CARMARTHEN WANDERERS FOOTBALL CLUB
1874/75 – 1910/11
CARMARTHEN HARLEQUINS RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
1911/12 – 1946/47
CARMARTHEN RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
(Known as the “Quins”)
1947/48 to the present
1874 to 2018
The following account of Carmarthen Rugby Football Club's history was compiled by the late Mr. T. L. Evans, BA, the Senior Geography Master at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Carmarthen. The club is much indebted to Mr. Evans for compiling and producing this absorbing account of the development of the club. As can be seen from the above heading, the Quins have had three changes in the club's title, with the last change occurring in 1946 when they dropped the word "Harlequins." The club is, therefore, officially registered with the Welsh Rugby Union as Carmarthen Rugby Football Club. Having been known within the rugby fraternity from 1911-1946 as the "Quins," it is a term that continues to be linked with the club to this day.
1874 – 1974
Carmarthen Rugby Football Club celebrated its centenary in 1974-75. It is worth probing Carmarthen's history for it contains a stimulating account of the birth of a Club whose motto is Llwyddiant Trwy Ymdrech or Success Through Endeavour. Well, what are the particular qualities which make Carmarthen so intriguing? Is it the fact that their headquarters at that time at Nott Square are haunted or is it the fairy tale story of a Club which has survived circumstances where many other Clubs would have called it a day? Perhaps the reason for their success lies in the fact that the players who have played for Carmarthen have been of high quality, officials have been dedicated ensuring in a sound administration, Committeemen who have developed a progressive policy which has borne fruit and lastly, Carmarthen have supporters who have set their targets as high as possible in an effort to make Carmarthen Rugby Club one of the most popular and respected in West Wales.
The story of Carmarthen can be traced back to 1874 - 75. The game was probably introduced into Carmarthen by A. F. Laloe, who became Headmaster of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in June 1874. He came from Cowbridge Grammar School—a rugby playing school. The pattern of formation of Carmarthen FC was probably similar to other clubs in the area with an initial meeting and pick up match illustrated both at Llanelli in 1875 and Cardigan in 1878. Cardigan charged a membership fee, and one must assume in those days of low wages that the game was indulged in by the middle class.
Away fixtures depended on rail facilities with consequent expense. Some matches were played in mid-week in a period when there was no half holiday—early closing in Carmarthen in 1875 in winter was 7 pm on weekdays and 9 pm on Saturdays and Fair days. In a period of class distinction, it is extremely doubtful if men of business and professional families mixed with their workmen, men like Drewent and Talbot Norton in Carmarthen and Buchanan, Neville and Margrave in Llanelli.
The attire of the players at the time seems to be round necked, long sleeved jerseys, long trousers or knickerbockers, long socks and boots. The original colours chosen by Carmarthen are not known but in 1890 they were playing in blue and white jerseys, these were changed in 1897 to dark green shirts with white cuffs and collars, then in 1911 another change to all white jerseys and navy knickers, altering to the present colours (cardinal, amber and black) in 1921-22.
A home match was recorded on January 3rd, 1876 against Llandeilo in a very convenient field at the back of Picton Terrace (i.e. Picton Court). The nature of the game can be illustrated by reference to the local press account. Carmarthen sent the challenge, the number of players to be 15 a side (this was by no means the standard number as there are examples of 10,11,12,18 and 20 a side—it depended on the challenge, for in the same year Llanelli played Swansea in an 18 a side match), the play to be continued for an hour with an interval of five minutes. Carmarthen defeated Llandeilo (Captain R. Shipley Lewis) by a converted goal, i.e. after the touchdown a try was made for goal. The goal being the all important score but if no goals scored or an equal number then the match was decided by a majority of tries. Carmarthen played at Cardigan on January 26th, 1877. After a long journey by train to Llandyssul and then by Horse bus to Cardigan (8.40 am to 2.30 pm) it was Carmarthen who won by 3 tries to 1 try. They arrived back in town at 9.40 pm.
Interest was added to the game with the provision of the South Wales Challenge Cup 1877-78, when both the local teams were entered. The Grammar School were defeated by Swansea at Carmarthen in the second tie while Carmarthen were able to defeat Cardiff in the first round at Swansea, an intermediate point on the railway line.
Cardiff claimed they were only informed the day before and unable to field their best team but it certainly included some of their best players including E. C. Fry, Captain, R. H. Foa and G. J. Stothert who was described not as a back but 'in goal'. Carmarthen played two backs, Howe and Carey; 3 quarter backs D. Norton, Captain, T. Norton and W. Harries; 2 half backs, D. Samuel and Ferris; forwards, J. Rees, D. Rees, Boomer, D. Francis, Bowen, Vauden, T. Harris and Pyle. The backs were defensive with the forwards trying to drive the ball to the opposing line and even in a scrummage attempting to force the ball through. Although Cardiff disputed one touchdown (or try)— the term touchdown was used in later years to refer to a touch-down in defence, known today as a minor (earlier as a rouge).
