The Club: Its Origin and Early History

by Donald H. Jones F.S.A. Scot.

 “ When Canon Jayne, afterwards Bishop  of Chester , was principal of St. Davids College, Lampeter, an Oxford friend asked him how young Welshmen were getting on. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘they do exceedingly well, but they would understand one another better and aquire larger sympathys if they would take up some good give-and-take game like football! If only I could get someone to teach them football.’”

Away back at the beginning of the ‘seventies, syas local tradition, some Neath boys home on vacation from English schools produced a rugby football on the gnoll grounds and introduced “ Scratch ” sides to a sport that was new to Neath. It was rugby football – an odd sort of game; something of a scramble! No one appears to have noted the date or cared much about it, but it established in the Neath Rugby Club, and in the old “ Swansea and Glamorgan Herald, ” dated February 7th 1872, the following report appeared :-

“ Football Club. On Saturday a match was witnessed between Swansea and Neath clubs. The interest displayed was very great although the result was undecided, both parties claiming to be the victors.”

            This is the earliest report of a “Neath Club” that has come to the writers notice, and the only one that appeared in conteporary newspapers during the 1871-2 season. Official newspaper used by the club in 1895 states “Founded 1875” which is curious, for there can be no doubt about the club’s activity from 1872, and the records do not reveal re-formation.

            Among those Neath students was late Dr. T. P. Whittington, reputed founder of of Neath Club. He gained early distinction for himself and Neath by securing a place in a Scottish national fifteen, seven years before the Welsh Rugby Union was formed.

            In response to an enquiry by the writer, Mr. H. M. Simson, secretary, secretary of the Scottish Union, states: “I find that T. Whittington, Merchiston, played against England in 1873.”

            In October, 1874, a lad of seventeen and a newcomer to the district joined a group in a praqctice game on the present Gnoll Grounds. His play was so impressed that he was immediately invited by the late Mr. W. H. David, a well known Neath solicitor and club foundation member, to join the club. That lad was Sam S. Clark, and to-day he happily survives to rejoin his old club in its celebrations as its first Welsh international and oldest surviving player.

            Among the clubs personnel at that time ans in the seasons immediately following was the late Mr. Lewis Kempthorne-in whose chambers club meetings were held-and Phil Braine, whose jersey featured a huge Maltese Cross covering the entire of his chest! He migrated to Australia . Then there were Tom Leyson-“W.A.’S” father ; Frank Sadler, a mining engineer from Brigend ; Moxham, who gave the “All Blacks” Their Maltese Cross (he too, went abroad) ; and a solicitor named Tom Davies and a fellow named Knight. There was a poor Dick Gordon, amateur quarter-mile champion of Wales , who lost his life wearing the Neath jersey against Brigend about 1880. These are some of the early stalwarts, to be joined by Tom Cusse, whon about in 1876 walked over the hills from maesteg to play on the Gnoll; Beth Haycock; the brothers Dick and David Jones, miners; Dai Watkins, Steve Antony, a “ star ” Matthew Whittington, and Jack Close.

            In a South Wales team that defeated Hereford in December, 1875, are the names “ H. S. Sutton and C. E. Sutton, of Neath.”

            In the early days the club played in assorted dark jerseys, and the subsequent adoption of the now celebrated black jersey appears to have been a matter of fashion. Major Clark says “The South Wales Union are also black, with a fine leek spreading the chest.” Of the adoption of the Maltese Cross, he adds: “Moxam came on the ground one afternoon wearing a small Maltese Cross in his cap (caps were worn in those days) ; the boys immediately caught up a suggestion to adopt it as a badge-to break the monotinous black.”

            The badge deserves more than a significant origin!

            In 1874 the club played on the present Gnoll Grounds, then let to the old Cadoxton Cricket Club by Mr. Charles Evan-Thomas, Gnoll House. A dispute with the Cricket club led to the football club moving to “Superintendent Evans’s Field” on the site of the Gnoll Cinema. Other grounds included “Trick’s Field” in King Street , and the Bird-in-Hand Field, where some particualrly hard fierce games were fought. Finally, an appeal to Mr. Evan-Thomas secured Neath’s re-establishment at the Gnoll.

In October 1877, it was decided at a meeting of old South Wales Football Club “to institute a challenge cup to the value of fifty guineas, to be compared for by any club subscribing Two guineas to the fund.” Neath was represented and in the same year played and won its first cup game against Llandeilo at Neath.

The challenge cup created intense rivalry, and at times considerable feeling, among Welsh clubs, and the most noteable cup draw of the whole series was probably that between Neath and Swansea on the Gnoll Ground about 1879, when Major Clark played in seven drawn games. “Four of these,” he relates, “occupied two hours and forty minutes each and the final and eighth game was won by Neath by one try at the close of extra time. Beth Haycock was the scorer. There was no conversion, as an intensly exited crowd swept the field and rendered further play impossible.”

Incidently, on march 15th, 1879, Neath played its first match against Newport, this also was a cup game-and Neath lost heavily.

It is interesting to record that it was in the Castle Hotel, Neath, where the Welsh Rugby Union was formed, in the 1880-81 season.

In 1881-2, in which season he was club captain, Major Clark became Neath’s first Welsh international player, when he was “capped” in the first game ever played between Wales and Ireland .

We may appropriately select for these notes a Neath team of that year which played and defeated Cardiff by 1 goal and 3 touch-downs to 1 touch-down:-

Backs: G. P. Lewis, S. Clarke.

Threequarter-backs: H. J. Kempthorne and McEwen

Half-Back: S. S. Clark (Captain)

Quarter-Backs: F. Williams and J. Jones

Forwards: T. Hutchins, T. E. Richards, H. Marley, D. Watkins, Williams, Blenkinsopp, P. J. Braine and W. B. Trick

The goal was kicked by the captain-he was noted for his lengthy kicking.  

In 1887-8 we find the name of Dr. E. V. Pegge connected prominently with the club-a splendid fellow who always played in bared arms and legs. A popular captain, he once caught up with his team on tour in Devon by chartering a special train! About the same period, Walter Rice Evans, of Eaglesbush, was winning his rugby spurs as a forward, and in 1890 secured his ‘’Blue’’ at Oxford and played for Wales against Scotland . In the following year he again played against Scotland , and in 1981, against England , he was joined by Dr. Pegge. Walter Evans played mostly for Swansea , but Neath may well claim him as one of her rugby sons.

            Such fine old players as Llewellyn Morris, George D. Trick (Neath’s youngest player in those days), David Gwynn, Walter Broskam, Thomas Morris, Alec Cross, Walter Phillips, Hugh Evans, and John Michael (‘’inspector’’) also wore the Neath jersey with Dr. Pegge in 1890, and some of them are happily still with us to-day to exchange reminiscences of the many stirring contests in which they participated.

            It is interesting to note that an illuminated address presented to Major Clark on October 1st, 1887 (referred to elsewhere), bears the names of Mr. Godfrey Williams as president, Mr. A. Russell Thomas and Mr. Walter E. Rees, hon. Secretaries.

            No notes on the early history of Neath club would be complete without mention being made of Captain Walter E. Rees’s early association with the club, and his subsequent career as secretary on the Welsh Rugby Union from 1896. Following his joint secretaryship with Mr. Russell Thomas he carried on alone, and at the close of the 1890-91 season – a memorable season in the early history of the club- a contemporary report states: ‘’Neath.—The past season has been the most successful this club has had for many years. The club went on tour at Christmas, meeting Devon County and Torquay and defeating both teams…..The London Welsh paid their first visit to Neath, and, notwithstanding the strong team they brought down, the game ended in a draw. Other well known English teams lowered their colours before the plucky Neath men…..The team have greatly improved their play……and we may refer to the large which have been secured and the unstinted praise bestowed by the spectators upon the splendid expositions of football afforded them. The return to success…..has mainly been due to the indefatigable honorary secretary, Mr. Walter E. Rees, whose devoted services so impressed the members, from their president (the Hon. H. C. Bruce) downwards, that they…..presented him with a handsome gold Albert chain and pendant, suitably inscribed.

……….The season closed when Northampton succumbed to ‘Good old Neath’ (on March 31st at home) to the tune of three goals and three tries to nil.’’

              Twenty years had now elapsed since the formation of the club, and the recent progress made had placed Neath in the forefront of Welsh rugby. They had secured, for those days, a fair representation in the national side, and their exhibitions had enabled the committee to obtain fixtures with some of the best English sides. In 1894 Fred Hutchinson, a forward, was the next Neath player to gain international honours, being ‘’capped’’ against Ireland . Two years later he again played for Wales against Scotland and Ireland

The writer is fully aware that there are many other personalities who played their part in the early activities of the club, but this review has purposely been confined to the first twenty years of the club’s existence-a period when records are scanty-because they are considered the most fitting to record for to-day’s commemorative celebrations




President, Neath Rugby Supporters' Club


MY CONNECTION with Neath Rugby Football Club extends over a period of thirty years, and it is a happy coincidence that the Diamond Jubilee celebrations should take place during my year of office as Mayor of the borough.
                            It may be appropriate that I should have been asked to pen my reflections for this souvenir programme, and I appreciate very much the kind invitation of my colleagues.
                            I was elected a member of the club committee at a very early age twenty-four, I believe and since then I have seen the club riding high on the waves of success and suffering in the realms of adversity. I have shared many triumphs and many trials, seen the cup of fortune bubbling over and also the coffers very low.
                            During my early days I well remember the committee meeting after one match in very great distress. The following Saturday the All Blacks were due to play at Bath, but the tragedy of it - the funds has reached their lowest possible ebb. Was the fixture to be cancelled, or could we scrape the amount of the expenses? Although none of the members of the committee were worth ''powder and shot,'' it was agreed to call on the bank in an attempt to borrow the money. The manager gave us a courteous reception and advanced the money, enabling the team to travel to Bath. That seemed to be the turning point in our luck. From then on, success followed success, and before the end of season we were more than rewarded for our courage.
                            Some years later we carried out extensive improvements at the Gnoll, including an addition to the grandstand and the erection of iron railings around the playing pitch. This meant another visit to the bank in order to procure an overdraft of about £1,000. If the bank had found it necessary to call the money in, I believe that most of us at that time would have been sold up!
                            I have seen hundreds of players come and go. If space allowed, I should like to refer to a large number of stalwarts whose services to the club were magnificent, but I cannot refrain from referring to the brothers D. L and Glyn Prosser, and the Brothers Harold and D. L. Thomas. The Prossers played for Wales in the same match and so did the Thomases. The establishes an unique record for the club, and one which we greatly cherish.
                            In my opinion, the best team which has represented the club was the one captained by Tom Evans. It was one of the greatest club sides produced by any Welsh town, certainly the best since war. 
                            I feel that reference should be made to one of our members, Mr A. E. Freethy, who is considered by many good judges of the game to be the best referee in the four countries, and who is now, of course one of the Welsh Union's ''Big Five''
                            Of late years, the Supporters' Club, of which I have the honour to be president, was founded by that great international forward of earlier days, Mr. Glyn Stephens, J.P. The wonderful work the officials and members have accomplished is immeasurable. The new stand and dressing-rooms are a standing monument to their enthusiastic labours and enterprise, but they are not resting on their laurels. They now have in hand an ambitious scheme for the provision of a stand on the cheap side.
                            In this, the Diamond Jubilee season, the committee has been compelled to seek new talent; old players cannot go on for ever. I think encouragement, lads who should worthily uphold the best traditions of the club in seasons to come.
                            For more than thirty years the club has been managed by a committee composed of men who have always been prepared to make sacrifices. This season's committee is no exception. They are serving the club loyally, and I am always happy to be among them. Sportsmen of the first water, they are always ready to exert themselves in order that a grand game may receive the support and encouragement it deserves.
                            Of course, I cannot overlook the splendid following which the All Blacks have had throughout the years. The members and supporters are of the right type. They know the game, they know a player, and they continued support is deeply appreciated and valued.
                             It is with deepest gratitude that I refer to the generous assistance we always received at the hand of the late Mr. D. M. Evans-Bevan, J.P, his son, our present president.

