Aberaman R.F.C

History of Aberaman R.F.C<
By P. M. Walters

The Aberdare Times of (1895) records that in addition to a team there were rugby sides at Trecynon and Aberaman, though there is not much doubt that, a-side, existed in Aberaman years before this date. On the 16th of November 1895, Aberaman defeated Ferndale by 11 minors to nothing. This meant that no side had scored any points, but that Ferndale had been forced to touch down in their own goal area on eleven occasions and as a result, Aberaman was declared the winners. At that time Aberaman was playing one fixture which, they have kept to this day against Mountain Ash. The game in 1896 was said to be a poor game and in fact, the star attraction was Jimmy Michael the World Cycling Champion who gave an exhibition on cycling.

In 1897 the Aberaman Rugby Football Club attempted to acquire a piece of ground from Mr W. T. Rees of Maesyffynon to play their home matches. The club offered to enclose a ground although it is not possible to find the exact location.

It is interesting a note that leagues are not the preserve of the present day. The old Glamorgan League Table published on the 5th of March 1904 showed Aberaman being third place behind Treherbert and Maesteg in front of Mountain Ash, Pontypridd, Treorchy, Penygraig, and Cilfynydd.

By 1905 there was a Junior XV in Aberaman and it is recorded that Aberaman Juniors met a Mr. Brown XV at Michael’s Field, Aberaman. A dispute arose over a try and Mr. Browns XV, left the field alleging the referee was an Aberaman man was, biased.

Aberaman RFC 1899

At the end of the 1904/05 season, Aberaman and Mountain Ash were in the same position in the Glamorgan League both having only dropped six points. The Welsh Rugby Union refused to extend the season, in order, to allow the final to be played and it was subsequently played on the 14th of October 1905. Aberaman won by two goals to nil. There was great jubilation in the town when the result was known and the Aberdare and Aberaman bands were brought out to meet the victors at Aberaman where a possession was formed to Aberdare. In the period from 1912-1920, there is very little reported of Rugby Football in Aberaman. A Mountain Ash RFC fixture list shows that neither Aberaman nor Aberdare were included although it is certain that Aberaman would be continuing to play at this time.

Aberaman RFC 1901

Aberaman RFC came into its own in the 1920s, the story of rugby in the town until the present time was very much a story of Aberaman Rugby Football Club and Aberdare Boy’s County Schools.

In the 1920’s Aberaman RFC was largely administered by officials of the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company who owned some collieries in the Aberaman, Cwmaman, and Cwmbach areas. In order, to strengthen the side, players were imported from Monmouthshire and west Wales, who were given better jobs in the coal industry than those they held in their native town simply because they were goofing rugby players.

On, the 18th of February 1922 an inquest was held over which Mr R. J. Rhys the County Coroner presided reported that Henry Rees Price aged 20 of 332 Cobden Street, Aberaman died after participating in a game against Dulia’s United on the 3rd of February. He had, apparently received an accidental kick in the abdomen and had a rupture of the urethra, and death had been due to bold poisoning. The Coroner was quick to point out that no blame could be attached to anyone.

Aberaman RFC 1924

At this time, the club was playing on the field on the left-hand side of Farm Road, below the lower entrance to the Aberaman Soccer field, Fixtures for the 1922 season included Swansea, Cardiff, and Newport. There is also a record during this season of Aberaman defeating Hirwaun by three goals and six try to nothing.

Alan Butt who figured in the forwards in the teams of the 1920s and, in subsequent teams, was the father of Aubrey Butt who played scrum-half for Aberaman in the years after the Second World War. Aubrey subsequently became Chairman of the Hirwaun Rugby Football Club and was actively involved in reforming that club in 1955/56.

1923 Aberaman RFC played against Glamorgan Police at the Ynys Aberdare, this was a forerunner of many fixtures between the side all proceeds went to charity, mainly to the Aberdare General Hospital Fund. The result on this occasion was Aberaman nine, Glamorgan Police eight and after the match, both teams were entertained at the Boot Hotel by the then High Constable Mr Illtyd Williams.

