref: PC11-prwasc54 - £15.00

S-62.jpg (36661 bytes) Wales v Scotland 3 Feb 1962 Cardiff 3 - 8 small piece missing from an inside page

Ref: PC11-prwasc62 - £4.00



Haydn Tanner

...............But the turning point in his career, he always said, was in 1935 when, at the age of 18, he saw Wales beat the third All Blacks 13-12 at Cardiff. He was the same age as the Welsh scrum-half, Haydn Tanner. JBG had recently left school to start work at the City Hall in Cardiff, where he met his wife-to-be, Gwen. But reading “Old Stager's” match report of that famous Welsh win in the Mail’s sister paper, the Football Echo, he realised that rugby writing was his true calling. “It was the tender trap. I told myself, that’s for me!” he later recalled.

                He took himself off to the big matches in the years leading up to the Second World War, seeing first-hand the exploits of “Tuppy” Owen-Smith and Hal Sever in England’s Triple Crown year of 1937 and watching Scotland’s Wilson Shaw wrest the Crown from England in the Twickenham sunshine the year later.

                War Service in the Navy followed. He began on destroyer duty in E-Boat Alley and by June 1944, as a lieutenant RNVR in fleet minesweepers, was in the van of the D-Day landings heading the American Forces into Omaha Beach in the critical stages of the great liberation that led to Peace. Throughout his war service he carried in the breast pocket of his uniform a copy of the 1939-40 edition of the Rugby Football Annual – it was his rugby bible.


The most significant event of his war-service, though, had taken place whilst home on leave in 1943. The then editor of the Western Mail, David Prosser, invited JBG for interview. Johnny Hoare, who as “Old Stager” had led the newspaper’s rugby correspondents for many years, had died in his fifties and a successor would eventually need to be appointed.

                It was the offer of a lifetime and having survived the war, JBG Thomas began his professional writing with the newspaper in January 1946. He covered Wales and club rugby in the winter and county cricket in the summer.

                His first “big story” came two years later in 1948, not on the rugby front but with his beloved Glamorgan County Cricket Club.  


JBG reports on the 1969 championship success

The Welsh county won the Championship for the first time and JBG was in the press-box above the thousands at St Helen’s and Cardiff who watched a side led by Wilf Wooller beat off the challenge of England’s best. That success, Glamorgan’s victory over the 1964 touring Australians and the county’s repeat Championship win of 1969 were his favourite cricket memories.......... more on here

more JBG memorabilia................



1955 Lions manager Jack Siggins & JBG 






79.jpg (8112 bytes) 78.jpg (368256 bytes) 77.jpg (338849 bytes)

We been lucky enough to have the notes penned by JBG for each match during the 1974 Lions tour donated to by the family of JBG. 

The notes have at one time been contained in a spiral bound notebook and were probably removed post tour so that the book could be continued to be used at matches that JBG would attend. 

The notes give us some idea of how JBG the journalist worked. The general notes, would be aide memoirs for later reference when doing match reports. They generally refer to highlights - eg scores, but also lead up to scores, close run things near the try line, good defence, or injuries. These would be important for the run of play element on the whole report. 

JBG would type up his reports if time allowed or would dictate over the phone shortly after the game. When deadlines were tight he could dictate over the phone to the Mail/Echo using the notes. 

The notes are rushed down onto paper so that less of the match is missed, (this makes them almost impossible for others to read!) They are split into 3 columns..................



The actual and lapsed time


Short notes relating to an incident in the match



p = penalty

th = tight head


       We have isolated one incident in the third test as an example of how JBG's notes related to the match, Gordon Brown's try. This is how JBG noted it during the game.



3:58 (time)

43 (mins - lapsed time)

got ball to touch 3 yds from Springboks line.

thrown ?????? in - Brown jumped and (followed or gathered) our first try

H.T (half time) Springboks 1 - 0 - 3        Lions 1 - 1 - 7   

p = penalty

th = tight head


As you can see from the above snippet JBG's writing is extremely difficult if not impossible for the untrained eye to read, we have placed question marks where we are unable to decipher the writing and most of the rest is an educated guess. 

This is how the try appeared in a photo and description in his book of the tour "The Greatest Lions"


  ............. " The Lions moved away and them much underrated Ian McGeechan made a clever break moving right. He kicked away to the corner and Irvine, following up at speed, steered the ball to touch near the right corner flag for a Springbok throw-in. Gordon Brown moved up the line from No. 5 to front and, as the ball was thrown fast and hard to the short line by Van Wyk, the clever Brown jumped high, gathered and dived over the line before you could say 'Boet Erasmus'. It was his eighth try of the tour to set a record for touring lock forwards and one of intense value to the Lions at this stage of the match."...........


It is clear from JBG's account of the third test that he was in regular telephone contact with the Western Mail & Echo in Cardiff during the game. 


"I waited high in the stand for the first phone call from Cardiff"

"Ring ding ding went my telephone and I was able to report all square at three-all"

"The fire died away and the Springbok steam was reduced in pressure and  was on the phone at the time to Cardiff I could hear the cheers (there was no live television broadcast in those days but a live radio commentary was provided by the BBC) in the background from the 'Echo' staff as the Lions went into a lead they were not to loose."


The time zone between South Africa and Britain are very similar and he would have been dictating the report in time for the 'Football Echo' to hit the streets at 6.00pm. Never one to bask in his personal glory JBG passed on his thanks to his staff and the system which allowed him to capture the British Lions greatest moment. 