D. M. Evans-Bevan Esq, J.P.

Neath Corporation and its officials, too, have always been ready to assist the club in every way. There is every indication that the future of the All Blacks will be bright. Here's luck to them from one who cherishes fond memories of their glory and a longing desire to see their greatness of former days return.



by Donald H Jones


         From among those Welsh rugby pioneers of sixty-odd years ago and a long and distinguished list of talented players who have since worn the All Blacks' jersey, a deservedly honoured guest to-day is Major Sam S. Clark, who survives as Neath's first Welsh international and oldest player.
Born in 1857, he came to Neath and joined the club in 1874, being selected captain in 1882 and also gaining his ''cap'' as a threequarter against Ireland, at Dublin, in the first game to be played between the two countries. Before the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union he had played seventeen games for South Wales and he again played for Wales against Ireland in 1887, this time at full back.
                        Major Clark was the first honorary secretary of the Glamorgan County Football Club, and for some years honorary secretary of the old South Wales Football Union. In 1887 he was presented with an illuminated address for his services to the Neath Club. An all-round sportsman, Major Clark also distinguished himself at soccer and cricket, and from 1874 to 1887 he played for the late Sir John D. T. Llewellyn's celebrated Cadoxton Cricket Club. He left Neath for England in 1888, and, settling in a district where rugby was unknown, he at once devoted himself to association football, and in the same year appeared in Wiltshire County soccer and cricket elevens. He retired from active participation in 1892, but has throughout his life maintained an intensive interest in all forms of sport, and has been a familiar member of Glamorgan Cricket Club since its inception. It is fitting that present-day rugby enthusiasts should join in paying tribute to one of the few remaining links with the team's earliest days, a man who helped to lay the foundations for the great Neath teams to come.




               A programme of this character would be incomplete without reference to the remarkable achievements of the Neath Rugby Supporters' Club, who are responsible for its publication. Formed in 1930, this young but virile offshoot of the premier club has worked untiringly and ensured the continued success of the parent body. The full details of the social and financial efforts cannot be told here, but all those who have played their part in its development are gratefully thanked. In 1932 the Supporters' Club took the initiative in a scheme which had been the subject of much talk for the past 30 years, namely the provision of accommodation for the players and a pavilion. This building was erected at a cost of £1,542, and when £1,000 had been wiped out the pavilion was handed over to the premier club, free of all liabilities, and leaving the Supporters to clear £400 plus interest, a task which was accomplished in 1935. Apart from this outstanding effort the Supporters have also assisted the premier club with handsome donations, and by their whole-hearted endeavours increased the membership to 1,000. Donations have been made to outside organisations, and senior and schoolboy internationals in the town in recent years have been presented with framed photographs of themselves. Members have also voluntarily carried out repair and painting work on the ground.
                        The present officials of the club, who deserve all praise for their past triumphs and encouragement in their future enterprises, are: President, The Mayor, Councillor J. B Williams, J. P.; chairman, Mr. W. Cooper; vice-chairman, Mr J. M. Parker; treasurer, Mr. Stan. Simmons; hon. secretary, Mr. Bert Gorman; hon. solicitor, Mr A. R. Harris; committee, Messrs. Tom Rouse, W. G. Rees, A. D Evans, ex-Supt. Rees Davies, Messrs. T. Garfield Jones, Bert Sutcliffe, W. A. Griffiths and Glyn Stephens, J.P., the founder and originator of the Pavilion Scheme.
                         The Supporters are not resting on their laurels, and are already assisting in the provision of a new wicket to retain county cricket for Neath sportsmen. In addition, the erection of a reversible stand in the field for the benefit of cricket and rugby spectators is being undertaken by the Club. The impossible is unknown to these gallant workers, and may their future schemes be marked by progress and success, and the unstinting support of the generous-hearted sporting public


Mr William Cooper - One of the first members of the supporters club committee and it's present chairman. Alderman WK Owen the Deputy Mayor of Neath and the present chairman of Neath RFC. He was mayor of Neath in 1927-8  Mr Stanley Simmons - Treasurer and Neath supporters club since 1934 and a member of Neath Committee since 1935 Mr Bert Sutcliffe - Treasurer of Neath RFC since 1931 and of the Pavilion Fund



                         Insufficient space prevents the inclusion of a complete record of the Neath club's achievements and outstanding personalities since they started their real rise to fame in Welsh rugby, and any notable omissions will be readily understood. The secretaries of the club since 1886, when Mr. T. Harry Hawkins resigned, have been, in the order of appointment, as follows: Mr. A. Russell Thomas, Capt. Walter E. Rees, J.P., Mr D. J Price, Mr. Ben Griffiths, Mr. A. W. M Tench, later treasurer, and Mr. A. L. David, who guided the fortunes of the club through periods of prosperity and adversity for 25 years; Capt. A. J. Morris, M. B. E and Mr. W. Arthur Griffiths, the present secretary. Neath had only five internationals before 1900, and ten from then until the Great War, proof of the difficulty in gaining recognition. For example, Joe Davies, that great full back, was seventeen times reserve to W. J. Bancroft without being ''capped'', whiled Charlie Powell, one of the most brilliant inside halves who ever played, and Johnny Thomas and Joe Birchell, a clever pair of halves of later days, never gained recognition. J. D. D. Davis, one of the greatest all-round sportsmen Neath has produced, scored 33 points on his own in his last match for Neath Seconds before joining the premier fifteen in 1897. Glyn Stephens was the only Neath international to captain Wales, while the only father and son to be ''capped'' in the history of the club were the late Howel Jones and his son Howie Jones, who both played in nearly every position in club rugby. An occurrence of equal importance in recent years was the recognition of two brothers at the same time, first brothers Glyn and D. R. Prosser in 1934, and this season the brothers Harold and D. L. Thomas. Tom Arthur holds the club record with eighteen ''caps,'' and Dan Jones the most prolific scoring record. In recent years Tom Evans, that great captain, led Neath in many great duels as Welsh champions, but few can compare with the memorable match between Neath and Newport on April 16th, 1910, when Neath won by 4pts. to 3 pts. and secured the championship and retained a three years' ground record.




                             In the true Welsh spirit of friendship we accord a warm-hearted welcome to Oxford University, our distinguished opponents on this auspicious occasion. Their decision to visit the ancient borough of Neath for the Diamond Jubilee game has been received with enthusiasm in all sporting circles in the town, because it is certain that they will assist the All Blacks in providing an exhibition of rugby which will be fully in keeping with the fine traditions of the club. To-day, of all days, will be an occasion for the telling of rugby reminiscences, and those who will readily recall the palmy days before the war show see a contest which will bear comparison with some of the more memorable matches. Every arrangement has been made to entertain the Oxford men in the right royal fashion, and we trust that they will spend a pleasant time amongst us and become regular visitors in the future. The ''Dark Blues'' made their first visit to Neath on March 19th, 1932 when Tom Arthur was the Neath captain, and it is interesting to recall that of that team Gwyn Moore and D. I. Thomas are the only two players selected for to-day's match.
                            A hand of welcome should also be extended to the many Neath players and officials, who have rendered yeoman service to the club in smooth and troubled waters, making special mention to those who figured in its outstanding achievements. The appearance of Mr. A. E. Freethy, a member of the Welsh '' Big Five,'' as to-day's referee is particularly pleasing owing to his associations with both teams. He is a member of the Neath Selection Committee, and has refereed six inter-'Varsity games between Oxford and Cambridge Universities and twenty internationals.
                            In conclusion, let us all join in wishing the Neath Club triumphant progress in the future, so that the next sixty years may be marked down as even more remarkable than the time that has gone.




edited by Trevor Dargavel

        Following rugby football, and in particular the fortunes of Neath Rugby Football Club, has been one of the most pleasurable pursuits of my life. It has brought innumerable friendships. some enemies, although I trust not many, travels to grounds far and wide overland and in the air (I have not as yet travelled by sea to follow Neath), great exciting rugby moments, some disappointments when things have not gone right, and the pleasure of talking and writing of the deeds of those who, in my time, have proudly donned the all-black strip of the oldest of the major Welsh clubs.
        I am not alone in this deep interest in the game locally. Many of my Neath born contemporaries, those before us and those after us, like the generations of schoolboys who nowadays swarm on to the pitch and linger around the dressing-room door afterwards hunting autographs to add to cherished collections, have this inborn zest for rugby and, in particular, how it is played by then men representing Neath. It is a part of any Neath schoolboy's education and the club's continued policy of making generous concessions for junior members is to be applauded. Nostalgically, I recall that my own Neath rugby education started in the form of bedtime stories by my late father who was born in Neath a year before organised rugby in the town commenced. And now that I have done some research into the earliest days, his off-the-cuff accounts were surprisingly accurate. I shall always be grateful for this early awakening of interest.
        Even in the inflationary '70's in an age of technological wonder with men walking on the moon; the fantastic earnings of soccer stars; the counter attractions of week-end motoring and sport brought to the fireside through medium of television, rugby is probably the most talked of sport in Neath. Go through the crowded shopping streets or to the busy town market on any Saturday morning and the All Black's fortunes for the day are still the main topic of conversation among the menfolk.
        But television has brought its problems for club rugby and in Neath, as in other rugby hotbeds, it has menaced the traditional Saturday afternoon games, particularly when international matches are being broadcast. In the interests of club finances, the menace is combated by playing under floodlights on any suitable evening. It gives the fans the best of both worlds although floodlit rugby with the novelty of early days past is not often the financial success it was initially, particularly in the hard weather months of January and February.
        Still membership has been maintained at Neath around a thousand strong. A highly successful team might put it beyond that mark.
        Against this background it is with some pride, therefore, at the outset of what promises to be a successful centenary season that I set about the task of recording something of the history of a famous club, on of the pioneers of the game in the Principality.

