A brief history of the club by Ithel Gilbert-Davies
The Club was formed in September 1926 with the late Herbert Carr (County Architect) and the late John Jones (Postmaster) being the leading lights at the time. On the outbreak of the War the club was disbanded, but in 1945 it was reformed with the help of the late Inspector John George, Neville Lambert and George Halliday. However, petrol rationing made travelling so difficult and playing ceased.
In 1951 the Club was again reformed and playing prospered until the Season 1956/7 when shortage of playing members forced the commencement of another period of hibernation.
A public meeting in July, 1967, in the Royal Oak, Welshpool, chaired by the late Neville Lambert, saw the playing of the game return to Welshpool. The Club was quickly re-established, using the White Lion as its headquarters.
In 1970 the Club leased the former Powys Tennis Pavilion at the Victoria Bowling Club where, with volunteer help from Club members, the changing rooms were built three years later.
With the increased playing membership of the Club fresh premises were urgently required in 1980 and the Club entered into partnership with the Welshpool Cricket Club to erect the new Pavilion, Clubhouse and Changing Rooms on the Maesydre Recreation Grounds.
Timeline - Season 1967/68
When Neville Lambert discussed with John Simpson the feasibility of reforming the Welshpool Rugby Club after a lapse of a decade, he could surely not have foreseen the drama that this first season would bring.
It was reported in the March 25th, 1967 edition of the County Times that a strong bid was being made in Welshpool to revive the disbanded Welshpool Rugby Club. Neville Lambert stated that he was confident that many local lads would play. "If all goes well, we should see a rugger team in the town again next year".
A public meeting was called which was to be held at the Royal Oak Hotel on Friday, April 14th, 1967. Anyone who was interested in playing rugby for Welshpool were invited to attend. This meeting brought an excellent response with at least thirty gentlemen expressing a wish to play. With such a good attendance it was decided to elect a temporary committee until a further meeting could be aranged to officially elect officers.
Neville Lambert was voted on to the Committee as Chairman, John Simpson was to be Secretary with Gordon Davies of Barclays Bank, as Treasurer. John Bradshaw volunteered to be Fixture Secretary, as did Roger Watson Smyth to be Match Secretary. Committee members elected were: John Higley, Ithel Gilbert Davies, A. J. Phillips, Graham Biggs, Ivor Morgan, Roger Lovegrove and Derek Humphreys.
Training was to start in June under the supervision of Derek Humphreys, the PE teacher at Welshpool High School.
The newly-formed club approached the Earl of Powis for permission to use Feggy Leasowe (the County Showground) as their pitch, which he duly granted. When the club were seeking permission for the pitch, an invitation was extended to the Earl of Powis to become President of the Club, which he accepted.
The next report in the local newspaper, April 22nd, 1967, stated that so far, "Welshpool Rugby Club has arranged ten fixtures and that application had been made for use of the gymnasium at the local school for training purposes". Within a matter of a few weeks more, the fixture list had doubled to twenty fixtures, and it seemed that the club was taking off in a big way.
Some of the fixtures that had been arranged were against: Builth Wells, Bridgnorth, Aberystwyth, Dolgellau, Tenbury Wells, Shrewsbury, Rolls Royce, Birmingham Police, Old Luctonians, Whitchurch, Ludlow, Kidderminster, Harper Adams (Newport), Wellington and Pontarddulais. A further fixture had been arranged for a Wednesday evening against Shrewsbury, and it was hoped that a Coventry side would play in the opening match of the season.
The newly-formed club needed somewhere that they could call their base, so with this in mind, they approached the White Lion Hotel who agreed to let the club use their premises as a headquarters and also as changing rooms on match days. The club had over Â£130 in the "kitty" at that time, and were optimistic of having a successful first season on which to build for the future.
To see if the interest was still as strong as the original meeting had suggested, a further meeting was called for July 11th, 1967, when over forty people attended this inaugural general meeting. It was agreed to ask Judge Sir Wintringham Stable and Emlyn Hooson MP to become Patrons of the club.
The formal election of officers was as follows:
Chairman: Neville Lambert
Vice-Chairman: John Simpson
General Secretary and Captain: John Bradshaw
Fixture Secretary: Roger Watson Smyth
Treasurer: Gordon Davies (Barclays Bank)
Trainer: Mr J Swain
committee: J Higley, I Gilbert Davies, A J Phillips, G Biggs, J Morgan, R Lovegrove and J Hollywell.
