GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY RUGBY TEAMS
CARMARTHEN GWR XV & NEWPORT DOCKS GWR XV
Great Western Railway Cup Final – 11th April 1931 at The Gnoll, Neath
I was handed a photograph last year showing two teams in the same photograph (which is the one displayed here) and the only visible clue as to where it came from was the photographer’s name and an address in Neath. It was obvious that one team came from Carmarthen as Bill Orman was the captain for the team in white jerseys. I had a fairly good idea that this game was played in the early 1930’s as the Quins at that time played in white jerseys and Bill Orman featured regularly in the Quins team. On taking the photograph out of its frame, I noticed the backing card (which had at some time been reduced in size), had some wording still visible in the top left hand corner. All that remained was:- “final; v – Carmarthen GWR; the Gnoll Neath; Saturday April 11th 1931.”
Having a date to go on made it that much easier to start looking for more information. I found a report in the Carmarthen Journal printed a week before this game was played (see below) which contained the names of players from both the Newport and Carmarthen teams who would contest this GWR cup final. The edition the week following the game had a detailed match report (also below).
This prompted some further investigation and I found out that one GWR rugby team still survives today. Www.gwrrugby.co.uk is the web site for The Great Western Railway RFC in Ealing, Middlesex. The club was formed in 1900 as part of the GWR (London) Athletic Association and for several decades had fixtures with numerous English GWR teams and also with Newport GWR. The following clips from their club history shows the amount of contact between both teams around the time this cup final between Newport and Carmarthen was played:-
“On 1st April 1922 the County Times reported: ‘An interesting rugby match will be played next Wednesday evening at 5.45pm between GWR and Alexandra Docks/Rail Newport (combined team). Strong teams have been selected for this return game including three Welsh internationals:
GWR team:- H. Charlton (Newport), F. Webb (Gloucester), J. Ring (Aberavon), D. Hunt Davies W.J. Hopkins (Aberavon), Con Evans (Aberavon), Len Bowen (Swansea & Wales V. Captain). Forwards from: – Steve Roberts (Pontypool – Capt), W. C. Evans, R Ford Ebb Williams (Newport), R.H.B. Nicholls (Old Paulines), W. Hopkins (Aberavon), J. Ackerman (GWR London), A. Hinam (Cardiff) and J. Schneider (GWR London)
Alexandria Docks/Rail Newport team:- C. Davies (Pill Harriers), A. Stock (Newport), J. Clark (Pill Harriers), J. Wetter (Newport & Wales – Capt), J. Channing (Abertillery), J. Foley (Pill Harriers), S. Manship & C. Channing. Forwards from: – W. Cookham, Mr. Dixon, G. Collins (Newport), J. Scannell J. Lynch, A. Marshall, J. Casey, J. Neale (Pill Harriers), V. Llewellyn (AD Police).
Referee: T. H. Vile (Newport & Wales). A collection was taken for the Railway Convalescent Homes.
The result of the match was a win for AD & R by 16 points to 9. Scorers for A D & R were Foley (T 2 C). A player who first joined the Club in 1927 was Eddie Jones who recalls: ‘A period of re-building was helped ironically by the general Strike of 1926 when staff were transferred to Paddington from South Wales many of them including myself being keen young rugby players – I had played for Penarth.’ (History was to repeat itself some twenty years later in the case of the Old Oak Common loco-men although their transfer was not because of a Strike.)
John Goddard, one of the early members of this club also recalls:-
“In my period there was a tremendous atmosphere of loyalty among players of both the 1st and 2nd teams. The 1st XV was formed mainly around the following: Gray (Capt), Jones, Colston, Artlett, Dunstan, George, Lewis, Baker, Smith, Charles, Billington and myself kept together for the whole of the 1927-30 period.
I remember that on 27th April 1929 at Castle Bar Park, we played a South Wales GWR team which included Welsh Internationals Dan Jones (who scored six tries), Jack Wetter and Dai Parker. We lost by 43-3 and were obviously in a different class but the game was quite competitive.”
The May issue of the GWR Magazine reported: ‘A party travelled up with the team from South Wales luncheon being provided at the Paddington Hotel and tea afterwards at Ealing. The following among others were present: Mr H. R. Nicholls, Mr R. Carpmael (who kicked off) Mr J. F. Lean, Mr F. R. Potter, Mr H. Wheeler, Mr H. R. Campfield and Mr Trevor Roberts. After tea speeches were made in felicitous terms by Messrs. Nicholls, Trevor Roberts (Pontypool Road), F. C. Warren (Chairman of Paddington Rugby Committee), Major Partridge (WRU Referee who officiated), Mr Jack Wetter and Mr C. F. T. Basden, who was warmly thanked as organiser of the South Wales side.’
A return match was played at Penarth. The London side were met at Cardiff Station by Mr CT Cox the Divisional Superintendent, entertained to lunch and taken to the Lord Mayor’s Parlour where they signed the Visitors Book. The game itself was played in a howling gale and while the London side contained their opponents in the first half when playing with the wind the second half was a different story and says Eddie: ‘the score is best forgotten!’ Wetter (T), Stock (T) and for GWR Webb (T), Charlton (PG) and W. C. Evans (T)
By the mid 1930’s the section had settled well with two XV’s and regular fixtures with such Clubs as Kings College, The Royal College of Science , Staines Underground Railways (later London Transport), Old Blues, Kingston, Honour Oak Park and London Welsh Senior Side.
Although Railway Internationals were in decline representative matches between London and South Wales continued and a contemporary report of a match at Castle Bar on Saturday 7th March 1931 said: ‘The Welshman brought a particularly strong team under the captaincy of Dan Jones (Wales and Neath). The result, 6pts to nil in favour of the visitors, reflects great credit on the play of the London team for which W. F. Rogers, A. W. Taylor, H. M. Charles and R. S. Lanning were particularly prominent. The game was fought out in excellent spirit and admirably controlled by Mr Wakefield.’ (In addition to Dan Jones the Welsh side included Dai Parker (Wales and Swansea) and Norman Fender (Wales and Cardiff.)