The Beginnings

           It is recorded that rugby football was first played in the Neath district in the village of Cadoxton, home of famed explorer H. M. Stanley. Legend has it that some athletically bent lads played on a field without permission and that the game ended abruptly when an irate farmer put in an appearance and chased off the intruding participants.
            That was in 1870. A year later came the founding of the Neath club. And for over seventy of the hundred years rich in rugby tradition the famous Maltese Cross upon sombre black pennant has been flying over the Gnoll ground, scene of many a classic match and the game's hub in an ancient town with a history going back to Roman times.
            Even in these affluent times with so many counter attractions and the greater discernment of the populace, it is true to say that the club's annual committee elections now held in the month of July arouse as much, if not more conjecture, argument and town talk then do local government elections. It is also equally true to say that ground improvements, costing £30,000, undertaken over the past decade, which include a new grandstand and floodlighting, have aroused greater interest than the town's splendid new civic centre opened seven years ago.
            This imposing but highly controversial example of modern architecture is sited on what locals know as the Bird-in-Hand field, or Neath fairground because it was here that the town's Great September Fair was staged. The ground was given to the Borough of Neath by Sir David Evans-Bevan together with £10,000 for the building of a civic centre in memory of his father, Mr. Evan Evans-Bevan, a former Mayor of Neath and great public benefactor.
            As the owner of the Bird-in-Hand field and indeed of the hotel of the same name, where Neath once has their headquarters, Mr. Evans-Bevan did much to encourage the game in the town, a tradition continued by his son, Sir David Evans-Bevan, who has been president of the club for many years.
            But it was at the Gnoll, where the immortal W. G. Grace bagged a pair in 1868, that organised rugby in Neath has its beginnings. It was here that students on vacation from English schools first showed the locals how to play a game variously described in those days as ''something of a scramble'' or as ''the first exhibition of the new man-handling code''
            Among those pioneering young  sports-men was a Scotsman, Dr. T. P. Whittington, reputed founder of the Neath club and first captain in season 1871-72. He was Neath's first international, playing for Scotland against England at the Oval in 1873, seven years before Wales entered the international arena. He was described as of Merchiston College and not of Neath.
            First recorded newspaper account of a Neath match was in the ''Swansea and Glamorgan Herald'' of February 7th, 1872. It read: ''On Saturday a match was witnessed between Swansea and Neath clubs. The interest displayed was very great, although the result was undecided, both parties claiming to be victors''.
            A year after Dr. Whittington's appearance for Scotland there was a significant addition to the playing strength. A lad of seventeen, just arrived in the district, joined a practice game at the Gnoll. He so impressed Mr. W. H. David, a solicitor and founder member of the club, that he was asked to join the club. Mr. David proved to be a good judge of a player for the lad, S. S. (Sam) Clarke, later Major Clarke became Neath's first Welsh international.
            He played for Wales against Ireland in 1882. Writing of him in 1937 during Neath's Diamond Jubilee season, historian Donald H. Jones said :''Born in 1857 he came to Neath and joined the club in 1874 being selected captain in 1882 and also gaining his first cap as a threequarter against Ireland at Dublin in the fist game to be played between the two countries. Before the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union, he had played seventeen games for South Wales and he again played for Wales against Ireland in 1887, this time as a full-back.
            Major Clarke was the first honorary secretary of the old South Wales Football Union... An all-round sportsman, Major Clarke also distinguished himself at Soccer and Cricket''.
            Apart from W. H. David, other solicitors connected with the Neath club in the early days were Lewis Kempthorne, Tom Leyson , a Mr. Peters and Harry Williams. Others among the personnel were Phil Braine, Frank Sadler, a mining engineer from Bridgend, players called Moxham and Jonathan, the latter of Maesteg, Tom Davies, a player called Knight, Dick Gordon, amateur quarter-mile champion of Wales, Beth Haycock, two miner brothers, Dick and David Jones, Dai Watkins, Steve Anthony, Matthew Whittington and Jack Close. It is recorded that around 1876 a player named Tom Cusse did the journey on foot from Maesteg to play for Neath.
            A year after Major Clarke joined the club two Neath players, H. S. Sutton and C. E. Sutton played in the South Wales team which beat Hereford.
             It was during these early years that the club adopted the now famous Maltese Cross insignia. It is said that the sartorial whim of the player Moxham heralded its use. Apparently he wore the adornment in his cap at a time when variety rather that uniformity was the fashion in rugger garb. What of the equally famous all-black jersey? That is a sadder story. Assorted dark jerseys were the recognised kit until a tragic day in 1880 when the popular Dick Gordon was killed while playing for Neath against Bridgend. It is said that Neath then resorted to funereal black as a mark of sympathy.
            The fact that Neath are to this day referred to by old-timers as ''The Mourners'' lends credance to this story, but some authorities disagree.
             Writing of it in 1936, Major Clarke said that black was the colour of South Wales Union jersey with a leek emblem across the chest. Of Moxham's cap he added: ''Moxham came on to the ground one afternoon wearing a small Maltese Cross in his cap (caps were worn in those days). The boys immediately caught up in suggestion to adopt it as a badge to break the monotonous black''.
            During this era, in 1877 to exact, Neath entered for the South Wales Challenge Cup, a competition which created intense rivalry, and at times considerable feeling among the Welsh clubs. By defeating Llandilo, Neath gained an early cup success but a later Neath-Swansea tie of this period was not decided until the seventh replay. And they must have had abundant stamina in those days for with extra time, four of the replays occupied two hours and forty minutes each! The colossal marathon was ended in the last minute of extra time in the eighth energy-sapping encounter when Beth Haycock became one of Neath's earliest  heroes by scoring a try. The crowd surged onto the field rendering the conversation attempt of further play impossible, said the rugby writers of the time.
            Ten years after this momentous struggle Neath began to spread wings rugbywise by touring Devon, the first Welsh club to do so.
             Dr. E. Vernon Pegge, capped for Wales against England in 1891, is said to have been so enthusiastic about his rugby that he chartered a special train to join his team mates on this first tour. This hard working, highly respected local medico was something of a futurist too, in the matter of dress, for he created a sensation by playing with arms and legs bare. An open air type, he did not favour the knickerbocker style of the players of his day and pioneered a mode of dress which, with minor adjustments, continues to this day.
             It was during the doctor's three seasons as captain from 1889 to 1892 that there was a move to change Neath's colours.
             At a committee meeting of September 8th,, 1890 in the Bird-in-Hand Hotel, it was moved by Mr. E. G. Jones and seconded by Mr. S. F. Elt ''that a sample of a Grass Green jersey with Red Dragon on breast with red collar and cuffs, together with a sample of a black cashmere jersey with cross on breast and white collar and cuffs be sent for a once''.
             At the same meeting Dr. Pegge successfully moved ''that baths be produced forwith and that the Secretary be instructed to obtain prices for same''.
              Nothing more is recorded of the Grass Green jerseys. At a further committee meeting a fortnight later it was moved by Mr. I. G. Davies and seconded by Dr. Pegge ''that 36 black cashmere jerseys, opened in front with white Shakespeare collar and four-inch white chuffs knitted on with five-inch Maltese Cross on left of breast be ordered at once at Mr. W. Hawkins''.
              It was also agreed to obtain cast iron baths from the ''cheapest firm''
                I can find no record since of any attempt to change the club colours.
              In the same period G. D. Trick, star wing-threequarter of the period, who followed Dr. Pegge as captain, realising the danger to life and limb of those participating in the game started a move to insure players. The insurance was duly effected at a premium of £9 for the season
            George Trick was a local butcher. His entry into the game was indicative of how young men from every walk of life came to play the game as the code caught on. The students, professional men like doctors, mining engineers and solicitors had lit the flame. Now they were joined by miners, several of them from the surrounding valleys who sometimes walked down from the hills to play for Neath, while from closer at hand came steel and tinplate workers to find recreation and respite, from everyday toil. And real toil it was in those days when a labourer's wage was about ten bob a week and you could travel from Neath to Bristol by sea for 2/6d. (The ''Neath Abbey'' steam packet owned by Mr. David Bevan, plied regularly twice a week between Neath Quay and Bristol).
            They were tough, strong men and heroic fibre. They worked hard and played hard. That is perhaps one reason why Neath has always boasted great forward strength. There have been ''terrible eights'' and many names have been associated with this ''all-embracing'' title indicative of exceptional forward power.
            The regular emergence of top class forwards at Neath is indicated by the fact that of the club's 44 internationals, 34 have been forwards. Of these, Rees Stephens (32 caps between 1947 and 1957) and the most capped Welsh forward until Newport hooker, Bryn Meredith, and more recently, Ebbw Vale prop, Denzil Williams, wrested the title from him; Roy John, the immaculate line-out jumper and polished loose forward who worthily earned the title of ''King John'' in New Zealand, and Courtenay Meredith, the broad-shouldered, teak-hard prop, have all won British Lion status since the second world war. It was a great disappointment to Neath supporters last season that polished back-row forward Dave Morris did not earn British Lions selection.
            The three British Lions tourists followed another Neath forward who toured New Zealand with the Anglo-Welsh in 1908. He was Bob Green. Then between the wars there was the magnificently built police officer, Tom Arthur, who won 18 caps; Arthur Lemon, the holder of 13 caps, who played outstanding games for club and occasionally for country after arduous shifts before the steel annealing furnaces of a local tinplate works. Other outstanding Neath forwards who graced club and international arenas in this period were Ambrose Baker, who played for Wales; Dai Hiddlestone, grandfather of Terry Price, a Wales star of the past decade, and Neath's oldest surviving captain; Tom Hollingdale, a policeman who became a parson; the brothers Glyn and D. R. Prosser from the Vale of Neath, and area as rich in rugby talent as it is in scenic beauty; the brothers David Leyshon and Harold Thomas, and present club trustee Cyril Challinor who, but for the war, might have earned more caps than the one he gained against England in 1939. Among the uncapped forwards of more than ordinary merit in this period were another policeman, Gordon Hopkins, whose try against Benny Osler's Springboks in 1931 for Combined Neath and Aberavon brought one of the biggest cheers ever heard at the Gnoll, and Hector Davies, who held the try scoring record for a forward until David Morris broke it in season 1964.65 by scoring 23 tries. This figure was equalled last season by lively flanker Mike Thomas.
            The fabulous forward tradition has been carried on in more recent years by the splendidly proportioned Brian Thomas, a granite-hard second row giant, a Cambridge Blue and capped by Wales on no fewer than 21 occasions. A metallurgist with the British Steel Corporation, he showed considerable powers of leadership in captaining Neath to an unofficial Welsh championship in 1966-67 when the club also won the ''Sunday Telegraph'' pennant for the leading club in Britain.
            It is one of Neath's proud boasts that the celebrated England forward W. W. Wakefield, now Lord Wakefield, who married the daughter of a Neath doctor, played for Neath during holiday vacations.
            Other capped forwards to grace the club and international scene since the second world war besides Stephens, John and Meredith include flankers Brian Sparks and C. D. Williams, the latter a capped player before joining Neath from Cardiff. He won a further cap while playing for Neath. Prop Ron Waldron, now a committee member and assistant coach to the club, was the key figure in a selectorial incident which caused tempers to run high among Neath supporters although the player himself never uttered a word of complaint. In 1962 he was selected for Wales to play Ireland, only to miss a well deserved cap when the match was cancelled because of a smallpox epidemic. When the match was played in the following season, Waldron's name was missing from the selected, and a furore broke out which was not silenced until he was selected for the Wales tour of South Africa two years later. He subsequently won four caps.
            Waldron was the only capped player in a great front row of the time. The other members of the trio were Morlais Williams and John Dodd, two players rated as extremely unlucky to miss top honours. All three captained the club, Dodd, an outstanding leader, over three seasons.
            A mobile prop who won international honours was Don Devereux, yet another Vale of Neath product as is present day back-row forward Dave Morris. Among Morris' colleagues in the present forward squad are two front-row forwards on the brink of international honours, Norman Rees and Walter Williams. Both won Wales ''B'' places last season when Rees understudied Jeff Young in the championship and Triple Crown winning Welsh team of last season. Another young forward of outstanding merit in the present line-up is 22-year-old Wilson Lauder who became the club's second Scottish international in a century, and has already won seven caps.
            In all Neath's history there was never a braver forward than Alun Davies. He broke his neck while playing for Neath against Pontypool in 1960 and through the skill of doctors lived for six years, paralysed from the neck down. Somehow he always remained cheerful.
            Neath has also produced a succession of outstanding full-backs, not all of them blessed with the best of luck in the winning of major honours.