"One was almost hoarse with delight sending the last words of the 'Echo' report to Cardiff and Mrs Leighton, an excellent copy taker, thoroughly enjoyed it all, while one must say 'Thank you' to telephone engineers and operators along the line. There have been fewer happier rugby stories that I have phoned to Cardiff in nearly thirty years. The British Isles Rugby Union team, disowned by its government, had achieved tremendous victory in becoming the first Lions side to beat South Africa in a series since 1896. More important still, it had become the first side to win a series in South Africa this century.
    The crowd applauded warmly as the Lions walked off in a genuine show of appreciation and this was symbolic of the pleasure the side had given to all South Africans, and especially the coloured people who had remained steadfast in their support. The South African members of the Press Gang were ready and warm in their congratulations even though a few of them, in the days that followed, castigated the national selectors rather overpoweringly, and 'Sniped' at the Lions for their prolonged celebrating!
    Thousands of words were being typed and written in the Press Box at Boet Erasmus in the hours that followed the end of the match, and several poured words over the air into the British Isles, everywhere the news was almost instant. The Lions were the new champions at rugby football. In 1891 the news of an unbeaten record had to be carried from Cape Town to Southampton by ship but now, 83 years later, and a complete change in the way of life of Africa, another side looked like enjoying or achieving an unbeaten tour."


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1st Test Rhodesia 2nd Test



                But rugby of course was his first love and he didn’t have long to wait before covering Wales’s first post-war success story. It came in 1950 when John Gwilliam, a late stand-in as captain for injured Bleddyn Williams, led the principality to its first Triple Crown and Grand Slam for 39 years.


The campaign opened at Twickenham where in 40 years Wales had succeeded only once before. There had been a massive shortage of newsprint in the post-war years but JBG was given more and more space as Welsh rugby started to recover the standing it had enjoyed during its Golden Era between 1900 and 1911. “Hats off to Wales! Theirs was a great victory at Twickenham, and restored the waning prestige of Welsh Rugby,” he led in the Western Mail on the Monday after the match. It was always capital R for Rugby and capital G for the Game when JBG wrote about the sport.

                Scotland were beaten at Swansea to set up a battle for the Crown with Ireland in Belfast. The Grand Slam wasn’t a term in the rugby lexicon in 1950, for France were still regarded as the also-rans in the International Championship at this time. It was winning the Triple Crown that was seen as the ultimate prize. Ireland, led by their hooker Karl Mullen and spearheaded behind the scrum by the great Jackie Kyle, had carried off the mythical trophy in 1948 and 1949. True, they had lost narrowly to England at Twickenham in 1950, but a recent 21-0 victory over Scotland had put them back on a winning road and with home advantage and the Championship title still in sight, the match with Wales was expected to be a huge showdown.

                The game more than lived up to expectation and it was Wales who took the spoils. In the dying moments and with the scores locked at 3-3, Newport wing Malcolm Thomas dived to score the winning try. “The Triple Crown is ours! Cymru am Byth! At long last the 39 years’ quest has ended and the bogy of continued failure banished,” a delighted JBG told his readers on the Monday.

Wales v Ireland 1950

                But the story was to be tragically put into perspective by the events of the intervening Sunday. A Tudor IV charter aircraft carrying 82 crew and passengers crashed returning from Belfast to Llandow. Eighty, mostly Welsh rugby supporters, lost their lives in what was then the worst civil air disaster.


                JBG had enjoyed a night of revels before rushing back by boat, train and car with his colleague Reg Pelling of the Echo to start working on a would-be front-page Triple Crown story. But he finished that Sunday afternoon helping newsmen report from the scene of disaster and compiling a completely different front-page story. The Triple Crown tale was buried among the sports pages.......... here 


more JBG memorabilia................



95.jpg (131927 bytes) Cardiff v Barbarians 16 Apr 1949 Cardiff   excellent

Ref: PC11-prbbwacb-cd49 - £7.50








There was another Triple Crown to report two years later, by which time Thomas’s reputation as rugby critic and historian was secure. To mark the occasion the Welsh Rugby Union commissioned JBG to edit an official souvenir of the Triple Crown. The editor set about his task with enthusiasm, engaging the great names from Welsh rugby’s past to illuminate an attractive and informative publication. W J “Billy” Bancroft of the 1890s, Rhys Gabe, Billy Spiller and Tommy Vile from the Golden Era of the early 1900s and Wilf Wooller, a journalistic colleague now and a stalwart of the Welsh XVs of the 1930s, were all roped in to add colour to a publication whose proceeds benefited the Junior Rugby Unions in Wales.

                The 35-year-old JBG’s reputation was summed up by Sir David Rocyn Jones, the Union’s distinguished president, in the foreword: “He is a popular and knowledgeable critic who has covered every international match played by Wales since the War. He is respected by official, player and spectator alike, and is a great student of the game.”

                The success of the Welsh side and the part he had played in its telling put his name on the map. He had covered the 1951-52 Springboks tour of Britain and through his connections he was in demand to write for South African journals. The 1953-54 All Blacks tour was to provide a new opportunity. He had for some time toyed with the idea of producing a book on the history of the game, especially the great rugby tours. He found an accommodating publisher in Stanley Paul of London and his first work, On Tour, appeared in the New Year, 1954. When the first draft of the manuscript arrived at the publishers they were staggered by its length. He had to cut it by half, but still managed to add a postscript covering Cardiff’s defeat of the All Blacks in 1953 . . . in between the book going to press and its final release.



It is a relatively little-known fact that much of the half omitted appeared six months later as part of another book, Fifty Years of the All Blacks. For this publication by Phoenix House, Thomas was thinly disguised by the pseudonym David Owen. The book was a record of every New Zealand match played in Britain and Ireland between 1905 and 1954, JBG again teaming up with great players of the past to tell the fascinating story of the first four All Blacks tours to this country. Wilf Wooller shared the bulk of the writing, with Rhys Gabe, Len Corbett (England), Sam Walker (Ireland) and Jock Wemyss (Scotland) adding perspectives from the other Home Unions...................... more on JBG..... click here


more JBG memorabilia................



