This book is the history of St. Peter’s Rugby Football Club for its first hundred years from 1886. The Club began as the Parish Club of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Roath, Cardiff and retains its links to this day.
There was a time when a reference to St. Peter’s was normally accompanied by the suffix ‘Cardiff’ in order to identify the Club accurately. It is fair to say that the suffix has long been redundant since there are few in Welsh rugby who do not know of St. Peter’s R.F.C.
The Club in 1986 is a credit to all those who have gone before. Its facilities are second to none and its achievements particularly in recent years mark it as one of the strongest Clubs outside the first class grouping in the whole of Wales.
A glance at the Appendices showing the results of last season will illustrate the point more powerfully than words.
Those who founded the Club and those who worked so hard through its difficult years would surely be proud of it today. This book is dedicated to them.
The beginnings of St. Peter’s R.F.C. lie inextricably in the origins of the modern Roman Catholic community of Cardiff. The rise of the Catholic population and its influence on sporting life paralleled the rise in prominence of the town itself.
In the early years of the nineteenth century Cardiff was barely stirring from a pattern which had been set for centuries. In spite of its medieval history and ancient castle, time had fashioned little change within the town boundaries. There were few Catholics in Cardiff in the period following the Reformation, whilst in 1800 the total population was not much more than 1,000.
The advent of the Industrial Revolution changed Cardiff, as it did so many places, beyond recognition. As the docks, the Glamorganshire Canal and the railways were built the town grew at an alarming pace. Its new found inhabitants arrived in waves from the farming communities of West Wales and the West Country and from over the Irish Sea. By 1829 the Catholic population of the town had reached 1,000. The total population was about 12,000 in 1837 and in the next fifty years it mush-roomed to over 150,000.
Such expansion was not without problems. In 1847 there was an anti-Catholic riot after a death and 200 Catholic railway workers entered the town armed with pick axes to demand better police protection. There were only about twelve policemen in Cardiff at this time, some of whom were described in a local journal as ‘decrepit old men’.
In 1855, at the request of Bishop Brown, priests from the Rosminian Order, the Institute of Charity, arrived in Cardiff. It was a relatively new order founded by Fr. Antonio Rosmini in 1828. Hence the three priests were Italian and they had only one church, St. David’s, which had been built in 1855. It was obvious that the rapidly growing population needed a second church and the Rosminians immediately decided to build one.
There was some debate about whether to locate the new church west of the river Taff in Cowbridge Road but Fr. Gastaldi, the senior priest, decided to build just within the eastern boundary of the old town. This boundary was what is now known as City Road, but had previously been called Castle Street and, even earlier, Pucca Lane, and ran from the Long Cross, where the Royal Infirmary stands today, to the north. It was judged that the initial expansion of the population would be to the east of the old town rather than over the river to the west.
Although the judgement was to be proved correct, it is strange to think of the new large church being built in advance of much of the attendant parish. The church was dedicated to St. Peter in 1861 and the photograph in this book shows it around 1870 much as it is today except for the bell tower and the high roof windows. Surprisingly, to any inhabitant of modern Roath, it was called St. Peter’s – in – the – Fields which illustrates that it had been built before the houses which would eventually surround it. It was located in what was later to become St. Peter’s Street within the old town boundary of City Road.
The St. Peter’s School was opened in 1868 by another Italian priest, Fr. Signini who recorded in the St. Peter’s Diary ‘Opened a new poor school in the large room till lately used by the Wesleyans for religious and Sunday School purposes, and situated at the back of the present presbytery in Chapel Street (Bedford Place) on 14th January, 1868. The teacher is Timothy O’Brien, formerly a pupil in David Street School, Cardiff. He had previously a small school in his own little cottage, Milton Street, on his own account. The object of the removal of the School is to have more accommodation, better facilities for teaching, and more immediate control over the school by the Clergy. They give the room rent free to the Master, besides incurring some other little expenses, calculated to be, with rent, about £12 a year. The master is not certificated.’ The school was later to move opposite the church where it remained until recent times when it was transferred to the former Cardiff High School site in Newport Road.
Houses were being built rapidly. The community of Adamsdown to the south was being established but in 1861 only a few dwellings had appeared along the old Newport Road from the Long Cross towards the Four Elms (these trees were demolished when the road was widened). Many of the prominent citizens of Cardiff built houses in the ribbon development and although some have disappeared in modern times others still exist. Appropriately, the R.F.C.’s Clubhouse at 118 Newport Road is one of these. The area between Newport Road and Broadway was owned at this time by one Mary Charles. Other less substantial houses were being built along City Road itself, still known as Castle Street after the Roath Castle or Mackintosh Institute as it is now called. These houses were beginning to break the centuries old pattern of life in the parish of Roath.
The medieval parish, centered around the old church of St. Margaret’s, had been little more than a few houses and some outlying farms stretching from the town boundary in the west to the Rumney river in the east and from the moorlands of the Severn Estuary in the south to the adjoining parishes of Llanedeyrn and Llanishen to the north. Two prominent dwellings were Roath Court, the site of today’s Summers Funeral Home in Newport Road, standing in its own grounds, and Ty Mawr, the big house, lying behind St. Margaret’s. Ty Mawr was demolished in 1969 and the site is now occupied by the Ty Mawr old people’s home in Southminster Road.
The Harlequins Ground is located to the north of Newport Road but south of St. Margaret’s and Ty Mawr. There was no sign of the ground in the 1841 survey map of Roath but forty years later a map clearly shows the ground marked as Cardiff Athletic Grounds. The photograph taken around 1890 shows the ground had been in use for some time by then. Apparently it was also known as Cardiff Harlequins Athletic Ground after a club which ceased to exist in 1890. The Cardiff Harlequins R.F.C. were one of the most prominent clubs in Cardiff in the 1880s. They played Cardiff on 10 occasions in these early years, winning one of them. The ground retained the Harlequins name.
The parish of Roath must have viewed the expansion of Cardiff’s population in the latter years of the nineteenth century with awe and apprehension. The new houses came almost like a flood up to the old town boundary and then over it without so much as a pause. Roath was incorporated into Cardiff in 1875. The land of the parish was owned by a series of landowners the largest being Charles Morgan, later Lord Tredegar, while others were the Marquess of Bute, the Croft Williams family and the Mackintosh of Mackintosh who had married into the Richards family. These owners built estates on their land often naming the streets after their relatives and in a few decades Roath was transformed into an urban community.
To return to St. Peter’s Church, it was built in the vanguard of the parish it was meant to serve. At first it may have seemed too large for the potential parishioners but in a few years it was crowded.
This new Welsh Roman Catholic parish was administered by Italian priests and consisted at least initially of a considerable proportion of Irish immigrants or first generation Welshmen of Irish descent. It was not long before it gave birth to a rugby club and helped set a tradition among Cardiff’s Catholics, which has persisted to this day. One hundred years later St. Peter’s celebrates that its name has been carried with honour throughout the rugby fields of Wales.
One cannot help wondering what Fr. Gastaldi, who returned to Italy and eventually became Archbishop of Turin, would have made of it all. Even though the Rosminian may never have seen a rugby ball, he would surely approve of his parish’s offspring.
It is at this point that we must reveal a secret to the reader. Although this book is part of the celebration of a century of St. Peter’s R.F.C., the exact date of the formation of the Club is not known! The date of 1886 has been decided upon because references have been found to what appears to be a thriving Club in 1888 but it is possible that the Club played before 1886, particularly since the original school opened in 1868 and the game was establishing a strong presence in Cardiff at this time.
Perhaps this confusion is understandable. The early years of the game were characterised by a truly amateur if not to say haphazard approach. The numbers per side varied and it was customary for players to wear ordinary clothes and even hats. Admittedly by the 1880s such eccentricities were rarer but photographs of the time still show players with decidedly independent postures.
The Italian priests who had founded St. Peter’s Parish had returned to Italy and Fr. John Hayde was Rector. The school headmaster was the formidable Charles Higgins who presided over 150 juniors in 1888 aided by Mrs. Higgins and Miss Duggan, while Miss Carey attempted to control a further 220 infants.
Such facts can he gleaned from the Parish Magazine, the St. Peter’s Chair, which was published monthly from early 1888 until late 1899. Unfortunately the magazine does not contain any references to the sporting life of the parish and little reference to the social life either. Whether the editor would have welcomed the attentions of the rugby club is doubtful since he refers with evident satisfaction to a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in December 1864 in which more than fifty teetotallers took part! There is no mention how many in the procession were of the other persuasion. Also in 1889 there was a branch of the Total Abstinence League of the Cross in St. Peter’s with Fr. Hayde, no less, as President. However there were signs of another and, in the event, more lasting tradition in the parish.
The first reference to St. Peter’s R.F.C. that has so far been discovered is in a Western Mail of September, 1888 which referred to a fixture between St. Peter’s and St. Margaret’s, Roath due to be played at the Harlequins Ground. In view of the ground becoming the home of St. Peter’s ninety years later, it is a fascinating reference. Sadly the result is not recorded.
On 5th October, 1888 in the Western Mail it was announced that the captain for the season of St. Peter’s juniors was S. Sexton with S. Lennon as vice captain. The Secretary and Treasurer was Mr. Harry Smith of 16 Gold Street, Roath. We find from the Parish Magazine that the redoubtable Mr. Smith was also Secretary of the C.Y.M.S. Hence a link between the rugby club and the Catholic Men’s Society occurred which is echoed by links in modern times.
The juniors were probably a second or a youth team but this is not clear. They are recorded as playing against Roath Waterloo at the recently opened Roath Park on 27th October, 1888 and winning by 3 goals, 5 tries and 9 minors to nil. In those days one goal out-scored any number of tries and if teams tied with the same number of goals and tries, the number of minors were used to determine the winners. In late December they beat Water Lily F.C. by a goal and two tries to nil.
Names such as St. Margaret’s, Roath Waterloo, and Water Lily were typical of the teams which were formed at this time. Sadly the City of Cardiff was to breed many sides who rapidly grew but in almost all cases just as rapidly disappeared.
The Club nickname of the ‘Rocks’ was soon in evidence. It comes from the Gospel reference to St. Peter – ‘Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (St. Matthew, Chapter 16). There is a play on words because the Greek word for Peter is the same as for rock. The name was to prove popular and persists to this day. In December 1888 St. Peter’s Shamrocks played against Cardiff Albions and won with tries from J. Bateman and J. Brady and a goal by J. Ryan. It is the only reference to the ‘Shamrocks’ – an interesting combination of ‘Rocks’ and the Irish influence of the time. Later in the month St. Peter’s played the Higher Grade (later to become Howard Gardens High School and now Howardian) and it seems likely that this was a schoolboy game. The result was a disputed try to a disputed try and the South Wales Echo recorded that the Higher grade were ‘compelled to walk off the field on account of St. Peter’s beginning to fight and cheat’. No doubt the scribe was a Higher Grade man!
The choice of the Club colours was unlikely to have caused much debate since St. Peter’s traditional colour is green. Hence, perhaps influenced by the early Irish immigrants, the colours became emerald green and black and have never altered.
In 1889 the Club was raising a 1st XV and a junior side. The former played Penarth United, Tredegarville, Cogan 2nds and Cardiff United. Players included D. Dwyer (who scored four tries against Tredegarville), T. Sexton, F. Nelson, Reuben and Driscoll. The juniors beat Llandaff with F. Sexton and J. Martin scoring. The Club did not seem to have a regular home ground since various venues are recorded although the Barracks Field was the most popular.
For the 1890/91 season Dwyer, a wing, was captain and the Secretary was E. Thomas of 10 Bedford Street. Opponents included Barry Dock and Railways, Red Rose (Taffs Well), Cardiff Rangers, Barry Rovers, Llandaff Yard, Nantgarw, Cardiff Stars, Roath Windsor and Cardiff Albion. The team travelled to away games by public transport, either train or bus, and met at the stations. The Club was running a junior side that year which was known as St. Peter’s Rovers.
Roath Park had become the Club’s home venue by the mid 1890s. In the 1894/95 and 1895/96 years the 1sts were led by three-quarters A. Leary and P. Downey while the 2nds prospered under the direction of veteran outside half Ivor Williams. The Club dominated the early leagues of the Cardiff and District Union.
The earliest photograph of a St. Peter’s team to survive is that of the unbeaten 1896/97 side who played 24 matches winning 20 and drawing 4, whilst scoring 256 points and conceding a mere 27. They won the District league easily. The captain was John Ryan and the photograph includes Fr. Hayde. For such a record to be achieved clearly shows how strong the Club had become by then. As far as can be discovered, the only other unbeaten St. Peter’s team is the youth side of 1980/81, and bearing in mind the difficulty of modern fixture lists it is doubtful the feat will be performed again.
The Secretary at the time was J. Crawley of 2 Cyfarthfa Street. The Club junior side seemed to have changed its name to the more colourful St. Peter’s Stars in 1895 when they were led from outside half by M. Downey. The name persisted until 1897 when T. Dunn was captain but from 1898 a youth side known as St. Peter’s United began to play. In 1896 there was another team called St. Peter’s Harps led by M. Watkins playing. It was however clear that all these teams were of lower status to the St. Peter’s 1st and 2nd XVs playing at the time.
The Cardiff Junior Rugby Football Challenge Cup was played for in these early years of rugby in the City. It is inscribed as being presented by the Cardiff Football Club, the word ‘Rugby’ often being omitted at that time. The Cup was rediscovered in an attic a few years ago and belongs to the Cardiff and District Rugby Union. It must be one of the oldest trophies in the game covering the period starting in 1896. The Mallett Cup is a few years older. The strength of the St. Peter’s Club was confirmed when this new cup was won by the 2nd XV in 1897. The successful team continued to be led by Ivor Williams and his partnership with scrum half P. Conners had much to do with the triumph. Others in the 2nds at that time were W. Ashmore, later to play for the District on the wing and forward W. Jenkins, later to join Cardiff R. F. C. With almost all of the other winners of the Cup no longer in existence, the District Union in 1984 asked St. Peter’s to keep it on permanent display at the Clubhouse.
There was some reluctance to play on Good Friday but this did not stop two well known local characters named Cullinane and Carney from raising teams to play at Roath Park on Good Friday 1898 with both sides liberally laced with players from the Rocks. A riotous game took place in front of a large crowd.
On 2nd April, 1898 St. Peter’s played Penylan at Roath Park. Full back was D. Butler and the three quarters were J. Ryan, J. Grey, D. Warren and A. N. Other. The forwards were W. Sexton (captain), W. Neill, J. Sullivan, J. ‘Straw’ Desmond, C. Bowyer, J. A’Hearne, J. Cummins and W. Greenslade. Neill was destined to become a Welsh International. On 2nd May, much the same team but with M. O’Leary as wing forward, beat St. Paul’s at the Harlequins Ground by one goal and two tries to a goal, a win which entitled them to play against Cardiff Reserves (now the ‘Rags’). Most of those named were stalwarts of the late 1890s and several were to captain the Club in this period. Sexton’s team again won the District league title while the 2nds now captained by D. Ryan, Ivor Williams having retired after many years of service, also won their competition when they met Canton Cresents at Cardiff Arms Park and triumphed by a converted try, scored by a player called Jones, to nil.
By 1898/99 T. Collins was the captain playing at outside half and again the Club won the league title. In April they played Cardiff Reserves at the Arms Park after the Cardiff v Leicester match. The 2nds were led by J. Downey and the United by W. Huntley.
The Secretary in 1899 was the splendidly named Mortimer O’Sullivan of 31 Topaz Street, another to feature in the 1896 photograph. The 1899/00 captain was forward C. Bowyer and, as was becoming customary, the team won the league as well as the Mallett Cup. In view of their dominance they must have been disappointed to have had only three players in the District team that met Cardiff at the Arms Park in a new fixture at the start of the season. These were W. Ashmore, J. Sullivan and J. Connell.
Hence in the late 1890s St. Peter’s were an outstanding side which produced a series of fine players foremost among whom was the great Billy Neill. He was a young vice captain in 1897 before joining Cardiff with W. Jenkins, in 1898/99. Billy was an expert line out forward who has become a legend. By 1901/02 another St. Peter’s vice captain and forward, Jack Brown, was to join Neill at Cardiff and two years later more St. Peter’s players, E. Coughlin and D. Ryan arrived. In the 1880s and 1890s many of Cardiff R.F.C.’s players were Catholics. Several came from St. David’s whose team disbanded around that time. Hence the St. Peter’s players were helping to set a tradition still evident in Cardiff R. F. C. sides.
Billy Neill became the first St. Peter’s man to win a full Welsh cap in 1904 against Scotland. He was to win a total of 11 caps in the next few years during a period acknowledged as one of the golden eras of Welsh rugby. They included the triple crown years 1904/05 and 1907/08. In 1907 jack Brown was to play with Billy Neill against England and become the second St. Peter’s international. He was to win 7 caps in the next three years. Both players were to be vice captains of Cardiff but did not captain the club. Billy Neill turned professional with Warrington in 1908. Under the seniority rule it was customary to apply at that time, he would have captained Wales the following season.
Billy Neill was later to coach St. Peter’s after the First World War. His parents, John and Ellen O’Neill together with John’s sister, had been shipwrecked off the Welsh coast when emigrating to America in one of the infamous ‘coffin’ ships. Their descendants have populated the ranks of St. Peter’s R.F.C. ever since with branches of the family including the Manleys, Whelans, Crowleys, O’Briens, Sweeneys, Ellerys and Leahys. They were to provide six Club captains and two others who married into the family. One wonders how different St. Peter’s would have been if that ship had not floundered off the Welsh coast all those years ago.
Returning to St. Peter’s R.F.C., by 1900 the Club was at a peak of achievement having proved itself to be the best in the Cardiff and District for the previous decade. The number of clubs in full membership of the W.R.U. was a lot fewer then and St. Peter’s were able to attract some of the top fixtures particularly for early season games. Thus in 1900 they played Bridgend, Maesteg and Tredegar and must have harboured thoughts of W. R. U. status. They were running three sides, lsts, 2nds and United and, as we have seen several of their players had moved on to Cardiff where they were playing with distinction and two were to become Welsh Internationals. The bright future was shattered during the season 1900/01 as the Club suffered a blow from which it was not to recover until after the First World War.
Although in the 1890s there are references to teams called St. Peter’s Rovers, St. Peter’s Stars, St. Peter’s Shamrocks, and St. Peter’s Harps as well as the regular St. Peter’s United, some of these were clearly part of the main Club. If some of the others were splinter groups, they do not seem to have done much harm. It was quite customary for players to change clubs at this time and the Cardiff and District Union spent much of its weekly meetings vetting applications for transfers. A few players moved from club to club as Don Juan was reputed to do with women. Such difficulties did not apply to St. Peter’s, one of whose strengths had been the loyalty of the players. Therefore the events of 1900/01 were all the more surprising.
The season began normally. The District team selected to play against Cardiff included St. Peter’s players W. Ashmore on the wing, J. Barry at inside half, J. Connell at lock and J. Sullivan at prop. Sullivan was captain of the Club and W. Lewis led the 2nds. An illustration of the strength available was the team selected to play against Cardiff Mackintosh in early September, the week after the Cardiff match. It was fullback E. Jones, three quarters John Ryan, E. Coughlin, P. Loughlin and Ashmore, half backs D. Ryan and Barry, and forwards Sullivan, W. Sexton, H. Summerhayes, C. Bowyer, J. Desmond, J. Connell, M. A’Herne and T. McCarthy. Thus Sullivan had three former captains in the side, two players who were soon to join Cardiff R. F. C. and a string of others who had or were to play for the District.
Although no record remains, there seems to have been a major row of some sort and by the end of the season most of the prominent players had transferred to other clubs. The Mallett Cup final was between Grange Stars, who included Sullivan himself and ex-St. Peter’s forward Desmond, and Cardiff Mackintosh, who had E. Jones, J. Ryan, D. Ryan, H. Summerhayes and C. Bowyer in their ranks. Hence several former captains had transferred. By 1901/02 the only St. Peter’s side left was the United.
The ‘Macs’, a local Roath team based at the Mackintosh Institute, displaced St. Peter’s as the prominent club in the District for the next decade and more and many of the better Rocks players continued to join them. In 1905 a past versus present match was refereed by Billy Neill himself and included many former St. Peter’s players. By then the ‘Macs’ were playing with distinction against opponents who included Pontypridd, Pontypool, Tredegar, Cross Keys, Blaina and Cardiff Reserves. The drain of players to the ‘Macs’ may have been caused by a feeling that they were going places but in the event it was the older Club who survived.
Although only St. Peter’s United were playing in 1901/02 they were successful for a young team and the photograph which has survived clearly shows the enthusiasm. The captain was M. McCarthy, the vice captain and Secretary was N. D. Reed, both of whom were props, and the Treasurer was P. Donelly.
The team retained the ‘United’ tag the next season but dropped it in 1903/04 when they were led by another prop, T. Delacour..