            Joe Davies, for instance, claimed by many astute judges down the years to be the best ever, was reserve to the fabulous W. J. Bancroft, of Swansea, in the national team on no fewer than seventeen occasions. ''Doctor'' Gwyn Thomas, an all-round sportsman, was another who achieved world war. Keeping him out of the Welsh team was another celebrated Swansea full-back, Joe Rees. It has been said that Rees, well aware of his understudy's talent and a great respecter of it, once offered to stand down and allow Thomas to achieve his ambition. But ''Doctor'' Gwyn would have none of it, preferring outright selection or no cap at all.
            Yet another unlucky Neath full-back, Ivor Jones, had a near miss in the 1920's when, after travelling to France as a reserve, he was denied an international appearance through the selector's decision to play a wing-threequarter at full-back when injury ruled out the number once choice on the morning of the match.
            Glyn Gethin, another quality Neath full-back, was capped once in 1913 and the next Neath player to be honoured in this position was Viv Evans, who played against Scotland. Ireland and France in 1954 and scored 25 points in the process.
            But present-day followers, some of them with memories of the great ones of the past, give the palm for all-round full-back skill to Grahame Hodgson, whose record of service to the club is an outstanding once. He played his first game for Neath while a student at St. Lukes College, Exeter, in season 1958-59 and has since made approaching 400 appearances in the All Black jersey, scoring around 1,400 points in the process. With fifteen caps he is the club's most capped player out of the scrum; he is a Barbarian and was considered desperately unlucky no to have gained a British Lions place in his hey-day. A school master, responsible for physical training and games at Mid-Glamorgan Secondary School, he has coached Neath for the past couple of seasons while still an active player. Completely dedicated to the game, he is never happier than when playing. Retirement for him is a dreaded word and he proposes extending his playing carer into the Centenary season.
            In half-a-dozen seasons Hodgson has scored more than a hundred points, with the highest in 1966-67 when he amassed 239 points made up of three tries, five drop goals, 39 penalty goals and 48 conversions.
            But if in the top rankings, forwards and full-backs have stolen the limelight, there have been other great players in the club's history. Take the amazing record of wing-threequarter Dan Jones, capped only once by Wales and then only on the morning of the match, against the touring Waratahs in 1927.
            In what is reckoned to be Neath's greatest season, 1928-29, under the leadership of Tom Evans, a name figuring large in the club's honours list for outstanding captaincy, Jones scored 59 tries for club alone. In Welsh trials he scored two tries; in a Great Western Railway international he scored six; for Glamorgan County another six; a total of 73 tries, which is still claimed to be a world record.
            His club centre, Glyn Daniel, a great little uncapped player and astute maker of openings, figured prominently in the success of the fabulous wing-three.
            In the same season, centre Emrys Jones bagged 261 points, mostly through deadly accurate goal kicking, and wing-threequarter Howie Jones, later to be capped while playing for Swansea, scored six tries in a match against Aberavon.
            Until recent years, Howie Jones was one of the joint holders of the individual club scoring record in a match. His 18 points was later equalled by Lewis Jones who began his first class playing career with Neath before his great deeds for Llanelli, Wales and the British Lions. The joint record was broken in 1964 by utility forward Alan Butler. In a match against Bridgend at the Gnoll he collected 19 points, made up of three tries, two penalty goals and two conversions.
            Threequarters from Neath who have hit the heights beyond club level have been few. But in my own time since the days of the fleet-footed Dan Jones, there have been a number of threequarters who have given accomplished service. Among players I particularly recall are Arthur Hickman (1 cap), Gwyn Thomas, Gwyn Moore, Horace Edwards, Vernon Friend, Keith Maddocks (1 cap), and Cyril Robers (2 caps). Harold Powell, the present team secretary and former chairman of the club, was another wing-threequarter who just missed international honours.
            Roberts was the last Neath threequarter to win international honours, although his nephew, John Roberts, the club's leading try scorer in the past two seasons, won a Wales 'B' place against France 'B' in 1970. Over recent years Rhys Thomas was a classy centre and astute captain, a description that could also be applied to Glen Ball who toured with Wales in the Argentine in 1968.
            At half-back Neath have had some notable performers, although it is nearly fifty years since any player in these positions has been honoured by Wales. It was way back in 1924 that Eddie Watkins and Eddie Williams wore the Welsh jersey. Another player of not was Eddie (Dodger) Matthews.
            Great performers in the early days were Alex Cross and Wat Thomas, a pair well versed, old-timers have told me, in organising crafty drop goals. Some idea of Thomas's worth may be gathered from a committee minute of November 13th, 1895 which reads: ''Mr. Rees proposed and Mr. Gabriel seconded that while regretting the circumstances under which Mr. Wat Thomas resigns, that a very hearty vote of thanks be given to him for his past services to the club and trust that later on, the club may be able to recognise his past invaluable services in a more substantial manner, and if at any time he feels better and in a condition to play and the club require his services, the committee will be pleased to avail themselves of same''.
            Down the years the Parker family, represented today by groundsman and baggage man, Randall Parker, and by scrum-half Dai Parker, have an amazing record of service as half-backs. William Parker, a fly-half, started it to be followed in later years by his two sons, Harold and Dai Parker, both of whom were scrum-halves. Dai Parker (senior) was a reserve to the celebrated Haydn Tanner in the Welsh team before going North. Now Dai Parker (junior), a grandson of fly-half William, continues the family tradition with some brilliant performances at scrum-half and occasionally at fly-half. He obviously inherits some of the talents of both his father and grandfather.
            Randall Parker, nephew of the famous William, also played scrum-half and centre for Neath. He shared the scrum-half berth with cousin Dai Parker (senior). His father, yet another David Parker, was also a scrum-half, playing for a quite famous local side, the Collier Boys.
            Half-backs over the past twenty years or so have included such talented performers as Frank Williams, Gareth Thomas, Alf Duenas, D. B. Rees, John Weaver, Denzil Thomas (later to be capped as a centre while playing for Llanelli), and Keith Evans. Before the last war there was also fly-half W. E. Jones, a drop goal specialist and classy performer who later achieved fame as a left-handed batsman with Glamorgan, being a member of the Welsh county's first championship side in 1948.
            The present day arrangement under which Martyn Davies and Dai Parker, captain and vice-captain over the past two years, share the scrum-half berth on rota is unique. Parker, one of the smallest players in first class rugby-he's 5ft. 2in. and weighs 8st. 9lbs.- led Neath to victory in the Snelling Sevens Tournament in 1970 and had the added distinction of being named the player of the tournament. In 1964, Davies also showed his prowess as a Sevens player when he played a major role in landing the Snelling trophy for Neath for the first time. Last season he played for Wales 'B' when they defeated France 'B' at Llanelli.
            The years have produced some other notable family achievements. Glyn Stephens, whose stature in rugby circles matched a magnificence of physique, played for the Welsh Schoolboys, Neath and Wales and became president of the Welsh Rugby Union. His son, Rees, already referred to, completely followed his father's example on the field. And he is well on the way to doing so off it. He is now a Vice-President of the Welsh Rugby Union, a Wales selector and was one of those who selected this year's British Lions team. This father and son record provides a wonderful example of complete service to the game as players and administrators.
            Another father and son international pair were Howel Jones and Howie Jones. Brothers who played together for Neath and Wales were D. R. and Glyn Prosser from Glynneath and D. L. and Harold Thomas.
            In the world of referees, Neath has also made a notable contribution to the international scene. Indeed, no history of Neath rugby would be complete without mention of Albert Freethy, a schoolmaster and outstanding referee with the keenest of rugby brains. A fearless disciplinarian, he made history by sending off New Zealander Brownlee at Twickenham. And he took he extreme course before Royalty in the person of the Prince of Wales at that!
            One time secretary of Neath and a national selector, he was the first of the town's trio of international referees. Those who followed him were T. Harold Phillips, now the treasurer of Glamorgan County R.F.C., and later Ivor David, who, likely Freethy, was once concerned in the sending off of a touring player. Ivor had the magical gift of somehow making a game flow and was one of the game's outstanding officials. He and Mr. Phillips were in great demand.
            Administratively too, the club has a great history. Some authorities insist that Neath was the founding place of the Welsh Rugby Union. That might be open to argument, but what is certain is that the town produced the longest serving W.R.U Secretary in the person of Capt. Walter E. Rees. Appointed in 1896 he held the office for fifty years after gaining his early administrative experience with the Neath club.
            He became assistant secretary of Neath in 1887 and was elected Secretary a year later on the resignation of Mr. A. Russell Thomas. A year later, it is recorded that he was one of two Neath representatives at the Annual General Meeting of the Welsh Football Union at the Angel Hotel, Cardiff. His services as Neath's Secretary were so much appreciated that in 1892 the following resolution was passed. ''That this committee are strongly of opinion that the great services of the Secretary, Mr. W. E. Rees, are deserving of some token of recognition from this club and recommend that a testimonial in the form of a Gold Albert and Chain with pendant suitably engraved with monogram and inscription at a price to be dertermined by the committe, be forthwith presented to him for his devoted and valuable work in connection with this club''.
            The recommendation was duly accepted and the presentation made.
            In 1894 he resigned as Neath's secretary but was later voted a member of the committee. He was also elected Hon. Treasurer, the A.G.M agreeing by a large majority that he should serve in a dual capacity. He continued in these offices until his W.R.U appointment.
            Besides those already mentioned, others who served the club in the office of Secretary have been Messrs. T. Harry Hawkins, D. J. Price, Ben Griffiths, A. W. M. Tench, A. L. Davis, A. J. Morris, A. E. Freethy and the present holder, W. Arthur Griffiths, whose association with the club extends over forty years.
            Mr. Griffiths is now the only life member of the club. Two of his close associates in running the affairs of the club over many years, Messrs. Bert Sutcliffe and Theo Davies, were also honoured with life membership and maintained a close interest in the club until their deaths.
            I have spent many a pleasant hour with these stalwarts of the club and invariably there was a fund of stories about the club and its great rugby characters. The stories embraced difficult periods in the club's history and the fight for survival when the club's future was poised upon a knife edge.
             Writing of such a period during the club's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1937, Mr. J. B. Williams, then Mayor of Neath, recalled his early days as a club committee member about the year 1902, said: ''During my early days, I well remember the committee meeting after one match in very great distress. The following Saturday the All Blacks were due to play at Bath, but the tragedy of it-the funds had reached their lowest possible ebb. Was the fixture to be cancelled or could we scrape the amount of the expenses? Although none of the members were worth ''powder and shot'' it was agreed to call on the bank in an attempt to borrow the money. The manager gave us a courteous reception and advanced the money, enabling the team to travel to Bath. That seemed to be the turning point in our luck. From them on success followed success, and before the end of the season we were more than rewarded for our courage''.
            ''Some years later we carried out extensive improvements at the Gnoll, including an addition to the grandstand and the erection of iron railings around the playing pitch. This meant another visit to the bank in order to procure an overdraft of about £1,000. If the bank had found it necessary to call the money in, I believe that most of us at that time would have been sold up!''
            All this was of course before the days of interest free loans by the Welsh Rugby Union for the furtherance of the game in Principality.
            Administrators who have assisted Neath over good and less favourable times in more recent years were Mr. Stanley Simmons, one time treasurer of the Supporters Club as well as a long serving committee member, and Mr. Llewellyn Morgan, Borough Treasurer of Neath and at his death, of Port Talbot.
            Another who brought distinction to the club as a discerning administrator was a former player and club chairman, Mr. Rayner Jones, until recently headmaster of Neath Boys' Grammar School, a school rich in rugby as well as academic achievement. Before he relinquished office for health reasons he represented Wales on the International Board.
            The Supporters Club has, down the years, played a notable part in the furthering the club fortunes. Long-serving secretary is Mr. Ron Davies, son of Mr. Theo Davies, already referred to. He is also Neath's fixture secretary. The Supporters Club has been very much concerned with ground developments. As far back as 1932 the club was responsible for building a grandstand and dressing rooms which are still in use, and have been closely associated with more recent developments which include terracing and covered accommodation for field spectators. The ardent members see to it that Neath do not travel to distant grounds without support. They form a hard-core of followers who turn up however far the journey.
            And it is largely due to the continuing interest of followers such as these that the game still flourishes in Neath. They would probably agree that the appropriate toast at this time should be: ''And so to the next hundred years''.
            Neath left the Bird-in-Hand Field in season 1897-98 and returned to play at the Gnoll where they have played ever since.
            The ground was opened on April 9th, 1898 when Neath played Morriston.
            The Neath team on that occasion was: Joe Davies; Bill Jones, Owen Harries, Charlie Morris, Jack Phillips; Charlie Powell, Harry Hanford; Mog Reynolds, Jim Thomas, Sam Davies, T. Hughes, Dai Evans, Evan Arnold, J. Lennard, Griff Lewis.
            Neath won the match by a dropped goal and four tries (16 points) to one try (3 points).