60-Cardiff.jpg (32433 bytes) Cardiff v South Africa 29 Oct 1960 Cardiff 13-0 creased

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-cd - £4.00

60-EbbwVale.jpg (35881 bytes) Ebbw Vale & Abertillery v South Africa 29 Nov 1960 Ebbw Vale 3-0 excellent

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-ev - £5.00

60-North-W-Counties.jpg (41432 bytes) NW Counties v South Africa 23 Nov 1960 Maine Rd, Manchester 11-0 very slight crease

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-nwc - £17.50

60-Pontypool.jpg (36461 bytes) Pontypool & Cross Keys v South Africa 2 Nov 1960 Pontypool 30-3 Excellent

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-pl - £6.50

71.jpg (46268 bytes) Southern Counties v South Africa 22 Oct 1960 Hove 29-9 excellent

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60so - £29.50

60-SouthScotland.jpg (52045 bytes) South of Scotland v South Africa 19 Nov 1960 Hawick 19-3 excellent

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-ss - £10.00

60-Swansea.jpg (42487 bytes) Swansea v South Africa 26 Nov 1960 Swansea 19-3 excellent

Ref: PC11-prtrsa60-sw - £9.00

67.jpg (80162 bytes) Cardiff v South African Universities 9 Jan 1957 Cardiff   some creasing

Ref: PC11-prtrsann19570109 - £6.00

53.jpg (17429 bytes) Pembrokeshire Secondary Schools v South African High Schools 25 Jan 1955 Tenby   rusty staples

Ref: PC11-prtrsann19550125 - £14.50

52.jpg (18866 bytes) Welsh Secondary Schools v South African High Schools 12 Feb 1955 Newport   rusty staples

Ref: PC11-prtrsann19550212 - £7.50

74-E-Wales.jpg (33194 bytes) East Wales  Tonga 14 Sep Cardiff   'Wayne' on front

Ref: PC11-prtrto73-ew - £1.50



54.jpg (71913 bytes) 1952 Middlesex Sevens

guest teams Bristol, Neath

Winners - Wasps

rusty staples, single crease

Ref: PC11-prsben-mi52 - £4.50

51.jpg (34975 bytes) 1954 Middlesex Sevens

guest teams Bridgend, Instonians

Winners - Rosslyn Park

single crease

Ref: PC11-prsben-mi54 - £4.00

49.jpg (17996 bytes) 1955 Snelling Sevens

@ Newport

slight crease

Ref: PC11-prsbwa-sn55 - £7.50

s-58.jpg (33279 bytes) 1958 Snelling Sevens

Winners - Ebbw Vale

small mark on front cover

Ref: PC11-prsbwa-sn58 - £3.75

47.jpg (27755 bytes) 1948 Public Schools Sevens

 Old Deer Park


Ref: PC11-prsbensh-pub - £4.75

46.jpg (26824 bytes) 19 Apr 1958 Leinster Sevens

 Lansdowne Rd


Ref: PC11-prsbirpv-le58 - £9.50



These were the first of what became a veritable library of works and by the time JBG published his memoirs in his last book, Rugger in the Blood, in 1985, thirty had been penned under his name. Many charted the ups and downs of major touring teams while others adopted a more historical perspective. But all were written with enthusiasm – the reader sensed that the author was dying to tell his tale, to spread the rugby word. And spread it he certainly did, for at the time few books on rugby football were published.

                He wasn’t the most stylish of writers, and would never settle for five words when he could use fifty, but he had no superior as a rugby writer when it came to sheer hard graft. No-one ever made a fortune out of writing rugby books and money was never the driving force behind his publishing ventures. “Mind, they did pay for decent family holidays,” he once divulged.

                The year 1955 was to be a landmark one for JBG and the Western Mail. It was a Lions tour year, to South Africa to take on a side that hadn’t lost a home series since the 1890s. Wales were well represented in the tour party and the newspaper sent their man to cover the visit. John Billot, a longstanding colleague on the paper, recalled: “Expenses were tight. Bryn set off for London in a delivery van sitting on top of newspapers.”


Viv Jenkins & JBG on tour

The tour was a rip-roaring success. The Lions shared the series (after leading 2-1 at one stage) and JBG, like his press colleague Viv Jenkins, was so popular with the players that he became an honorary member of the party.  Investigative sports journalism was unheard of and JBG’s reports and stories were given plenty of space back home. He was a father-figure to many of the tourists and many of the friendships he forged with players on that tour were to last a lifetime that took in eight more Lions trips.





              Meanwhile in Cardiff the Western Mail had appointed a new editor in 1955. David Cole, at 27, was young and go-ahead with the drive and ambition to broaden the newspaper’s appeal. JBG’s rugby coverage would be a key factor in the paper’s circulation rising in the next two years by 30% and into six-figures for the first time in its history.

                By the late 1950s JBG’s name and the Western Mail were synonymous with rugby. His growing reputation attracted offers to leave Wales and head for a career in Fleet Street. He wrote under the pen-name “Arthurian” for the Daily Telegraph and was in demand to broadcast for both television and radio, skills he had honed as a youngster with his brother, the playwright Gethyn Stoodley Thomas. But he wasn’t interested.