St. Peter’s School was a founder member of the Cardiff Schools Rugby Union in 1902 and is one of the few left playing today. A photograph survives of the school team of 1902/03 which was one of the early successes and was captained by B. Thompson. Thompson was one of several St. Peter’s boys to play for the first Cardiff Schools team. The photograph shows that he was a big boy and, judging from the gargantuan ball he is holding, he seems likely to have been one of the few who could catch it! His team dominated the Schools season with 314 points for and only 27 against.
In 1908 Arthur Callus, uncle of Frank Callus who became a teacher at St. Peter’s and Deputy Head at Lady Mary High School, became the first St. Peter’s boy to win a schoolboy international cap. He was the kicker for the Cardiff Schools team. The Monday following the announcement of his selection the Headmaster lined the whole school up to greet the hero but unfortunately Arthur was not the most punctual of pupils and by the time he arrived the only one left waiting, was the Headmaster complete with cane. A year earlier Giovanni Corsi, father of the three brothers all of whom were to play for St. Peter’s, won a cap whilst at St. David’s. It was the custom in those days for schoolboy caps to wear their international jerseys in school matches, a ploy worthy of Michael Green’s coarse rugby men which also saved on new school jerseys! When St. Peter’s and St. David’s met in 1908 the two internationals stood out like sore thumbs. Whenever Corsi received the ball he headed in a straight line for Callus and vice versa. The game and the rest of the players were forgotten as the two battled away.
The District team of 1906 featured five ‘Macs’ and four more were reserves but the old Club was fighting back and M. Donovan of the Rocks joined them for the game against Cardiff.
The Cardiff and District Committee meetings of the time were concerned with transfers of players between clubs and enlivened by appeals that league points should be awarded to losing teams because the winners played ineligible players. All this was faithfully reported in the South Wales Echo whose reporter was allowed to attend the meeting. After one row over league points an irate club Secretary called the Committee all sorts of names. At the next meeting members demanded an apology but the offender only withdrew the worst of the offending names. The row dragged on for months with the offender gradually withdrawing the names but by the end of the season alleging that the Echo had misquoted him in the first place! At the start of the 1906/07 season there was a move to exclude the press from the meetings as though it was the Echo’s fault that the row took place! The motion was passed by a narrow majority but the St. Peter’s delegate, J. Downey, voted against.
Downey, another prop, was captain of St. Peter’s that season and the club was back in the First Division of the District leagues for the first time since 1901. They were still there in 1907/08 when J. Keane, a wing forward, led them but they then dropped back to the Second Division. It is strange how the captain was changed with such regularity in those days. It seems that it was regarded as a great honour which should be passed around. It was not until the 1930s that a man was to captain the club for more than one year.
St. Peter’s School was playing baseball before the War and in 1907 a St. Peter’s team played an American side at their version of the game. Messrs Jarvis of City Road made the American style bats for the match. The first ever baseball international between Wales and England took place at the Harlequins Ground on 3rd August, 1908.
The Harlequins Ground has been host to many such events over the years. Cardiff City A.C. played some major games there around 1908 in the period before they were admitted to the Football League. They normally played at Sophia Gardens in those days but made special arrangements for the visits of the League clubs Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Bristol City by playing at the Harlequins Ground and Cardiff Arms Park.
In 1909/10 T. Griffiths, a wing, led St. Peter’s who had returned to the First Division but their stay was short lived and by the next season we find that they were again in the Second where in January 1911 the District Committee awarded league points to Splott Crusaders because the Rocks played an ineligible player. Thus the Club continued to struggle in the years leading to the First World War and were not to recapture their former glory until after the conflict.
During the Great War, rugby was not played in St. Peter’s. The dreadful toll in life of that conflict is illustrated by a roll of honour board in the C. M. S. Most of those named were rugby men and the list is depressingly long.
For some reason an association football side was organised during the war for schoolboys. It was as though the Parish could not bring itself to play its traditional game even at schoolboy level, while the conflict took place. The boys who played were mainly those who helped to reform the rugby club and they included the Turnbull brothers, Kevin, Bernard and Maurice. The later two were destined to play rugby for Wales whilst Maurice became arguably the greatest cricketer Wales has ever produced as well as becoming a hockey international.
In 1919 rugby restarted and the Secretary was Joe Cullen who was to make a major contribution for the next decade and more. Early players included C. M. S. Jones and William Cummins who soon moved on to play for Bridgend and Treorchy respectively. Jones was to win two international caps in 1920 and Cummins four in 1922.
John Lord was the first captain and Jack O’Donovan his vice captain. They trained at the Maindy Barracks field (now the site of Companies House) under a Sergeant Major Jones, a former international. One of their number was Jim (Buller) Sullivan who soon left for Wigan Rugby League Club after a short spell with Cardiff R.F.C. Sullivan was to become a legend in the northern game. In 1921 St. Peter’s won the new Minnie Pride Cup by beating St. David’s 14-3. This cup was intended to be the senior trophy in Cardiff and District circles and, although the competition was soon to disappear, the first final attracted tremendous interest at the time. That year St. Peter’s also won the Lord Ninian Stuart Cup as it was then known without conceding a try. They finished the season with 365 points for and only 69 against and were promptly invited to high tea at the presbytery by the Rector, Fr. Fennell. In 1920/21 a second team was formed with John O’Neill captain and Charles O’Brien (for many years the choirmaster at St. Peter’s Church) as Secretary. Also an ex-schoolboys team played with W. Sexton captain and schoolmaster Oswald Lord as Secretary and, if that was not enough, a junior (Youth) side started playing.
But from this splendid restart divisions became apparent which were to hinder the development of the Club throughout the 1920s. The first team began to be known as St. Peter’s C. Y. M. S. and the second team also adopted the C. Y. M. S. label, although it started to develop as virtually a separate club. By 1921/22 another team known as St. Peter’s United (The Rags) had formed. Under captain Paddy Whelan they won the A. H. Williams or Spokes Cup beating St. Paul’s 2nds in the final. The Rector, to be even-handed, entertained them to high tea to which they did full justice.
These facts and many others have been obtained from the second series of St. Peter’s Parish Magazines which were produced from 1921 to 1930 with Fr. Cronin, a great rugby enthusiast, as editor.
The C.Y.M.S. side was clearly the most powerful St. Peter’s team of the early 1920s with Philip Turnbull JP as Patron and an impressive array of dignitaries as Vice Presidents. They held a Smoker in August, 1921 which was recorded as a very successful social event with C. O’Brien on piano and W. Sullivan on the Bones! In 1921/22 they reached the semi-finals of the Mallett and Minnie Pride Cups and were second in the league. E. Howe was captain and J. Kelly vice captain. The 2nd XV with John O’Neill captain and G. Connell vice captain reached the final of the Lord Ninian Stuart Cup where they lost to St. Paul’s. It was a fine year for the school team who won 20 and drew 1 of their 22 games. Johnny Ring won a schoolboy cap (the grandfather of Mark and Paul Ring).
In 1922/23 J. Donovan was captain of the 1st XV with F. Hume his vice captain, whilst the Lord Mayor, Councillor Turnbull, was Patron, Joe Cullin and J. Tobin were joint Secretaries and R. O’Keefe Chairman. They played at Sophia Gardens where they changed under the trees. A Christmas Tour of Devon was the highlight of the season where they played Sidmouth in front of a crowd reputed to number 5000. At one stage they dropped the C.Y.M.S. tag but quickly took it up again. The 2nd XV continued to be organised as a separate team and even went on a separate tour whilst another ex-schoolboys side started under the auspices of the ‘After Care Committee’.
In the following year Harry Howe was captain, J. O’Neill Secretary and C. W. Smith Chairman. The 2nd XV seems to have been defunct this season and a sign of difficulty was that the C.Y.M.S. had to deny that ‘the Society’s rooms are merely receptacles for the manufacture of billiard experts and cardsharpers!’ At times during the season Howe, Tommy Gorman and Martin Regan all played for Cardiff.
The Club lost a replay to Cardiff Hibernians in the Mallett Cup after winning the first game only to be instructed to play again by the Cardiff and District Committee on a technicality. Opponents that year included Dinas Powys, Roath Road Brotherhood, Pill Harriers, Machen, Loudouns, Bargoed, Newport Hibernians, Barry, Spillers, Llanishen, St.Mary’s C.Y.M.S., Porth, Longcross, Pontyclun and St. Mary’s Canton.
The St. Peter’s United team were now led by Tommy Gorman, one of those players who played for Cardiff during the season, with Paddy Whelan as vice captain. Daniel Dunn was Secretary and in the Magazine he somewhat pompously announced that ‘his team are equal to any other team as far as clean football is concerned and are held in high esteem by all teams they have played’. The United used to meet in the Shamrock Hotel in City Road and in an early display of commercial acumen were sponsored by the landlord. However in March 1924 the United joined the C.Y.M.S. en bloc. This attempt at reconciliation was doomed to failure as the C.Y.M.S. made clear when they recorded ‘continuance of membership will depend largely n their ability to keep the chief rules at least and not to make the Society’s premises a convenient haunt for just football meetings on Thursdays’. After such a welcome the United were soon back at the less demanding Shamrock Hotel. In 1923/24 the United drew in the Lord Ninian Stuart Cup final against Senghenydd and shared the cup.
In 1925 Bernard Turnbull of Cardiff R.F.C. was capped against Ireland. He became the fifth St. Peter’s cap and was to win six in all. In the same year Johnny Kelleher, who had been at St. Peter’s school but was then at St. Illtyd’s, won a schoolboy international cap.
In 1924/25 Dennis McCarthy was the captain of the C.Y.M.S. with Charles O’Brien and John O’Neill as joint Secretaries. (McCarthy’s three sons, John, Gerald and Tommy were all to play for Cardiff R.F.C. as outside halves.) Players included M.Cummins, Roland Page, Mike Daly, Tim O’Brien (‘Tim the Divil’), G. Howe, John Buttridge and J. Ryan. They travelled to Ireland at Easter on the ‘Moorfowl’ a cattle boat and slept on deck with the cattle in order to make the trip financially possible.
They played Dolphin at the ‘Mardyke’ in Cork before a crowd reputed to be 10,000. Since it was a guarantee game they were delighted, but later found that few had paid to get in, the rest claiming to be unemployed, and the Club lost £17 on the tour in spite of the cheap way of travelling.
After a few quiet years, the school team, led by Garry O’Neill, were again dominant and won 19 and drew 1 of their 24 games. The United team again won the Lord Ninian Stuart Cup.
In the 1925/26 season the divisions in the St. Peter’s rugby fraternity became more apparent. The United team changed its name to St. Peter’s Athletic and were joined by some ex C.Y.M.S. players including John Buttridge. Joe Cullen, formerly a C.Y.M.S. Secretary, became the new Athletic Secretary. Tommy Gorman was captain and Paddy Regan vice captain and players included Steve Doubler, C.O’Brien, T.Radmilovic, H. and W.Sullivan, J.O’Brien, J.Donovan, A.Ellery, T.McDonald, W.Davies, Rowland Page and J.Murray. D.Raincy, an uncle of the current generation of Coughlins, was the trainer.
The C.Y.M.S. led by Secretary V. J. F. Smith and captain John O’Neill did not take kindly to this shift of rugby power in the Parish and announced in the magazine ‘The club is desirous of making known that they have no connection whatever with an extensively advertised club called St. Peter’s Athletic’. The two clubs were involved in a peculiar incident in the Mallett Cup. The strength of the teams was shown by them both reaching the semi-finals of the competition. The Athletic were due to play Grange Baptists and the C.Y.M.S. drew Canton. The Cardiff and District Committee decreed that the semi-finals were to be played on Good Friday 1926. This immediately caused problems for the St. Peter’s sides. The C.Y.M.S. wrote to the South Wales Echo stating their objections to playing on a Good Friday on religious grounds but could not resist a P. S. ‘We would like to add that the team St. Peter’s Athletic has no connection with our club or St. Peter’s Parish’. Joe Cullen was stung into replying in kind. Fr. Cronin, who one suspects was amused by it all, published this reply in the magazine ‘We desire to contradict the statement made by St. Peter’s C.Y.M.S. that we have no connection with St. Peter’s Parish. In the first place we claim that we are the original St. Peter’s R.F.C. (Post war) having still several players who helped win the gold and silver medals a few seasons ago. The majority of our team are old St. Peter’s boys. We certainly have no connection with the C.Y.M.S. We know that they haven’t a third of their players who can say they belong to the Parish. Still we quite agree with them in refusing to play their semi-final in the Mallett Cup on Good Friday. We also protested against playing on such a day and ‘certainly do not intend to do so.’ The refusal of the St. Peter’s teams to play received considerable favourable publicity in the local press but incredibly the Cardiff and District Committee refused to alter the date and hence Canton and the Baptists went through to the final by default. In retrospect a final between the St. Peter’s teams might have been a heated affair judging by the attitude of the officials.
Another ex-schoolboys side with Charlie Walsh captain started in 1925/26.
In that season the school itself enjoyed a fine year with 21 wins from 22 games and scored 360 points for whilst conceding only 33. Their only defeat was at the hands of St. Illtyd’s but even that was avenged. Their players included Garry O’Neill (captain), the son of the international Billy Neill (for some reason Billy had dropped the ’0′), John Manley, John Regan, W.Francis, Pat Downey, W. Hurley, Bernard Mahoney (a cousin of John Ring), John ‘Slogger’ Hill, Patsie Manley and Andrew Coughlin. These names were to occur again and again over the next few years as they began playing senior rugby for St. Peter’s. The crucial school game which clinched the league title was against St. David’s and the Rocks won 9-3 but not before the St. David’s outside-half, Tom Regan, had opened the scoring with a try which was recorded thus: ‘This boy introduced a move which I think is quite new in rugby. He not only deceived our boys but I think every person on the field!’ Sadly the scribe does not detail this intriguing move but it was surely typical of Tom Regan who led not only St. David’s but also Cardiff Schools and was destined to become the Chairman of St. Peter’s R.F.C. in the Post-war Years.
It is interesting to note that the referees in those days were appointed at the Glove and Shears Hotel at the corner of Kingsway and Duke Street before it was redeveloped. The meeting was on each Monday evening and the Hotel acted as the headquarters of the Cardiff and District Rugby Union. The Secretary was Bob John, well known as a rugby administrator.
The 1926/27 season opened with a strange note in the Parish Magazine from John Lord the sportsmaster of St. Peter’s School. ‘A few words are necessary about the prominence given to the school concerning the team turning over to the Northern Union code. Here again we have the press making a mountain out of a mole heap. The supposed offer of £50 to be granted to the school for equipment, etc. was never made except in jest. It is true that the subject of playing the Northern Union code was discussed with me but even the gentleman speaking knew that unless it could be done by all schools in the Union it would simply be a failure.’ That such a thought could have even crossed the mind of the worthy sportsmaster must have brought a few of the old officials near to heart attacks! The matter was quickly buried and never mentioned again. The school side was to win the league for the second year in succession.
The C.Y.M.S. side of 1926/27 was ‘but a shadow of the highly successful team of last year’. James Cummins was captain when they again reached the semi-final of the Mallett Cup where they lost to Canton.
The St. Peter’s Athletic team seemed to have disappeared in the mid to late 1920s.
However another team was formed in 1926/27 which was to grow into the eventual heirs of the St. Peter’s rugby tradition. This was a new ex-schoolboys side. Their first meeting was at St. Peter’s Guildhall on 8th September 1926, under the chairmanship of Kevin Turnbull. Turnbull was playing with Cardiff R.F.C. by then like his brothers but he bought the team jerseys, knicks and boots – a most generous gesture which typified the continuing involvement and interest of the Turnbull family in St. Peter’s rugby. J.R. (Jack) Donovan was secretary and Fr. Hickey had much to do with the initial organisation before he was posted elsewhere even as the team was being formed. Bernard Mahoney was captain and the players were those who had featured in the successful school sides of previous seasons. They included Garry O’Neill, J.Manley, T.Kenefick, Alee Grist, P.McCormack the full back, and W.Barrett and Walsh in the forwards. They were giving much away in age and weight so the early matches were difficult which prompted a stoic note in the Magazine ‘Our boys are going strong; the team is as enthusiastic as ever. They are taking hard knocks from older and heavier XVs and their experiences are making the boys a manly and sportsmanlike lot.’ However they began to win more games as the season progressed. They even had a good run in the ex-schoolboys cup losing in the final to a team organised by Cardiff Rugby Supporters. They played the C.Y.M.S. junior side no less than three times – ‘Greek meeting Greek’. After losing the first game, they won the second and the C.Y.M.S. clearly determined to put the upstarts in their place arranged a decider which the ex-schoolboys won 14-5 – ‘the smaller, though cleverer side, prevailed against height, weight and brawn’. No team likes to be described in the latter terms and by the following season the younger C.Y.M.S. juniors had joined the ex-schoolboys in the first act of consolidation.
The C.Y.M.S. decline continued into 1927/28 a year when the President was F.W.Lewis, Vice President Alderman Turnbull, Chairman John O’Neill, Treasurer J.Cummins and Secretary J.T.Mahoney. The captain was J.Hurley.
The ex-schoolboys elected Alec Grist as captain and new names appeared in the results including Con Manley and Steve Hurley. They announced their intention of eventually dropping the ex-schoolboys title and becoming St. Peter’s R.F.C. (no C.Y.M.S., no United, no Athletic!). Finance was a problem and there was an emotional appeal by Fr. Cronin for help for Jack Donovan. Kevin Turnbull’s jerseys were recorded as being sadly the worst for wear. Nevertheless there was no lack of commitment and the team even attracted a large crowd of ‘joiliers’ including schoolboys. They played at Sophia Gardens where they changed under the trees.
At the end of the season a special side was raised by the C.Y.M.S. to play a traditional match against St. Helens, Barry and, perhaps in recognition of the way things were going, it included several of the ex-schoolboys and was captained by Harry Howe who was to join Cardiff R.F.C. the following year.
The 1928/29 season was the last one when the C.Y.M.S. raised regular teams and gradually the ex-schoolboys took over the rugby role in the Parish. J.O’Neill was captain and players included John ‘Slogger’ Hill, Bernard Mahoney. Steve Hurley, Jack Simmonds, D.’Spike’ Leahy, P.McCormack, Garry O’Neill, T.Kenefick, Alec Grist (who joined Cardiff Romilly later that year), J.Fenton and a formidable forward Walkamer. Jack Donovan remained as Secretary. It was arranged for the side to change in the back of the Packet and Pea Shop in Quay Street. Although this must have been an improvement to the Sophia Gardens trees, it involved a long walk and merely emphasized the lack of facilities in those years.
It is interesting to note that there was a soccer team as well as baseball and cricket sides in the Parish in the 1920s.
In 1929/30 the ‘ex-schoolboys’ had dropped the title and, as St. Peter’s R.F.C., were the only side in the Parish. John Lane was Chairman, Joe Cullen returned as Secretary and Steve Hurley became captain. Garry O’Neill played for Cardiff that year but returned by the end of the season. Sadly, at the age of 18, it was his final season as he fell victim to a tragic illness from which he died four years later. An anonymous gift of a new set of jerseys was received. The team, free of the squabbles which had beset St. Peter’s sides for the past decade, improved rapidly and won the Ninian Stuart Cup after a strange incident.
They were due to play Cardiff Crusaders (the old St. Paul’s) in the final at the Barracks Field and turned up to find a huge crowd present but no opponents. They duly ‘claimed’ the Cup but the Cardiff and District Committee ruled that there had been some misunderstanding and another date was arranged. St. Peter’s won by a solitary try scored by Con Manley but only after they stopped a certain try by the Crusaders. The Crusaders half-back, ‘Tupper’ Carey, played with his shorts held up by a tie. ‘Tupper’ broke through and was about to score when he was ‘tackled’ by Steve Hurley who caught hold of the end of the tie. Fortunately for ‘Tupper’s’ modesty but not for his team’s cup chances, the tie did not break and the half-back fell inches short of the line.
In February 1930 a new ex-schoolboys team was formed consisting of St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s former pupils. Although it started as St. Peter’s 2nds it soon adopted the ex-schoolboys title. Pat Doran was the captain.
The school team of 1929/30 won the Championship again with 18 wins and 2 draws out of 20 games. They were led by J.O’Shea with Tom Holley as vice captain. Tom was later to play for both St. Peter’s and Cardiff and eventually after the war was to become one of the best known trainers in rugby. O’Shea and Holley together with Huntley and O’Keefe played for the Cardiff Schools team. This was not an unusual feature as the Magazine notes that a ‘Cardiff Schools team would hardly be complete without at least one St. Peter’s representative. A sports critic described them as Cardiff’s great rugby school.’ Less glowing comments were received after the key match with Herbert Thompson school, which was a ding-dong battle, which proved to be one of the fastest and most exciting seen on Sophia Gardens. A draw was a fair reflection of play but ‘unfortunately our opponents were not satisfied with the result and a protest was sent to the Schools Union claiming a replay on account of spectators!’