According to the Welshman, both umpires and referee allowed the try and Cardiff was defeated by 1 goal to 1 try. The Carmarthen team included 4 Training College students, for by 1877 the College was playing the game. Another local team were the Black Diamonds. By 1879 Carmarthen included Llandovery College in their fixture list and also the newly formed Haver-fordwest Club, easily defeating the latter by 5 goals 8 tries and 8 touchdowns to nil.
By 1881 there was another local team—the Carmarthen Towy Rangers – a feature of local rugby was the appearance and disappearance of competitive clubs. The local press was not averse to criticism as in the match between Carmarthen and Llandovery College they wrote “ the conduct of the mob was simply disgraceful.
The Club was also in financial trouble—funds were low and a concert was held in the Assembly Rooms, but they were still playing in 1882 holding Llanelli to a draw at the Picton Court Ground. Enthusiasm was waning for in November 1883, the Journal stated that it is to be hoped that the 1st XV will turn up which was not the case last Tuesday when the team had to field six substitutes (although Carmarthen only lost to Llanelli by 1 goal to 2 tries 1 disputed try). It was earlier in the same year that both Carmarthen and Llandeilo felt they were not strong enough to enter individual teams for the South Wales Challenge Cup and the result was a combined team 'Nantgaredig' which was defeated by Neath. On the brighter side Carmarthen had its first representative in an important fixture when the Captain, J. Lloyd, was chosen to play for the South Wales Football Club against Oxford University.
In 1884, Carmarthen again entered the Cup Competition defeating St. David's College Lampeter at Swansea. The forwards were criticised as "seemingly not having lost their old fault of falling on the ball when scrummaging while the Collegians excelled in the more scientific techniques of the game such as passing and kicking". Of interest were two members of the Carmarthen team, Price Jenkins who played for Wales in 1888 and E. J. Maclean who later became Sir Ewen Maclean, President of the British Medical Association.
On the social side of the season in 1884-85, there was a Grand Concert by the Carmarthen FC at the Assembly Rooms, however, the football team could not manage to keep their promise to appear in costume and give the Canadian Boat Song. In the same season Carmarthen defeated Neath at Neath by 2 tries, 2 touchdowns to nil. The team had 1 back, 3 quarter backs, 1 half back, 2 quarter backs and 8 forwards.
In February 1885, Carmarthen lost to Llanelli in a cup tie by a goal and a try to a try but less decisive was the result of the match played against Lampeter College on March 13th. Carmarthen claimed a draw and Lampeter maintained they scored a disputed try.
Anno Domini was creeping over the team by November 1885 as some of the oldest members, for various reasons, declined to play against Neath at Neath. In any case it turned out to be a most unpleasant match with the Carmarthen team being greeted by hissing and groaning at the close of the game and 1 or 2 were "unlucky recipients of the compliments of the crow in the shape of sods and other missiles". Lloyd received a severe injury to his head and was carried off and Neath managed to score a try. In this game Carmarthen was captained by the Headmaster of the Grammar School, H. S. Holme and played 1 back, 3 threes, 2 halves, 2 quarters and 7 forwards, thus there was as yet no sign of a standardised pattern of team formation.
On the 16th January 1885, Carmarthen entertained Swansea at the Picton Court Ground and the result was Swansea one try and two touchdowns to Carmarthen’s one try and five touchdowns. Two years later, Carmarthen visited the world famous Stradey Park and the result was Llanelli one goal, two tries and five minors to Carmarthen’s one try and one minor.
In 1886 Carmarthen went further afield, easily defeating Pontypridd in the Cup and they also played Cardiff at Cardiff losing by 2 tries to nil. In 1887 although they had as Captain, C. S. Arthur (who became one of the most fluent try scorers for Cardiff) lost to Swansea, home and away. In the match between Wales and Ireland, C. S. Arthur was chosen as reserve and he later played four times for Wales as a member of the Cardiff team. Local rivalry has always weakened the game in Carmarthen. A fact illustrated in the 1890's when Carmarthen could have put a strong team on the field, if all the local teams had amalgamated and provided a good 1st and 2nd team. In 1897 there were four seniors teams, Carmarthen FC, St. Peter's Institute (formed 1896) and later called the Rovers, the Harlequins—no connection with the later team and also the Excelsiors; the junior teams were the Nomads and Picton Rovers.
There were however, men of vision attached to Carmarthen FC for in April 1897 they organized a 9-a-side (handicap) knock-out competition. In the first round the St. Peter's Swifts defeated the Alexandras, the Old Warriors lost to Excelsiors. The eventual winners, who were awarded silver medals, were the Carmarthen Wanderers who beat the Excelsiors. In the September meeting Carmarthen organised two teams, Thursdays and Saturdays and they decided to change colours from blue and white to dark green shirts with white collars and cuffs.
The first recorded ground was the Picton Court ground (near St David's Church). A win was recorded on the ground in January 1885 against Swansea by 1 try 5 touchdowns to 1 try 2 touch-downs (or the unofficial scoring of 9 points to 6).
Carmarthen used a number of grounds in the 100 years.