                Both he and his newspaper went from strength to strength and the successes of Welsh rugby in the 1960s, thanks to its lead in appointing national coaches and the coming together of a team of exceptional talents, allowed JBG to ask for and get more rugby coverage in his paper than he could ever have expected working for one of Fleet Street’s soccer-dominated sports news desks. Having plenty of space to write about the game he loved was more important to him than big London salaries and generous expense accounts.

JBG with hand on chin watching the Welsh squad at training with Malcolm Lewis (coaching team), Gerry Lewis (physio) & Cliff Jones (chairman of selectors)  


                When the Lions and Wales enjoyed a run of success in the 1970s they provided him with the best stories of his reporting career. The 1971 Lions visit to New Zealand was the highlight of his touring days. Even his newspaper surprised him on that tour, asking for Test reports on the whistle so that the Saturday morning editions – Wales being twelve hours behind New Zealand local time – could carry the first news of the tourists’ only winning series against the All Blacks to date.

                He was a straightforward writer, never worrying about the angle or the inside story. He told the tale, analysed the game and praised the best players. He never destroyed reputations. A host of Welsh greats, from Bleddyn Williams to J P R Williams, commented later that they knew when they’d had a poor game because JBG simply did not mention them. He had the respect and trust of the players and even the selectors. He was invariably the first to know the composition of a Welsh XV, but was trusted to keep the news embargoed until a suitable time......... more on JBG...... click here



more JBG memorabilia................



24.jpg (34622 bytes) Wales 'B' v France 'B' 21 Oct 1972     'Wayne' on front

Ref: PC11-prag-b-wafr72 - £1.50

45.jpg (28229 bytes) England v Wales

(Schools senior international - under 19)

9 Apr 1960 Bristol   Excellent

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-enwa60 - £7.50

92.jpg (44186 bytes) Wales v England

(Schools senior international - under 19)

10 Apr 1955     very good

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-waen55 - £7.50

75.jpg (39349 bytes) Wales v France

(Schools senior international - under 19)

24 Apr 1954 Cardiff   very good

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-wafr56 - £6.00

74.jpg (46507 bytes) Wales v France

(Schools senior international - under 19)

6 Apr 1956 Cardiff   very good

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-wafr56 - £6.00

42.jpg (39231 bytes) Wales Schools v Welsh Youth 20 Mar 1954 Cardiff   slight crease across centre

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-wash-yth £6.00

93.jpg (41569 bytes) Wales v England

(Schools international - under 16)

11 Mar 1950 Cardiff   excellent

Ref: PC11-prag-u16-waen50 - £6.00

41.jpg (31937 bytes) Wales v England

(Schools international - under 16)

14 Apr 1951 Cardiff   slight crease

Ref: PC11-prag-u16-waen51 - £6.00

90.jpg (47326 bytes) Wales v England

(Schools international - under 16)

28 Feb 1953     slight crease

Ref: PC11-prag-u16-waen53 - £5.00

89.jpg (37523 bytes) Wales v England

(Schools international - under 16)

19 Mar 1955     slight crease

Ref: PC11-prag-u16-waen55 - £5.00

68.jpg (46929 bytes) Wales v Scotland Border Union

(Schools international - under 16)

9 Apr 1949 Cardiff   slight crease

Ref: PC11-prag-u16-wasc49 - £7.50

43.jpg (43382 bytes) Wales v South of Scotland

(Schools international - under 16)

6 Mar 1954 Cardiff   very slight crease

Ref: PC11-prag-u19-wasosc54 - £6.00

40.jpg (29673 bytes) Wales v Germany 

Youth International

17 Mar 1956 Swansea   rusty staples, slight crease

Ref PC11-prag-yth-wagy56 - £6.00

39.jpg (34351 bytes) Scotland v Wales

Air Training Corps

4 Feb 1955 Goldenacre, Edinburgh   good

Ref: PC11-prag-atc-scwa55 - £5.00



86.jpg (226553 bytes) Welsh Trial 

Probables v Possibles

1 Nov 1947 Bridgend   slight crease

Ref: PC11-prtawa19471101 - £9.50

96.jpg (38630 bytes) Welsh Trial 

Probables v Possibles

6 Dec 1947 Cardiff 15 - 5 very slight crease

Ref: PC11-prtawa19471206 - £7.50

95.jpg (32107 bytes) Welsh Trial 

Probables v Possibles

1 Jan 1949 Cardiff 3 - 3 excellent

Ref: PC11-prtawa19490101 - £5.00



36.jpg (27866 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 29 Nov 1947 Twickenham   rusty staples

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca47 - £7.50 

67.jpg (62252 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 7 Dec  1948 Twickenham 14 - 8 worn

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca48 - £6.00 

73.jpg (34889 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 6 Dec 1949 Twickenham 3 - 0 creased & worn, Reg Pelling, SW Echo name on front 

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca49 - £3.50

15.jpg (35215 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 9 Dec 1952 Twickenham 5 - 6 rusty staples

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca52 - £6.00

64.jpg (57970 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 6 Dec 1955 Twickenham 9 - 5 rusty staples

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca55 - £7.50

47.jpg (61305 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 11 Dec 1956 Twickenham 9 - 14 excellent

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca56 - £7.00

63.jpg (58892 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 9 Dec 1958 Twickenham 6 - 17 excellent

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca58 -  £2.50

53.jpg (34433 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge 8 Dec 1959 Twickenham 9 - 3 excellent 

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca59 - £4.50

40.jpg (52541 bytes) Oxford v Cambridge  6 Dec1960 Twickenham 0 - 13 'jonathan' on front cover