The following year the school experienced the sort of play which was to make a Welsh club famous in recent years when they won ‘a somewhat gruelling encounter with Pontypool, St. Alban’s by a rather doubtful try’.
The A.G.M. of 1930 indicated how strong the Club was becoming and a fine array of dignatories were elected. The President was the captain of Cardiff, B.R.Turnbull, the Patron was the Archbishop, and the Vice Presidents were Fr. Fennell, Fr. Cronin, Alderman F.H.Turnbull, Councillor O.C.Purnell, M.J.Turnbull, T.Traccy, John Keane, J.Crowley, W.H.Hill, J.Kingston, F.Hurdidge, Captain J.J.Williams, Dr. McSweeney, Dr. Buist, J.O’Neill and J.A.Lashford. Val Smith was Chairman, J. Fenton Treasurer, and once again Joe Cullen Secretary. Con Manley, a centre, became captain for the following three seasons.
The ex-schoolboys side was very successful for a season or two and, when old enough, several of its members formed the first St. Joseph’s R.F.C. team.
The Club won the Mallett Cup in 1930/31 to reach the top of Cardiff and District rugby. There was a feeling that the 1930s could become a golden era for St. Peter’s perhaps the best since the 1890s and it was reinforced when the Mallett Cup was won again in 1931/32. The hat-trick was almost achieved by Manley’s team the next year but the Club was beaten by a single point after a late penalty goal had snatched victory for an improving Spillers team.
The 1933/34 season was memorable in that Maurice Turnbull was capped twice by Wales against England and Ireland. It is often forgotten that this brilliant sportsman who achieved so much for Welsh cricket was also a rugby international. He became the sixth St. Peter’s cap. Readers will have noted that the Turnbulls had never forgotten their roots and had supported St. Peter’s R.F.C. through thick and thin and there was considerable satisfaction in the Parish at Maurice’s achievement.
In 1933 Joe Cullen junior, the son of the long serving St. Peter’s Secretary, became the third boy to win a schoolboy cap direct from St. Peter’s.
Con Manley retired in 1933 and was replaced as captain by wing Jack ‘Anzac’ Simmonds. The 1933/34 season became infamous for a dramatic event which was to change the course of the history of St. Peter’s R.F.C.
In the latter stages of the Mallett Cup St. Peter’s met Grange Baptists. Having won the Cup in two of the previous three seasons, St. Peter’s were firm favourites. However the Baptists played heroically and won narrowly. Disgruntled, St. Peter’s protested to the Cardiff and District Committee that the Baptists had played a well known local character at outside half, Jack Cookley, who had been a rugby league professional a year or two before and who had contributed decisively to the Baptist’s victory. The Cardiff and District Committee’s decisions in the inter-war years were often ‘interesting’ as the 1926 Good Friday incident related earlier illustrates. However St. Peter’s must have been astonished when the District not only banned the Baptists sine die for playing a professional but also banned St. Peter’s for knowingly playing against him! Apparently there had been some debate in the St. Peter’s ranks about whether to protest at all on sporting grounds and one can imagine the reaction of those who had been in favour of silence when the District decision was announced.
The author remembers his father who was playing with the Baptists at the time relating this tale. Apparently the District were quite fond of banning clubs and it was not the first time they had resorted to this ultimate deterrent. The Baptists simply reformed under another name in the following season and whilst admiring their nimble footedness it is sad to note the Grange Baptists R.F.C., a famous name in the inter-war years, never appeared again.
For St. Peter’s no such change could be contemplated and after protest the Club was advised to wait a few years before appealing again. It is difficult to imagine such a decision being made today let alone not rescinded. The players dispersed to other clubs including St. Joseph’s and Spillers. What might have been a glorious period of the 1930s came to a premature end.
The Baseball Club was left to carry the Parish sporting honours in the late 1930s. In 1935 they reached the semi-final of the South Wales Echo Cup and in 1936 they were undefeated in the League and runners-up in the Echo Cup. The following year they won the Cup (against Cardiff Villa) with Bill Mannings as captain. In 1939 Des Walsh won a schoolboy cap in the only ever Baseball Schools international. After the war Des was to play for St. Peter’s before moving on to Grange Albion from where he was capped for Wales.
It is not known whether the Rugby Club ever officially appealed against the ban in the late 1930s. Soon matters of a more serious kind over the English Channel began to occupy everyone’s attention and rugby football was set aside as the country went to war again.
Technically the ban may never have been lifted except by implication when the Club was accepted for membership of the District Union after the war. I am sure that the members of the 1986 District Committee will see the funny side of this when this tale is revealed to them.
It took a little while for St. Peter’s to reform after the war. The break from 1934 had been too long and all the old officials and players were no longer in evidence. Also many of the players were not demobbed until 1946 and even 1947. The baseball team began playing again in 1947 as a photograph in the book shows but it was not until 6th June, 1948 that a meeting attended by 25 was held at the old St. Peter’s Scout Hall to restart the Rugby Club.
The Rector, Fr. Holman, was present and was elected President with John Lane, one link with the pre-war days, as Vice President. Jim Spillane became the Chairman, Bill Callaghan Secretary and Tom Keane Treasurer. Someone proposed that each playing member donate two clothing coupons in order to help with the purchase of kit. Rugby administrators the world over know how difficult it is, to collect money from certain players and the intriguing variation of collecting specious clothing coupons proved too much for the new elected officers. Pleas were still being made for the coupons months later. Fr. Holman, yet another priest who was a rugby enthusiast, stated that he was prepared to rent a ground for the Club an offer which was accepted gratefully. In a way he was ahead of his time as the following years were to show.
The Club decided to meet every month – a democratic habit which may well have put a lot of strain on the officials who changed rapidly in the next two years. The early meetings were dominated by talk of insurance (everyone was in favour and kept passing resolutions to that effect until the cost of it was discovered) and finance.
In September, 1948 Ken Waite was elected as the first post-war captain and selected Bernard Twomey as his vice captain. Although this was the first season, a 2nd XV was formed but struggled to raise a team on many of the weekends. T. Martin was elected as its captain in November. A Youth team was also formed with schoolmaster Tom Riley as the Secretary. Their exuberance was such that they were soon asked to train at the gym on a different night to the seniors.
In 1949 the main officials all changed at the Annual General Meeting. John Daly, Senior, became Chairman, Des Keegan Secretary, and Gerry McCarthy Treasurer. Daly’s sons were all playing while Gerry McCarthy was to become the Chairman of Old Illtydians in later years. Ken Waite was elected captain for the second season with Peter Nolan as vice captain. A. Martin was 2nd XV captain with L. Norman as vice captain. The Youth team captain was J. Doubler. However both Secretary and Treasurer had to resign due to pressure of work during the season. The new Treasurer was Albert Tyler who was to become a tower of strength on the Committee for well over a decade. He was able to report a modest profit in 1949/50 which brought the Club’s balance to £68/4/11, a figure which gradually declined over the next few seasons!
Waite’s team began well with 7 wins (against Tongwynlais, Old Cantonians, Rhydfelin, ROF, Newport HSOB, Lysaghts and Cardiff Exiles) a draw (Cardiff HSOB) and two defeats (St. Clare’s and Old Howardians) but found it difficult to maintain the pace.
Hence early results were mixed and the winning habit that had been prevalent throughout the Club’s history proved elusive. Fr. Holman, true to his word, purchased a ground in Llanishen and great efforts were made to make it fit for use. Drainage was installed by the players but dressing rooms proved more difficult to erect. Bill Callaghan obtained an old large army hut with a view to it becoming the dressing rooms. It was transported to Cardiff and stored at the Scout Hall. Planning permission was sought to erect it at the ground but it floundered on the opposition of a local Councillor. Sadly the hut was to remain at the Scout Hall and decay. The Club had no home at the time since the C.M.S. (Catholic Men’s Society) premises in Richmond Road did not become available until 1951. Fr. Holman, ever anxious to help, offered the use of the Scout Hall but this venue lacked one essential ingredient – beer!
The Church Bazzar in those days of shortages was a major event and lasted all week. It was held in the School and Fr. Holman, worried about vandals or burglars, had the bright idea of asking the Rugby Club to provide volunteers to sleep at the school and protect the various goods. The Club agreed and all went well until the final Saturday night. The usual two volunteers had increased to six for Saturday and they took with them not just a few beers to smooth away the hours but enough to cause a brigade of the Chinese army to fall about! By the early hours they were making so much noise and havoc that they woke the nuns in the adjoining Heathfield House School. The next day they were admonished by Fr. Holman who was mortified that his beloved Rugby Club had been let down. It would not do to reveal the names of the offenders especially as today they are the most respectable and solid of citizens.
The Club played on the Glider Field in the early years but the lack of suitable changing facilities was a handicap. When matches were arranged with St. Alban’s, Pontypool and St. Mary’s, Bristol a special effort was made to change at Roath Park and bus the players to the Glider Field. Since the sides had travelled further than most, a meal was provided at the Royal Cafe at a cost of two shillings and six pence per head. It is interesting to note that although the former team no longer exists, the St. Mary’s team, like St. Peter’s, has prospered and become one of the most formidable sides in Bristol.
Peter Nolan was captain in 1950/51 when no game was won before Christmas as a series of narrow defeats took place. After a players meeting when they analysed the various faults of the team (everyone blamed everyone else), all the games after Christmas were won. The Secretary was Paul Widlake but he was replaced by Bernard Twomey in January. An annual subscription of ten shillings was set which is much larger in real terms than today. However the impact of such financial support was diminished when it was revealed at the next Annual General Meeting that only 16 members had paid the subscription in full!
Whilst some of the players would have been of dubious spiritual value to anyone, the Club was to provide the Church with three priests and a monk from among its ranks of this era.
One of the stalwarts of this time was Irish prop Ted Reavy a forward intent on creating havoc. On the rare occasions that he had the ball in his hands, his one tactic was to put his head down and charge at the opposition goal line. In one such surge he ran straight into a goalpost and was knocked unconscious. He soon recovered to play on but the post was never quite the same. On another occasion Ted injured an arm when he collided against a line of small concrete posts at the side of the pitch of Cambrian Colliery but he continued to play on with his customary zeal only to find after the game that he had broken his arm.
A proposal that non Catholic members be allowed to join was defeated in July 1950 by 14 votes to 11. In true Vatican style the embarrassing vote was never rescinded, but was promptly ignored. The 1950/51 season was also when demands were made that the Committee proceed with the building of the dressing rooms at Llanishen.
A unanimous resolution was passed to that effect but it was already clear that it was financial muscle and not resolutions that was needed. The financial position was illustrated by the fact jerseys were washed by the players themselves which led to complaints about non uniform appearance at matches and some players using jerseys for training. Some of the more crafty players were accused of acquiring more than one jersey. When it was suggested that jerseys be collected and washed after every game, the Treasurer reminded members of the cost and these peculiar jersey arrangements were to persist throughout the 1950s.
Bill Callaghan attempted to change the system by purchasing a washing machine but some players complained that it was installed in his home and it had to be returned!
The Annual General Meeting of 28th June 1951 was held at the Ruperra Hotel, Shakespeare Street. The Chairman was not present and Bernard Twomey, the Secretary, suggested the appointment of a temporary Chairman until elections took place later in the meeting. The members agreed and Mr. J. B. Twomey, the Secretary’s father, was elected. He was confirmed in office a few minutes later and his other son schoolmaster Dennis Twomey was elected captain to complete the dominance of the Twomeys that season. John Twomey, known to everyone as ‘Boss’, was to remain unchallenged as Chairman until his death twelve years later. He was to give the rugby club the sort of continuity it needed and his drive and good humour were to lead the club through a series of ever improving seasons. ‘Boss’ Twomey also became President of the C.M.S. which was just establishing itself in premises at No 9 Richmond Road opposite the Church. The Rugby Club began to use the premises as their headquarters and were to remain there for over 30 years until their own Club- house was opened in 1982.
In 1951/52 the Youth team broke new ground by visiting Cork. There was an article in the Cork Examiner extolling and exaggerating their virtues – four Youth internationals etc. The officials in the party were the Youth Secretary, Bill Callaghan, Tom Keane, and Harry and Stan James. Stan later became a Councillor and has served for many years. Matches were played against Cobh Pirates and Christian Brothers Cork. The first was an epic and the Pirates, fearful of St. Peter’s strength after the press reports, had imported some over-age players. St. Peter’s won 5-3 with a Brian Drane try which was converted from the touch line by a tiny scrum half who caused some amusement among spectators when he came forward to take the conversion and made little effort to prepare for it. The smiles turned to gasps of surprise as the ball sailed over the post. The scrum half was Bernard ‘Slogger’ Templeman, but more of him later. The success of Callaghan’s team in 1951/52 and the following season in particular was a turning point for the Club. The improvement in the ranks of the seniors followed as the youth players graduated to senior rugby, a pattern which was to be repeated many times in recent years.
In 1952 Peter Nolan was elected as Secretary and, together with John Twomey as Chairman and Albert Tyler as Treasurer, gave continuous service for the next several years. It was something which had been lacking in the past and it helped to achieve a gradual improvement in the Club’s results. However in 1952 the numbers were such that there was considerable debate as to whether a 2nd XV could be formed. In the previous seasons it had been difficult to fulfil the fixtures. Frank Maria was elected captain for 1952/53 and Norman Harris, who had joined from Cathays H.S.0.B., became 2nd XV captain.
Maria’s team suffered a series of broken limbs to Jim MacClancey, Tom Keane, Pat Dacey and Steve Edwards and early results were again disappointing. They finished with 11 wins from 29 games with 154 points for and 245 against. However these results were better than those achieved in the previous three seasons. Norman Harris gradually formed the 2nd XV into a reasonable unit and in spite of the fears of not being able to raise a team a total of 24 games were played, Harris appearing in all of them, with 7 wins and 2 draws, 100 points for and 301 against. Dennis Norman, the Club Vice Chairman of today, made his first appearance as a flying wing scoring 10 tries. There was a feeling that things were improving and it was not taken as a bad omen when the 1st XV photograph failed to come out!
The 1952/53 Youth side, in spite of losing Dennis Norman, Pat Dacey, Peter Stone and Norman Thomas to the seniors, had a fantastic season losing only four matches. They completed the double over Newport and lost 5-6 against Cardiff in the last few minutes. A major reason for their success was ‘Slogger’ Templeman who.had scored 189 points by February when a Football Echo article said it would be a travesty of justice if he did not get a Youth cap. In fact he was not even selected for a trial and nor was any other St. Peter’s player, a great disappointment in view of the side’s results. However five of them played for the District team – ‘Slogger’, Brian Drane, Jim Sweeney, Pat Doyle and Charlie Brown.
‘Slogger’ was soon to depart for Penarth R.F.C. where he became their mainstay for many seasons. He was a great sevens specialist and will be remembered for his contributions in the early years of the Snelling Tournaments, where under his direction Penarth would normally do well. ‘Slogger’ never altered his apparently casual style of goal kicking and was hugely successful. He became the first St. Peter’s man to play for the Barbarians in the late 1950s against the East Midlands and he returned to play one final season with St. Peter’s before retiring.
In the 1953/54 season John Price was selected for a Youth trial and Johnny Evans the season after. Regrettably the elusive first Club Youth cap was still awaited and the tendency for some of the best players to join the Cardiff Youth team continued.
Frank Maria moved on in 1953 to enjoy a distinguished career with Glamorgan Wanderers and in recent years he has been the Cardiff and District Youth Secretary and served on the Welsh Youth Rugby Union.
In 1953/54 the Club began playing on Blackweir although changing had to take place at the nearby Maindy Stadium. Nevertheless this represented a very significant improvement in the Club’s facilities. The ground at Lianishen was rarely used and the changing rooms never built. Eventually the Parish sold it in the 1960s and today at Usk Road it has become the home of Llanishen R.F.C. Fr. Holman would probably have been disappointed but the time had not been ripe for his ambitious plans.
Frank Johnston became captain in 1953/54 and Bernard Sheils 2nd XV captain. Bernard Twomey became Fixture Secretary which was the first time one had been officially elected. Bernard was revived that season when he had to leave the field with a back injury received when playing prop. The trainer was Johnny Howe, one of the pre-war players, but he had nothing suitable for a bad back in his bag. Fortunately Johnny had a bottle of his wife’s cough mixture in his pocket which he applied liberally to the offending back. Bernard, thinking he had been treated with the best that medical science could supply, returned to the fray and it is rumoured that a cough he had suffered from for weeks mysteriously disappeared.
A discussion at the 1953 Annual General Meeting on insurance was adjourned and Peter Nolan ruefully noted in the minutes that ‘it could have gone on for hours’. Early results in 1953/54 were poor but the side enjoyed a fine run after Christmas and finished:
Dennis Norman scored 13 tries, a new post war record.
The 2nd XV had their best season since the war:
A tour to Cork took place at Easter with Sundays Wells and Old Presentation College the hosts. Although finance remained a problem the tour was partly financed by the magnificent sum of £180 raised from ‘football doubles’. Maurice Bingham senior and Bill Callaghan were running the youth team that season.
In 1954/55 Dennis Twomey was captain for the second time with Jim MacClancey 2nd XV captain. The first team won more than they lost for the first time since the war with 13 wins and 3 draws from 28 games scoring 156 points whilst conceding 128. It was to be a landmark and in spite of ever improving fixture lists the 1st XV have won the majority of their fixtures for all seasons except one ever since. It also returned the Club to the sort of success it had been used to prior to the war. The 2nd XV won 10 and drew 2 out of 23 games with 124 points for and 136 against. The Youth won 12 and drew 2 from 22 games with 112 points both for and against. The reader will note the relatively low number of points scored in those days. There always seemed to be sufficient experience in all teams to keep scores down when up against it and no doubt the old rules helped. The highlight of the season had been the return visit of Sundays Wells from Cork.
For the first time the Club began to provide barmen on a rota basis for the C.M.S. premises. This was to be a valuable source of income for the Club for several seasons although it was hardly an efficient way of running a bar. It gave rise to a whole series of incidents and tales as inexperienced barmen tried to serve from barrels which were kept in the bar itself. Without proper temperature control the Hancocks Home Brew could vary from the beautiful to the explosive. A pattern of marks on the bar ceiling illustrated occasions when the barrels ‘blew’ as they were spoiled. On one famous occasion a barrel almost emptied as it was tapped leaving two soaked barmen, a crowd of amused customers and a problem to explain to the stock taker. The small sums the Rugby Club received for running the bar were well earned. In spite of the apparently primitive conditions there were many days when the C.M.S. premises were well attended particularly on Sunday nights in the era when the public houses were not open. On the many nights when the Home Brew was ‘on song’ it was a marvellous pint and St. Peter’s men never forgave the brewers for supposedly changing the beer years later.
In the early 1950s a series of boys won schoolboy international caps. In 1950 Connie O’Brien played for Wales at scrum half and in 1952 Phil Smith, then at St. Illtyd’s, was capped as a wing forward. In 1954 Michael McCarthy was capped on the wing and the following year his brother Tommy and Bruno Carpanini, the brother of the current Treasurer Mario, were capped. Most of these players were to join the senior Club a few years later.
In 1956 the education system changed and St. Peter’s School became a junior school with the boys leaving for the new Lady Mary High School after the age of eleven. In 1957 Tony Canham became the first of several schoolboy internationals who travelled the path from St. Peter’s School to Lady Mary. However the change meant that the name of St. Peter’s School could no longer feature directly when a boy was capped. Hence the seven St. Peter’s boys caps up to 1955 will never increase:
Although the list excludes St. Peter’s boys capped while at St. Illtyd’s such as Johnny Kelleher and Phil Smith, it is interesting to note that no other Cardiff school could boast of more caps in 1955 and even today only a few of the large High Schools have passed the St. Peter’s total. It is an amazing achievement for a small school.
In 1955/56 Tom Keane returned as Treasurer, a position he was to hold for the next four years. A young Pat Doyle led the St. Peter’s lst XV to 19 wins and 2 draws from 28 games with 335 points for and only 96 against. This was easily the best set of results since the restart. The 2nd XV led again by Jim MacClancey won 9 and drew 3 from 24 games. Dennis Norman became the first of many players since the war to be selected for the Cardiff and District team. The Club selectors included Tom Regan, for the first time, with Bill Viney, Doug Hislop, Tony Thomas and Maurice Bingham, senior. Tom was an excellent Chairman of Selectors and always tried to stop the meetings becoming too lengthy. Unscrupulous captains could get their way by trying to prolong the meeting since Tom would support them if he felt it was a way of drawing things to a conclusion!