Training would take place between 7.00 and 8.00pm at the High School gymnasium. Subscriptions were set at one guinea, with students and junior subscriptions being five shillings per annum. The match fees were agreed at two shillings and six pence.
Neville Lambert said that the club would be of benefit to the town and the community and that the attendance at this meeting augered well for the future. On the financial side, the club had already received their first Â£29 without even appealing for anything. The local press were thanked for their help in reforming the club.
Many fund raising ideas were discussed and on September 9th, a "Hop" was to be held at the White Lion. All were invited to come along.
THE FIRST GAME...
Such was the enthusiasm for the newly-formed club that in the first game, which was against Shrewsbury on a Wednesday night, over sixty players expressed a wish to play. The report, in the County Times, following the game, stated:
WELSHPOOL 23 v SHREWSBURY 14
After an absence of nearly eleven years, Welshpool Rugby Club made a triumphant return with a fine win over Shrewsbury Wednesdays in the first home game at Feggy Leasowe. In a highly entertaining game in front of a large crowd, Welshpool were trailing 14-6 at half time but staged a great comeback in the second half to run out worthy winners. The superior fitness of the Welshpool forwards began to tell towards the end of the game.
Scorers for Welshpool were Dave Greasley with a drop goal, a push over try by Ted Cochrane, a try by right-wing Brian Inverarity, converted by full back John Thomas, and a try and a penalty also by Thomas. Eighteen year old scrum half John Williams scored an excellent try, with Mel John scoring Welshpool's final try. The final points of the game were scored by John Thomas with a drop goal.
The club's next game was Builth away on September 2nd.
Above: Team picture v Builth Wells - 1967 - year of reforming
Back row, left to right: Mel John, Bob Knill, John Collinson, Roger Hughes, Chris Holloway, J Evans, Mike Steadman, John Bradshaw (Captain), S Davies. Front row: M Thomas, T Price, J Williams, F Foster, John Higley, John Thomas
The season had been started in fine form, with the club winning four out of five matches. For their visit to Wrexham on October 7th, several changes were made. Out went John Yearsley, John Williams, Peter Hunt and John Higley. The team selected was: John Thomas, Mike Owen, Alan Rabie, Brian Inverarity, Ian Anderson, Fred Foster, Tony Swift, Chris Holloway, Roger Hughes, Emrys Pryce, John Collinson, Ted Cochrane, John Bradshaw, John Evans and Tawe Price.
The previous week Welshpool had beaten Aberystwyth 16-0 at home with tries scored by Mike Thomas (2) and Holloway. Rabie converted two tries and also kicked a penalty.
In an away match against Silurians of Knighton, which resulted in a 6-6 draw, Welshpool had their "worst display yet". Ian Anderson scored a try and John Bradshaw "led by example" and also scored a try. Although the result was a draw, "Welshpool could not be proud of this performance".
At about this time it was decided to start a draw which would be held on a weekly basis and be drawn at 9.15pm at the White Lion Hotel on Tuesdays.
Welshpool's next game was at home against Walford and the team selected was: O Morris, V J Holloway, A Rabie, M Thomas, P Hunt, J Thomas, R Hughes, J Collinson, J Bradshaw, T Cochrane, M Steadman, E Pryce, J Higley and C Holloway. Substitutes were E Davies and J Evans.
With the club now settling in to the routine of regular fixtures it was a mini disaster when the foot and mouth disease broke out. Saturday, November 4th's headline read: "Sport hit by foot and mouth - Welshpool Rugby Club have called off their game away at Rugby due to the foot and mouth disease". Secretary Graham Biggs had issued the following press statement explaining why Welshpool had called off..
"As a large number of our players are farmers sons, or work on a farm, we felt it advisable to call off the fixture at Rugby rather than take any risk of spreading the disease. The club will not play at home until restrictions are lifted. Welshpool apologise to spectators who attended Feggy the previous week. Walford Farm Institute had cancelled the game at about 12 noon, leaving us no time to put up posters to that effect".
With no activity on the field it was decided to put some effort in to fund raising, and so a Rummage Sale was arranged to be held on November 25th, to be followed by a series of dances on dates to be arranged.
A round-up for the season was given by John Bradshaw to all members...