By this time alterations had been made to the ground at Aberaman and a box had been provided for the gentlemen of the press. They were captained that year by Jack Williams who was an ex-international forward with seven caps. He was originally from Nant y Glo and worked as an official in the local colliery. Such was the strength of the Aberaman side at that time they defended a ground record against Swansea and beat Swansea by thirteen points to three. The season was exceptionally successful and at the end of it, Aberaman played 43 games, won 31, lost 9, and drew 3. During this season 502 points were scored, and 162 points conceded.

The secretary of the Aberaman Club was Enoch Thomas was elected to the executive of the Welsh Rugby Union. Until Robert Williams’ election, he was the only official of the Aberaman RFC ever to have served in this capacity.

Miners Welfare Scheme

1923 the Miners Welfare Scheme started and purchased the old Aberaman Athletic Club, there were two thousand five hundred in the scheme, and the new society catered for football, rugby, tennis, bowls and quoits, and cricket. The system of finance in the scheme worked by voluntary deduction of money from the workman’s pay packet, part of which went to maintain the parent body and part of which was devoted to the sporting election of the workmen’s choice.

In the early 1920s, the club could boast an income of £18.00 per week all that year-round and, was quite independent of any gate money. By 1926 and 1927 the club was beginning to feel the financial pinch as a result of the depression of the coal trade. By 1929 the club was in considerable financial difficulties and had to organise wist-drives and dance, in order, to raise funds. Mr Phil Hughes out of their better Aberaman players turned professional at Barclay Rugby League Club. The club had also failed to fulfil one or two fixtures. As a consequence of the problems, a new committee was formed of which Mr Archie Davies the Chief Surveyor of the Powell Duffryn Company as Chairman and Jack Williams was the secretary.

A match against Penygraig on the 13th of April 1929 marked the first appearance of Arthur Probert, (became the Aberdare Member of Parliament) in the Aberaman side. Previously he had played for the reserves. The leader of the time says that “R. T. Probert has turned out to be one of the useful reserves.”

By the 1930s there were moves to reform the Aberdare RFC, which had last operated in 1910. A general meeting at the Boot Hotel set the club and it is interesting to note that Mr. D.L. Emrys Evans was their secretary and Mr Evans was for many years a Vice President of the Aberaman R.F.C.

1933 saw Aberaman finishing as runners-up in the Glamorgan League to Mountain Ash as a result of a draw in the last match of the season between the two sides.

1935/36 saw the visit of the third All Blacks and a match was played at the Ynys Stadium between the Third All Blacks and the Mid-District. Much to the annoyance of local supporters, there were no players from Aberdare or Mountain Ash club in the trial games. Archie Thomas and T. Hurley represented Aberaman but neither selected for the final game. A crowd of twenty thousand witnessed the game which was predictably won by the All Blacks.

In 1946 as a result of a public meeting held in Aberaman the club which never lost its Welsh Rugby Union Status was reconstituted and re-formed but the re-formation was not without its difficulties. It was and still is the duty of every member club of the Welsh Rugby Union to supply accounts to the Union every year; in order to establish that there were no irregular payments or irregular expenses to the players.

As can well be imagined the coal industry had been in full flight during the war and as a result, there was still money flowing into the Welfare Scheme and for the rugby club. Estimates put the figure as £500 per annum, unfortunately when the club was reformed the money had mysteriously disappeared. On the instigation of Colonel Idris Evans, an investigation with the Welsh Rugby Union was made into the affairs of the club and Jeffrey S. Morgan (the then area General Manager of the National Coal Board) elected the new president J. L. Thomas, who was at that time and for many years thereafter the treasure of the old Aberdare Urban District Council. After giving certain undertakings to the Welsh Rugby Union at their offices the club was allowed to continue.

Aberaman RFC 1938

In 1947 when a reform club became necessary, this had come about during the war years, it had been found difficult to run the club in the manner required by the Welsh Rugby Union. The meeting to reform was held in the Aberaman Hotel (New Hotel), the same year that the Nationalisation of the Pits came about. The rugby club had always been supported by Powell Duffryn Coal Company and the Miners Welfare Scheme. Probably because of this link with the coal industry, it was decided to ask Geoffrey Morgan, who was the Director of the No. 4 area of the N.C.B., to act as president of the Rugby Club. Mr. Idwal Penhallerick was Chairman (was No.4 Area Welfare Officer), Mr Evan Davies, secretary (No. 4 Secretary), Mr J. L. Thomas, Treasurer (Town Council Treasurer).