The Easter Tour to Cork was a great success and included both senior and Youth teams. Ted Reavy hired a car in order to see more of his native countryside. Ted had been a R.A.F. tall gunner during the war and had reversed the normal pattern by being the only survivor when his bomber crashed. On another occasion, Ted’s bomber was shot down over Brittany and the crew walked overnight to a prearranged pick-up point. When they were almost there, they were challenged by a German sentry. Whilst the others were dumb-struck, Ted answered in his thick Irish brogue. His accent was such that even those who had known him for years could barely understand him, so what the poor German made of it is anyone’s guess. The sentry gave up and ignored the group. Ted was later to claim that the German had mistaken him for a Frenchman, but others believed that the sentry had astutely decided that Germany would be better off with Ted on this side of the Channel. After that Ted seemed to think he had a charmed life and certainly drove a car as if he had. Others were less sure of the future and he had difficulty persuading anyone to join him.
Several ladies were in the party and one shy courting couple were kissing in a quiet corner of Moores Hotel when a group crept up on them. A player pinched the girl’s bottom at an appropriate moment in the hope of provoking a row but it had the opposite effect and the courtship blossomed. The couple are now married and it would not do to reveal the offending player’s name but suffice to say that he holds a prominent position in St. Peter’s Parish!
Other liaisons were made with Irish girls and Jim Ellery was so entranced by one colleen that, overcome by a mixture of love and Guinness, he stripped to his underpants as the boat was leaving Cork and had to be restrained from diving into the River Lee to return to her. Connie O’Brien had worries of another sort as he had badly damaged his cartilage in the last game and spent the return journey in agony as players walked him around the deck and filled him up with alcohol to ease the pain. Someone suggested it was best if they knocked him out but Connie sobered up rapidly and threatened dire consequences if anyone tried that remedy. He was met by an ambulance when the boat docked and was rushed to Haverfordwest Hospital.
The precarious financial position was illustrated by the 1955/56 accounts which showed a profit of £2/13/9 out of an income of over £579. This minute profit did however increase the Club’s accumulated surplus to the princely sum of £13/12/3. That is what you can safely describe as operating from hand to mouth.
Mike Sweeney was captain in 1956/57 and led the lst XV to another successful season with 23 wins and 3 draws out of 33 games, scoring 297 points and conceding 116. David Ions set a new try record with 16. The 2nd XV also won the majority of their matches for the first time with 15 wins. and 1 draw from 28 games. The Youth Committee were Gerry Davies and schoolmasters Pat Elliot and Dennis Twomey who had now stopped playing. Something unexpected happened to the finances when a profit of £102 was made for the season which increased the balance to £116! Even by the end of the decade it had barely changed when it stood at £126 – hardly a healthy surplus.
That year when playing at Cymmer, Arthur Thomas had split Jim Sweeney’s eye with his head when they were both trying to win a lineout ball. Jim Holden was acting as ‘untrained’ trainer but had left the first aid kit (vaseline!) in the dressing rooms which were at the bottom of the mountain pitch. Jim, somewhat reluctantly, set off down the mountain. Sweeney stood alone on the touchline for a while but with the result hanging in the balance and no replacements in those days he soon came back onto the field only for Arthur Thomas to repeat the accident and Jim’s other eye was cut together with Arthur’s lip. When an exhausted Jim Holden arrived back at the pitch with his tin of vaseline he found a bloody scene reminiscent of a horror movie.
One feature of these years was, of course, National Service, which deprived clubs of their younger players for two years at the start of their senior careers. St. Peter’s had a policy of always playing national servicemen when they were home on leave even though this frequently led to some disruption of the sides.
In 1957/58 Peter Stone became captain for the first time. Peter is today the Club Centenary Secretary one of several former captains to serve on the current Management Committee. The team won 18 and drew 4 out of 30 games with 271 points for and 144 against. Peter Dale captained the 2nd XV to 12 wins and 3 draws out of 24 games. The Club’s third Easter Tour to Cork again proved to be the main sporting and social event of the season while the seven-a-side team did well to reach the finals of the Cardiff and District and Bridgend Open Tournaments. In general the Club had not shined at the sevens version of the game until that year.
In the semi final of the District event St. Peter’s met R.A.F. St. Athan who, in those days of National Service, could field a side of first class players and were normally favourites for the Tournament. Their tearn included Onllwyn Brace, Brian Williams (Swansea), Alun Rees (Maesteg), Malcolm Price (Pontypool), Leighton Davies (Bridgend) and G. John (Swansea) – four of them were later to become Welsh internationals. St. Peter’s won 6-0 with a try and penalty by youth player Eddie Hunt, now the Rumney R.F.C. coach. The others in the seven were Dennis Cross, Alan Mitchem, John O’Brien, Jim Sweeney, Brian Drane and Mario Carpanini. The anti-climax was that they lost in extra time to Canton in the final.
Brian Drane was the hooker of this era and a very fine one too. He had the habit of consuming a couple of pints before each game, a practice which would be frowned on today but seemed to do him no harm. On one occasion he went too far and kept falling down in the scrums. The referee threatened to send him off and the props were instructed to concentrate on holding him up. Even then he won all his own ball and a few against the head as well.
In 1958/59 Connie O’Brien, capped as a schoolboy eight years previously, was elected captain and appointed Mario Carpanini as his vice captain. Another successful set of results followed with 16 wins and 3 draws out of 30 games played. Frank Johnston was 2nd XV captain but had to resign and was replaced by Jack Doyle half way through the season. The disruption did not stop the team winning 16 and drawing 3 out of 25 games, their best season since the war.
In a District sevens Tournament at Blackweir, Mario Carpanini was concussed but refused to go off. The next time he got the ball he raced 60 yards with two of the opposition chasing him all the way to the line. Mario obviously thought he had scored a winning try but he had run in the wrong direction and a puzzled referee had to award a minor while Mario was led away for treatment.
In 1959/60 Peter Stone returned to captain the lst XV to another good season winning 16 and drawing 6 out of 32 games. Connie O’Brien and Bruno Carpanini made the most appearances with 31 each. In these years of the late 1950s St. Peter’s were to provide many players for the Cardiff and District XV. However the Club never entered the Mallett Cup. There was some concern about the standard of sportmanship in Cup matches. In the 1960s the growing strength of the fixture list meant that the Club was reluctant to cancel games against W.R.U. opponents to play a Mallett Cup match. These were in the days before the Mallett Cup was used as a means of entry to the following season’s W.R.U. Cup. Hence St. Peter’s did not enter the Mallett Cup from the fatal day in 1934 until the 1985/86 season when, for the first time, the 2nd XV were entered for the competition.
The 1959/60 season was when the Peter Williams Cup was awarded for the first time. Peter Williams was a former player who had died tragically at sea and the Cup was presented to the Club by his family in memory of him. Peter had been something of a character. Once when playing at Abertillery the side had changed at the local swimming baths and after the game Peter led the way by jumping into the pool – only to find it empty of water! The Cup was given to the Player of the Year and the first recipient was Terry Edwards who had been outstanding in helping the 2nd XV to their best ever season scoring 122 points including 11 tries. Terry had returned to the Club from Currans, where he was a director, to play for the 2nds. With Jack Doyle as captain they had won 20 and drawn 4 out of 30 games with 377 points for and 147 against. In the years that followed the Cup was almost always awarded to a 1st XV player but there was no better choice than its first winner. Terry was later to become the Youth Secretary for several seasons in the 1970s. Efforts by Dennis Twomey, Jim MacClancey and Gerry Davies to run a youth team in 1959/60 were frustrated and the side was disbanded half way through the season.
At the end of the decade Peter Nolan retired as Secretary after seven seasons which had seen the Club grow in strength. Peter had cycled around the players houses for all those years delivering selection cards. Pat Daly replaced him in 1959/60 and Albert Tyler returned to replace Tom Keane as Treasurer. ‘Boss’ Twomey was still Chairman and Tom Regan Chairman of Selectors and the Club was destined to build on its achievements and prosper in the decade to come.
The decade began in season 1960/61 with Phil Smith as Secretary and Jim Holden as Treasurer. Jim was a Northerner who had arrived a few years before as Manager of H.M.S.O. in Cardiff and had rapidly found his way to the rugby club via the Church and the C.M.S. Although not a rugby man in his previous existence, he took to the game like a native and was soon helping wherever needed. Treasurer in 1960/61, he was later to serve as a selector and eventually as Vice Chairman and his Lancashire accent could be heard discussing the finer points of forward play with the best of them. However, Jim never did manage to cope with the Club’s summer activity of baseball and often bemoaned the lack of a cricket side in those years.
John O’Brien, one of five brothers to play for the Club, was captain and led the team to 16 wins and 3 draws from 27 games scoring 291 points and conceding 103. These comparatively low scores meant that Mike Thomas was top scorer with 61 points and, Alan Mitchem had the most tries with 9. The O’Briens were all fine players and Arthur Thomas, a prop, who today is one of the Club’s Vice Presidents was heard to complain, half in jest ‘John O’Brien is captain, his brother Mike is prop, his dad Jim is a selector and his brother-in-law’s Peter Stone and Bert Byard are in the pack. My name is Thomas – I’m in the 2nds!’. Peter Stone was also Fixture Secretary that season and had the most appearances with 27.
In 1961/62 the author was persuaded to become Secretary even though his forthcoming marriage meant that it would be for one year only. The Club was going through a period of changing Secretaries every year since Peter Nolan had retired. However the other main officers were old hands: ‘Boss’ Twomey was still Chairman, Albert Tyler was Vice Chairman and Jim Holden was Treasurer. Dennis Twomey served for a season as Fixture Secretary and Mike Coughlin as Match Secretary. Bart O’Brien was captain and his side won 20 and drew 5 from 35 games whilst Maurice Bingham captained the 2nds to a good year with 16 wins and 3 draws from 30 games.
As well as the C.M.S. bar earnings, the Club received money from helping to run the Parish Tombola sessions in the Church Hall but both activities were not easy to organise. Phil Smith was the main officer at the Tombola sessions. It was found that only the more discreet members could be trusted to help. Some who decided a few jokes were necessary to enliven proceedings had nearly been lynched by the formidable ladies who used to attend such evenings and who treated Tombola with the seriousness they felt it deserved. A considerable sum of money accumulated which was to be used to help finance an Easter Tour to Ireland. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding with the Rector, Fr. Grimshaw, who had assumed that the proportion of the profits the Rugby Club was expecting could be used for other more worthy projects than a rugby tour. This delicate situation was resolved by the tact of the Chairman and the Club duly received the money it was expecting although in the event the Tour itself had to be cancelled due to the smallpox outbreak that season.
A great attempt was made to improve the running of the C.M.S. bar and for a while things went smoothly but in 1963 the R.F.C. decided that it was no longer worth the considerable effort involved even though the C. M. S. were keen for the arrangement to continue. It was not that they were trying to exploit the position because it was difficult to earn adequate profits from the bar with the modest turnover. At that time it was not the custom to entertain visiting rugby teams at the C.M.S. on a regular basis after matches.
In the summer of 1962 the Rugby Club decided to reform the Baseball Club, which had been defunct for a few seasons. The links between the two had always been strong but it was felt that there would be greater stability if the Baseball Club was organised as a R.F.C. section and so it has proved. As we have seen, St. Peter’s played baseball before the First World War and there was a St. Peter’s Baseball team in the 1920s and it was quite prominent in the late 1930s. The Club had also prospered in the 1950s. The new Baseball Secretary was Jim Sweeney and the team immediately won Division 4 (Welsh Sports Cup). Sweeney was always a glutton for work and today he serves on the Club Management Committee as Youth Secretary.
Tom Regan became Vice Chairman in 1962/63 as Albert Tyler switched to Secretary. The indefatigable Jim Sweeney became Fixture Secretary, a position he was to hold for four years. It was during this time that a steady improvement occurred in the strength of the fixtures, something which is difficult to achieve when Fixture Secretaries are changing every year. Peter Nolan returned to act as Match Secretary for two seasons. Jim Sweeney, who had played with Cardiff and Penarth in previous seasons, was also elected captain and led the team to a season which bettered that of 1955/56 with 21 wins, 4 draws and only 5 defeats from 30 games. Points for were 304, slightly less than 1955/56, and points against 112. Many more games would have been played were it not for the great freeze-up which blanked out eleven successive weekends. The Club provided six players for all the matches of the Cardiff and District XV – Jim Sweeney, Mike Thomas, Mike O’Brien, John O’Brien, Bert Byard and Bruno Carpanini. The 2nd XV were led by Pat Daly after Tony Hassett had resigned and won 13 and drew 1 out of 25 games. An Easter Tour to Cornwall took place and the Red Lion Hotel in Newquay proved a memorable headquarters to which St. Peter’s were to return twice. Mike Thomas scored over a century of points with 114, a feat he was to repeat for a series of seasons, whilst Paul John scored 11 tries for the 2nds and Peter Mitchem 8 for the 1sts.
However the event which overshadowed all this was the death of the Chairman John Twomey after twelve years in office. Most of the players could not remember the Club without Twomey as Chairman and it is difficult to exaggerate the sense of loss that was felt. His favourite songs were ‘Me and My Girl’ and ‘Ragtime Cowboy Joe’ and although younger members may not realise it the Club’s habit of singing them dates back to these times. The latter song is rarely heard now outside of St. Peter’s circles but older members will never forget ‘Boss’ Twomey’s inimitable singing of it. Another song he was fond of was the Boat Song a sad tale of the leaving of Ireland. It has become a sort of unofficial St. Peter’s anthem. The Club was fortunate to be able to call on Vice Chairman Tom Regan to serve as acting Chairman until the next A.G.M. when he was duly elected. Hence the schoolboy who had scored that clever try for St. David’s against St. Peter’s in 1926 became the St. Peter’s Chairman and was to serve for another long period of thirteen years.
The Baseball team were promoted to Division 2 for the 1963 season but proved worthy of the advance and finished runners-up.
In 1963/64 Maurice Bingham, Senior was elected as Vice Chairman and Peter Stone became Treasurer. Mike Thomas was captain and led the team to a record season. Thomas was surely one of the finest players ever to don the emerald green and black and his talents would have been welcome in many a first class team but his loyalty to St. Peter’s never wavered. He has lasted better than most and has played some games for the 5th XV in 1985/86! His team was to play more, win more and score more than any previous side. Out of 41 matches 31 were won, 2 drawn and 8 lost with 461 points for (of which Thomas contributed 124) and 169 against. They had an unbeaten run of 22 matches. Dennis Norman set a new try record with 17 whilst Blandford Glastonbury and Bernard Templeman, who had returned for a final season, scored over fifty points each. Dennis McCarthy played a record 39 games. Maurice Bingham had to resign as 2nd XV captain and his place was taken by Bart O’Brien but the success of the senior side was not reflected in the 2nds who could only manage 9 wins and 3 draws out of 26 games. The season marked the Club’s first appearance in the Old Penarthians Sevens Tournament.
It is interesting to note that in common with most clubs finance remained a problem. Annual Subscriptions were ten shillings (five for non-players) which was no higher than 1950/51, whilst match fees were 2/6 per game.
The following season Jim Holden was elected as Vice Chairman a position he was to hold for four years until a promotion to a new job took him away from Cardiff. Similarly Albert Tyler was about to leave for Bristol and a new appointment and he was replaced as Secretary by Tom Keane who had been Treasurer sixteen years earlier. Pat Daly became Treasurer. Albert Tyler had served on the Club Committee in one capacity or another for fourteen years and he was to be sorely missed. The Selectors that year were Holden, Daly, John Cottrell, Vic Corsi and Connie 0′Brien.
Jim Sweency became captain for the second time and the author was elected captain of the 2nd XV for the first of what was to be three seasons. The highlight of the season was the second tour to Cornwall. The trip was made via the steamer to Weston Super Mare – a feasible way of travelling in the days before the Severn Bridge was open. Inevitably one of the party missed the boat and had to find his own way to Cornwall. The unfortunate player left on the quay side was Chris Corsi who had joined the Club that season. He relates a tale that his brother Vic had been forced to retire and complained that, with the other Corsi brothers living away from Cardiff, there was no Corsi left playing for St. Peter’s. Hence young Chris restored the tradition by joining as a scrum half.
In that first season I remember him playing for the 2nds where his qualities were obvious but they did not include an ability to pass well – a drawback for a scrum half! By the following season he had overcome the problem by constant practice and he was to become one of the best and most inventive players to play for St. Peter’s.
In the same 1964/65 season for the first time in several years a Youth side was formed with Jim MacClancey as Secretary. Jim was to run the side for four difficult seasons. It was a period when Cardiff Youth tended to attract the best players from within the City and other sides struggled as a result.
The Baseball tearn in 1965 reached Division 1 with Mike Thomas as captain. Other prominent players were Peter Mitchem, Barney Daly, Blandford Glastonbury, Pat Doyle, Maurice Barry and Maurice Bingham.
In 1965/66 the author, Des Childs returned as Secretary. For my sins I have occupied the position ever since! Arthur Thomas, Senior became Treasurer for two years after the A.G.M. whilst Malcolm Thomas was Match Secretary. John O’Brien was elected captain for the second time and led the team to 21 wins and 4 draws from 39 games with 331 points scored. Mike Thomas improved his points record with 158 while Chris Corsi scored 11 tries. The 2nd XV won 14 and drew 4 from 30 games. For the first time a trip to Twickenham was organised where the opponents were the Civil Service. Unfortunately the coach which accompanied the party, whilst competitively priced, was unheated and the driver’s recklessness when manoeuvring gave the sober members of the party palpitations. The new Secretary quietly vowed never to hire a ‘competitively priced’ bus again.
One of the great characters playing at the time was the 2nd team full back, George Donaldson. George developed the task of borrowing money into a fine art form. On the rare occasions he ever dropped a Garry Owen he would then shield his eyes from the sun – even on days when it was raining! Once at Ely Race Course playing against a gale he ran from the half way line for what should have been a fine try only to carry on running and disappear into the adjoining pitch as the wind blew away all the shouts of warning and curses of his colleagues.
A motion at the 1966 A.G.M. attempted to change the Club colours to green and white. It was almost heresy to even suggest such a thing after eighty years of tradition and the motion was heavily defeated.
In 1966/67 Jim Sweeney retired as Fixture Secretary and was replaced by Bill Vick while Mike Coughlin became Match Secretary. Dennis Cross was captain and the team won 22 and drew 6 out of 42 games. Sweeney played in all the first team matches. Mike Thomas increased his points record to 163 and Frank Sullivan (later to be Chairman of Selectors and the current House Secretary) scored 12 tries. Des Childs led the 2nd XV for the third time to 14 wins and 6 draws from 28 games although the lack of a kicker had been a problem. Club history was made when a third XV was formed playing its first game in late October. They were to play 17 in all, winning 5 and drawing 2. The highlight of their first season was a 24~0 win in late April against Pontyclun.
The Club’s Management Committee were becoming worried at this time since its facilities were lacking when compared with the many Welsh Rugby Union Clubs which increasingly filled the fixture list. Admittedly Clubs did not enjoy the sort of facilities which are prevalent today, but St. Peter’s did not even entertain visiting sides at the C.M.S. Headquarters on a regular basis until 1966/67. Before that ad hoc arrangements had been the pattern. The C.M.S. had just built a new lounge bar with the help of a brewery loan and were admitting social members for the first time, both decisions being made partly as a result of pressure from the R.F.C. However it is fair to say that commercial acumen was not always as prominent a feature of C.M.S. decisions at that time as their debts to the brewers would have led one to expect. Hence the R.F.C. had to provide their own unpaid barmen for the 1966/67 season. By the end of it, with a 3rd XV now a regular feature on Saturdays, the position had become impossible and from the next season onwards the C.M.S. made all the bar arrangements themselves. The barman who helped the R.F.C. in 1966/67 was Billy Osbourne who accompanied the Club on its Easter Tour of Pembrokeshire. The party stayed at the Penally Abbey Country Club, which had been hesitant before accepting a booking from a rugby club but the standard of behaviour customary on St. Peter’s tours was again in evidence. In spite of this Billy Osbourne was afraid of going to bed before the other young occupants of his room and on the third night of the tour he fell asleep in one of the fine armchairs of the Country Club unable to sustain the exhausting pace. A few comedians placed in his arms a stuffed fox head which adorned the walls and when Billy awoke the shock was one from which he claimed never to fully recover. In spite of the lack of originality many call him ‘Foxy’ to this day.
On the same tour a group retired to a bedroom for a late drinking session. They included Martin Thomas who locked the door but when the party wanted to break up he was too drunk to remember what he had done with the key. Efforts to ‘persuade’ him to recall where it was failed, it was too late to wake others up and no one dared to break down the door and let the excellent reputation of the club down. Mike Coughlin decided to walk along the ledge to the next bedroom in Hollywood stunt man fashion. Since Mike was not built for such a role even at that time, it was a measure of how much they had consumed that the others let him go. The potential hero got confused and only succeeded in walking to the other window in the same room! After that he gave up and the group of ten had to spend the rest of the night in the bedroom. It was only the next morning that everyone realised that the ledge was 6 inches wide and some 30 feet from the ground! Mike has not been the same since and immediately cancelled his interview for the James Bond part.