The club had beaten Builth 9-8, Denbigh Police 9-3, but after beating Shrewsbury Wednesdays, injuries had started to hit the club as they lost to Bridgnorth at home by 14-19. Aberystwyth at home produced a fine 16-0 win, followed by a thrashing of Wrexham by 29-0. Tawe Price, the hooker, dislocated his shoulder in the Wrexham game and was told by the doctor after the game that he would be finished with rugby for good. After this the club had drawn with Dolgella away 6-6 and Silurians away 6-6 also. Then came the foot and mouth disease with games have to be cancelled against Walford, Rugby, Tenbury, Shrewsbury and Rolls Royce. At a committee meeting it was decided to cancel all home and away games until the disease had subsided. This was a particularly hard blow for the club because things were going so well, but training was to continue.
During this first season, H Gaskell and B Swain were co-opted on to the committee.
The rummage sale organised by the ladies committee made a profit of over Â£40 for the club, who made a donation to the Mayor's Fund in appreciation of all the support they were receiving from the local townspeople. They felt it was a small way of saying thank you.
John Bradshaw found that being Secretary and Captain had become too much of a strain, so Graham Biggs stepped in to fill the hot seat as Secretary. One of the first tasks that Graham had to perform was a press release to the local newspapers stating that Welshpool Rugby Club was in no danger of folding because of the present epidemic.
The all clear was given on February 3rd, 1968, and the club's away game at Ruthin was their first since 21st October. The Education Authority had granted permission to use the Newtown High School pitch until Feggy Leasowe was given the all clear. Mr Glyn Emberton also kindly offered to loan a pitch to train on.
After so long an absence without playing it was pleasing to restart with a win, with Rod Dodson and Chris Holloway scoring a try each in the 6-8 win against Ruthin, one of these being converted by vice-captain John Thomas. The report stated that if Welshpool could retain their fitness they should soon be back on a winning streak.
Walford Farm College were still uneasy about playing because of the foot and mouth and duly cancelled the following week's fixture, so captain John Bradshaw stated that he would give his players "a stiff training session" instead.
For their trip to Bridgnorth on February 17th, 1968, the headline in the local press must have been a source of amusement for some readers: "Welshpool field heavest ever pack", estimated to be over 122 stone. The full team selected to play was: G Biggs, B Inverarity, M John, I Anderson, C Allchurch, J Isaacs, Graham Hughes, J Thomas, E Price, D Davies, J Bradshaw, T Cochrane, C Davies, M Steadman, Roger Hughes and Chris Holloway. The weight of the pack did little to help them as they went down by 20-6 with new hooker, Des Davies, showing up well. An uncomplementary comment in the match report stated that "Welshpool should look seriously in to their lack of knowledge of the rules". John Isaacs with two penalties was Welshjpool's scorer.
Even though there appeared to be a satisfactory number of players wishing to play, it was nevertheless decided toplay friendly matches against surrounding towns in the hope of encouraging players to come to Welshpool to play. Llanfyllin was the first to accept the challenge, although no official score was ever recorded. As a result of this game, Christopher Jones and Robert Evans played rugby for Welshpool for the remainder of the season.
Although still in its infancy, it was announced that the following season the club would run a second fifteen and hopefully, a youth team.
On March 9th, Welshpool were away against Newport 2nds. As it turned out, Newport fielded their 1st XV and even though soundly beaten by 31-3, Welshpool had to shoulder some of the blame themselves because of their very weak defensive work. Ian Anderson scored a penalty.
Now that Montgomeryshire again had a rugby club in the county, fixtures could be considered against other counties. And so it was that a game against Merioneth was arranged to be played at Welshpool on Tuesday, 19th March, 1968. It was to be the first time for ten years that Montgomeryshire had played county rugby.
A county trial was arranged to be held on Feggy Leasowe with a view to selecting a side for the match. Featuring in the county side would be players from several clubs, and others, either living, born or working in the country. The committee of Welshpool Rugby Club appealed to anybody who wished to, to attend the trial.
After the trial, Montgomeryshire selected 18 players from whom the team would be picked: Glyn Davies (Shrewsbury), Gareth Davies (Shrewsbury), Evan Jones (Shrewsbury), J Isaacs, Mike Thomas, Brian Inverarity, Mike Lewis, Mel John, John Thomas, J Williams, Peter Hunt, Emrys Pryce, Mike Steadman, Ted Cochrane, John Bradshaw, Rees Davies and Chris Holloway (all Welshpool). Mel John was also stated to be a Narberth player, while Mike Thomas was down as a Cefneithin player.