Ref: PC11-prun-oxca60 - £2.50







69.jpg (66534 bytes) Lansdowne v Dublin University

Wanderers v Blackrock

Leinster Cup - probably semi-finals

04 Apr 1959 Lansdowne Road   Small rust stain

Ref: PC11-prircb-la19590404 - £7.50

68.jpg (65656 bytes) Cardiff v France Centre 07 Sept 1957 Cardiff Arms Park   Good

Ref: PC11-prwacb-ca19570907 - £4.50

67.jpg (67245 bytes) Cardiff v Gloucester 28 Apr 1948 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19480428 - £7.50

64.jpg (78693 bytes) Cardiff v Newport 17 Mar 1954 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19540317 - £4.50

63.jpg (71860 bytes) Cardiff v Newport 13 Nov 1954 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19541113 - £4.50

62.jpg (74213 bytes) Cardiff v Newport 05 Mar 1955 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple and slight tear on spine

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19550305 - £7.50

61.jpg (74292 bytes) Cardiff v Newport 10 Nov 1956 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19561110 - £4.50

59.jpg (79216 bytes) Cardiff v Newport 02 Mar 1957 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19570302 - £4.50

58.jpg (71092 bytes) Cardiff v Stades Nantais U.C. and U.S. Congnacaise Teams 20 Sept 1947 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19470920 - £7.50

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Cardiff v Swansea 18 Oct 1947 Cardiff Arms Park   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19471018 - £7.50

55.jpg (86587 bytes) Cardiff veterans v Stade Nantais U.C. Veterans 26 Dec 1952 Cardiff Arms Park   Creased corner

Ref: PC11-prwacb-cd19521226 - £6.00

54.jpg (53872 bytes) Gloucester v Cardiff 26 Feb 1949 Kingsholm   Excellent

Ref: PC11-prencb-gl19490226 - £7.50

52.jpg (95275 bytes) Leicester v Birkenhead Park 27 Dec 1958 Leicester   Rusty staple

Ref: PC11-prencb-le19581227 - £7.50

51.jpg (83511 bytes) Newport v Llanelly 09 Jan 1954 Newport   Folded corner on cover

Ref: PC11-prwacb-np19540109 - £6.00

50.jpg (88578 bytes) Newport v Cardiff 19 Feb 1955 Newport   Staple rust on spine

Ref: PC11-prwacb-np19550219 - £4.50

49.jpg (47431 bytes) Newport v Ebbw Vale 21 Apr 1956 Newport   Staple rust on spine

Ref: PC11-prwacb-np19560421 - £4.50



Players past and present enjoyed his company. When Cliff Jones hosted the 50th anniversary reunion dinner for the survivors of the 1935 Wales v New Zealand match, the game that had so captured the imagination of the teenaged Thomas, JBG was the honorary guest of the eleven Welsh survivors who attended the Royal Hotel on 21st December 1985. He even proposed the final toast: “That beautiful one point.”

                Even when Wales were unexpectedly (or even sometimes expectedly) beaten in the Five Nations, JBG’s pieces would often include a paragraph that started off along the lines . . . “Wales can still be champions if . . .” He was always optimistic.




He was moreover always keen to see the interests of the game advanced. When the Welsh Rugby Union announced its intention to commission its Centenary History for the 1980-81 season, most connected with the game felt JBG should be the automatic choice for the job. He wasn’t. Nevertheless, he published his own splendid illustrated history of the Welsh game in a then modern, beautifully-designed volume. A wide selection of rare photographs from JBG’s personal archives helped to make the book arguably the most attractive published on rugby up to that time. Viv Jenkins, in his foreword, called him “indisputably the Recorder of the Century where Welsh rugby is concerned.”

                Yet JBG was generous to rival authors. “The game would welcome them all,” he wrote at the time, “for there can never be too many.” He was also encouraging to new freelances trying to make their way, as he himself had done many years earlier. For years he combined his Western Mail duties with those of press-box organiser for the Welsh Rugby Union. In those blissful days before corporate management of such affairs became the norm, he carried out his duties with the utmost professionalism. “I’ll see what’s about,” he would say to hopeful new hacks. He also did much to foster the interests of the Rugby Union Writers’ Club. Fittingly he served as its chairman in the Welsh Centenary season, was elected a life member and was the first chairman of the Welsh Rugby Writers’ Association.

                The only issue that vexed him was neutral officials. He had seen a New Zealander referee the All Blacks to a victory by six penalty goals to four tries against the Lions at Dunedin in the 1959 Test series and campaigned vigorously thereafter for neutrals to be appointed for major internationals overseas. He was equally trenchant in his criticisms of British referees who were lenient to visiting sides to this country. Sometimes he overstated the case and, understandably, his cause did not go down well in New Zealand.

                He retired in 1982, not because he wanted to but because he had reached the age of 65. He continued to contribute to the Western Mail and was awarded the MBE in recognition of his services to rugby in the 1984 New Year’s Honours List. It was the family support of his wife and three sons that made his career possible he always maintained. His wife Gwen died in 1985, shortly after accompanying him to Buckingham Palace to receive his award. 


Aladdin's cave

JBG was plagued by ill-health in his later years. In April 1997, his treasure trove of rugby memorabilia went under the hammer at Phillips’ auction rooms in Cardiff, a touch-kick from the Arms Park. The remarkable run of cuttings dating back to the 1920s, programmes from an even earlier vintage and even the whistle from the famous 1905 Wales v New Zealand encounter were among the Aladdin’s Cave of items that fell under the hammer. He died a week later, a few days short of his 80th birthday.