 The famous Barbarians are due to visit the Gnoll in connection with the Centenary celebrations. Previous visits by the tourists to Neath were in 1921, 1923 and 1924. The results were:

                    March 29th, 1921-
                        Neath 12 points (Tries: W. E. Thomas, Eric Evans, Arthur Hopkins. Pen. goal: Will Powell)
                        Barbarians 10 points (Tries: W. M. Davis, C. L. Steyn. Conv P. K. Albertijn, C. L. Steyn)

                   April 3rd, 1923-
                        Neath 16 points (Tries: Stan Jenkins (2), W. Smith, F. Coope. Drop goal: Francis).
                        Barbarians 5 points (Try: Bowen. Conv. Drysdale).

                    April 22nd, 1924-
                        Neath 11 points (Tries W. Perry, Garfield Phillips, Eddie Williams. Con.: Ivor Thomas
                        Barbarians 11 points (Tries Rowe Harding, J. S. Smith, A. C. Wallace. Conv.: W. E. Crawford).

            The following Neath players, with years first selection, have appeared for the Barbarians: ''Dr''. Gywn Thomas (1912), R. Vernon Hill (1915), Rees Stephens (1947), Roy John (1950), Courtenay Meredith (1953), Viv Evans (1953), Brian Sparks (1956), Ron Waldron (1961), Grahame Hodgson (1963), John Dodd (1965), Wilson Lauder (1969), Dave Morris (1971)

             Neath have won the Snelling Sevens tournament twice. First occasion was on Saturday, April 25th, 1964, when Cardiff were beaten 10 points to 5 in the final. The Neath Seven were: Howard Rees, Rhys Thomas, Keith Evans, Martyn Davies, Dave Morris, Morlais Thomas (capt.), Peter Davies.

            The success was repeated in 1970 when Ebbw Vale were beaten 18 points to 8 in the final. The Neath Seven were: John Roberts, Glen Ball, Wynne Davies, Dai Parker (capt.), Dave Morris, Norman Rees, Wilson Lauder.

            In this tournament Parker won Player of the Tournament award, and Lauder scored 24 points.



By John Billot - ''Western Mail''

            As Wales enjoy another Golden Era, with only one defeat in championship matches during the last three years, Neath look proudly at their contribution to the greatness of the Principality on the rugby field. In 90 years of international rugby, Wales have called 44 Neath men to wear the scarlet jersey on 260 occasions and share the triumphs and disappointments of a game that owes its origins to the distant days when jubilant Silures tossed the heads of Roman legionaries around the vicinity of the Gnoll.
            Julius Frontinus found plenty of trouble when he sallied forth from Isca (Caerleon) and Nidum (Neath) in a bid to subdue the hill tribes. And during the last century Neath men have continued to give trouble to would-be conquerers of Wales on the rugby field.
            Strangely, Neath's first international player was a Scotsman. Dr. T. P. Whittington was one of 12 Scottish forwards who drew with England in 1873 during the 20-a-side era, and eight years before Wales played their first international, Ninety-six years later Neath produced another Scottish forward in Wilson Lauder, who played seven times for his country, but all his club rugby at the Gnoll.
            Neath's first Welsh international was Sam Clarke, one of two full-backs the Red Devil fielded to beat Ireland at Dublin in 1882. It was Wales's second match and their first victory. Sam Clarke was full-back on his own five years later when he made his second appearance and again Wales won. this time beating Ireland on the neutral ground of Birkenhead Park. Ireland were so short of money that they could not afford to travel to South Wales for that 1887 fixture.
            E. V. Pegge was in the Welsh pack when England won 7-3 at Newport in 1891, and Fred Hutchinson battled bravely with his fellow forwards in 1894 in the bog at Belfast when Ireland won by a penalty goal and took the Triple Crown for the first time. Ten years later Neath supplied another Welsh forward as D. H. Davies helped crush Scotland 21-3 at Swansea. In the same season (1904) Howell Jones earned a Welsh team place in the pack, but his side were unlucky 12-14 losers at Belfast.
            T. C. Lloyd, an outstanding forward, won his first cap in the 47-5 victory over France in Paris in 1909, and in the following season J. Pulman, another lively forward, made his debut on the day Wales ran up their record score of 49-14 against France at St Helen's. Bill Perry was in the Welsh pack that helped snatch a 15-11 verdict over England at Swansea in 1911. Jim Birch replaced him for the next match, the 32-10 win over Scotland, and Wales went on to win the Triple Crown for the seventh time.
            At Twickenham in 1912, Neath had two men in the beaten Welsh side. Howell Davies and Glyn Stephens, a fine line-out jumper, were together in the pack in their first appearance. Then Neath had their first representatives in a Welsh team against a touring side. Glyn Stephens and new cap Fred Perrett were in the pack when South Africa stole their 3-0 win at Cardiff in 1912 through Duggie Morkel's penalty goal.
           When Wales beat France in Paris in 1913 there were four Neath men on duty-Perret, Glyn Stephens and T. C. Lloyd in the pack and Glyn Gethin as the new full-back. After World War One, Glyn Stephens captained Wales against the New Zealand Army Team that beat the Red Devils 6-3 at Swansea in 1919.
            Ambrose Baker made his first appearance in the 1921 pack that paved the way for victory at Belfast, and the next season saw Dai Hiddlestone, the busy little wing-forward, make a try-scoring debut in the 28-6 success over England at Cardiff.
            When England snatched their first win at Swansea for 29 years in 1924, Eddie Watkins made his debut at scrum-half. At the end of that year, Wales faced the All Blacks at St. Helen's and were hammered 0-19. Hiddlestone was in the Welsh pack and Eddie Williams played for the first time as one of two outside-halves. The All Blacks went through that tour unbeaten and the best effort for Wales on that black November day at Swansea seems to have been when Hiddlestone led the team in a war-dance after the New Zealanders' Haka performance!
            Policeman Tom Arthur entered the international scene when Wales lost 0-5 to Scotland at the Arms Park in 1927. He played 18 times for his country, including two notable games against Ireland. In 1930 his try helped stop Ireland winning the Triple Crown as Wales triumphed 17-7 at Swansea; and the following year Arthur was in tremendous form in Belfast as Ireland, beaten 15-3, saw the Triple Crown slip from their grasp yet again. No wonder they hate meeting Wales as the last hurdle!
            Record scoring wing Dan Jones made his only appearance for the national team together with forward Tom Hollingdale at Cardiff when the New South Wales ''Waratahs' won 18-8 in 1927, and Harold Jones his cap in the pack at Twickenham when England were 8-3 winners in 1929. That same season, Arthur Lemon, one of the greatest of Neath forwards, joined Tom Arthur in the side that drew 5-5 in Belfast. Lemon's wing-forward tactics helped destroy fly-half Roger Spong in 1932 as Wales gained their first win for ten years over England, 12-5, at St. Helen's. Arthur Hickman earned a wing place at Cardiff in 1930, when England were 11-3 winners, and played again three years later when Scotland won at St. Helen's.
            Tom Arthur was one of the fiery Welsh pack on that famous 1933 day as Wales gained their first victory at Twickenham after 23 years. Ronnie Boon's dropped goal and try brought a memorable 7-3 success, but England avenged that the following year 9-0 when Glyn Prosser made his debut in the Welsh pack at Cardiff. D. R. Prosser joined his brother Glyn to share in the Welsh win at Murrayfield in the next match, and Glyn was one of the heroes of the magnificent 13-12 triumph over the 1935 All Blacks at Cardiff.
            Harold Thomas was first capped in the 0-0 draw with England at Swansea in 1936, and the following season David Leyshon Thomas joined his brother for them to pack together in the second row as England won 4-3 at Twickenham through a lucky dropped goal by Hal Sever. The ball bounced off an English forward's shoulder into Sever's hands. he had never dropped a goal before. No wonder the Twickenham bogy was so real for Welshmen.
            The tearaway Alan McCarley launched his international career in 1938 with a try as Wales accounted for England 14-8 at Cardiff. Then he scored two tries at Murrayfield, but the Scots won 8-6 in controversial manner as refree Cyril Gadney penalised Welsh forward Harry Rees for lying on the ball when he was semi-conscious. That penalty goal cost Wales the Triple Crown.
            Cyril Challinor was in the Welsh pack at Twickenham when England won the 1939 match 3-0, and then first match after World War Two saw Neath's most famous player score a try on his 1947 debut. Rees Stephens, who was to win 32 caps, scored against England at Cardiff, but Wales lost 6-9, pipped by ''Nim'' Hall's dropped goal (worth four points)
            Stephens was at No. 8 in that match, but switched to second row the following season and was in the side that could not prevent Ireland winning the Triple Crown for the first time since 1899 with a 6-3 victory at Belfast. Prop Les Anthony made his debut in the 3-3 Twickenham draw of 1948 and then came Roy John in 1950. The U.S.A put the first men on the moon, but Roy John soared higher than any line-out jumper in the history of the game.
            He came into the Welsh team at Twickenham as replacement for his clubmate Rees Stephens-and stayed to win 19 consecutive caps. He and Stephens played together ten times in the second row, but Stephens was often at No. 8 as Roy John partnered Don Hayward and others. That 1950 season saw Wales win the Triple Crown for the first time for 39 years. John and Stephens packed side by side against the 1951 Springboks, who won 6-3 at Cardiff, and John figured in the unusual role of wing-forward in the draw 3-3 with Ireland, who failed again in their Triple Crown quest at Cardiff.
            But John and Stephens were back in harness in the second row in the Grand Slam victory of 1952, and were joined in the 12-0 victory at Murrayfield in 1953 by that superb prop, Courtenay Meredith, who was to play 14 times for Wales and, like his two clubmates, become a British Lion. These three gallant musketeers were in the battered Welsh pack that hung on grimly against the merciless onslaught of the All Blacks in 1953 for Wales to win 13-8 at the Arms Park. This was the first Welsh home international match to be televised live, and there were 56,000 spectators in the ground to see New Zealand fail for the third time on their rugby graveyard. Like his father, Glyn, Rees Stephens was to captain Wales. He led for the first time against England in 1954, and Wales won five of their six games in which he captained them.
            When Gerwyn Williams (London Welsh) dislocated his shoulder at Twickenham in 1954, the full-back place went to 34-year-old Viv Evans. He promptly marked his selection with a hat-trick of penalty goals in the 12-9 victory at Dublin. What more could one ask of this superb veteran? Making his debut with him was wing-forward Brian Sparks, who played seven times for his country. Viv Evans played only three times, but he collected 25 points in those games. His second hat-trick of penalty goals came in the 19-13 win over France at the Arms Park, when he also converted two tries, and he provided a penalty goal as Wales beat Scotland 15-3 in the postponed match at St. Helen's in April.
            C. D. Williams, who had won his first cap while with Cardiff, transferred to Neath and earned another chance at wing-forward in 1956, when he scored the try against France at Cardiff that brought a 5-3 success. Keith Maddocks was on the wing for Wales when England stole a 3-0 Arms Park victory in 1957 through a penalty goal and went on to take the Triple Crown for the 12th time.
            Don Devereux won his Welsh place at prop in a 9-3 success against the Wallabies in 1958 and the same season brought Cyril Roberts recognition on the wing and a try in his first match as the Principality accounted for Ireland 9-6 in Dublin. So into the sixties, and the rise of Grahame Hodgson, one of the most polished full-backs to wear the scarlet jersey. In his first appearance he landed a penalty goal for Wales to draw the ''hang-over'' match 3-3 in Dublin in 1962. The match had been held over because of the smallpox outbreak in South Wales earlier in the year and was played in November. Wing forward John Davies won his cap in this fixture.
            Another of the giants of Neath rugby history stalked on to the international field in 1963. Brian Thomas was to play 21 times for Wales as an iron man in the second row, though he made two appearances at prop-against New Zealand when Wales lost 6-13 at Cardiff in 1967 and in the second test during the 1969 Australasian tour, when the All Blacks were 33-12 winners at Auckland. He was in the Welsh team with Grahame Hodgson and Ron Waldron on the first overseas tour in the match which South Africa won 24-3 at Durban.
            Ron Waldron had been chosen at prop by Wales in 1962 against Ireland, but when the match was postponed from March, he was not picked in November and had to wait nearly three years for his cap. It came at Cardiff in 1965 as he helped in the 14-3 victory over England and he played throughout the season as Wales recaptured the Triple Crown after 13 years.
            Then came Dave Morris to play in all the Triple Crown successes of 1969 and 1971. In the course of his 22 caps (the second highest number for Neath), Morris has scored five tries for Wales. His debut against France in the 14-20 defeat in Paris in 1967 was as a No. 8 , and he played in that position in the next match, when Wales gained a brilliant 34-21 success over England at Cardiff. But after missing the 1967 match with New Zealand, he returned as a flanker in the 11-11 draw at Twickenham in 1968 and has played all his remaining games in that position. His 20 consecutive games for Wales is a record for a Neath player, beating Roy John by one. Among forwards who have played for Wales, only Abertillery's Alun Pask (26) and Swansea's W. O. Williams (22) have played more matches consecutively.
            As Neath move into their second century many more of their players will win places in the Welsh team. All they need do to deserve our acclaim is play as have done the stars of the past; with the rousing enthusiasm of Rees Stephens, the dedication of Dave Morris, the ragged determination of Brian Thomas, the artistry of Roy John, the dash of Tom Arthur and the polish of Grahame Hodgson. We have some to expect quality from the heroes of the Gnoll.