A subsequent meeting took place at the offices of T. Alwyn John, solicitor above Lloyds Bank in Aberdare when Mr Idwal Penhallurick was appointed the first Chairman of the club and local businessmen in the form of Mr A. B. Andrews M.P.S., D. L. Emrys Evans M.P.S., and Cyril Edwards, the accountant, set the club on its feet with Evan Davies as its secretary.

The first full season after the war was 1947/48 when the club was captained by P. C. Tom Miller. The forties and fifties were a very difficult time for the club, both financially and on the playing field. Success did not easily come in either sphere. Additionally, people working in the coal industry supplied the forwards and the ex-Grammar Schoolboys the majority of the three-quarters. 1948/49 the Reverend M.L. Clement became captain to be followed again by Tom Miller in 1949/50, Trevor Hodges in 1950/51, and Roy Clements in 1951/52.

The periods 1952/53 and 1953/54 were probably the most unsuccessful in the history of the club and when Rhymney was defeated in late 1954 by three points to nil was the only victory registered by the club in those two years. That historic try was scored by Emrys Jones, it was said that the then secretary the rotund Jack Hargrave chastised Emrys for picking up the ball five yards from his opponent’s goal line and diving over for a try stating that in such mud and rain he should have dribbled the ball over the line in fear of knocking it on.

The Aberaman Youth side was formed in 1954. By 1961/62 Brian Evans became the first product of the Youth side to captain the senior side. Evans subsequently gave enormous service to the club both as a player, and then as its coach through the late sixties until he retired from that office in 1982.

The playing side took a turn for the better in 193/64 when Ben George, who had a couple of years previously returned to Aberdare from London, took over the captaincy of the club and with tremendous dedication and an insistence on regular training, produced a side which for the first time since the war won more games in the season than it lost. He was ably assisted by Arwyn Richards (who also returned to Aberdare from London) and who played with distinction for London Welsh and Surrey.

The end of the Welfare Scheme

The rapid decline of the coal industry meant the virtual collapse of the Welfare Scheme in 1960/70 and though much hard searching it was decided to base the club in Aberdare town center. This was a logical decision bearing in mind that Michael Sobell’s Sports Centre had only just opened, and the old Crown Hotel in Gloucester Street became available for purchase at the sum of £2,250. The clubhouse was opened on decimalisation day in February of 1971, the most expensive beer being 13 pence a pint! This increased number of players moving to Aberdare!!

The season 1969/70, 1970/71, and 1971/72 was proved to be the most successful in the history of the club. The club captain on all three occasions was Colin Thomas was subsequently, became its secretary for no reason other than increasing the number of players that moved to Aberdare. This proved successful, and by the mid-seventies, the club was running three senior sides, a youth side, an under 16 side, and was organising regular courses for mini rugby.

The seventies and eighties have proved very successful in the history of the club, both on and off the field. Confident of success the club undertook the erection of a grandstand on land leased for the Old Aberdare Urban District Council at the Ynys at the cost of £20,000 and subsequently purchased 49 Gloucester Street to extend the club premises so that they appeared as they are today.

In Aberaman Rugby Football Club there have only been six chairmen since the war: Idwal Penhallurick, Brian Walsh, Ken Jones, Robert Williams, Elwyn Gay, and Humphrey Evans.

Seven Secretaries: Evan Davies, Jack Hargrave, Phillip Walters, Peter Jenkins, Colin Thomas, Melvyn Evans, and Bill Pritchard.

Four Treasurers: J. L. Thomas, J. O. Jones, Lewis Jones, and Gerry Thomas.

Jeffery Morgan served as President of the Club from 1946 to 1967, Graeme John from 1967 to 1973, Keith Rowlands, the much-selected Secretary of the International Ruby Football Board, was President from 1973 to 1988.

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