                John Billot, for the best part of 40 years his colleague, was among the many to pay generous tribute to JBG. “He was a compulsive worker and prolific purveyor of words. Working with him was an enlightening and frequently hilarious experience. With his cigar and flat cap he was, perhaps, the last of the great professional Welsh rugby-writing characters.”

end of  'Rugby's Man of a Million Words' - an appreciation by John Griffiths

Read about more Rugby Writers at

John Billot  -  Viv Jenkins  -  Old Stager  -  Wilf Wooller


more JBG memorabilia................


66.jpg (19656 bytes) 1959 Pall Mall Rugby Almanack - including a preview of the 1959 Lions tour of NZ

Ref: PC11-annz-rpm59 - £12.50

75.jpg (34262 bytes) 1970/71 Welsh Brewers Rugby Annual for Wales 

Ref: PC11-anwa70-71 -  £7.50   

19.jpg (71115 bytes) 1994/95 Welsh Brewers Rugby Annual for Wales 

Ref: PC11-anwa94-5 - £9.75

59.jpg (36520 bytes) 1995/96 Welsh Brewers Rugby Annual for Wales 

Ref: PC11-anwa95-96 - £3.00

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1949 - South Wales Rugger Souvenir - pub by Findon, edited by Emrys Evans

Ref: PC11-anwa1949-rugger - £9.00 



100_2579.jpg (94985 bytes) 100_2578.jpg (83009 bytes) WESTERN MAIL - Pre and post tour 1974 Lions supplements. the pre-tour supp. is 8 pages, the post tour is 10 pages including a complete statistical run down, team line ups etc. Both are broadsheet publications in good condition, both are written and edited by JBG. 

Ref: PC11-npstbr74-wm - £12.50  


100_2578.jpg (83009 bytes) WESTERN MAIL - post tour 1974 Lions supplement, 10 pages including a complete statistical run down, team line ups etc. In good condition, mostly written and edited by JBG

Ref: PC11-npbr74-wm2 - £7.50


"Follow the Lions" with Piet Greyling & Cliff Morgan. 48 page brochure published by J Samuel. Pre tour, including pictures and details of both Lions and Springboks, histories of opponents, directions and maps to the grounds,  In excellent condition

Ref: PC11-blbr74-pg - £15.00


95.jpg (39667 bytes) RANFURLY SHIELD

"The Record of Ranfurly Shield Rugby 1902 - 1930" by AH CARMAN

a second-hand booklet in good condition 
1st Edition:  1930 Pages:  32 Ref:  PC11-blhirs30 -  £7.50


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RUGGER RHYMES - by T.H.E. Baillie

RUGGER RHYMES - by T.H.E. Baillie, illustrated by Leo Munro. A nicely illustrated soft back book with illustrations taken from 'The illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News'. The date of publication is unknown, we have found Leo Munro illustrations in the above publication dated 1905.The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News changed it's name to 'Country Life' in 1945 so the date of publication can be assumed to be in the period 1900 - 1945. This is a previously unknown publication which does not appear in the Dave McLaren or John Jenkins rugby bibliographies. It is therefore an extremely rare book. This particular copy has 'review copy' stamped on the title page with a name which looks to be 'Arthur Shipham' written on the front, There are a couple of nicks and tears on the spine. We would scan some of the illustrations but the binding is very tight and damage would occur so please excuse the quality of the photos.

Ref: PC11-pb-rugger-rhymes - £725.00


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"Wales, World Cup ‘91" The official Team Souvenir Magazine, a Welsh supporters guide, 72pp, good quality guide with nice articles. This booklet comes together with a set of A4 official press release containing  post-match statistics for every match bar the final and a statistics sheet for the Welsh squad.  

Ref:  PC11-blwc91wagp2 -  £6.25


TICKETS - sold out



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1964 South African jubilee, set of 2 mint stamps on loose page from stamp album - possibly hinged

Ref: PC11-sgsa64st - £2.25   



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 British Lions 1966 New Zealand Onehunga wool blanket as issued to members of the tour party. The blanket measures 190cm x 140cm (6'6" x 4'6") and has a NZ Tour 1966 badge and makers label sewn in the corner, these are enlarged in the illustration. There are a couple of small stains which will most likely wash out otherwise the blanket is in excellent condition.  

From the JBG Thomas collection - click here for more info

Ref: PR-B222-tmbr1966-blanket.jbg-cl - £37.50 


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 A Welsh Rugby Union Centenary plate by Royal Worcester, diameter 28cm (11"), The plate is in very good condition with no chips, cracks or noticeable flaws  

From the JBG Thomas collection - click here for more info

Ref: PC11-wacnpp.royal.worcs - £17.50 





"The Story of the Cardiff Rugby Football Club" - 1939

'The book that never was' 



When JBG moved to a smaller house in the late 1990s much of his collection was auctioned at Phillips in Cardiff. there were many interesting items for sale but one that caught our attention was an unpublished manuscript of what would have been JBG's first book. 

For JBG the timing couldn't have been worse for publishing his first work, at the beginning of World War Two, when the focus of the country was on the war effort. 

It looks as though our manuscript which is pasted into a scrapbook has a part of it missing, there are just 5 typed pages remaining along with several photographs. There are also several blank pages towards the end of the book before the autographs of the Cardiff and Barbarians teams from 1940 are pasted into the book so it could be that this is just an unfinished work. It is clear however that this was an official work from the photos. It looks like JBG organised a training session involving the Cardiff team and backroom staff, there are many posed photographs including some of the star players of the era Wilf Wooller and Bleddyn Williams included. 


Click on the thumbnails below to view the book !

