Our History

The First 25 Years: 1900-1925
(Written in July 1975)

Because memories dim, the history of the early years of rugby football played in Waunarlwydd is somewhat confusing. In order to establish some definite facts we invited a few of the older ex-players of the village to a discussion at the club. Their reminiscences made fascinating listening, with each one of them recalling and arguing about issues that still remained prominent in their minds.

Although we had promised to get them home early, their enthusiasm was such that the club stewardess really had to ask them to go home, this was at 11.15 p.m. Those present on the evening, the 23rd June 1975, were Will (Ystrad) Davies, Glyn Thomas, Christy Phillips, Sid Phillips, Idris Jones, Elvet Jones, Ronnie Williams and Will Bowditch. The name of Will Bowditch is mentioned last, because he was the oldest surviving member of the team that played in 1905. Will, now in his late eighties, smoked and drank with the best this night, although he would be the first to admit that this has had nothing to do with his longevity.

Will Bowditch recalled that the first pitch on which organised rugby was played was on the Common at Mynydd Bach Y Glo. The team changed at the Arcade, this being the name of the building on the corner of Swansea Road and Bryn Road. There were no club colours and players provided their own jerseys, whatever the colour! He named brothers who were fellow members of the team this year, these being Jack Lewis & Tom Walters and Stanley and James Clark. The following season the team played at "Marie Hicks" a field on which the Bishwell Estate is now built. They again changed at the Arcade.

In 1908 Waunarlwydd played in a Championship final at St. Helen's. Their opponents were Baycliff, a team from the Sandfields area. Waunarlwydd had the unenviable distinction of having eight players sent off! Will made a point of saying that he was not one of them and as an afterthought he said he could not remember the score! Could it be that Waunarlwydd lost!

During these early years the club played on five different fields. The playing fields now known as the Waunarlwydd Recreation Ground were first played on in 1909. Mr. Sheppard of the Welcome to Town Inn, Llanrhidian owned the playing fields at the time. Tom (Masons's) Jones collected the annual rent of £2.10! There was some dispute about the amount charged, so they stopped changing at the Masons, and went to play on Ystrad Ishaf Field.

It was in 1912 that the club finally settled down in its present home, the Waunarlwydd Recreation Ground. It was also the year when an ex-Waunarlwydd player, Bert Hollingdale, then playing for Swansea, was capped for Wales. Another first this year was the election of the first club president when Mr. Gough, the Managing Director of the Gowerton Tinplate Works accepted the position. He lived in Waunarlwydd at Gipsy Cross in a house known as "The Firs".

One intriguing feature of players who represented Waunarlwydd before the 1914-1918 War was the traditional nicknames by which they were known. One such name, which conjures up an image of a keen poultry-fancier, being Twm Cock & Hen!

With the resumption of rugby after the war, the Secretary was a man whose name became synonymous with the game of Rugby in Waunarlwydd and Swansea and District. This man was Will Bidder, who as a Swansea & District Rugby Union representative and a referee did as much for rugby as any man living during his era. Without Will Bidder it is doubtful if rugby would have survived in Waunarlwydd during the years after the War.

Many of the pre-war players lost their lives in the battle at Dardanelles. Due to the problem of getting sufficient players the team disbanded after one season only. There followed teams known as the Chip Shop Stars changing at "Minnie Clarks". Then came a senior side known as the Black and Amber who played in the fourth division of the Swansea and District Rugby Union. However in 1920-1921 the team was again on a sound footing with Will Bidder at the helm.

A photograph of this team was presented to the club by Mr. Will (Ystrad) Davies, and comprised the following players and officials:- Lawrence George, David Arthur Davies, Alfie Richards, Will Bidder, Dai John Thomas, Will Poulson, Jack Hollingdale, Jack Griffiths, Harold Griffiths, Tom Rees, Glyn Davies, Bryn Evans, John James (Trainer) David John Lewis (Sec), Ted Bowditch, Will Davies, Johnnie Richards, Sid Bowditch (Capt.) Johnnie Perkins Jim Jones, Hubert Griffiths, Ike John, Idris Jones.

The club tasted their first championship success in season 1921-1922 when they won the Third Division Championship of the Swansea & District Rugby Union.

There were troubled times ahead in the middle twenties and many players joined the Ystrad Road team. The team survived, however, even though the price of renting the ground for the season had now risen to £15. Typically though there is a story that David John Elsey, the then landlord of the "Masons", was only paying the Sheppards £5 a year rent for the field!