by Les Smith

 When I was asked to write a brief history of Schoolboy Rugby in Neath I felt honoured and pleased but soon discovered, after glancing over the records, that I was about to embark on a most formidable task. It is most difficult to decide which events will prove of most interest and which parts should be omitted when covering the activities of nearly seventy years.
             Many hundreds of boys have participated in schoolboy rugby in Neath, and ninety-five have represented their country. It is clearly obvious that all cannot be named, but there are highlights when it is impossible not to make mention of certain players, not necessarily the most outstanding. To any who read this and feel that their names should have been included and cannot find them here, my apologies.
            It is not possible to praise adequately those teachers who, through the years, have sacrificed evenings and Saturday mornings in all weathers to accompany the lads on training sessions, inter-school games and inter-town games, often at great inconvenience. Nor must we forget all the local enthusiasts who assisted and made the teachers feel that their work was worthwhile. There were the supporters who appreciated the clean, open game when the boys endeavoured to put into action the coaching they had received.
            Throughout the period there was always encouragement from the local clubs; Neath, Skewen, Briton Ferry, Tonna and Resolven, and we shall always be grateful for their ready willingness to give the use of their grounds. The Neath Borough Council are to be thanked for the use of the Court Herbert Playing Fields and the Supporters' Club who were always ready to assist, both financially and otherwise.
            One can scarcely imagine the feelings of elation and excitement of those boys selected to play for their team, or even more so, to wear the Welsh jersey; nor is it possible to express the feelings of disappointment felt by those who failed to make the grade. But their achievements are now all part of history.
            Schoolboy rugby in Neath was founded in 1904, the pioneers being Messrs. W. Davies (Skewen), Theo Beynon, T. R. Nichols and Vic Evans, father of the Rev. Gareth Evans who played for Neath. These gentlemen held their first meeting in the Anchor Cafe in Queen Street. Judging from the response of the schools it was evident that the Neath Boys were ready and anxious to take up the game, so that progress must have been rapid.
            In only the first year three boys, Gwyn Thomas, Sam Daymond and Glyn Stephens were ''capped'' for Wales, the last named gaining in a second cap the following year when Neath won the much-coveted Dewar Shield and became champions of Wales for the first time, a distinction they have achieved on seven occasions since. In the pack alongside Glyn Stephens was the late Inspector Tal Davies.
            Little is recorded of further activities prior to the first world war, but we do know that three further caps were gained, one by John Roberts (father of Cyril Roberts and grandfather of John Roberts) all three of whom played for the premier club. At this time too the late Albert Freethy took up an appointment as a teacher in Alderman Davies' School; he was an enthusiastic and outstanding teacher of schoolboy rugby, and later gained a world reputation as a referee.
            Immediately after the first world war rugby activities were resumed and inter-school rugby was regularly played; there were twenty-five schools affiliated to the Union. J. Walter Jones was chairman and A. E. Freethy was secretary and coach. The latter, who trained the town side, was a strict disciplinarian and tireless worker who took the boys to the field to train at every possible opportunity. Even if it rained too heavily to go to the field, there was no respite, for there was scrummaging practice and blackboard lessons and the teaching of tactical moves in the club-house at the headquarters, the Bird-in-Hand Hotel.
            A. E. Freethy continued as secretary for just two seasons, but his knowledge of rugby and strict training resulted, in the season 1922-23, in a team which is still remembered and regarded as one of the finest schoolboy sides ever. The Dewar Shield was won for a second time, and this invincible team played and won 19 games, scoring 385 points with only 39 points against.
            Five boys were chosen to play for Wales: Trevor Walters, Griff Bevan, Sam Bates, Cliff Beynon and W. Griffiths.
            To mark the season's outstanding success two local ladies arranged a dinner and a concert at the Gwym Hall in June, 1923, in honour of the team. Walter E. Rees, Secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union, presided, and sporting celebrities from all the neighbouring clubs were present to see each of the boys presented with a gold medal, a team photograph and a specially designed Neath Cap. The shield was hung in the Neath Council Chamber as it has also been on subsequent occasions.
            The team, under the guidance of A. E. Freethy, was kept together and became the famous Neath ex-Schoolboy team known throughout South Wales as ''The Invincibles''. Other boys of this early post war period who gained distinction were W. Thomas ''Coogan'', who later played for Swansea before turning professional; Howie Jones, 1922; Tommy Day, 1922; Len Shipton, 1922; Gwyn Moore, 1926 and Randall Parker, 1927. In the 1927 season Neath had five boys in the Welsh side.
            Strong school teams were: Melyn, Gnoll, Alderman Davies, Glynneath, Coedffranc, Skewen Lower and ''The County''. When any of these teams met in Shield games a good following was assured. One particular final between Gnoll and ''County'' is worth recording. The game, in the 1932 season, was played on the Gnoll, but after a pointless full-time, and extra twenty minutes each way was played without a decision being reached.
            On the following evening the teams again met and again played twenty minutes extra time each way, but again without a decision being reached. Finally the president, Alderman D. G. Davies, presented ''the cup which was not won'', each team to hold it for six months. The interest in this game was so great that it attracted a record crowd, and so important was the occasion that a previously arranged Neath v. Aberavon game was cancelled even though this was itself a most attractive fixture.
            A further successful and eventful period followed, so full of excitement that it is difficult to marshal the facts and place them in their correct perspective. Although a large number of well remembered players came into the limelight and some really spectacular games were played it is necessary to remember first a few of the local sportsmen who gave such valuable assistance, and also the strong following of supporters. A name that is synonymous with Welsh Rugby us Glyn Stephens. After playing both as a boy an an adult he became active in the administrative side of rugby. He was elected President of the Neath and District Schools Union in 1938, and retained the office until his death in 1965.
            It would be difficult to over-praise the assistance given by this outstanding personality, he was a ''live'' president who contributed both moral and financial support, and during each season he attended as many games as he possibly could. He was a strong advocate for schoolboy rugby and, as a member of the Welsh R.U., lost no chance in fighting this cause.
            H. G. Phillips (founder of Phillips Bros.) was an ardent rugby fan who gave the schools several sets of jerseys and a shield from competition amongst the schools. Invariably each member of the team that won the shield was given a voucher worth a few shillings to spend in Phillips Bros. T. J. Thomas, trainer from 1922 for very many years until his death, was also trainer to the Welsh Boys side. Councillor J. S. George and Ivor David who were always on call to officiate at a game without thought of a fee. Mr. David was a former schoolboy player who became a very well known W.R.U. referee and the first former schoolboy player elected to officiate at a schoolboy international (Bristol, 1948).
            Some of the games of this period are worthy of mention, for the boys played attractive football and had a very strong following. When playing Dewar Shield games away from home it was necessary to organise special trains and buses for the supporters; many people will recall such occasions.
            In 1933 Neath Boys beat Abertillery at Bridgend before a record crowd. Two years later, on the same ground, Neath beat Newport in a memorable final. Hedley Williams was the captain of this side, and he was later to play for Wales against England. 1933-34 was Neath's second invincible season, with a score of 300 points against 72 points. Jack Sargent created a schoolboy record by scoring 37 tries. Another well known player who played in the Shield game was Rees Stephens who played two years for Wales and led the side in his second year.
            Leicestershire, Gloucester and Bristol were frequent visitors to Neath, and it was customary for one of these sides to play on the Gnoll on Easter Tuesday. These were gala games, often with a band in attendance and very large crowds turned up to see the games. A normal gate would be over £80 when the charge for admission was sixpence and a shilling. Before the game the two teams would be taken for a bus trip to Porthcawl, Mumbles or the Vale of Neath, and the game was always followed by a special function. The boys were often given free seats in the cinema. The Supporters Club would always rally round for these games and gave much appreciated assistance. Two other prominent players of this period who later graduated to senior rugby were Granville Davies (1930) and Morlais Thomas (1939)
            The third era of schoolboy rugby must surely be that which followed the Second World War.
            It is said these world wars had a way of leaving nothing untouched, and like every other organisation, the Neath School's Union had its reconstruction problems. Rugby footballs were a rarity, and playing kits were virtually unobtainable and it was found that clothing coupons were more important than money. Whitehall and Westminster were respectfully canvassed, but without result. Eventually clothing coupons were begged from anyone and everyone, kits were purchased, and schoolboy football was again alive.
            The early seasons were uninspiring, but 1948-49 was remarkable, for Neath boys were trounced 33 points to nil by Cardiff on the Arms Park, but in a return game on the Gnoll, Cardiff boys were well defeated. Another great game was on the Tiger's ground where Neath beat Leicester by 22 points to nil.
            The outstanding boys of this time will be remembered and the merits of these lads will be discussed by those who remember then: John Huins (1946), Don Devereux (1947), Doug. Allin (1949), D. Rowlands (1951), D. Joseph (1956), M. Rogers (1952), C. Dyer (1958) and M. Doyle (1962).
            The Neath Schoolboy movement has been a nursery in every sense, for its boys have graduated to Secondary School and Senior Rugby. Many English and Welsh clubs have benefited from the training given to boys on local grounds, but of greater interest to local followers will be the following Neath players, though this list is by no means exhaustive: C. Michael, Rees Stephens, John Huins, Don Devereux, D. Allin, Bryan Richards, Ron Waldron, John Weaver, Arthur Hickman, Gwyn Moore, M. Abraham, H. Jones, D. M. Evans, A. Morris and M. Doyle.
            Among the boys who enhance their reputations by being capped by the Welsh Secondary Schools Union since that body was founded in 1924 are: C. Michael (1924), Tonna Morgan (1925), A. Hickman (1927-28-29), Vernon Friend (1932) and Terry Shufflebotham (1946-47-48).
            Many boys will remember with respect the late Fred Evans, chairman from 1924 for 27 years. It is impossible to estimate the work that these gentlemen did for schoolboy rugby. Theirs were the guiding hands when tasks seemed insurmountable; they were the persons who kept things going when younger and less patient colleagues were inclined to ask ''Is it all worthwhile?''
            Since 1954 the care of schoolboy rugby in Neath has been in the capable hands of Messrs. Sam Edwards and Viv Griffiths-two most knowledgeable and enthusiastic coaches. They have given much time and patience to the continuation and furtherance of the schoolboy movement. We wish them and their colleagues every success in keeping alight the flame which was sparked off in a little cafe in Queen Street in 1904.



        Rees Stephens is a man that has done a lot for Youth Rugby. 21 years ago he founded Neath Athletic which provided for hundreds of youngsters to play rugby after schooldays. It has provided a splendid nursery for Neath and other first-class clubs, several of its members becoming Senior Internationals. This year the Club went on a tour to the United States.



by Ron Griffiths

Rugby correspondent, ''South Wales Evening Post''