In the County Times about this time a letter was sent to Syd Parry, the sports editor, by somebody using the pseudonym of "Mid Walian". This was Syd Parry's response in the paper:
"I don't usually waste valuable space on anonymous letters but I must answer one such letter from Newtown signed by Mid Walian. He says he cannot understand why I should give so much publicity to Welshpool Rugby Club and particularly their friendly game against Llanfyllin. "You must remember that in our county rugby is a minority sport", he adds, amongst other things. That, of course, is a matter of opinion. I would point out to Mid Walian that I endeavour to give space to all forms of sport, from badminton to soccer, and we cater for all tastes. Perhaps Mid Walian has failed to notice how successful rugby is at the high schools, particularly in his home town of Newtown. I wonder why he has to hide his criticism under a pseudonym. What is he afraid of?"
In Welshpool's first game since October at home, against Shrewsbury, a John Thomas penalty and a Ted Cochrane try were not enough to secure victory and Welshpool went down 6-9.
Montgomeryshire's game against Merioneth resulted in a 5-3 win for Montgomeryshire with Mike Thomas scoring a try which was converted by Gareth Davies. This was Montogmeryshire's first county game since 1938. There was a report of good play by Des Davies, Ted Cochrane and Mel John.
It was fairly obvious that Midwalian's anonymous letter in the press the previous week would not go past without a reply and so, to nobody's surprise, soon afterwards the following letter was published:
"Rugger here to stay says Secretary" - In answer to an anonymous letter from Newtown, signed Mid Walian, I would like to point out that if rugby is a minority sport in the county, and I don't believe for one moment that it is, then it is because of people like this. They resent anything new, and have been fed on soccer for ten years alone, and regard anything that looks as it if will be successful as being bad. To say, as he did, that the club was useless, is ridiculous, when in our first season, introducing a new sport in Montgomeryshire, and with many inexperienced players, we have won five, lost four and drawn two games. The lost games were agains the first teams of Newport, Wrexham and Bridgnorth (twice).
This man is obviously completely and utterly anti-rugby, and therefore nothing we say will convince him tht this county is big enough for soccer and rugby. If he doesn't like it then will have to leave the county because, believe me, rugby is here to stay, no matter what our critics say or think.
I hope you will be good enough to print this reply and see whether our anonymous friend will reply under his own name?
Yours sincerely, Graham Biggs, Hon Secretary, Welshpool Rugby Club.
On the same page there was yet another letter from Newtonian:
Is it so popular? It is an indisputable fact that compared to soccer in this county, rugby is a minority sport.
There is only one rugby club in the county and any sport which cannot find two teams (full teams) for a county trial can indeed be classes as a minor sport. I read that only 20 players turned up for the trial and the county team was selected from 18. The question is, who were the two unlucky players?
I read that Montgomeryshire won their first game, and after seeing the picture in last Saturday's newspaper (what an unathletic lot they looked!), I can only assume that rugby in Merionethshire is in equally bad a state.
The saga continued the following week (March 30th, 1968) on the back of the County Times:
"Rugby critics slammed and secretary throws out a challenge" - One rugby critic who dared to suggest that the players looked an "unathletic lot" has been challenged to go training with them. Welshpool Rugby Club's Secretary says that if people want to 'knock' the game, as some appear to be doing, then it is little wonder that there is only one club in the county. However, it is intended that Welshpool Rugby Club, who only reformed this season after a lapse of ten years, will field two teams next year. Two letters were received from the Welshpool area by the County Times.
Mr Ithel Gilbert Davies, of Innisfree, Red Bank, Welshpool, wrote:
"It appears that both the anonymous rugby hating correspondents are doing your readers a disservice by implying that only soccer should be reported in the sports pages of your newspaper. Obviously rugger is not played on the same scale as soccer in this county, but your two correspondents would be surprised by the number of serious rugby followers in mid Wales. It is the national game of Wales.
In displaying such ignorance, it is understandable that Newtonian hides himself behind a pseudonym. Several comments in his letter come to mind:
(1) The county trial proved to be of great value, particularly in selecting the back division.
(2) The selected team included several players who were unable to take part in the trial.
(3) The claim of judging individual players ability on looking at a photograph was proved to be erroneous in the extreme.
(4) Being North Wales champions for three years in the last five, upsets Newtonian's assumption that rugger in Merionethshire is in a bad state.
The form of your sports pages deserves much praise. In last week's edition there were reports and references to at least six different sports and pastimes. Sports pages from September to April consisting solely of soccer reports are now only a memory, and a bad one at that".
The Secretary of Welshpool Rugby Club also wrote, as follows...
"I would like to thank you for printing my etter last week but I was somewhat surprised to see yet another one, this time under the name of Newtonian.