The Committee also decided to set up a Sub-Conimittee to investigate the question of Welsh Rugby Union status for the Club. Peter Stone acted as its Secretary and our friends at Llandaff North R.F.C. advised on their own successful application some years before. There was much talk about Cardiff already having several W.R.U. Clubs and one of the questions on the application form asked for details of W.R.U. Clubs within a few miles radius. In fact, excluding the Snelling and College teams, there were only four Union Clubs in Cardiff which bearing in mind the size of the City’s population meant that it was very under- represented on the Union. Also at this time it was widely believed that no other Cardiff club playing on ‘Parks pitches’ would ever be accepted into the Union. There seems to have been some stigma attached to Cardiff parks pitches since large numbers of Union clubs including many of the most prominent play on Council owned grounds. For the next several years St. Peter’s were to point out these facts time and again but in 1967 there were many who thought the Club had an impossible task ahead of it.
In 1967 the Baseball team reached the Premier Division for the first time but found the standard a difficult one to match.
For the 1967/68 season two new officials were elected who remain on the Committee today. Mario Carpanini became Treasurer and has served for the past nineteen years. Dick Golledge was elected Fixture Secretary and for next seven seasons carried on with the work of improving the fixtures which Jim Sweeney had set in motion. By the end of the decade only a few 1st XV fixtures remained with District level clubs and at that time the Committee passed a resolution that no more such fixtures would be arranged. It was a bold if not arrogant resolution for a District club to pass but it was used to point out the strength of the fixture list and to help in the application for Welsh Rugby Union membership.
Dennis Cross became Match Secretary in 1967/68 and Peter Mitchem captain. The 1st XV won 22 and drew 2 out of 40 games with 393 points scored. Once again Mike Thomas increased his points record to 199 and Billy Harris scored 12 tries. Pat Dacey captained the 2nd XV to their second best year with 20 wins and 2 draws from 32 games and a record of 285 points. Charlie Ayres was the first regular captain of the 3rd XV, the captain being appointed on a week to week basis the previous year, and they won 6 and drew 2 from 22 games. Things were hard for the 3rds in those early days and only 73 points were scored by them and they conceded 194 but managed to limit the highest score against to 20 points.
Charlie was just the man needed to lead the 3rds through this initial difficult season. Two years before on the Twickenham Trip he had badly hurt his back when playing in the morning before the international. He was carried off on a stretcher and sent to hospital by ambulance. I went with him and things looked grim. The hospital was on route to Twickenham and I arranged for the coach to pick me up on the way to the ground. Forever thinking of the practical side of things I suggested I may as well take Charlie’s ticket with me since the party was short of tickets. Feeling like a grave robber I was searching for his ticket in his pockets when some of the boys arrived and urged me to hurry up since the diversion had made us late. Clutching his ticket I retreated promising to call back for him after the game, though we both knew from our vast experience of such things that he was unlikely to leave that hospital for weeks. As I was hastening through the door I nearly knocked over a rather pompous doctor who entered with Charlie’s X-rays.
‘Nothing’s broken’ he announced ‘You can go now.’
‘Go!’ I exclaimed ‘But he can’t move and we are going to the international.’ I looked the doctor in the eye and in my most authoritative style said ‘He will have to stay here until after the international. We will collect him later.’
‘This is a hospital, not a parking lot’ replied the doctor who must have played truant when they were teaching the part about care of patients.
Charlie, who a minute before had been stiffening his upper lip to hear the worst, tried to struggle to his feet and several of us had to carry him around for the rest of the day. On the way through the door as he gritted his teeth in agony he said ‘And you can give me my bloody ticket back’.
The 1967/68 season was the first one visiting teams were fed on a regular basis at the Club Headquarters at the C. M. S. This was arranged through the co-operation of the Steward, Tony Hassett, a former player. A new set of Club rules were drawn up by Des Childs and John Cottrell as part of the W.R.U. application which was submitted formally for the first time. The sponsoring clubs were Cardiff and Penarth, a reflection of the happy links which had been forged over the years. ‘The Union was reviewing its structure and informed the Club that new applications were not being considered for the time being. The Committee had expected this but the application had been registered and they continued to prepare for the time when applications would again be considered.
In 1968 Jim Sweeney was still Baseball Secretary and a 2nd XI was formed for the first time.
The new craze of coaching had begun and St. Peter’s was one of the first clubs to embrace it. Three former players went on the W.R.U. Coaching Course which was spread over evenings in that first year rather than taking up a whole week. The players were Peter Stone, Bart O’Brien and Bert Byard and they duly qualified. In the early years before most of the clubs had introduced coaching the advantages to those who were organised were apparent particularly in areas such as scrummaging.
By the end of the 1967/68 season Jim Holden had left Cardiff and his place as Vice Chairman was taken at the 1968 A.G.M. by Peter Nolan. Malcolm Thomas became Match Secretary and Peter Dale was now Chairman of Selectors. Mike Thomas was elected captain for the second time but he was to miss much of the season due to illness and a young Michael Morgan took the opportunity to score a century of points (115 points), whilst Dennis McCarthy led the team from prop in Thomas’ absence. With Joe Crocker scoring 16 tries the 1st XV had another good season winning 23 and drawing 2 out of 37 games scoring 461 points to equal the 1963/64 record. The 2nd XV again led by Pat Dacey won 17 and drew 4 from 35 games with 323 points scored. Dave Perry captained the 3rd XV to an improved season with 10 wins and 1 draw from 26 games. Unfortunately the Youth side run precariously for the previous four years fell defunct this year.
Another Easter Tour to Cornwall took place and this time the hazards of the sea journey by steamer were avoided. In spite of the Secretary’s vow, a ‘competitively priced’ coach was hired from the firm that supplied in 1966 but only after Chairman Tom Regan had inspected it and pronounced it to be brand new. Unfortunately something quite different turned up on the day! For one thing it was not large enough and another smaller coach had to he sent for so that all the party could be accommodated. Nevertheless the tour was a great success with matches against Newquay Hornets (won 30-11) and Redruth GSOB (won 13-6).
The changing relationship with the C.M.S. was illustrated when a complicated deal was struck designed to give the R.F.C. a modest share of the bar profits in recognition of the trade they were bringing to the premises. It helped achieve a profit of £178 for the season and for the first time the Club’s balance reached £400. However the Club failed to appreciate the financial potential of the first issue of Welsh Rugby Union Debentures and not only did not purchase any but even loaned three members the £50 required in a small effort to help the Union sell the Debentures. Hardly any Club realised the possibilities and the Debentures were sold to the general public and even then the issue was only fully subscribed when an insurance company offered a special scheme to the public. It was not long before the Clubs realised what they had missed and the St. Peter’s officials were determined not to make the same mistake again.
The development of the Club was now such that the Committee knew that a new ground was inevitable if St. Peter’s were to continue to prosper. The question of a Clubhouse would also arise eventually. A Ground Committee was set up consisting of Messrs. Regan, Childs, Carpanini, Stone, Mike Thomas and Alan Mitchem. Several possibilities were to be investigated over the next decade before the deal at the Harlequins Ground was concluded.
John Cottrell became Vice Chairman in 1969/70 and Alan Mitchem the new Youth Secretary as the Club again formed a youth side. An attempt to introduce a no train/no play rule at the A.G.M. of 1969 was defeated. A modified and very liberal version was introduced on an experimental basis for a limited period two years later but in general the Club has avoided such rules and has preferred to rely on persuasion to get players to train.
Joe Crocker was elected captain for the first time and the team had one of its best seasons winning 31 and drawing 1 out of 42 games scoring a record 589 points whilst conceding 288. After an indifferent start they lost only three matches from early October. The Club avoided District Cup Competitions because they feared they would interfere with fixtures against Welsh Rugby Union clubs but entered the new Harry Parfitt Trophy of the Cardiff and District R.U. which was based on existing fixtures. This they duly won beating Rhiwbina in the final 9-0. Mike Thomas returned to set another points record of 225 whilst Michael Morgan got 128 points. Lawrence Camilleri proved to be the finest wing ever to play for St. Peter’s by scoring a remarkable 37 tries and more than doubled Dennis Norman’s Club record. Camilleri and Billy O’Keefe played in 44 games. The success did not extend to the 2nd XV led by Bernard O’Keefe who won 15 and drew 1 out of 37 games whilst the 3rd XV led by Mike Da Cruz won 6 and drew 2 out of 26 games. The trip to Twickenham was an established feature by 1970 with the opponents being Old Harrodians.
The Club redecorated the Top Bar of the C.M.S. premises where teams were entertained after matches with the C.M.S. paying for the materials. The various rugby trophies and boards were arranged for the first time in an organised fashion. Discussions also took place with the C.M.S. about the constitutional position. The relationship between the two organisations remained close and many of the rugby officers were C.M.S. officials at one time or another. However the C.M.S. Council could not see their way to allow joint running of the premises and the R.F.C. wrote in July 1970 recognising that the discussions should be suspended for the time being. Perhaps an opportunity was lost at the time although the eventual growth of the Rugby Club made it inevitable that they would have to seek their own premises in the long run.
The Welsh Rugby Union announced that applications for membership would be accepted again with the Welsh Districts Union vetting the applicants beforehand. St. Peter’s, again sponsored by the Cardiff and Penarth clubs, submitted their application via the Cardiff and District Union. The Club Committee responsible for this project had never disbanded and much work had been done in the 1960s to acquaint W.R.U. Committee members and other interested people of the strength of the St. Peter’s case.
Cecil Bingham became Baseball Secretary in 1970.
In what was to be the final season as a District level club, 1970/71 proved to be the best since the war. The only changes among the officers were Phil Smith returning as Match Secretary and Pat Dacey becoming Chairman of Selectors. Chris Corsi was captain for the first time and the 1st XV won 32, drew 2 and lost only 6 from 40 matches (83% achievement rate) with a record 725 points for and 228 against. Mike Thomas improved his points record to 237 whilst Lawrence Camilleri scored no less than 44 tries, a record that stands to this day. During this and the previous season Camilleri was quite amazing scoring again and again from seemingly impossible positions. Corsi himself collected a total of 76 points from 43 appearances and managed to gather the points from a mixture of tries, penalty goals, dropped goals and conversions. His talents were recognised when he was capped by the Welsh Districts Rugby Union in one of their first ever representative games. It is perhaps unfair to compare this season, when there was still a remnant of District level fixtures being played, with more recent seasons but by any standards it was an outstanding year.
The 2nd XV captained by Dennis Norman did well without ever matching the 1st XV performances. They won 17 and drew 2 out of 31 games. The 3rd XV under Terry O’Brien struggled to win only 3 from 18 games whilst Alan Mitchem’s youth side had little success. However the youth players from this era all remained with the Club and it was surprising how many became stalwarts of the 1st XV in the early 1970s.
The Easter Tour was to Cork, where the Club played Cork Transport and a Sundays Wells team in a resumption of the links of the 1950s. Wherever the party travelled in Cork a Corporation bus would appear complete with a driver and one had the impression that they were being diverted from normal routes at the drop of a hat. Both the Cork matches were won by large scores but in between a game was played against Tralee. Fixture Secretary Dick Golledge had arranged the game with an Irish colleague who described Tralee as being ‘just down the road’ from Cork. It was only after confirming the match that Golledge discovered that Tralee was on the Atlantic coast and involved an 80 mile journey over rather indifferent roads. The Club decided to honour the fixture anyway and see some of Ireland on the Sunday as they travelled. The Tralee game was reputed to be no stronger than the other fixtures and after beating Cork Transport 49-0, the weakest side was selected against Tralee leaving a strong side to play against Sundays Wells. Tralee proved formidable opponents reinforced by several student players home for the Easter holidays and inflicted the first tour defeat on a St. Peter’s team, 11-18, for many years and one of only six the lst XV suffered that season. It was in this game that prop Arthur Thomas playing in his last season before retiring announced to the captain Corsi after one particularly gruelling scrum against some young Irish superman ‘Chris! I can’t take any more!’ He received little sympathy and carried on but the phrase became a favourite with the Club for years afterwards and members derived pleasure from using it to explain all sorts of unlikely situations.
One of the Selectors accompanying the party to Ireland was Bill Bowden, known to everyone as the Warrior, who was later to become President of the C.M.S. The Warrior never spoke ill of anyone, which made it a little difficult having him as a Selector. He would report after even a heavy 3rd XV defeat that everyone was a hero and deserved promotion. He was much loved and the Club was shocked by his recent death in 1986.
At the end of the season the Club won the Cardiff and District Ivor Luke Sevens Tournament for the first time beating Rhiwbina in the final. It was to be their swan song in District rugby.
During the season the W.R.U. had been investigating a short list of 14 clubs which had been approved by the Welsh Districts R.U. as suitable for membership of the Union. St. Peter’s had been lobbying for years and a great deal had been done before the season began. The Club was able to boast of the strongest fixture list (as measured by the number of W.R.U. clubs on it) of any District club with a fine playing record to accompany it. It was running three senior and one youth sides which were as many and more than most clubs could claim at the time. Its disciplinary record was second to none. The Club was also financially sound and had an unrivalled record of stable organisation with a series of long serving officers. The only worries were the old prejudices of playing on Cardiff Parks pitches and not having a Clubhouse of its own. Facilities at Blackweir and at the Club Headquarters at the C. M. S. could however be compared favourably with those available to most clubs and St. Peter’s spared no effort to ensure that everyone understood the position. Many of the W.R.U. clubs St. Peter’s played were kind enough to support the application by writing to their representatives.
Amongst those who helped advise the Club at this time were George Morgan of District C but the main supporter on the W.R.U. Committee was Les Spence of Cardiff R.F.C. Les was, of course, later to become President of the Union and, for that matter, of almost any rugby or cricket organisation in the South Wales area you may care to mention. No man in Welsh Rugby is treated with more respect and affection. With his own Cardiff club sponsoring the St. Peter’s application for some years, Les had been convinced of the strength of the case and his support was invaluable. The Club will never forget the debt it owes to him.
The final act of the W.R.U. assessment was a visit to the Club by Wilf Pritchard of Gwent and D. L. James of West Wales in early April when St. Peter’s were entertaining another applicant Cefn Cribbwr. The arrangements for the day were organised like a military campaign and many members were asked to help in small ways. The whole Cardiff and District Committee and many other friends of the Club turned up to lend their support and a large crowd was present at Blackweir to see St. Peter’s win well. Even the sun shone! Nothing had been left to chance with the arrangements after the game including a brochure for each of the Representatives explaining the merits of the St. Peter’s case and at the end of the day the Committee knew that no more could have been done.
Hence in the summer St. Peter’s were accepted as probationary members of the Welsh Rugby Union. The old warriors of the 19th and early 20th centuries would have been proud that their Parish Club had risen to such a level. Thus ended a long campaign and St. Peter’s looked forward to a new era.
Although the Baseball Section had struggled to run two sides in the summer of 1971 it did not dampen the enthusiasm as the Club looked forward to its first season in the Welsh Rugby Union. Pat Dacey became the first Chairman of Selectors to sit on the Management Committee but the main officials of the Club were unchanged. There were plenty of players available and it was expected that there would be more strength in depth than before while a fresh start was to be made with a Youth team. The 1st XV took the field on 1st September, 1971 at Gilfach Goch for a mid-week match confident that it could make a success of its new status. Within the hour disaster had struck!
The game was closely contested as St. Peter’s failed to find the sort of form which had been prevalent the previous season. Early in the second half a small fracas broke out among the forwards. The referee, who was officiating at his first W.R.U. game, blew his whistle twice and then waved his arms in the air and abandoned the game. The players and spectators were dumbfounded whilst the St. Peter’s officials were horrified. I remember rushing back to Cardiff to inform Les Spence. He claims to recall what I was wearing to this day and insists on relating the story at every opportunity. He contacted Bill Clement, the Secretary of the Union to break the news. The Club had not even been in the Union sixty minutes yet it was in the sort of trouble Committees have nightmares about.
When the referee’s report was received it stated that the match had been played in good spirit up until the incident. In fact not even one penalty had been awarded for foul play. The report stated that the captains had been involved in the fracas but the St. Peter’s captain was fullback Mike Thomas who could hardly have been further from the problem and had no chance to intervene. Both Clubs replied explaining in like terms the position as they saw it. In the case of St. Peter’s, the Club was at pains to illustrate its fine disciplinary record as a District Club.
Whilst it was plain to those who were there that an inexperienced referee had not known how to react when faced by a relatively small incident, there was the fear that the Union would take strong action since all reasonable administrators are inclined to support referees. It was with considerable relief that the Club received the news that the Union had decided to take no further action other than deplore the sort of scenes described in the referee’s report. Sadly the referee resigned shortly afterwards but the affair did help to cause a tightening up of the procedure of accepting referees onto the W.R.U. list. Years later Bill Clement was fond of telling me that the St. Peter’s discipline record was second to none but what he must have thought when his experience of us was limited to one hour I shudder to think.
After this dramatic beginning the Ist XV began playing consistently well. Joe Crocker, who was injured when the Gilfach Goch game took place, was captain for the second time and he was part of a fine three- quarter line which included Andy Laver and wings Lawrence Camilleri and Frank Sullivan. Mike Thomas continued to score freely helped by the change in the law which increased the value of a try to four points and reached 180 for the season. However he was overtaken by Chris Corsi who set a new record with 276 points. Corsi developed the habit of insisting on taking any goal kick near the posts on the grounds that he was more accurate than the siege gun boot of Thomas. It was difficult to argue against this since in truth he never missed. He also developed a drop kick normally from the base of scrums and was hugely successful scoring 18 in all, a record that still stands. With two such prolific points gatherers available and with Camilleri scoring 33 tries the side easily passed the highest ever number of points scoring 919 in all. They won 31 and lost 10 of their games in a magnificent start to the period as a Union Club.
The 2nd XV led by John O’Brien also scored a record 466 points and won 22 and drew 1 of their 37 games while the 3rd XV led by Dick Golledge, not to be outdone, reached a record of 385 points and won the majority of its games for the first time with 15 wins and 1 draw from 29 games. So many players were available particularly in the early part of the season that a 4th XV was raised on seven occasions. Although 4th XVs are not uncommon today they were virtually unheard of at that time in Wales and the Club was delighted to form one. However it was probably stretching itself and there was a lack of experienced players available. At the end of the season several of the players in the 3rd and 4th XVs decided to leave and form a new club, Cardiff Cossacks, and it was some years before the Club ran a 4th XV again.
For the first time visitors from America were entertained when Columbia University were beaten 44-4. They proved most popular tourists and the party, which included ladies, were hosted by members. In fact Chairman Tom Regan who organised the hosting decided to ask a few too many hosts just to make sure. When everyone met at the C.M.S. on a Sunday morning to collect the guests and take them home to a traditional British Sunday lunch the last to arrive found there were no visitors left and had to explain the position to their wives or mothers who had been making special preparations. For months afterwards Tom became used to being accosted by irate St. Peter’s ladies but he remained imperturbable. The Club again visited London at the time of the Twickenham international and beat Old Harrodians in the morning.
At the end of the season St. Peter’s were able to enter the East District Sevens section of the National Tournament and did well before losing to the eventual winners in the semi-final.
The Youth team played 26 games and although they won only 5 the main thing was that they were playing regularly. Jack Doyle was Secretary and Peter Nolan Assistant. In order to encourage the team the qualifications for a Club tie which had always been 30 matches played for the senior sides was widened so that two Youth games were to count as one senior one. The Committee decided by a large majority to vote against a proposed Welsh Youth tour of South Africa. The Club has consistently seen the South African question in moral terms and has never altered its initial stance.
It was in 1971/72 that the Club began training at the National Sports Centre at Sophia Gardens under floodlights. Before then the Lady Mary High School gym had been used.
The current tie was introduced and brought to an end a popular past time with the Committee of designing a new tie every few years. The word ‘Cardiff’ was omitted for the first time.
On the social side a Dinner Dance was held in December to celebrate the achievement of W.R.U. status. Constitutional discussions with the C.M.S. began again and there were even attempts to hold small dances in the top bar of the C.M.S. premises. These were abandoned when one of the Committee, a builder, advised that the floor could collapse. I have never felt safe in the top bar since.
At the end of the season the Club supported moves to form a league among East District clubs. In order that all eligible clubs would participate the system eventually adopted was one based on existing fixtures but St. Peter’s support for the league concept has never wavered.
In the summer of 1972, the Baseball team with Cecil Bingham still Secretary, was led by Alan Mitchem who had returned to the section after several seasons with Penylan.