 ''Neath'' they assured me when I turned up for my first reporting assignment at the Gnoll, ''is where all the best Welsh forwards come from. Don't forget it, lad and you'll be all right.''
        That piece of welcoming advice was offered some 20 years ago. Now Neath Rugby Club celebrates its centenary and the quality of its forward play, skilful, resilient and strong, remains as high as it ever was. It was at the Gnoll, with its vociferous customers sounding off about those and so and so's in the Press, that I first learned to appreciate what makes a good forward tick.
        The record book is full of the fabulous deeds of the men in black. When I arrived on the scene, thrown in at the deep end, so to speak, by a sports editor who reckoned it was time I broadened my sporting outlook, Rees Stephens and Roy John were in their prime, Courtenay Meredith was beginning to make his first crushing impact, and others, far too numerous to mention here, were maintaining the high standard of Neath packs.
        Stephens, as gentle off the field as he was vigorous on it, ran around with stockings rolled down, always at the heart of things, always demanding attention from the Welsh selectors. Stephens, a giant among men whose abiding love of rugby and everything connected with it, has stood the test of time.
        John was unquestionably the greatest line-out forward it has ever been my privilege to watch in action. There was style, grace and poise about the way he soared up to make the two-handed catch, pivot in mid-air and whip the ball into the waiting hands of the scrum-half. What a tragedy we don't see anything like it any longer! Since rugby's rulers outlawed ''blocking'' the line-out hasn't been the same. Now it's a shambles, a running sore on the game.
        Individually and in harness, Stephens and John were world class forwards, a credit to the club which produced them a credit to the game they adorned with so much skill and dignity. Courtenay Meredith was entitled to that sadly overworked adjective ''great'' as well, not only in the home countries but in South Africa where he toured with the British Lions in 1955.
        There were a host of other fine Neath forwards in the 1950's. Perhaps I might be forgiven for recalling here the deeds of two of them, those ebullient characters Bill Brennan and Brian Sparks. Both were talented, both so full of fun and mischief one never knew what to expect next.
        My first encounter with them was on a Neath tour of Ireland. We were in Cork, returning from a party at a country club in the early hours of the morning. Suddenly, a committeeman seated in front of the bus stood up and yelled, ''Who's stolen my hat?'' Blank looks all round. ''Perhaps you've left it at the club'', one player suggested.
        He hadn't of course. Sparks, admittedly a little worse for wear after a hard game followed by an even harder night, had pinched the hat and stuffed it into his kitbag. Next morning he came down to breakfast, his face an expression of innocence. He handed the hat over with the explanation, '' I found it in the boot. Some practical joker must have thrown in in there''. His word wasn't doubted; after all, he was a policeman then.
        Later, on that hectic tour which left the unwary Irish wondering what had hit them, Brennan almost got himself disowned by the party. He arrived at the ground driving a jaunting cart and clad in the most immaculate top hat and tails.
        Committeemen thought they were seeing things. Even secretary Arthur Griffiths, as benevolent and kindly as he is today, imagined Brennan had taken leave of his senses. Everybody, you see, was convinced Brennan had pinched the lot from some unsuspecting Irishman.
        It turned out that Bill, who, I am sure, could have sold sand to the Arabs had he put his mind to it, had borrowed the cart and the clothes with the blessing of the owner who didn't, of course, know the purpose for which they were needed.
        Brennan, loveable and likeable, lived life to the full, even if officialdom didn't always appreciate some of his pranks. When he was left out of the side, which wasn't very often, Bill enjoyed himself with a pint or two.
        So when it was decided to rest against Garryowen on that Irish trip, Bill went off and indulged a little more than he should have done. An hour before the kick-off he rolled up, to be asked, ''Where the hell have you been? You're playing,,'
        For a minute or two poor Bill didn't comprehend. Then the penny dropped, his mouth sagged, and he exclaimed, ''What! You must be ------ well joking''. Assured that it was indeed no joke, he downed a couple of cups of black coffee, took a cold shower, then went out and played a stormer. We all marvelled at the fitness of the man.
        That riotous tour was followed by another to the West County, a memorable expedition if only for the big selection hoax and the cooked chicken that disappeared from the window of one of Torquay's plush restaurants.
        Neath has lost to Bridgwater on the way down, and this inspired a couple of coniving committeemen to launch the hoax. It was a telegram which was supposed to have been sent to me from Neath supporters demanding the immediate resignation of the five-man selection panel. For one of the five that wasn't the most jovial of rugby tours.
        The chicken....well, that was the result of youthful high spirits and some frustration. A group of players had waited so long for service, one of them, a scrum-half with a touch of wickedness about him, decided it was time for some action. So he led the group out, whipped the chicken on the way and served it later in his hotel bedroom. An understanding club footed the bill.
        Perhaps I had better wind up his chapter of happy memories there and extend to Neath, where I first discovered what rugby reporting is all about, a happy and successful centenary season. 


by Ron Davies
Hon. Secretary and Life Member)

                        No history of the Neath Rugby Club would be complete without reference being made to the Supporters' Club, and its close association and the assistance it has given the Premier Club.
        The Supporters' Club has been in existence some 45 years, since in 1926 a properly constituted committee was formed, and the late Mr. Glyn Stephens, J. P., was elected as President.
         There had been a form of Supporters' Club in existence from just after the 1914-18 war, when a small group of Neath rugby fans used to meet in a local tea shop to form plans to follow the Neath team to away fixtures. The late Mr. Bert Sutcliffe acted as organiser to this little band of enthusiasts. In those days, a cheap railway ticket was available for parties of ten or more, and advantage was taken of this concession. The enthusiasm of these supporters can be judged from the fact that on one trip to Plymouth they left Neath at 8.a.m on a Saturday morning, and finally got back at 4 o'clock on the Sunday afternoon. Somewhat different from today, when a coach will take you there and back easily in one day.
        In 1932, under the active leadership of the late Mr. Glyn Stephens, the Supporters' Club embarked on its first major project, the erection of a modern Dressing Room Stand at a cost of £1,600- a large sum in those days. The bulk of the money was loaned, interest free, by the late Mr. J. Cook Rees, the architect. A number of schemes were launched to gather cash to repay the loan: ''buy a brick at 3d. a brick'', miniature putting, crazy golf, raffles, whist drives, etc., until after some three years the final repayment was made.
        Rugby came to a halt at Neath during the 1939-45 war, but started again in season 1945-46. The Supporters' Club commenced activities again, with Mr. Glyn Stephens as President, Mr. T. S. Gossedge as Hon. Secretary and Mr. Bill John as Hon. Treasurer. During this time, coach trips were organised by the club to follow the team to all away games, and the printing and selling of programmes edited by Mr. W. Ivor Davies was undertaken at home matches.
        In 1949 Mr. Gossedge and Mr. John resigned their offices, and the writer was appointed as Hon. Secretary and Councillor Matt. Morgan as Hon. Treasurer. With a committee composed of County Councillor Len Burton, J. P., lorrie and Cliff Brunt, Henry Harries, Mel Johns, L. J. Smith, W. G. Rees and the late Theo. Davies, Bill Davies, Stan Simmons, Jim Shufflebotham, Arthur Stephens, Bert Sutcliffe, under the chairmanship of W. Ivor Davies, a new constitution and set of rules was framed, and since that time, the Supporters; Club has never looked back. It can truthfully be said that the Supporters' Club is one of the most affluent and successful in Wales, and this is confirmed by the fact that two clubs, Maesteg and Llanelli Wanderers, were so impressed by our organisation that they asked permission to adopt our rules and constitution as a model for their own clubs.
        For over 40 years Mr. Glyn Stephens, J. P., remained as our President, always taking an interest, and sharing in the activities of the club. When Mr. Stephens passes away five years ago, we were proud and pleased that his son, Mr. Rees Stephens, J. P., took over as our President. As a club, we take pride in the fact that our President holds a record, second to none, the most ''capped'' Neath player with 32 caps, capped at all levels, from schoolboy to senior International, captain of Neath, Barbarians and Wales, a Vice-President of the Welsh Rugby Union and a member of the ''Big Five'', and finally a selector for the British Lions. A man who has brought honour to the Neath Rugby Club and the town of Neath.
        The Supporters' Club has been well represented over the years on the Management Committee of the Premier Club. Mr. W. A. Griffiths relinquished the secretaryship in 1931 to take over as Secretary of the Neath R. F. C., and apart from one short break, he still holds that office. The writer, in addition to being Hon. Secretary of the Supporters' Club for the past 22 years, is also Deputy and Fixture Secretary to the Premier Club.
        The Supporters' Club has been supplied four Honorary Treasurers to the Premier Club, Mr. Theo Davies, Mr. Stan Simmons, Mr. Bert Sutcliffe and myself.
        During the past 45 years, only three people have been honoured with Life Membership of the Supporters' Club: Mr. Theo Davies (who had the unique distinction of being a Life Member of both the Premier and Supporters' Clubs, to date, the only person to do so), Mr. W. G. Rees, who is the longest serving committee member, and myself.
        Father and son appointments have figured in the history of the Supporters' Club, with Mr. Glyn Stephens and Mr. Rees Stephens holding the Presidency, and Mr. Theo Davies and Mr. Ron Davies both being Life Members of the Supporters' Club and Hon. Treasurers of the Rugby Club.
        Over the years, the Supporters' Club has given loyal and faithful service to the Rugby Club, and evidence of these efforts are visible on the Gnoll Ground for everyone to see.
        In addition to the building of the Dressing Room Stand in 1932, the Supporters' Club has been responsible for a number of major projects towards improving the facilities at the Gnoll.
        During the period 1950-53 sums totalling nearly £300 were handed to Neath R.F.C. for the provision of furnishings in the existing Clubhouse. During season 1954-55 Inside Ropes seating and supports were provided at a cost of £300.
        During season 1960-61, Councillor Len Burton (then Chairman of the Supporters' Club) suggested erecting a covered stand at the town end of the ground, and we embarked on a weekly lottery to obtain the money to pay for the Stand. It was decided to erect the Stand in three stages as the money became available. It took seven years of hard ''graft'' to accomplish the task, but in 1967 the Stand was completed at a cost of £6,000. The structure is 180ft. long by 40ft. wide, and is probably the largest covered stand on any rugby ground in Wales, and has proved of immense value to Field spectators during bad weather.
        During these seven years, £820 was donated to the new Floodlights and the Rugby Club derived a sum of £1,600 from the weekly lottery which is still running.
        Extensive renovations to the drains and re-seeding of the actual playing area are being undertaken during the close season 1971-72. The Supporters' Club has undertaken to meet the cost of this work up to a sum of £500. In addition, when the proposed new Clubhouse is erected, the Supporters Club has set aside the sum of £1,500 towards this project.
        The Supporters' Club undertakes the preparation and sale of the weekly programmes, and since the war has edited and produced all souvenir programmes against touring sides playing combined Aberavon-Neath teams at the Gnoll, and in 1966 the entire profit of programme sales for the combined team against Australia, amounting to £270, was handed over to the Rugby Club to pay part of the cost of the concrete steps at the Union end of the ground.
        The public address system is also maintained by the Supporters' Club. The first P.A. system was installed in 1946 at a cost of £400, and when the new Grandstand was built in 1962, the Supporters' Club provided a brand new public address system to go with it. Maintenance of the equipment is expensive item, and since 1946 the P.A systems have cost something in the region of £1,000 to install and maintain.
        The scoreboard erected at the Union end of the ground was another item provided by the Supporters' Club, and is maintained by young boy members.
        Sundry services provided by the Supporters' Club over the years have been varied. In addition to the weekly programmes, the club is responsible for the sale of club ties, blazer badges, lapel badges, pens, etc. For many years, all Schoolboy and Senior International players were presented with a large coloured portrait, and commemorative plaques were presented to players on retirement. Transport facilities are provided to most away games, which has proved a popular and beneficial service to our members.
        The Supporters' Club has also donated the Captains Board, Clock and Loudspeaker equipment in the Clubhouse, and infra-red and sundry medical equipment for the trainers in the dressing room. Donations have also been made to local schools rugby and cricket organisations, various charities and memorial funds.
        During the past 20 years the Supporters' Club has been instrumental in providing a sum of approximately £12,000 towards various projects which have made the Gnoll Ground one of the best in Wales, and in so doing have relieved the Premier Club of finding this large sum of money.
        All these undertakings means a great deal of hard work and effort on the part of the members of the Supporters' Club Committee, who, week in and week out devote their time and energy towards the cause. We have indeed been fortunate over the years to have had such a hard working and enthusiastic band of men on the committee, whose efforts have enabled the club to achieve so much.


by WALLY THOMAS - ''Neath Guardian''

          The man who has been given the honour of leading the Neath team in this memorable centenary season is scrum-half Martyn Davies, and when his team-mates re-elected him to the position he became a member of a small band of only five men who have held the captaincy of the club for three or more consecutive seasons.
         While we know that Martyn Davies is the latest in a long line of Neath captains, we cannot say how many predecessors he has had. For there is no record of who led the team between 1872 and 1884.
        The first captain, in 1871-72, was Dr. T. P. Whittington, who ensured his name was deeply-rooted in the club's history by bringing it its first international cap-which, let it be said yet again, was a Scottish cap!
        His captaincy is recorded, but then comes a gap of 13 seasons. There may well have been 13 captains in that time, but, on the other hand, some players may have held the position for two, three, four or more seasons.
        The number of captains on record is 57, but two of those are J. Pulman (1914-15) and A. McCarley (1939-40) and neither actually led the team because of the outbreak of war in 1914 and 1939.