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99-bbau1940.jpg (67667 bytes) 99-bbau1940b.jpg (66963 bytes)





32.jpg (6183 bytes) W Roddy Evans autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-wre - £2.50

31.jpg (4807 bytes) Des Greenslade autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-dg - £4.00

30.jpg (3299 bytes) D Ken Jones autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-dkj - £2.50

29.jpg (5068 bytes) Bryn Meredith autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-bm - £2.50

28.jpg (4003 bytes) DRR (Robert) Morgan autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-hm - £3.00

26.jpg (3870 bytes) Dave Nash autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-dn £4.50

24.jpg (8205 bytes) Tony O'Connor autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-toc - £4.50

22.jpg (4781 bytes) Brian Price autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-£2.00

21.jpg (4721 bytes) Alan Rees autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-ar - £4.00

18.jpg (5115 bytes) Lloyd Williams autograph on small piece of paper (approx 9cm x 6cm - 3" x 2")

Ref: PC11-auwapy-lw - £3.00



A collection of programmes that have been autographed, the signatures were collected by Wayne before and after matches whilst accompanying his dad. 
 I-56.jpg (35256 bytes) 09.jpg (81407 bytes)

England v Ireland 1956

Signed by DL Sanders, E Evans, RWD Marques, A Ashcroft, VG Roberts of England, and AA Mulligan of Ireland

Ref: PC11-auprenir56 - £19.50

S-55.jpg (35418 bytes) 08.jpg (75558 bytes)

England v Scotland 1955

Signed by GW Hastings of England, and RWT Chisholm, JWY Kemp, A Robinson of Scotland

Ref: PC11-auprensc55 - £18.00

F-56.jpg (34319 bytes) 03.jpg (79706 bytes)

Scotland v France 1956

Signed by RWT Chisholm, ML Grant of Scotland

Ref: PC11-auprscfr56 - £14.50

79.jpg (50735 bytes) 02.jpg (77349 bytes)

Scotland v Ireland 1955

Signed by AR Smith, A Robinson of Scotland, and D McSweeney

Ref: PC11-auprscir55 - £21.00

W-55.jpg (35778 bytes) 01.jpg (76151 bytes)

Scotland v Wales 1955

Signed by A Robinson of Scotland, and AB Edwards, KJ Jones, G Wells, A Thomas, C Morgan, R Robins, JRG Stephens of Wales

Ref: PC11-auprscwa55 - £29.50

42.jpg (62767 bytes) 98.jpg (80875 bytes)

Wales v International XV 1957 - Empire Games Fundraising Match

Signed by TE Davies, C Davies, G Powell, G Wells, CI Morgan, L Williams, BV Meredith, JRG Stephens, RJ Robins of Wales, and RM Bartlett, E Evans, RWD Marques of International XV

Ref: PC11-auprwa-int57 - £37.50

E-55.jpg (35009 bytes) 97.jpg (73925 bytes)

Wales v England 1955

Signed by KJ Jones, G Wells, BL Williams, C Morgan, JRG Stephens, R Robins, B Sparkes of Wales, and JE Williams and DGS Baker of England

Ref: PC11-auprwaen55 - £32.50

F-56.jpg (31282 bytes) 95.jpg (89782 bytes)

Wales v France 1956

Signed by KJ Jones, HP Morgan, MC Thomas, CL Davies, CI Morgan, DO Brace, B Meredith, LH Jenkins, JRG Stephens, CD Williams, R Robins, G Whitson of Wales

Ref: PC11-auprwafr56 - £42.50

I-57.jpg (32997 bytes) 93.jpg (73554 bytes)

Wales v Ireland 1957

Signed by TE Davies, C Davies, G Powell, G Wells, CI Morgan, L Williams, BV Meredith, JRG Stephens, RJ Robins, J Faull of Wales, and AA Mulligan, BG Wood, PJ O'Sullivan of Ireland

Ref: PC11-auprwair57 - £35.00

S-56.jpg (34151 bytes) 91.jpg (82587 bytes)

Wales v Scotland 1956

Signed by CL Davies, MC Thomas, KJ Jones, HP Morgan, B Meredith, DO Brace, CI Morgan, R Prosser, RCC Thomas, LH Jenkins, B Sparks of Wales, and RWT Chisholm, ML Grant of Scotland

Ref: PC11-auprwasc56 - £35.00






Please note that these books are not from the JBG Thomas collection and are available to purchase now. All copies are second-hand with a dust wrapper and first edition unless stated otherwise. If more information is required please visit the Books pages at 


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JBG Thomas - On Tour (1954) Great Rugger Players (1955) - no d/w The Lions on Trek (1956) Great Rugger Matches (1959) Lions Courageous (1960)


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Springbok Glory (1961) Bryn Thomas's Book of Rugger (1961 & 1962) Great Rugger Clubs (1962) Lions among the Springboks (1963) Great Contemporary Players (1963)


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The Fifth All Blacks (1964) Lions at Bay (1966) Fifty-two Famous Tries (1966) On Trek Again (1968) Rugby in Black & Red (1968)


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Rugby: Men, Matches & Moments (1970) Rugby in Wales (1970) Springbok Invasion (1970) The Roaring Lions (1971)  The Men in Scarlet (1972)


06.jpg (43796 bytes) 1974 BOOK The Greatest Lions.jpg (30089 bytes) 13.jpg (45980 bytes) 10.jpg (42617 bytes) bk-THOMAS, JBG Trial of Strength.jpg (78711 bytes)
The Avenging All Blacks (1973) The Greatest Lions (1974) Great Moments in Sport: Rugby football (1974) Wallabies' Walkabout (1976) Trial of Strength (1977)


21.jpg (44562 bytes) 41.jpg (54936 bytes) 09.jpg (72792 bytes) 34.jpg (46504 bytes) 40.jpg (63437 bytes)
Rugby in Focus (1978) The Illustrated History of Welsh Rugby (1980) Wounded Lions (1981) Rugger in the Blood (1985) Fifty Years of the All Blacks (1954), JBG under the pseudonym David Owen


My Dad and I, and collecting programmes

By Wayne Thomas

 My father, JBG Thomas, the late Sports Editor of the Western Mail and author of numerous books on Rugby Union, was like a squirrel – he collected things and saved all his written material, and never threw anything away! This included his teenage years, his war service in the Royal Navy, and his many years of writing on sport! Hence old programmes, dinner cards (often with notes from the various speeches), books and newspaper cuttings filled the middle room (my dad’s so-called office) of the two storey Edwardian house in Plasturton Avenue , Cardiff , where I grew up. The excess was stored in a coal-dusted cellar below ground that was subject to the odd flood! 