For the 1972/73 season the only changes among the officials were the elections of Cecil Bingham as Chairman of Selectors and Pat Daly as Match Secretary. It became the custom that cards were sent to players informing them of match details only by exception. Hence Pat found his reduced burden sufficiently light that he was to remain as Match Secretary for the next decade. There was a tendency in these years for the captaincy to alternate between Joe Crocker and Chris Corsi and the latter was elected captain. The Club expected to do as well as in the previous season but things did not turn out that way. There was a series of injuries to key players and the team never quite captured the rhythm of 1971/72. It still managed to win the majority of the games with 21 wins and 3 draws from 42 matches. Mike Thomas scored 155 points and Michael Morgan 136. With Lawrence Camilleri missing much of the season his younger brother Chris appeared for the first time and scored 20 tries. The 2nd XV were led by John O’Brien after Bernard Lewis resigned but only won half of their matches.
Dick Golledge led the 3rds for the second year to 9 wins from 23 games. His ability as a negotiator is illustrated by a story of scrum half Pedro Spiteri. Pedro fell foul of a referee who kept penalising him for putting balls into scrums crooked. The more he was penalised the more exasperated Pedro became and the more crooked he put the balls into the scrums. Eventually the referee threatened to send him off if he offended again. At this point Golledge took the referee aside, apologised and explained that the scrum half was playing in that position for the first time. The referee relaxed, the threat was removed and Pedro carried on putting the ball in crooked! It is only when one realises that Spiteri had been playing at scrum half all his career that one appreciates that Golledge’s talents have today been put to use as the Regional Secretary of a major trade union.
The Club played in the W.R.U. Cup for the first time and won through the preliminary rounds to lose 7-10 to Burry Port in the first round. Avia, a team from Brussels visited the Club in November and an Easter Tour to Belgium followed. The Club had chartered an airplane only to find that the Charter Company collapsed with some £76 of St. Peter’s money going with it. A coach/ferry trip was arranged at short notice and a great tour ensued marred only by Avia’s inability to arrange more than one fixture. Cardiff Youth and several of the Cardiff Schools representative teams were in Brussels at the same time and many will remember the epic St. Peter’s sing song at a barbeque to which all were invited.
The first East District team played that year and included Billy O’Keefe and Peter Mitchem. Chris Camilleri was to join them by the end of the season.
In 1973 the Baseball team struggled to stay in Division 2.
The 1973/74 season opened with Cecil Bingham as Vice Chairman for a year and Joe Crocker returning as captain. The side was luckier with injuries than its predecessor and enjoyed a fine year with 27 wins, 2 draws and 9 defeats from 38 games, scoring 659 points. They finished fourth in the new East District Championship. Mike Thomas was now playing with the second and third teams but both he and Michael Morgan scored over a hundred points each. Chris Camilleri scored 20 tries in his last season before joining Cardiff and Frank Sullivan scored 14. Chris Corsi and Billy O’Keefe were in the East District team and Alan Leaman played for Glamorgan ‘B’. At the end of the season St. Peter’s won the Pontyclun Sevens for the first time with Chris Camilleri becoming the Player of the Tournament.
During the year teams from Ashington and Berwick were entertained while the visit to Twickenham included a match against UCL. All these games were won. A party of Japanese supporters who were visiting Wales for the Wales v Japan international visited the Club and contacts were established which were renewed years later.
The 2nd XV led by John Sweeney had a record year with 30 wins from 37 games and the best ever points total of 661. They gave the Club the strength in depth it required. The 3rd XV were led by Alec MacCormac and won half their matches.
A no train/no play rule on a one in three basis was introduced but had to be shelved when the oil crisis limited the opportunities of training under floodlights.
The Planning and Development Committee, as it was now called, continued to explore ground or Clubhouse possibilities. It was a frustrating period in this respect and several leads were pursued without success.
At the A.G.M. Dennis Norman was presented with a trophy to mark his 25 successive playing seasons with the Club, a remarkable achievement.
In the summer Mike Rohman became Baseball Secretary but there was no 2nd XI this year.
Dick Golledge became Vice Chairman in 1974 and his place as Fixture Secretary was taken by Maurice Bingham. The former 1st XV hooker, Brian Drane, was elected for the first of five years as Chairman of Selectors and a Youth team was formed after a lapse of three years with Alan Mitchem returning as its Secretary.
Joe Crocker was captain for a record fourth term and the Club was now a full member of the Welsh Rugby Union. However the 1sts won only half their games and the 2nds led by Dennis McCarthy and the 3rds led again by Alec MacCormac did not quite manage that. Although Michael Morgan again scored over a hundred points and Lawrence Camilleri scored 20 tries the lack of major points scorers was a problem.
The Easter Tour was to Bournemouth while the Youth went to Ruthin. The Youth team did not struggle as some of its predecessors had done and they won half of their matches. The previous season Jeff Addicott had made the most appearances for the senior Club with 40 but in the summer he had been tragically killed in a car crash. His family presented a cup to the Club in his memory and the Committee decided that someone with his zest for life would best be remembered with a cup for Youth Player of the Year. Hence the Youth captain Michael Evans became the first Youth Player of the Year when he won the new Jeff Addicott Cup. A new Clubman of the year Cup was also presented for the first time and the winner was Eric Mitchem who had organised the after-match raffles for many years before and, for that matter, since.
Vice Presidents were introduced for the first time since the war and among those accepting the Club’s invitations were prominent men in the political, social and business spheres of life in Cardiff. They included Sir Julian Hodge who had strong connections with St. Peter’s and who was to prove a decisive supporter in the years to come.
The Club Press Officer, Alan Jones, made contact with the Tongan team who toured Wales in 1974/75 and arranged a visit to the Club. Forever willing, he also promised to find accommodation for Miss Tonga who was accompanying the party! The Committee were left worrying over hotel costs after rejecting hospitality offers of a somewhat dubious nature from various players. In the event the young lady was installed in a suitable hotel at the expense of the Welsh Rugby Union who were left wondering who the hell had agreed to the arrangement in the first place.
Ever since the late 1960s the Annual Dinners had been held at the Cardiff Athletic Club but the 1975 Dinner was held in the Parish Hall. Although it was successful, the Club decided to return to the Athletic Club and were to remain there until 1984.
The search for a ground had been focusing on the Harlequins Ground in Roath. The Harlequins possessed unrivalled attributes as far as St. Peter’s was concerned. Other than Roath Park itself the Harlequins was the only ground within the Parish and was to be the home of St. Peter’s School which was moving to the old Cardiff High School site in Newport Road, a few hundred yards from the ground. However the Club’s informal offers to rebuild the vandalised dressing rooms on the ground did not secure a response and the offer was put into writing in 1974. At that stage the South Glamorgan Council were still hoping to rebuild the dressing rooms themselves but promised to consider the Club’s application for use of the ground when the time came.
Constitutional talks had begun again with the C.M.S. The Rugby Club was concerned that fewer of its members were using the C.M.S. regularly and felt that a change in voting rights was desirable. One of the alternatives put to the C.M.S. Council was to turn the Club into a Parish Social Club but the Council preferred that things should stay as they were. Ironically in 1986, three years after the R.F.C. left, this solution has now been adopted for the premises. In November 1974 the Rector Fr. Jones confirmed that the C.M.S. did not want to change and he saw no reason to press them. Even with the ground question still unresolved the Rugby Club decided at a Special General Meeting to seek its own premises.
Being Rector, Fr. Jones was also the R.F.C. President and at a meeting with the Club officers the possibility of the Club taking over the old Scout Hall in Bedford Street was discussed. The plan at that time was that the scout and guide activities were due to be moved to the old school site opposite the church. Fr. Jones gave permission for the Club to proceed with outline planning permission. It was likely that a favourable deal could have been arranged if the necessary permission was received. The hall would have required a great amount spent on it and was somewhat limited in size but it might have been a short-term solution to the R.F.C.’s needs. There was considerable doubt about receiving planning permission in a residential area for a site without a car park but the good will that existed towards St. Peter’s in the area gave it some chance and the Club made the application. Although the residents association was approached and did not object there were some individual resident objections and as expected the plan fell foul of the planners. It was eventually rejected in December 1975. Soon after, the Harlequins Ground possibility opened up again and the Club decided not to pursue the Scout Hall project. In recent years the Hall has been renovated with a grant and remains as a splendid facility for the St. Peter’s scouts and guides.
Mike McGrath became the new Baseball Secretary in 1975.
Tom Regan insisted on resigning as Chairman in 1975 after threatening to do so for the previous two years. His health was worse than most members realised and he no longer attended matches. Nevertheless his wise council was as valuable as ever and the other officers were most reluctant to accept his decision. For a quarter of a century only two men, John Twomey and Tom Regan, had been the Club Chairman and there was no wish to change a tried and trusted system. Regan saw that the time for change had come and refused to be persuaded otherwise. The new Chairman elected was solicitor John Cottrell and Tom Regan was made the sole Life Member of the Club.
The triumvirate which had shared the coaching duties for eight seasons was breaking up. Bart O’Brien had resigned the previous year and Peter Stone and Bert Byard were finding it difficult to continue to give the time. The author took over for most of the 1975/76 season. Peter Mitchem was captain for the second time and the 1st XV won 21 and drew 1 out of 40 games scoring 584 points. Although Michael Morgan scored 108 points the lack of a steady kicker was a problem. The team was successful in the various competitions winning eight out of ten Silver Ball matches and the same number of East District games. The later was sufficient to take the side to its first East District final were they lost to a very fine Taffs Well team 4-17. With more consistency an even better set of results could have been achieved.
The 2nd XV under Pat O’Brien had a fine season with 30 wins from 39 games and a record 666 points. It enjoyed the services of Mike Thomas for most of the year and he scored 169 points. In the Harry Parfitt Trophy they won eight out of ten matches and won the Trophy by beating Pentrych 2nds in the final 12-9. Thus this Trophy won in its inaugural year of 1970 by the 1sts was now captured six years later by the 2nds. Tony Muston was 3rd XV captain and his side won 11 and drew 3 out of 27 games while a 4th XV played on three occasions. The Youth team for whom Chris Nicolson scored 63 points and Michael Chadwick 10 tries, won 12 and drew 1 from 29 games. The Youth Committee consisted of Alan Mitchem, Peter Nolan and Alec MacCormac. They arranged a tour to Southend for the team. They were pleased to note that Lawrence O’Brien who had played with the team a few years before won a Youth International Cap while playing with Cardiff Youth. However the days when players would have to leave St. Peter’s to gain Youth honours were coming to an end.
The usual trip to Twickenham included a match against High Wycombe when a scratch side lost heavily. At the time of the Wales v France match a side from La Rochelle was entertained at Blackweir. The new Chairman covered himself in glory by welcoming them in French and Tom Regan explained to everyone what a smart move they had made in electing Cottrell.
Playing at this time was a huge, young second row by the name of David Nicholls who had been nicknamed ‘Bonehead’ by his fellow forwards when in the Youth. When he graduated to the ranks of the seniors a captain referred to him as ‘Blockhead’.
‘My name’s not Blockhead, its Bonehead’ said a resentful Nicholls.
On the Twickenham trip the party solved the problem of stopping every few miles for members to relieve themselves by using a bucket which was kept at the front of the bus. Eventually it was full and none other than David Nicholls being next in line was told to empty it out of the door (the bus was in the inside lane!). As he prepared to do so bets were being laid that he would throw the bucket out as well as its contents and possibly fall out with it. Those in the immediate vicinity rushed to the back of the bus for a less dangerous view. David disappointed the prophets of doom by emptying the bucket without any difficulty but could not shut the door because a curtain had become caught in it. He placed the bucket on the step, stood on one leg to reach the curtain and loosened it with one hand while shutting the door with the other – feats of coordination and dexterity unheard of from a second row. However as the door swung shut he brought his second leg to ground and caught the edge of the bucket which fell out of the bus as the door shut behind it. It was for comic timing such as this that Charlie Chaplin was paid a fortune! A row followed as those who had bet on him throwing the bucket out tried to claim their winnings.
At the Annual Dinner presentation tankards were given to the various cup winners and the practice continues today. During all these years they have been donated by one of the club’s Vice Presidents, Keith Allen.
In 1976 the first Nazareth House Sevens Tournament took place at Blackweir organised by the Club as part of the traditional Fete on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. It was felt that the Fete needed something in addition to the Catholic School sports, which had always taken place. The Sports had once been a major event but by 1976 had been curtailed to cover the Junior schools only. The Sevens Tournament was to give a new impetus to this charitable Fete and the Club was grateful to the Welsh Rugby Union for giving permission. In its inaugural year the Trophy, kindly donated by Gemini Ltd., was won by Cardiff who beat Newport in the final. The man of the Tournament was none other than Chris Camilleri who had also won the equivalent award at that season’s Snelling Sevens.
Brian Drane and Maurice Barry were running the baseball team in the summer of 1976.
For the 1976/77 season the Committee decided to appoint a new coach and were fortunate to be able to obtain the services of John McCarthy. John was a W.R.U. coach who had served Llandaff North R.F.C. with distinction for many years. He appointed Brian Mitchell, who had joined the Club the previous year, as his Assistant. John was to work closely with the new captain Kevin Snook. At their request the Committee introduced a stronger no train/no play rule for the 1st XV. However things did not work out well and the team failed to win as regularly as in previous seasons. It was certainly nothing to do with the quality of the coaching. The new rule may not have helped and it may be that St. Peter’s had become a little in-bred and reluctant to accept a newcomer. It was also the year of the summer drought, which in turn caused the Cardiff Parks Department with their usual caution to cancel all matches in September. This worked to the disadvantage of St. Peter’s compared with most of its rival clubs who did not suffer from such restrictions. In any event for the only season since 1953/54 more games were lost than won with 11 victories and two draws from 33 games. Glamorgan Wanderers were played in the W.R.U. Cup and although the St. Peter’s forwards more than held their own the backs were unable to cope with a fine Wanderers back division and the game was lost 6-36. It was not the season for such an encounter. Stephen Cooper, Tony Edwards and Frank Jones played for the East District during the season.
Pat O’Brien led the 2nd XV for the second time to a good year with 21 wins from 32 games while the 3rds also did well under Terry O’Brien in winning 11 from a rather truncated list of 17 games. Numbers were a problem and as injuries increased no 3rd XV matches were played in April. Brian Mitchell playing for the 2nds was top points scorer with 124. The 2nds again won six of their eight Harry Parfitt Trophy games but this time it was not enough to reach the play-off stages.
The Youth team was extremely successful with Peter Nolan as Secretary, Jock Pritchard as Fixture Secretary (this year was the first when the Youth fixtures were arranged separately) and Alec MacCormac as Coach. Alec’s son Stewart was captain and the side won 22 of their 30 matches scoring a record 499 points. Several of its players were selected for the Cardiff and District Youth team. As in previous years the highlight of the season was the tour, which this year was to Cornwall.
The senior tour was to Holland and matches were played and won against Hilversum and Rotterdam A.C. Whilst sampling the delights of Amsterdam several of the party were enticed into a ‘red light district’ establishment. After paying a fee they were admitted to one room but it soon became clear that a second door led to the more interesting part of the building. A senior member of the group in his excitement at the prospect of what lay behind the second door got confused and rushed back through the original one. The ‘bouncers’ guarding the door refused to admit him a second time and he remains none the wiser from that day to this! No doubt they thought anyone capable of such an error was likely to cause a riot in a monastery.
The Club decided to join the growing trend of running junior and mini teams and training began at Roath Park in January, 1977 and immediately 50 to 100 boys were involved. One of the reasons was that the St. Peter’s School did not have a master available to run the rugby teams in 1976/77 and there was considerable pressure from parents for the Club to fill the gap. When it applied to the Parks Department for use of Roath Park on a Sunday (Blackweir was not open on Sundays) the Club was told that it was against the by-laws. Since Sunday soccer had been strongly established for many years this seemed a strange by-law and after protest the Department agreed not to apply it. The new junior section, with Cecil Bingham as Secretary, was to flourish over the next few years.
The author, Des Childs was elected as East District Vice Chairman and has held the position ever since.
The Club were shocked when Mike McGrath, who had been Baseball Secretary two years before, died tragically.
The Welsh Rugby Union asked for applications for its second issue of Debentures. Remembering the lost opportunity of the first issue, the Club applied for nearly two hundred and received twenty four, the second largest number allocated with Cardiff R. F. C. getting twenty five. The ticket rights were sold at a profit for ten years and the Debentures remain available to ensure a secure financial future for the Club.
South Glamorgan Education Authority’s investigation into rebuilding the dressing rooms at the Harlequins Ground was running into difficulties regarding cost and the vandal problem which had grown during the years that the ground had been left unused. St. Peter’s assumed that they would eventually start using the ground and even began training there without dressing rooms in September 1976. The Council called a meeting in December and invited several clubs who had by now expressed an interest in the ground. St. Peter’s were taken aback in view of their offers to rebuild the dressing rooms made years before. The Clubs were asked to submit their proposals in writing and the Council decided to offer a deal to St. Peter’s R.F.C. associated with two rugby pitches and to Cardiff Cosmos A.F.C. with one soccer pitch. The Council felt it would not be reasonable to restrict the ground to rugby alone. The Leisure and Amenities Department of the City Council was to maintain the ground and the Clubs would maintain the dressing rooms. The Clubs accepted the deal, which involved them in rebuilding the dressing rooms by using their own labour but with a £6,000 grant from the Council. In the summer of 1977 the task began of preparing plans for the dressing rooms to meet with Council approval.
In April 1977 it was decided by the Management Committee that all Youth games were to count equal to senior matches when awarding Club ties.
Bart O’Brien became Baseball Secretary in 1977 and Mike Lloyd a former St. Peter’s schoolboy and Welsh Baseball international became captain. The team had its best year for some time and finished third in Division 2.
The Club supported an application by Vice President Arthur Thomas for a certificate for a club on the former premises of the B.B.C. in Newport Road. The certificate was granted in December 1977 and many St. Peter’s people joined the new Key Club the name being linked to the St. Peter’s keys. No one realised it at the time but these premises were eventually to become the R.F.C. Clubhouse five years later.
Bert Byard was elected Fixture Secretary in 1977 and Paul Barry became Club captain for the first of three successive seasons. Paul was a St. Peter’s schoolboy who had played with distinction with Cardiff and Penarth before returning to the Rocks. His experience was invaluable in guiding the team to an improved season with 19 wins and 4 draws from 38 games and 603 points scored. The team finished third in the East District Championship. In those days only the top two sides played in the final and St. Peter’s had an unhappy knack of finishing third or fourth. Michael Morgan again passed a century with 171 points while Kevin Snook played for the East District. Brian Mitchell scored 167 for the 2nds whom he captained to 18 wins from 32 games. John Sweeney captained the 3rds to 10 wins from 27 games.
Sadly a problem of discipline arose during the season when foul play occurred during a 2nd XV cup match. The Club had always prided itself on its discipline record and the Committee was furious. Of the two players deemed to have been responsible one was suspended for the remainder of the season and the other was banned from ever playing for St. Peter’s again. Many thought that the Committee had overreacted but the Club was determined to show that it would not tolerate foul play and signs of weakness then may well have led to further difficulties in the future.
The Youth enjoyed their best season with 22 wins and 6 draws from 34 games and a record 581 points scored for. They were led by Garry Hawkley and five of their number played for the Cardiff and District team – David Batchelor, Stephen Stuart, Bobby Matthews, Tim Tuesley and Mark Elliott – whilst Simon Cooper was capped for Wales Senior Schools. A team consisting entirely of Youth players was entered for the senior District Sevens and won the Plate. To ensure continuity an Under 16 side was run by the Youth Committee on Sundays and they too were successful.
The junior section played almost 60 games at various age groups and only lost a handful. The under 11s were unbeaten and won the new Cardiff and District and the Llandaff North tournaments. The Cardiff and District Junior Rugby Alliance was formed after St. Peter’s had called a meeting at the C.M.S. in June 1977 and Cecil Bingham became its first Secretary.
The social highlight of the season was the visit of the Wak Wak Over 40 team from Osaka, Japan. Press Officer Alan Jones was the link man with the contacts having been established four years before when some of the Japanese had been entertained at St. Peter’s. Apparently Over 40s rugby is well established in Japan and the custom of the Wak Wak club was that over 40s wore black knicks, the over 50s wore white knicks and the over 60s wore red knicks. They brought two sides to Wales and there were three red knicks in evidence. St. Peter’s were not used to such practices but the idea caught on and there were plenty of old warriors willing to risk it on the Friday afternoon the games were played. Among the many dignitaries present was Les Spence who had managed the Welsh team which toured Japan in 1975. The Japanese were much fitter than the St. Peter’s veterans and played with an awesome commitment but the experience of the Rocks and liberal use of substitutes carried the day in both matches. At a dance the previous evening in honour of the visitors, St. Peter’s had made a few presentations of Club ties and a shield to the Wak Wak team and were amazed to receive a treasure trove of gifts which included a magnificently carved wooden rugby ball now on display in the Clubhouse as well as bottles of Santory whisky and a whole series of other gifts. It reminded me of the old western films when the cowboys gave the trinkets to the Red Indians only the Japanese gave expensive presents. The potential interest in veterans rugby was clear in spite of the vague disapproval of the W.R.U. However St. Peter’s were not to raise another veteran side until the 1985/86 season when several games were played.