        Way back in the 1890's and the first ten years of this century there crops up the name of W. Jones, and if he was the same person then he must have been a most remarkable chap indeed. For he skippered the club for nine seasons and perhaps even more astonishing is that the first time he did it was in 1896 and the last time in 1909-a period of 13 seasons.
        He was captain in the seasons 1896-97, 1897-98 and 1898-99, but he did not have the distinction of being captain at the birth of this century, because there was a rude interruption of his run when a man named Joe Davies took on the job for the 1899-1900 season. So when the world changed from 1800's to the 1900's it was Davies who was at the helm.
        But Jones bounced back again for the 1900-01 and 1901-02 seasons, and after a D. H. Davies occupied the position for one season and a Howell Jones for two seasons we find that the incomparable Mr. Jones was back once more as the man to lead the team-and this time for four seasons, from 1905 to 1909.
        There may be some old-timers among the club's members who have recollections of this W. Jones and it would be very interesting to know whether it was the same man and to have a few details about him.


        The first man to be captain for three consecutive seasons was the legendary Major S. S. (Sam) Clarke, who was also the club's first Welsh international. He was captain from 1885 to 1888.
        The next to perform the ''hat trick'' was Dr. E. V. Pegge, from 1889 to 1892, and then, although there were several two-season skippers, no one was to lead the team for three seasons until W. Jones has his four-season marathon between 1905 and 1909.
        And after that, 42 years were to pass before the club had another three-season skipper. That was Rees Stephens, who was in command from 1951 to 1954, and it is worth recording that although his late father, Mr. Glyn Stephens, had such a distinguished career with Neath he was never captain of the club.
        Between Rees Stephens and Martyn Davies, no other player has held the captaincy for three successive seasons, although John Dodd, who did do much to revive the team's fortunes after a long mediocre spell, was captain three times. He followed his fellow prop-forward, Ron Waldron, for the two seasons 1960-62 and then, after their hooker, Morlais Williams, had held the job for one season, took over again in 1963-64.


        It is recorded that the club's greatest season was 1928-29, when the team was led by Tom Evans, who was also captain the following season.
        In 1928-29, the team scored 930 points and had 232 scored against them. Of their 49 games they won 42, lost four and had three drawn. It was, of course, the season in which Dan Jones, another of Neath's immortals, scored 59 tries for the club alone; in which Emrys Jones scored 261 points with conversions, penalty goals, dropped goals and tries; in which Howie Jones scored six tries in a home game against Aberavon and in which Tom Arthur, Arthur Lemon and Harold Jones played for Wales.
        Up to the early 1950's the 930 points scored by Neath that season was a record for any Welsh club, but it has been beaten since. One English club which has exceeded that total is St Luke's, in 1953-54, and one member of that splendid team was D. B. Rees, a scrum-half who was to captain Neath in 1958-59.


         That 1928-29 team was one of all the talents, and although the club has had many great times since 1871, there are many who will die arguing that the one led by Tom Evans was the best of them all. Whether that be right or wrong, no other captain has had Tom Evans's privilege of leading a team which scored 930 points in a season. And it is a safe bet that countless billions of blades of grass will grow on the Gnoll Ground before another captain will enjoy the same privilege.


        By Timothy Glover


        Sport, among other things, is a great teacher of geography and, in South Wales, Rugby Union is the star pupil.
        Neath R.F.C. has put its town firmly on the map in the minds of oval thinking members of society, and in this respect Neath Grammar School has also been putting in some homework. Their team colours of blue and gold are as famous in school rugby as the black and Maltese Cross is in the senior division.
        When they lose it's an occasion for a diary entry and it's fair to say that over the years no school could compare with the remarkably consistent success rate achieved by Neath G. S. In the 'sixties they lost only 10 games in 10 seasons and in one period of four years played 90 games without defeat.
        Rugby was first played there in 1896. It flourished and by 1920 the school was playing rugby of a very high standard under the perfect coach and former pupil, the late Billy Allin.
        Allin was a member of the staff from 1923 to 1948 and a popular All Black (he dropped an historic goal which gave Neath victory over a powerful Newport side led by Jack Wetter) until recurring injuries compelled him to give up active rugby. He turned instead to the sphere of rugby administration and became a founder member, chairman and president of the Welsh Secondary Schools' R. U.
        It was Allin who made the first real contact between Neath R.F.C. and the school by organising a successful game against Christ College, Brecon, at the Gnoll in 1925, when the school team, under Noel Jenkins, lost a thrilling game by 12 points to 6.
        This is believed to be the first public game played by Neath G.S. They continued to stretch their legs and their reputation by arranging other top line fixtures and, over the years, a happy relationship has developed between club and school.
        Hundreds of boys have experienced the feeling of running on to the Gnoll in front of thousands of supporters who would normally miss the Saturday morning performances at the Dwr-y-Felin ground.
        These games are now eagerly anticipated by the public after displays against such teams as Port Talbot Secondary School, Newport High, St. Illtyd College, Llanelli Grammar, Millfield, Cowley Grammar, West Monmouth G.S., Merchant Taylors, and Cardiff High.
        When Millfield first played Neath they were captained by Gareth Edwards, and his performance that day was a foretaste of what was to come. But appropriately unique among these public games was the Billy Allin Memorial match in 1963 when a Past v. Present W.S.S.R.U match was played at the Gnoll.
        The combined efforts of teachers Viv Griffiths, Richard Owen and sportsmaster Ron Trimnell produced a remarkable past team made up of players whose names were known in every Welsh home: Rees Stephens, Alun Thomas, Bryn Meredith, Clive Rowlands, Carwyn James, Ken Jones, Brian Thomas, Roy John and Roger Michaelston. In all, four Welsh captains and 11 internationals.
        All these showpieces have resulted in great financial success and the money received has enabled the school to develop their sports facilities. Neither has the club been forgotten, and last year the school made a grant of £100 towards Neath's centenary fund.
        The liaison between club and school has, one underlying weakness. In most areas, the grammar school has been regarded as the nursery of future stars: Llanelli G.S. feeds Llanelli R.F.C. But the association at Neath is not as strong in this department as it might be. Neath's committee members and players should have a vested interest in the school teams.
        Mr. Trimnell develops the point: ''In spite of the tremendous publicity given to soccer, boys are given every opportunity in junior rugby at the school, and it is in these formative years that the senior clubs must be aware that they are either drawn to the game or not. Anything the town can do to further the game at this level must eventually pay handsome dividends to Neath and indeed to other clubs in the area.''
        As it is, there can be no greater initial stamp on a rugby passport than that marked Neath G.S. It's a qualification not easily attained. The competition is fierce and the standards high. But despite the undoubted qualities of the school's rugby references, there has been a comparative shortage of Neath boys at senior level. There's no forfeiture of the school's academic needs and many, of course, are scattered far and wide.
        Also sportsmasters like Mr. Trimnell and his predecessor, Roy Bish, have aimed at producing team performances with success dependant upon co-ordination and a rhythm of movement supported by superb backing up.
        At school level much can be achieved trough a high degree of physical fitness, quick movement flavoured with intelligence and skill-great strength and size 14 boots are not essential ingredients.
        At senior level, the last requirements are often the first. However, these are some of the boys who swapped the blue and gold for black: W.E. Allin and Cyril Michael (1920's); Tonna Morgan, Howie Jones, Arthur Hickman, Gwyn Thomas, Rayner Jones, Vernon Friend, Ray Rees, John Gratton, Cecil Roberts and John Sargent (1930's); Granville Jones, Roy John and John Harris (1940's); Rhys Thomas and Arnold Williams (1950's) and Brian Thomas, Meirion Prosser, Howard Steer, Beverly Davies, Brian Rees, Jeff Pyles, Mike Thomas, Darryl Jones, John Bevan, Wynne Davies, Alan Meredith, Robert Arbourne and Julian Jenkins.
        Of these, Howie Jones (2 caps), Arthur Hickman (2 caps), Roy John (19 caps), Brian Thomas (21 caps) and Brian Rees (3 caps) became full internationals, while old pupils Bryan Richards (1 cap) and Ron Jones (5 caps) gained selection while playing for other clubs.
        The school also has five Cambridge Blues in Bryan Richards, Tony Lewis, Brian Thomas, Brian Rees and Denis Gethin.
        The records of the W.S.S.R.U. will invariably show at least one Neath representative in the national team every year, and last season the school had three, including the captain, outstanding hooker Jeff Herdman.
        The performance of the school over the years, as shown earlier, makes incredible reading. It was Herdman's team who last season stretched their unbeaten home record to over one hundred games spread over eight years, and in so doing they broke Cardiff High School's unbeaten tag with a 16-6 win at the Gnoll in the last game of the season.
        Neath were last beaten at home in 1963 by Terry Price and Llanelli. It's a remarkable record by any standard, but for school rugby it must be unprecedented.
        No complete first team play together for more than a year. It's a jigsaw puzzle which has always got to be broken up before you can complete another picture. Neath G.S have made a fine art of getting the pieces to fit.



by Judge Rowe Harding

My recollections of Neath rugby go back to 1921, but my memory of those early encounters is rather dim, except for one match at Swansea when P.C Hopkins, as he then was, broke his leg with a crack which went off like a pistol shot. I also remember the last game the Barbarians played against Neath in 1924, in which I played on one wing and Ian Smith, the famous Scottish wing on the other. The game ended in a draw, but the Barbarians would have won if Ernie Crawford had converted our last try, scored under the posts.
        The goal was disallowed because a Neath player claimed he had touched the ball in flight, after the referee had ordered ''no charge''. The Barbarians were so annoyed that they never played at Neath again and it was bad luck for Neath that the sins of the referee were visited upon them. However, it is good to know that the Barbarians will be seen at Neath again in Neath's centenary year, and I am very conscious of the honour of being asked to contribute to the brochure to be issued in connection with his historic event.
        The general impression I retain over the years when I think of Neath is of tall, rangy forwards dominating the line-out, of strong scrummaging packs wearing down the opposition by sheer strength and power, of foot-rushes at the Gnoll reminiscent of the charge of the heavy brigade, except that all the casualties were sustained by the defending troops.
        I doubt if any club has produced such an abundance of great forwards: Ambrose Baker, Tom Hollingdale, Dai Hiddlestone, Tom Arthur, Arthur Lemon, Roy John, Rees Stephens, Courtenay Meredith, the brothers Prosser, Brian Thomas and Wilson Lauder, to mention only a few at random.
        The names of great backs do not come so readily to the mind, though Grahame Hodgson as a player and as a sportsman stands high on any list of international full-backs, and, of course, there was Dan Jones.
        Neath has had many successful seasons, but to my mind one season stands high above the rest, the season 1928-29, when Neath lost only four matches, scored over 900 points, to which Dan Jones' contribution was 59 tries, and scored victories over illustrations opponents by margins which only the present brilliant London Welsh side can match.
        In that season Swansea played Neath three times, lost narrowly twice, but managed to win the third game by 21 points to 15, and that is still my proudest recollection of all the games I played for Swansea. Neath players and spectators will say that the highlight of the season was the second game played at Swansea, which Neath won by a single try before an enormous crowd, half of them from Neath. What gave the match a ''needle'' atmosphere was a talk I had given in ''Children's Hour'' in which I paid tribute to the Neath team, but said it was a pity they did not have a stronger fixture list.
        The rumour spread that I had said Neath only played rabbits, and for weeks before the match I received rude anonymous postcards holding me up to ridicule, hatred and contempt.
        When the teams fielded on the great day, the Neath war-cry was ''Play up, the rabbits'', and the supporters carried as mascots toy bunnies of all shapes and sizes. Need I say that Neath won, and, most bitter pill for me, the winning try was scored by Dan Jones who short-punted over my head and scored in the corner. That was my worst moment, and you will understand why our final victory over Neath by 21 points to 5 was my finest hour.
        Still, I am glad to pay my homage to that great Neath side, the quality of whose forward and back play was not equalled in the inter-war years, and to the essential quality of Neath rugby over the years, a tradition for forward play only equalled by the other All Blacks on the other side of the world. I only wish that Courtney Meredith, Rees Stephens and Roy John had been born a decade or so later, and setting out, as this is being written, on the 1971 Lions tour to New Zealand. 



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