JBGs study

Often, as I grew through my autograph collecting years of the late Fifties and early Sixties (before I found girls), I would go and explore the Aladdin’s Cave, and read through old documents that bore the names of legends like Arthur Gould, Gwyn Nicholls, and Jack Bassett. 

When I came to write my own book – A Century of Welsh Rugby Players – to commemorate the WRU Centenary in 1980/1, I had to retrace those steps and pore over what seemed like limitless material in that middle room searching for photographs, memoirs and history books. Frankly it was a labour of love, even if the holy grail of programme collecting – the 1905 Wales v New Zealand – was not amongst my dad’s collection. But instead, by being with my father on occasions, I did get to meet Rhys Gabe, Percy Bush, and Willie Llewellyn, along with many other luminaries of the game like Jack Manchester and Danie Craven.

I inherited my father’s older programmes – many were auctioned in the Nineties when he was forced to move to a smaller house due to health problems – but also I had been an avid collector in my tweenies and early teens along with my elder brother Craig (the distinguished techno-thriller writer of Firefox etc), albeit many obtained through my father who wrote and edited Welsh international programmes when they became glossy in the mid-fifties.

Transvaal v 1955 British Lions, with 'Craig' written to the right of the illustrated player


But of great interest in this sale will be the 1955 British Lions’ tour programmes, many of which are inscribed at the front top with the name of Wayne or Craig, showing to which brother they belonged! This was the first tour my father covered, along with his great friend Viv Jenkins of The Sunday Times, and where he started sending home all his written material and other memorabilia to be stored in Plasturton Avenue! Every other tour from then on would include a mountain of paper, leaflets, postcards, invitations and books despatched from the southern hemisphere. What a different world from the pressure-laden, cocooned, international only, jet visits that modern players are subjected to. No leisurely five and half months long sojourn through the backwaters of former colonies actually meeting people and soaking up the social and cultural mores of people who shared a collective past.

My memories of the 1955 tour started when I was at the General Station in Cardiff to see the Welsh players (Cliff Morgan et al) board a bus (wearing suits and collars and ties) for departure to Heathrow – there was a lengthy National Rail Strike on at the time, followed by my father’s less than glorious exit from South Wales sitting in the back of a newspaper delivery van bound for London with the capital’s copies of the Western Mail. But it was only a decade after the end of WW2 and such things were very acceptable to a more innocent, non-politically correct, zero Health and Safety-surrounded lifestyle!

Shortly after the tour began in Potchesfstroom, packages began to arrive bearing cuttings and programmes, and so international programme collecting began to come of age. Somehow the 1974 Lions collection survived the floods in the cellar, for alas the Taff and its former river bed under Plasturton Avenue destroyed the 1959, 62 and 66 material, along with my pristine complete set of programmes. The rust on the staples of the 55 Lions programmes bear evidence that they at least were on a higher ledge than the rest and just about survived.

I hope you have fun poring over these delicate artefacts, at least as much fun as I had waiting for the post to bring exotic envelopes bearing exotic stamps from unknown places in deepest Africa, as the Lions began the long haul to the glories of 1971 and 1974.

Wayne Thomas    


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"A Century of Welsh Rugby Players" 

by Wayne Thomas (son of JBG Thomas)

Published to co-incide with the WRU Centenary this is a marvellous book with biographies of 100 great Welsh internationals, from Frank Hancock in 1884 to Graham price in 1975, a second-hand paperback in good condition





It is a testament of their good parenting that the children of JBG & Gwen went on to successful careers in their chosen fields.  

Pictured at their eldest son Craig's wedding in 1967, from left to right

Wayne, Gwen, Gareth, Craig, JBG


CRAIG (b1942) - A highly acclaimed author with 18 published novels and various other works, his best known work 'Firefox' became a successful film tarring Clint Eastwood, he is credited as being one of the originators of the 'techno thriller' genre of writing. 

WAYNE (b1946 ) -  followed in Dad's footsteps, he regularly reported for a range of daily and Sunday newspapers in  England and Scotland and  wrote 'A Century of Welsh Rugby Players' to coincide with the Welsh Rugby Union Centenary. He lectured in business management for many years at Stirling University, York St John's and Brooklands College as well as being a partner in a private Management Development consultancy.

GARETH (1950 - 2007) - was capped by the Welsh Secondary Schools in the late sixties, before entering the RAF, where he featured regularly at Twickenham in the Inter-Services tournament. He played for numerous club and representative sides before turning to coaching, which he combined with teaching. Both his sons played first class rugby, with his younger boy, Stephen, being capped for Wales at Rugby League ! He is presently starring for Neath RFC.   



... ...


World Rugby Museum Home


Many thanks to the following people who have helped with the story of 'JBG Thomas'

John Griffiths

Wayne Thomas

Dai Richards & Dale Thomas (World Rugby Museum)


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