At the end of season Old Penarthians Sevens, the Club won for the first time with a side which included three Cardiff players in Paul Rees, Lawrence O’Brien and Bob Newman. The Player of the Tournament was Michael Morgan who captained the side. A few days later at the Club’s own Nazareth House Tournament the team lost to St. Joseph’s in the final but Youth player Anthony Hadley became Player of the Tournament after an outstanding display.
The financial position was being helped by support via St. Peter’s Church from Sir Julian Hodge. Also the C.M.S. increased its donation to R.F.C. funds to £100, a small but valuable contribution.
The plans for the dressing rooms were finally approved and work began late in the 1977/78 season. Dennis Norman was the main organiser for the Club and his outstanding efforts were recognised when he was awarded the Clubman of the Year Cup. Now that the dressing rooms were under way the Club felt safe to begin discussions on the Clubhouse project and meetings took place with Ward Councillors and Mr. Ewart Parkinson the Planning Director of South Glamorgan Council. Several sites were investigated but the favourite was next to the dressing rooms. It was clear that the Club would have to present a good case in spite of the willingness of Councillors to help.
In the summer of 1978 both a youth, and a ladies baseball teams were formed in addition to the senior side. Bart O’Brien remained Secretary and the team finished joint second in Division 2. Trophies were now being presented and Alan Jones won the batting averages, Chris O’Brien took the most catches and Neil O’Brien won the Tom Riley Cup for Youth Player of the year.
John McCarthy retired as Coach in 1978 and the author took over for a season. In his final year as a player Joe Crocker became Assistant Coach. Paul Barry remained as captain and after an indifferent start the side did well winning 20 and drawing 3 out of 35 games. The 2nd XV under Stephen Saleh had a similar set of results with 18 wins from 30 games. They finished with 6 wins from their 8 Harry Parfitt Trophy matches. Terry Johnston led the 3rd XV to a record season of 18 wins and 1 draw from 26 games with 443 points scored. One 4th XV game was played but there were not sufficient numbers to continue the experiment. Mike Thomas played mainly for the 3rds but still was top scorer with 120 points while Frank Sullivan scored 20 tries. Kevin Snook and Bobby Diamond were in the East District team and Snook became the first St. Peter’s player to win a District cap.
The Youth had another good side, which won 19 and drew 2 of its 33 games scoring 570 points. Chris Bird scored 174 points for them and Bobby Matthews 18 tries. The Under 16 team was also very successful and the junior section continued to prosper. John Sweeney was awarded the Clubman of the Year Cup for his work with the Juniors.
John’s determination is best illustrated by the story of one of the trips to Twickenham. John had arranged to meet the coach at the top of Rumney hill as it was leaving Cardiff. After a short wait he saw the coach coming along Newport Road but was furious as it sped past him without stopping. A lesser man would have given up but John immediately stepped into the road and flagged down an astonished motorist who was persuaded to chase after the coach. They caught up with it near Castleton but the coach driver was reluctant to stop and did so only when John insisted on the car driver pulling up in front of him! A livid Sweeney rushed to the coach cursing the organisers for having forgotten him only to be faced by a party of puzzled and somewhat apprehensive holidaymakers. Meanwhile the St. Peter’s coach was searching for him throughout the Rumney area and eventually gave up only to come across him walking back disconsolately to Cardiff from Castleton. Today John Sweeney’s talents are used to the full as Secretary of the St. Peter’s Parish Social Centre, which has replaced the old C.M.S. Club in Richmond Road (they do not let him organise any coach trips).
The Club did well at the various seven-a-side tournaments. They lost narrowly in the semi-final of the Worcester Sevens to Coventry but only after losing a man with an injury and then having to play most of the game with six because of the rules of English Tournaments at the time. The Youth lost to Glynneath in the youth final of the same Tournament. The Club won the Pontyclun Sevens and, for the first time, the Nazareth House Tournament. But perhaps the best team the Club raised was in the Old Penarthians Sevens when, in defence of the title won the previous season, Chris Camilleri led a team with three other Cardiff players in Paul Rees, Lawrence O’Brien and Bob Newman and including club players Chris Murphy, Anthony Hadley and Geoff Wyatt later to play with Glamorgan Wanderers. Surprisingly they were beaten by their old sevens adversaries St. Joseph’s 4-6 in the semi-finals when they seemed assured of coasting to the title. A club sevens was organised for the first time that season and 9 teams took part.
An Easter Tour to Bournemouth was arranged at short notice when the original trip to France was cancelled and it proved successful in spite of the lack of preparation.
The building of the dressing rooms had resulted in one of the Harlequins Ground pitches being used in the 1978/79 season and when the National Sports Centre closed its outdoor pitch for the installation of an artificial surface the Club transferred its training to the Harlequins in January 1979. The dressing rooms were not finally completed until the summer of that year and, after a dispute over charges was resolved, a 25 year licence agreement was agreed from April 1980.
Clubhouse plans were prepared and solicitor Richard Arnold came onto the Committee to head the Development Committee, which was now rapidly becoming a Clubhouse Committee as the position at the Harlequins Ground cleared. Discussions with interested parties continued throughout the year and the plans were modified as a result of them. The basic concept included two squash courts.
Although the ladies Baseball team was defunct in 1979, a second mens XI was formed and the Youth won Division 2. David King was top of the batting averages and Martin Daly took the most catches.
As expected, Joe Crocker was appointed Coach in 1979 while Dennis Norman became Chairman of Selectors when Brian Drane retired. Pat Dacey resigned from the Committee after several years as its representative on the Cardiff and District when he took up the appointment of Steward at the C.M.S. Paul Barry was captain for the third year and the team was to enjoy an outstanding season with 30 wins and 2 draws from 42 games and 757 points scored. This was in spite of the lack of a consistent kicker. In the Silver Ball 8 wins were recorded in the 10 matches. The prowess of the side was illustrated when they equalled the highest ever score in a match by reaching 72 against Pentyrch. Geoff Wyatt scored the most points with 171 and Michael Chadwick collected 17 tries. Anthony Hadley in his first season out of Youth proved a very swift full back. Paul Barry, Geoff Wyatt, Bobby Diamond, Stephen Cooper and Garry Hawkley all played for the East District while Michael Chadwick, Chris Murphy and Wyatt were selected for Glamorgan County.
The 2nd XV led by Billy O’Keefe won 18 and drew 5 out of 38 games and the 3rd XV led by Bernard Fowler won 11 out of 25 games.
Terry Edwards became the new Youth Secretary when Peter Nolan retired and during the season Jim Sweeney replaced Jock Pritchard as Youth Fixture Secretary. With Alec MacCormac these were to form the Youth Committee for the next few years when success was common place. In 1979/80 the team won 23 and drew 1 out of 36 games and scored a record 632 points. David MacCormac, Andy Ryan and Stephen Matthews played for the Cardiff and District Youth team and MacCormac was selected for the Wales Youth Squad but sadly failed to get a cap. Andy Bird scored 175 points and Stephen Matthews crossed for 22 tries, both records at the time. The Under 16 team was also successful which was a pointer to the future.
At sevens the Club won the East District Tournament held at the Diamond Ground of Cardiff HSOB and Geoff Wyatt became Player of the Tournament. They went on to represent the District at the National Finals held at Pontypool Park where they lost narrowly to Pontypool themselves. The Pontyclun Sevens was won again and Wyatt again was the Player of the Tournament. In the final of the Old Penarthians event they lost 22-30 to Old Illtydians after seeming to be coasting to victory but revenged the defeat by beating the same opponents in the final of the Nazareth House Tournament 26-4 two weeks later, Michael Chadwick becoming the Player of the Tournament. Thus it was the most successful series of sevens results in the Club’s history.
The junior section was under some pressure since St. Peter’s school had started playing again and the new sports master, Pat Mansfield, a St. Peter’s player, was not keen for the boys to play for both school and Club. With one of the original reasons for forming a junior section no longer valid, the Club concentrated on the older age groups although even here it was clear that some schools were opposed to Club involvement and, with their close connections with the schools, St. Peter’s were not happy to conflict with their wishes. Although there was concern at the apparent decline of the game in the schools, a decline which has continued to this day, there was also worry over the approach of some Clubs to junior rugby and doubt about whether it was the right way to go. After an early season trip to London Welsh, which involved no less than six teams the Club reduced its involvement and by the end of the following season had decided to organise an Under 16 side only. During 1979/80 it helped Lady Mary High School by providing members to run one of the school’s teams.
An unusual incident took place when the 1st XV visited old friends Taibach and decided to stay for the evening at their club. As the club was closing, one of the party was at the top of the double flight of stairs involved in an affair of the heart with one of the local girls (cruder members of the Club suggested other parts of his anatomy were involved!). She gave him a playful push and he stepped back into the void and fell down the first flight of stairs. He landed halfway down on Taibach’s one arm bandit with such force that it moved a few feet and, after rocking for a brief moment on the edge of the second flight of stairs, it descended and fell apart at the bottom spilling its contents all over the hall to the delight of some passing members of the public. The player concerned was none the worst for wear except for injured pride and worry over the cost of one arm bandits.
The Clubman of the Year was Pedro Spiteri in recognition of his many years of service as 1st XV trainer, a service which still continues.
The Club were delighted when Chris Camilleri was selected for the Welsh Rugby League team in 1980.
The agreement regarding the Harlequins Ground was completed in July and applied for 25 years from 1st April 1980. The second rugby pitch was in use in 1979/80 and new metal posts were erected for both pitches. The second pitch was alongside the old disused railway bank at the edges of the ground. The brambles were so thick that several rugby balls were lost without trace in the jungle. In the summer a party was sent to burn them and ended up with a fire so powerful the Fire Brigade arrived and put it out before it became a danger but also before many of the brambles were destroyed. The Brigade refused to allow another attempt and the Club asked the Leisure and Amenities Department to use chemicals to deal with the problem. The Department feared that this would poison the nearby Roath Brook and via it the Rumney River and the Channel. Hence the brambles remained undisturbed and along with them the colony of rabbits located in the bank. The rabbits kept burrowing holes on the second pitch to the fury of the groundsman. Fortunately no one was hurt as a result of their work but they defied all attempts to remove them. It was not until 1984 that the railway bank was demolished to make way for housing development and with it went the brambles, the rabbits and the lost rugby balls.
As the decade came to a close the remaining problem for the Club was the lack of a Clubhouse. The Development Committee held a series of meetings with the South Glamorgan Council and local Councillors to discuss its ambitions and it was agreed that the Club conduct a survey of residents to establish support for a Clubhouse alongside the dressing rooms in Minster Road, the favourite site at the time. It was clear that while Councillors were sympathetic they were worried about resident opinion and the survey would have to identify significant support. By the end of the 1979/80 season the Club was drawing up a survey form for approval by the Council.
The Club entered the 1980s having made vast improvements since reforming after the War but with the Clubhouse project still at the talking stage. It continued to enjoy the use of the C.M.S. premises in Richmond Road and even receive financial support from them (it reached £250 in 1979/80) but the Clubhouse needed to be established if the Club were to progress further.
The new decade began with a shock for the baseball team in an early match. Mike Lloyd was captain and decided to take his team off when playing in a tropical downpour. The referee seemed to think that everyone had got so wet that there was no point in calling the game off, as is the custom in baseball when the weather is really bad. Lloyd, an experienced player and former Welsh international, did not foresee the consequences and the Club was banned by the Welsh National Baseball League. Although the ban was lifted after an appeal to the Welsh Baseball Union, it unsettled the side which could have won promotion with a better start. Mike Lloyd had to put up with many jokes about walking off in the season that followed but it was not funny at the time.
Paul Barry stood down after three years as captain and Bobby Diamond was elected in his place. The team lost two of the players who had done so much to create a running side the previous season when Geoff Wyatt left to establish himself as the Glamorgan Wanderers’ outside half and young fullback Anthony Hadley moved away to work. Diamond’s side played a tighter game but had one asset which had been denied to their predecessors, namely a good goal kicker. Chris Bird in his first season out of the Youth team proved to be the most accurate kicker St. Peter’s had ever possessed. Although the team did not score as many tries as the previous year, Bird kicked with such consistency that he amassed 302 points a new Club record. He was not a long kicker but his percentage rate of success was extremely high. It helped take the team to 30 wins and 2 draws from 40 matches, a 78% achievement, the best since the Club had entered the W.R.U. They finished third in the East District Championship and were prominent in the Silver Ball with 8 wins from 10 games. Gerald Camilleri, the youngest of the brothers, scored 17 tries mainly for the 2nds while Michael Chadwick got 15 for the 1sts. Bobby Diamond, Stephen Cooper, Sean Murphy and Colin Robinson played for the East District and Diamond and Cooper were awarded caps. Michael Chadwick was selected for Glamorgan County.
There was no change among the Club officers but Mike Coughlin became the representative on the Cardiff and District Committee, a post he still holds. However Team Managers were introduced for all the senior sides in 1980. Since there were no general Committee members on the Management Committee a large burden had always fallen on the captains of St. Peter’s teams and the Team Managers were a great success in helping with the administration of the teams. Perhaps the most pleasing feature was that Managers were found for all three teams. Even today when the Club runs five senior sides each one has a Team Manager.
Martin Thomas led the 2nd XV to 19 wins and three draws from 39 games while the 3rds under Eugene O’Brien were very successful with 20 wins from 30 games.
In spite of the 1st XV results there was no doubt that the Youth side were the stars of 1980/81. With David MacCormac as captain they began well in spite of injuries to various players including the captain and the loss for most of the season of the kicker of the previous year Andy Bird, Chris’s younger brother, who was away at college. In 1979/80 Andy had been preferred to Chris as the Youth kicker, though the seniors a year later found that difficult to believe. In his place Stephen Matthews took the opportunity of setting a new Youth record with 241 points and no less than 39 tries. Brendan Walsh scored 30 tries from the wing and as the season progressed it became clear that only a very fine team would be able to beat St. Peter’s. By the end of the year all 37 games had been won and the side became the only St. Peter’s team ever to win all its games. A total of 1,117 points were scored in an orgy of open play. It was the inaugural year of the East District Youth Championship and St. Peter’s won every game with ease but found Old Illtydians worthy opponents in the final before becoming champions. They also were awarded the Carrefour Cup as the outstanding team in Cardiff and District. Six players played for the District team – David MacCormac, Andy Ryan, Stephen Matthews, Paul Deacy, Brendan Walsh and Gareth Snook. The only disappointment was that the Club was still awaiting its first direct Youth cap. MacCormac’s injury spoilt his chance but Deacy was selected for the Welsh Youth Squad, played in a representative game yet was not selected for an international. It was a season for the Youth Committee to treasure and one virtually impossible to follow.
The Youth also won the Worcester sevens, the Cardiff and District Sevens Plate and the Plate in the senior Cardiff and District event. The seniors retained the Pontyclun Sevens for a third year and gave a good account of themselves in the other Tournaments. Paul Barry became the Secretary for the Nazareth House Tournament. At the Club Sevens a total of 10 teams were formed. The usual formula for this event was to place all participants in a hat and draw the teams out with the top sevens players seeded to even things up. Everyone in the Club from Under 16s to seniors were welcome and it is surprising how many forwards known not to enjoy the sevens variant of the game made a special effort to turn out.
The 1980/81 season was the Welsh Rugby Union Centenary and St. Peter’s joined in the various celebrations which began when the Queen’s Message was relayed on the final stages of its journey by the East District clubs. St. Peter’s carried the message, which was enclosed in a rugby ball through Roath and a special change-over took place at St. Peter’s Church. The Club visited Murrayfield for the Scotland international and were entertained by Walkerburn. The Vipers R.F.C. from North Carolina toured in November, 1980 and were most enthusiastic and likeable visitors. Their rugby was rather raw but their tour programme showed American flair for presentation. The pen pictures were hilarious though not repeatable in a book such as this. Like most touring teams from abroad they were accompanied by lady supporters. St. Peter’s entertained them at a dance at the Alexandra Hotel which was such a success that the Club returned there for a Fancy Dress dance at Christmas. There was also a banquet at Cardiff Castle which was well patronised.
The financial position was helped by sponsorship, which yielded £1,850 in 1980/81 and the C.M.S. grant reached £350. In addition support from Sir Julian Hodge continued. Thus St. Peter’s were able to carry on in the style to which they had became accustomed even though they did not enjoy the support of their own Clubhouse. The opportunity was taken to improve facilities at the Harlequins Ground further by the installation of a telephone and the purchase of coaching equipment which was kept in an old railway van bought for that purpose.
The East District Clubs had taken a great interest in the proposed changes to the W.R.U. constitution and were disappointed when many of the proposals were dropped in the recommendations placed before the Clubs at an Extraordinary General Meeting. There was concern that the reduction in the size of the Committee expected had not been included in the recommendations and as a test it was decided to propose the cutting of the number of schools representatives from two to one. The author proposed this and made clear that it was not an attack on the schools but an attempt to show that the clubs were determined to stop the growth of the Committee. The motion needed a two-thirds majority and was always unlikely to pass given the opposition of the W.R.U. Committee. In fact the motion received 205 votes to 123 and was only a handful short of the required majority. The East District Clubs felt the case had been made and did not pursue the matter. The size of the W.R.U. Committee has not increased since.
The necessary Council permission for the survey of residents with the Clubhouse proposals was received and the survey took place in September, 1980. The houses surrounding the ground in Newport Road and those in the roads adjoining the ground in the Minsters were all visited. A narrow majority of residents were in favour but those nearest the development were strongly against. Since a significant level of support was required to demonstrate to Councillors, the Management Committee felt that this was not good enough and to pursue the project for the site alongside the dressing rooms would lead to a great deal of trouble and be unlikely to succeed. Accordingly this site was abandoned and the Club began to search on the other side of the ground. Residents were informed and it is fair to say that the Club gained many friends from the way it went about this exercise. The disused railway bank on the northern side of the ground was the next logical place to locate a Clubhouse and it did not have the potential problems of interfering with residents. Negotiations with the owners began but it was evident that the site would be expensive to clear and it was difficult to pin the developers down.
In 1981 only one senior baseball team played but the Youth finished third in Division 1 with Sean Simmonds the Youth Player of the Year.
The 1981/82 season opened on a sad note with the death of the Life Member, Tom Regan. Whilst Tom’s health had not been good for some time his death was sudden. An even greater shock was a second death, which occurred in early season when Graham Smith one of the Youth Committee died of a heart attack when running on a training night with the boys. Graham liked nothing better than to train with the players and had done so for several years.
Paul McCarthy was captain but suffered the misfortune of breaking an ankle near the end of the campaign. The team won 19 and drew 2 out of 36 games. The East District Championship was altered so that the top four sides played off, as opposed to the top two. St. Peter’s had made something of a habit of finishing third and in the first year of the new arrangement they promptly finished fifth!
The Club played Bridgend in the W.R.U. Cup at the Harlequins Ground in November and lost 3-50. The match was watched by a huge crowd and the visitors were entertained at the St. Peter’s Hall after the game since the C.M.S. premises were not large enough to accommodate everyone. The Club had erected some temporary stands which had been borrowed from Glamorgan County Cricket Club from Sophia Gardens. The weather was terrible in the weeks after the game and so the stands were not returned until late in the season. Transporting them around on lorries proved somewhat hazardous and the Committee vowed never to risk it again. As it was a lorry knocked down part of a neighbour’s wall when manoeuvring and the Club had to replace it. The aftermath of the Bridgend match lived on in the Committee minutes for the whole season.
Keith Paul led the 2nds to 23 wins and 2 draws from 38 games. They reached the final of the relatively new East District 2nd XV Cup where they lost narrowly to Llandaff in a game they dominated. The 3rds were led by Jimmy O’Brien and won 13 out of 22 games. A 4th XV played on 3 occasions. Simon Harris was top points scorer with 137 and Alan Lee scored 13 tries. Sean Murphy and Mark Davies played for the East District and both were capped although Mark’s was won before he joined the Club.
New ground was broken when an Over 30s team took part in a Tournament at Leighton Buzzard in September and did well. Also the Easter Tour to Liverpool was a great success.
The Youth team had another outstanding season with 32 wins and 1 draw from 39 fixtures and scored 960 points. This was a fine follow up to the previous year’s unbeaten record. Stephen Matthews was captain and although he failed to equal the records he set the year before he still scored 217 points including 28 tries. The side won the Rumney Tournament and the Cardiff and District Sevens but failed to retain the East District Championship after losing in the semi-final to the eventual winners Pencoed 6-15. Brendan Walsh became the first Youth International capped direct from St. Peter’s and the Club was delighted.
The W.R.U. third Debenture issue was made in the summer and St. Peter’s received 80 equal to the highest issue. The ticket rights were sold during 1982 to help finance the Clubhouse ambitions.