On 23rd November 1935 (GWR London) played GWR (South Wales) at Castle Bar Park. A crowd of about 300 was present to see Sir Robert Horner kick off. Among those present was Sir W James Thomas one of the Company’s Directors who had accompanied the South Wales team, Mr F. R. E. Davis (Company Secretary), Mr R. Carpmael, Mr A. C. Cookson and Mr J. F. Lean. The referee was Mr WW. Wakefield. The teams had been entertained to lunch at the Great Western Railway Hotel and tea was served in the Pavilion at the end of the game which South Wales won by 17 pts to nil.
On 11th January 1936 at Castle Bar Park, British Railways played Irish Railways and won by 20 pts – 5 scorers for BR were Wyles (2T) Lowe (2T) Gray (T) Spence (T) and Swallow (C). For the Irish Gale scored a try and Dempsey converted.
On 24th October 1936 in a return match at Cross Keys GWR (London) lost narrowly by 5-9 to a South Wales side. For London R. T. Jones scored a try and J. Swallow converted. Best remembered incident of the game was an unfortunate misunderstanding in the last minute between Pearce and Diggory which robbed London of almost certain victory.
The teams were: – GWR (London): Richards, Diggory, Pearce, Jones, Hampshire, Swallow, Worth, Birmingham, Lake, Voyle, Stratton, Read, Stanbury, Gadd and Mannix.
GWR (South Wales): Owen (Neath), Case (Cross Keys), Wyles (Crumlin), Cummins (Pontypridd), Williams (Abergavenny), Jones (Chepstow), Chatwin (Newport), Richards (Pill Harriers), O’Brien (Penarth), Blake (Cardiff Athletic), Brown (Newport), Pritchard (Cardiff HSOB), Thomas and Davies (both Long Cross.)
The 1938/9 season , the last full season before World War 2 included the annual fixture between Newport United on this occasion at Castle Bar Park with the visitors comfortable winners by 25 – 0. This was undoubtedly the strongest regular fixture enjoyed by the Club and was probably secured by the arrival at Castle Bar of J. F. C. Swallow who had been transferred to London from Newport in his railway occupation. Jack who played for Newport 1st XV was a considerable asset and immediately settled in as a fly half alongside Stan Worth.
The Great Western Railway All-Line Cup Final
Saturday 11th April 1931 at the Gnoll, Neath
CARMARTHEN GWR Loco XV v’s NEWPORT DOCKS GWR Loco XV
Newport Docks XV
J. O’Neil (Abertillery), H. Vaughan (Pill), A. Stock/J. Wetter (Wales/Newport), S. J. Mountain/H. Rich(Newport), J. F. Swallow (Cross Keys), J. O. Brien (Penarth), B. Thomas (Newport Docks), H. Roberts, (Blaenavon), A. Abraham/G. Manley/H. Sayfell/ A. G. Westbury/E. Brown (Pill Harriers).
Carmarthen GWR XV
Morgan Jones, W. Thomas, Leslie Phillips, Reg Phillips, S. Stephens, Llew Thomas, Alf Jones, W. Orman (Capt), S. Davies, S. Evans, G. Evans, Wil Rowlands, A. Evans, V. Hughes, C. Roberts.
(See attached photograph of both teams sitting together along with various officials)
Newport Loco XV 19 – Carmarthen Loco XV 18
The Great Western Railway All-line Cup Final, which was played at the knoll on Saturday between the Carmarthen and Newport Docks teams, resulted in a win for Newport by the narrowest possible margin – two concerted goals and three tries (19 points) to a converted goal, a dropped goal, two penalty goals and a try (18 points). A splendid game was witnessed and whilst the Carmarthen side are to be warmly complimented upon their display, one cannot help but sympathise with them in their nearness in gaining the coveted trophy. Although in arrears to the extent of thirteen points to three at half-time, Carmarthen rallied admirably and adopting different modes of aggression, gradually reduced the lead until victory was within their grasp.
They had a glorious chance of snatching the honours when the last try was scored near the posts, the goal kick however, failed and their hopes were dashed to the ground. Despite their failure, however, in this respect Carmarthen deserve every credit for their display and it was no mean achievement to give the Newport side such a hard struggle. Alf Jones can look back upon a splendid game for no fewer than twelve of his side’s eighteen points were scored by him. Llew Thomas, the former Carmarthen Harlequins inside-half worked the scrum in laudable manner whilst under the capable leadership of W. Orman, the Carmarthen pack performed well. During the first half the Docks’ forwards controlled the scrums and their backs, fed smartly by the veteran Jack Wetter brought off several good bouts of handling, which enabled them to cross over at the interval with a lead of thirteen points to three.
The second half, however, witnessed a more even struggle, for Carmarthen changed their tactics and beat Newport for possession from the scrums, but were handicapped by the weakness of their backs who missed several easy chances of scoring. However, they gathered fifteen points, seven of which came in the last 5 minutes when W. Orman got the last try near to the posts in the last minute. Carmarthen had a glorious chance of annexing the cup but the kick failed and they lost by a single point. For Newport, J. Mountain got three tries and B Parfitt and Harry Vaughan one each. H. Rich converting two. For Carmarthen, Llew Thomas and W. Orman scored tries with Alf Jones converting one. Jones also dropped a goal and kicked two penalty goals.
At the close, Mr. J. L. Baines, divisional superintendent of the locomotive department at Neath presented the cup to Jack Wetter, the captain of the Newport team and medals to the Carmarthen side.