I would agree that rugby is, at the present time, not as popular as soccer in Montgomeryshire. This is to be expected in a county that has not seen the sport in over ten years. I do feel, however, that given a season or two, we will have a larger number of supporters. On good days we have never had less than 80 spectators which is, I realise, small by soccer standards, but is pleasing to us.
At the county trial it should be noted that the kick-off was 5.45, a time which prevented many players from turning up. If our friend had read that we intend to run two teams next season, he would realise that the players are available.
Newtonian states that we look an unathletic lot. I can assure him that in this case looks are definitely most deceiving, and I invite him to take part in one of our training sessions at Welshpool High School on a Tuesday evening and he will see how 'unfit' we are. If he feels he cannot participate, he can come and watch, even that will make his perspire.
It appears that not even a county win will satisfy him. As for his statement about the state of rugby in Merionethshire, now he has seen their record perhaps he will amend his views and apologise, or does he mean that rugby in mid and north Wales is a waste of time?
It is true that only one club exists in the county, and if people knocked rugby like this I can see why. Let us not forget that rugby is played by schools in Llanfyllin, Llanfair, Welshpool and Newtown, where Mid Walian and Newtonian live. Welshpool people, and the majority of the county, are not so soccer biased, and Tuesday next we will be playing Welshpool Amateurs at rugby, and later on in the season, at soccer, for charity.
At least the soccer teams are prepared to share the county's sport with rugger, so why not Mid Walian and Newtonian?"
WELSHPOOL RUGBY CLUB v WELSHPOOL AMATEURS
The charity event between Welshpool Rugby Club and Welshpool Amateurs took place the following Tuesday at Feggy Leasowe. The admission was one shilling and all proceeds were donated to the mentally handicapped.
The Welshpool Amateurs team was: R Powell, N Hughes, D Jones, G Jones, J Cadwallader, M Lloyd, D Davies, T Ellis, G Davies, M Thomas, K Stevens, C Evans, D Rimmer, S Rawlings and J Lloyd.
The Welshpool Rugby Club team was: J Evans, J Bradshaw, C Holloway, T Cochrane, M Owen, R Hughes, M Steadman, T Swift, C Jones, R Evans, V J Holloway, D Morris, B Inverarity, S Foster and M John.
From information received it appears that Welshpool Amateurs actually won the game!
JUST ONE FINAL LETTER FROM MID WALIAN..
The letters saga was not quite over in the local press - on Saturday, April 6th, 1968, a reply from Mid Walian was printed:
"The rather hysterical replies from Messrs Biggs and Davies to my last letter seems to miss the point. I was not objecting to the reporting of rugby in your paper, but I was objecting to it being given undue publicity. Hockey has also one club in the county, but this is not mentioned nearly so often as Welshpool Rugby Club. As there is so little rugby played in North Wales your correspondent can rightly assume that the standard cannot be very high".
As a result of the county game, two Montgomeryshire players were selected to play for North Wales against New Brighton. These were Michael Thomas of Welshpool and Gareth Davies of Shrewsbury. Returning to the actual playing records of the season, Welshpool's next home game was against Ferryside on April 20th, 1968. They lost 9-11 with Ian Anderson scoring two penalties and Chris Holloway a try.
The club entertained Shrewsbury on Easter Monday and, although scoring three tries, one for Mike Holloway and John Higley and a pushover try, they still went down 9-11.
With their first season now almost at an end, the committee decided to organise a Sports Forum. This was to be held at the Royal Oak Hotel, on Monday, May 20th. On the panel were to be Ken Jones, capped 44 times for Wales; John Charles; Ike Powell, the boxer; Lyn Davies, athlete; and cricketer David Sheppard as stand-in. Admission was to be two shillings and sixpence.
Although the season had gone well, apart from the disruption of the foot and mouth outbreak, the members were shocked when John Simpson, Vice Chairman, and Roger Watson Smyth, Fixture Secretary, announced their resignations because they had too many personal commitments.
The AGM was set for May 23rd, 1968.
Date Opposition H/A Result
Shrewsbury Wednesdays H W23-14
Builth Wells 1st A W9-8
Aberystwyth 1sts H W16-0
Silurians (Knighton) A D6-6
Ruthin A W8-6
Bridgnorth A L6-20
Newport A L3-31
Shrewsbury H L6-9
Ferryside H L9-11
Shrewsbury H L9-11
Denbigh Police H W9-3
Bridgnorth H L14-19
Wrexham A L0-29
Dolgellau A D6-6