The Clubhouse negotiations over the railway bank site had dragged on through 1981 without seeming likely to reach any conclusion and when St. Peter’s Church decided to sell the old school site opposite the Church itself the Committee decided to make a bid for it. In so doing they acknowledged that a Clubhouse on or adjacent to the ground was unlikely. Although the bid was not successful it opened the way for the Committee to look at other sites and from several possibilities the Key Club in Newport Road emerged as the front runner. The site was only a few hundred yards from the Harlequins Ground and near the new St. Peter’s School. Negotiations took place starting in the summer of 1982.
A scare over the Harlequins Ground itself had occurred in late season when it was suggested that Bryntaf School be re-built on the Ground. The Club were astonished since the school would occupy one of the three pitches and destroy the agreement they and Cardiff Cosmos had with the South Glamorgan Council. A vigorous campaign was mounted and considerable publicity was obtained but the proposals were soon withdrawn by the Council. St. Peter’s were left with an uneasy feeling that the battle was yet to come.
The Baseball section showed considerable improvement in 1982 under new Secretary Michael Payne.
John Cottrell retired as Chairman in 1982 and was made a Life Member. His place as Chairman was taken by Dick Golledge while the Chairman of Selectors, Dennis Norman replaced him as Vice Chairman. The new Chairman of Selectors was Frank Sullivan. Tony Barry was elected as Match Secretary and Phil Smith returned as Fixture Secretary for a year.
Michael Evans, a former youth captain, led the team in a season the Club was destined to move into its own Clubhouse. Another good set of results followed with 21 wins and 3 draws from 39 games. The team seemed likely to do even better but suffered a series of injuries in the last few months of the season. No 8 David MacCormac and scrum half John Taylor proved difficult to replace. The team finished third in the East District Championship and lost to the eventual winners, Old Illtydians, in the semi-final 18-21. Before his injury David MacCormac had played for the East District together with his brother Stewart and Paul Deacy. Stewart MacCormac had also played for Glamorgan County. The top points scorer was Richard McCarthy in his first year out of Youth with 240 points and Stephen Saleh scored 18 tries. The side met Newport at Rodney Parade in the W.R.U. Cup and played creditably before losing 4-24.
Terry Thompson led the 2nds to an excellent season with 24 wins from 34 games and a record number of points of 716. Mike Morgan the former first team outside half led the 3rds to 14 wins and 3 draws from 32 games and once the Clubhouse was opened a 4th XV played 12 times winning 8 of them. The Easter Tour was to the North East and was marvellously organised by Paul Barry. It was an Easter when snow fell and the party was in danger of being cut off at one stage. The rumour was that Barry had been awarded the Order of Lenin for his services to Russian Tourism!
The youth had another brilliant team, which won 35 and drew 1 of their 40 games. They showed their quality early on when in successive weeks they beat Pontypridd 21-3, Cardiff 33-12, Newport 22-6, and Glamorgan Wanderers 33-9. They won the East District Youth Championship beating Dinas Powis 38-11 in the final. They were led by Paul Ring an outstanding No 8 who also led the Cardiff and District Youth which included Wayne Parsons, David Hopkins, Chris Norman and Brendan Walsh. Walsh missed much of the year with injury and did not add to his Welsh caps but Ring was selected for the Welsh Squad and the Club was disappointed when he did not get a cap. Norman was top scorer with 202 points and 26 tries. The team also won the Fitzalan sevens, the Rumney Tournament and the Cardiff and District Youth Team of the Year.
The Clubhouse discussions proved difficult but a price of £90,000 was agreed which reached £100,100 when all expenses were taken into account. The Club had raised £20,000 through its efforts mainly from W.R.U. Debentures but the balance proved to be more than the brewers were prepared to finance. The deal seemed likely to fall through when, not for the first time, Vice President Sir Julian Hodge came to the rescue. He arranged a bank loan for half the amount required and through charitable channels covered the initial interest payments. The remaining money was borrowed from S. A. Brain Ltd.
The Club was opened in mid December 1982 with Terry and Pat Donovan as Steward and Stewardess. The final major development in the history of the Club was thus finally complete after a long and frustrating search. The R.F.C. left the shelter of the C.M.S. premises after 30 years and marked the occasion by presenting them with a plaque. The two organizations remain close to this day. In order to cope with the new circumstances three new positions were created on the Management Committee. Richard Arnold who had led the Development Committee became House Secretary, Peter Mitchem was the Social Secretary and Dennis Norman doubled up as Membership Secretary as well as Vice Chairman.
The Baseball team celebrated their arrival in the new Clubhouse by an unbeaten league run of 14 games and won promotion to Division 1. They also reached the final of the Ocean Cup.
In the summer of 1984 Joe Crocker became Fixture Secretary although he was to remain as Coach for the next two years. Jim Sweeney doubled as Membership and Youth Secretaries but all other officers were unchanged for what was to be the best ever season for the seniors as a whole. Stewart MacCormac was captain and the 1sts promised much and seemed likely to win one of the major trophies. Simon Harris returned from two seasons with Newport to prove an outstanding fullback, while Colin Morgan who had played with Pontypool and Neath set his seal on the style of play from outside half. Robert Ringwood’s talents as a tight head prop were recognised by East District selections where he joined wing Paul Deacy who scored 33 tries in the season. Paul Ring in his first season out of Youth established a place in the back row. They were to finish with 28 wins and 1 draw from 39 games and the second highest number of points ever at 779. Most of the ten defeats were in uncertain start when some of the above players were unavailable.
They finished top of the East District Championship and with nine wins and a draw and 41 tries reached the final stages of the Silver Ball. In the latter they met Seven Sisters in a play-off at Pyle and spent much of the game on the attack only to find the opposition defense a strong one and a late long range penalty goal gave Seven Sisters a 7-6 victory. After beating Rhiwbina 35-3 in the semi-final they met Rumney in the East District final at Cardiff Arms Park in front of a record crowd of about 1,000. Ironically Rumney had finished in fourth place in the Championship by courtesy of St. Peter’s who had beaten former champions Llanharan easily when Llanharan had needed a win to secure fourth place. The St. Peter’s pack won enough ball to win the game twice over but the backs failed to perform on the night and the final score was 14-11 to Rumney after a Colin Morgan penalty had hit the crossbar with what was the last kick of the match. It was a cracking game, which further enhanced the prestige of the East District but it was a frustrating result for the Rocks.
Many in the Club thought the selectors had been wrong to retain winning sides and several players who may have been in the 1sts remained in the 2nds. This view tended to be reinforced when the 2nds met Rumney in the final of the East District Cup a week after the 1st team final and won comfortably 20-0. It was a record year for the 2nds led by Billy O’Keefe with 33 wins and 1 draw from 39 games and a record 852 points. Outside half Stephen Matthews contributed 216 of them.
The 3rd XV led by Bernard Fowler also had a record year with 31 wins and 1 draw from 36 games and became the first St. Peter’s senior team to score more than 1,000 points with 1,007. They were helped to this total with a record win over TSV Wiedenbrach of West Germany in April of 81 points. Not to be outdone Michael Payne’s 4th XV won 18 and drew 2 out of 24 fixtures and scored 452 points.
The Youth also reached the East District final, so St. Peter’s were the only Club in the history of the East District to reach all three finals. They lost to Pencoed 6-14 but could celebrate another successful season with 25 wins and 2 draws from 38 games. Captain Chris Norman, the son of the Vice Chairman, became the second full Welsh Youth international of the Club. Prop Paul McCarthy was selected for the Reds in the final Welsh Senior Schools trial but was injured in a road accident, which robbed him of a cap and the Club of a double celebration. Norman scored 181 points and Kevin Walsh 29 tries. Both played for the Cardiff and District team together with Nigel Harewood and Paul Culliford.
In the Nazareth House sevens St. Peter’s were the losing finalists to Old Illtydians 11-20 and Colin Morgan became the player of the Tournament.
A special game was arranged with Glamorgan County in September, 1983 at the beginning of the season to celebrate the official opening of the Clubhouse. The ceremony was performed by the President of the Welsh Rugby Union, Mr. E. B. Davies in the presence of a huge crowd of guests. The facilities were such that the Cardiff Schools both Under 11 and Intermediate Group and the Cardiff Referees Society were soon all using them for their regular meetings. At the end of the season Welsh Rugby Union Representative Mr. K. A. Rowlands opened a new captains board at an old players reunion.
Ladies and Mixed Darts teams were formed that year with great success.
At the Harlequins Ground new flats had replaced the disused railway bank and the appearance of the ground improved as well as solving the problems of the lost balls and the rabbits! Cardiff Schools Under 11 were playing their major games on the ground as well as St. Peter’s school and a Welsh Schools Intermediate Trial was held there, the first time one had been held in Cardiff. The Club was delighted by these developments and were only too pleased to offer their facilities including the Clubhouse. However at the end of the season a new scare arose when the South Wales Echo announced that the South Glamorgan Council intended to sell off ‘surplus land’ and that the Harlequins Ground was among the sites being considered. The Club had feared something like this was in the mind of officials after the Bryntaf school proposal and a massive protest campaign was immediately mounted. This involved local politicians, residents, schools, Members of Parliament, the Sports Council of Wales, the Central Council for Physical Recreation, the press including national papers and, of course, the various sporting bodies to which the Club was affiliated. Every member of the Council was contacted and the Club’s position fully explained. A huge petition was organised which was signed by thousands of people in a few weeks. It is fair to say that the Councillors always denied that pitches were under threat but the impression was that Council officers were not so committed to them. However Councillors have to get elected and officials do not and within a month the Harlequins Ground had been removed from the list of sites under investigation. St. Peter’s were later to receive advice from a leading barrister that the agreement regarding the dressing rooms would be held to cover the pitches and therefore could have tested the matter in the courts if the Council had persisted. It was not the end of the matter as we shall see.
It was left to the South Wales Echo’s inimitable cartoonist ‘Gren’ to see the funny side of it with a cartoon reproduced in this book.
Peter Mitchem was captain of the Baseball team newly promoted to Division 1 and they did well in their new surroundings. A second XI was formed again in 1984.
Peter was, of course, the brother of Alan and Eric who are mentioned elsewhere in this book. It is a feature of St. Peter’s R.F.C. rather more than most clubs that members of the same families have appeared throughout its history. In recent times perhaps the most impressive have been the Murphy brothers. The family originally lived in the Parish and the elder boys attended St. Peter’s school. All six brothers currently play for the Club – Chris, Sean, Donagh, Michael, Kevin and Finbar.
In the 1984/85 season Mike Murphy took over as House Secretary from Richard Arnold who retired due to increasing business commitments. Michael Evans returned as captain and the 1st were to enjoy another great season. They had lost only three games by the end of January. One of these was to Rumney in the W.R.U. Cup when the game was lost 15-16 when Rumney scored 6 points with a try and a conversion from the touchline in the last seconds of time. St. Peter’s revenged this with a victory at Rumney 7-0 in mid season but Rumney had the last say by winning the East District semi final at the Harlequins Ground 12-7 again taking the lead late in the game. Rumney were destined to go on to retain the Championship and also to win the new Wrexham Lager Inter District competition. St. Peter’s had again finished top of the East District table but were left with nothing to show for it. However it was a fine season with 30 wins and 2 draws from 40 games a 78% achievement rate equal to the best since the Club entered the Union. When these statistics are mentioned it must be remembered that the Club has one of the strongest fixture lists outside the first class ranks as a glance at the results in Appendix 10 will show. The number of points was a record at 960. This total was reached with the help of a new record score against Thornbury in February of 111 points.
Stephen Matthews scored 248 points and Andy Bird who had returned to the Club from first class rugby scored 222 points. The style of play is indicated by the fact that the leading try scorers were wings – Gareth Snook with 32 and Paul Deacy with 31. Robert Ringwood, Paul Ring and, before he left for college, Martin Stephens played for the East District and Ringwood became another St. Peter’s District cap.
The 2nd XV were led by Peter Sutton and won 30 and drew 1 out of 37 games and they too scored a record number of points with 901. They failed to retain the East District Cup when they were narrowly beaten in the final by Llanharan. Their strength is illustrated by the fact that six players represented the Cardiff and District team which reached the final of the Howells Cup. These were Stephen Matthews, Mike Baldwin, Terry Thompson, Sean Murphy, Sean Quigley and Martin Ford.
Paul Barry brought his experience, which included captaining the East District to the captaincy of the 3rd XV and they won 24 and drew 1 from 29 games scoring 808 points. The 4ths were led by Michael Payne again and won the majority of their matches while a 5th XV was formed for the first time in late September 1984 and under Joe Dunleavy went on to win 10 out of 14 games.
The Youth team while not enjoying the success of previous years still won 16 and drew 3 from 31 fixtures. Captain Timmy Carless, Nigel Harewood and Kevin Murphy were selected for the Cardiff and District Youth team. Harewood was the top points scorer with 98, which included 14 tries.
Paul Barry organised another well supported Easter Tour to Nottingham while the Youth went to Blackpool.
Another development proposal for the Harlequins Ground was made. This involved building houses on two plots adjacent to the dressing rooms. While it did not involve the pitches, the Club was still opposed to the development since it took up land which could he used for sporting developments in the future. It must be remembered that the Club holds 104 W.R.U. Debentures and once Clubhouse debts are paid off in the future the sale of further ticket rights could he used for sporting developments at the ground. Once Club opposition was clear the proposals were withdrawn.
In the summer of 1985 a St. Peter’s Cricket Club was formed as part of the R.F.C. It was the first St. Peter’s Cricket Club since the war. Also a ladies baseball team was formed. The mens baseball sides enjoyed their best season for many years and with Michael Thomas, the former rugby outside half as Secretary replacing Michael Payne who retired, and Paul McCarthy, the former 1st XV captain, as baseball captain, the 1sts won Division 1 and so gained promotion to the County League for 1986. The 2nds also gained promotion from Division 6 to complete an eventful summer.
Joe Crocker retired as coach and full back Simon Harris became player-coach for the 1985/86 season. Frank Sullivan was elected Membership Secretary and was replaced as Chairman of Selectors by Pat O’Brien. Michael Evans remained as captain for what was to be an eventful season to complete the century of St. Peter’s rugby. All five senior sides began excellently. The 1sts won all 10 Silver Ball games scoring 47 tries and all 10 East District Championship matches scoring 297 points. They were in splendid isolation at the top of both tables and finished second in the try scoring competition associated with the former. Unfortunately a series of injuries to key players came as the team prepared for the final stages of the season. Only three defeats had been conceded by early February but several others then occurred as the side lost some confidence and struggled to regain its earlier form.
In the East District semi final the opponents at the Harlequins Ground were Llanharan. It was a similar situation to two years before in that Llanharan had come to the ground in mid February needing to win to keep their championship hopes alive and had lost to St. Peter’s 22-4. Surprisingly other contenders also lost their last games and Llanharan claimed the fourth place in the competition. The semi final was a hard one and St. Peter’s, while failing to recapture the early season form, led 13-7 with minutes to go only to concede six points in the late stages. The referee decided against playing extra time and the Rocks had to travel to Llanharan a few days later for a re-play in which they never settled and lost 11-4. For three successive seasons St. Peter’s had topped the table having played all the other leading contenders but had failed in the final stages. It is no wonder that the club has always supported the principal of a league for the competition.
In the Silver Ball St. Peter’s met Taffs Well in the semi-final at Glamorgan Wanderers’ ground, the first time the club had reached this stage. The match was won easily 37-12 with Stephen Matthews collecting 25 points through two tries, three penalties and four conversions. Rumney joined St. Peter’s in the final after a hard series of matches to make it the first all Cardiff final of this famous trophy.
At sevens, in spite of considerable disruption due to injuries, the Club did well reaching the semi-final of the East District Tournament before losing to the winners, a very fine South Glamorgan Institute team, and the final of the Old Penarthians Tournament. Gareth Snook was outstanding in both.
The East District side won the Wrexham Lager Inter District Championship for the first time with four of the Rocks featuring prominently in its ranks. They were captain Michael Evans, Paul Ring, Robert Ringwood and Paul Deacy. Deacy joined the growing list of District caps. In addition Chris Churcher was selected for the Glamorgan County ‘B’ team.
With Colin Morgan absent for most of the season, Stephen Matthews seized the opportunity whilst playing at outside half of shattering Chris Bird’s individual points record with no less than 441, a figure with which whole teams would be satisfied. Thus he now holds both the senior and youth records. The top try scorer was wing Gareth Snook with 38 who thus became the first to seriously challenge Lawrence Camilleri’s record of 44.
Stephen Cooper led the 2nd XV from scrum half and they too had a fine season. They entered the Mallett Cup for the first time since that fateful day back in 1934. Since gaining W.R.U. status the club had avoided this cup since the six game rule effectively meant that several normal 2nd XV players could not play by the final stages of the cup. The Management Committee decided that the overall strength of the club in the 1980s now justified putting up with this handicap and so it proved when the team lost narrowly to Llanishen 1sts in the quarter final. In the Harry Parfitt Trophy they won all 8 games and topped the table. They beat Adamsdown 1sts in the semi final and met Cardiff Internationals in the final at Llanishen. The CIACS scored an early try but then the sides were locked together in a hard struggle before a late dropped goal gave the CIACS a 7-0 victory. It was nonetheless a fine performance by a second XV against the Internationals who dominated Cardiff and District rugby in 1985/86 winning all the trophies. The final 2nd XV results were 31 wins from 38 games with a record number of points of 984.
Several of the 2nds were selected for Cardiff and District including Mike Baldwin, Gareth Snook, Paul Tucker, Chris Murphy, Sean Murphy, Chris Norman, Sean Quigley, Martin Ford, Stephen Matthews and Bobby Matthews.
The 3rds led again by Paul Barry went even better by winning all bar four of their 30 matches. In the Ninian Stuart Cup they lost 3-4 to the eventual winners CIACS 2nds in the semi-final. It was a fine performance but what a pity they could not win a cup last won by St. Peter’s 1sts in 1930.
The 4ths led by Billy O’Keefe, playing in his 25th consecutive season, and 5ths led by Joe Dunleavy also had good seasons to prove again the strength in depth of the club.
The Youth found it hard to repeat the success of previous years and a long run of narrow defeats for captain Anthony Jenkins’ side was the result during the first half of the season. In the second half of the season they improved considerably and won the majority of their games. They were unlucky to only draw with Welsh Youth Cup finalists Cardiff 15-15 during this spell. Most of the team are available next season and six were selected for the District team at the end of the season while Jenkins had a Welsh trial. Clearly the Club can look forward to the future with great confidence.
A new feature in 1986 was the formation of a regular Veterans side. Frank Sullivan was the Secretary and some of the players are shown in the familiar faces in the photograph in this book.
The climax to the season was the Silver Ball final played at Cardiff Arms Park. Before a huge crowd the two teams who had dominated the second class season, St. Peter’s and Rumney, met again. After Stephen Matthews had given the Rocks the lead with two fine penalties he left the field injured. The usual superiority of the Rocks in the scrums was not apparent until the last quarter of the game and the Rumney pack won a considerable amount of ball but defences were tight and points not easy to come by. In many ways it was a mirror image of the East District final of 1984 when St. Peter’s lost narrowly in spite of winning the game in the forwards. This time it was Rumney’s turn to wonder whether their efforts would lead to points. They scored a penalty late in the first half but did not equalise with another until half way through the second and only took the lead with a third penalty with 15 minutes left. For St. Peter’s supporters it seemed that Rumney had taken the lead late in the game to win narrowly as they had done in the East District final of 1984, the W.R.U. cup in 1984 and the East District semi final in 1985. In spite of St. Peter’s victories in other games between the teams, it was these defeats that mattered and the thought that it was happening again seemed to spur the players to greater efforts. Several strong drives in the scrums won balls against the head and with injury time being played one such ball reached outside half Colin Morgan deep in his own half. Morgan had been injured and it was only his fifth game of the season for the 1sts. The lack of match practice showed and he had been having a poor game. With the seconds ticking away he made a clean break through the middle, chipped the ball over the full back’s head and won the race for the touch down by inches. It was the final moment of the game and St. Peter’s had won 10-9.
A week later a team sadly depleted by injuries met Cardiff Athletic in the final of the President’s Cup, which is played between the Silver Ball winners and the Usher’s Trophy holders. St. Peter’s had finished second in the latter competition and hence came close to claiming the President’s Cup without playing a final. The game was a fine one with two good tries to each side before the Athletic won 16-21.
The Club’s habit of just failing to win trophies which, during much of the season seemed to be within grasp, was thus broken decisively by the winning of the Silver Ball, perhaps the most difficult of all competitions. In view of the strength of the St. Peter’s fixture list it is very hard to reach the final stages of the competition and the triumph will not be easy to repeat. The success marked a fitting end to the first century of St. Peter’s rugby. The old warriors who had worked so hard for the club in its early years would have been proud to see it at the top of Welsh District rugby.