In April 1887 they played Swansea at Francis Well field. On October 12th 1888 the club decided to accept the terms offered by Mr Henry Norton for the use of his field behind the slaughterhouse and on December 15th of the same year they lost to Llanelli by 2 tries 1 minor to 2 minors. Percy Lloyd, the Grammar School captain played for Carmarthen and in the following week he played for Llanelli when they defeated the Maoris.
In the 1890’s, the club was using the neighbouring field namely Morgan Arms field. Carmarthen Park was opened in 1900 and in October, due to the non-acquisition of the Morgan Arms field arrangements were made to play in the Park (with a consequent loss of revenue as they could not charge admission), nevertheless they played the Training College on Norton's field and 1903 records show they were also using Morgan Arms Field again.
In 1911 the committee took the lease of the ground behind Waterloo Terrace i.e. the level part of Myrddin Crescent – the ground to be known as the Carmarthen Harlequins Athletic ground. It was on December 15th, 1911 that Carmarthen, playing Llandeilo, started the match at 4.15 when winter dusk came early and because of the poor light towards the end, the posts were illuminated by lanterns.
In the inter-war period the Park became the local venue. In 1962 the club purchased an 8 acre field (Park-y-deri) near Abergwili. The field was purchased for a sum of £3,000 and has proved to be an immense asset to the club. The field is regularly used by the 2nd and Youths XV's.
The first recorded match of Carmarthen Football Club (note - not Rugby Football Club) was against Llanelli FC at Llanelli - "It was wet and stormy and the Llanelli captain Mr. Buchanan kicked off at 2.45. Before half-time was called, Mr. Val Rees dropped a magnificent goal for Carmarthen. Llanelli men had to touch down several times and failed to get near their adversaries before time was called".
Each side had its own umpire but no referee and games could often be held up while disputes were settled—or not as often in the result was the phrase disputed try! The Carmarthen team in this first win consisted of Derwent Norton (Captain), W. B. Richards, D. Samuel, R. Norton, Talbot Norton, Val Rees, D. Hughes, D. Gwyn, W. Harries, P. Rees, J.Davies, C. Jones, P. Jenkins and W. Thomas. (Derwent Norton captained the Carmarthen team in seasons 1878/79 and 1881/82).
By the turn of the century interest was dwindling and they even failed to get a team to go to Maesteg. The Journal was outspoken in its criticism stating about one match in the Park that with regard to the three-quarters, a more useless four were never put together".
On many occasions they had to find substitutes and the quality of the opposition had declined since the earlier years - Llanelli A, Swansea ll's, Llanelli Starlights. In 1903 many matches were again played on the Morgan Arms field and the fixture list included Tenby, Ammanford, Pontardulais, Briton Ferry, Haverfordwest and Narberth.
By 1907 it was the Thursday side that kept the game going, one stalwart being J. 0. Morgan. J, 0. Morgan was connected with the Club for over fifty years. In fact he was Chairman of the Club during its most successful season, viz 1936-37, during which the Club won the West Wales League. He was also Mayor of the Borough on three occasions. But there were many problems. They went to play Tenby and on the way had to collect substitutes at Whitland and Narberth.
They were now near the nadir of their fortunes and yet there was interest still in the game for in Carmarthen in 1909 teams included G.W.R., St. Peter's, Priory Street, Spilman Street, Training College and the Grammar School.
It was Livingstone Thomas who kept the game going for the seniors. In the 1910-11 seasons Carmarthen FC managed to play two games in the autumn losing to the Training College and to the St. Peter's Rovers - the Town side was made up of members of the Shop Assistants and the Grammar School, and only lost by 2 tries to nil.
The resurgence in the fortune of the Club came on September 22nd, 1911 when the Football Club held a general meeting at the Park Refreshment Rooms when it was unanimously decided that the name be altered to Carmarthen Harlequins and to also change the colours to all white jerseys
The first team to represent the Harlequins were:- fullback - Edwin Davies, three-quarters - D. O. Davies, T. A. Roberts, E. Thomas, D. Williams; halfbacks - Dick Evans, Gwynne Lewis - forwards LI. Arthur, Captain, C. Davies, Albert Davies, W. J. Jones, J. M. Lloyd, Harry Lewis, A. Watson, T. Thomas and D. Williams. Tom Thomas and Evan Thomas scored tries to give them victory
In October, at a social it was stated that the club had acquired the lease of a new ground in Waterloo Terrace, to be known as Carmarthen Harlequins Athletic ground. The club had 50 members and ran a 2nd team. This revival was however halted by the Great War but in 1919 when the Club restarted there was an organisation prepared.
The post war decade was a most successful one for the Club and reference will be made to a few seasons to illustrate. In the 1921-22 seasons the outstanding match was on April 21st at the Park when the Quins met an International team sent by the Welsh Football Union. A crowd of 2,000 saw the Quins put up a gallant fight before losing by a converted goal and dropped goal (9 points) to a try (3 points). The Quins were assisted by Dai Bevan (Swansea II), A Davies (Pontardulais), D. J. Phillips (Llanelli) and W. J. Jones (Llanelli), the latter an old Grammarian and awarded an International cap in 1923. In the season the Club played 34 matches, won 22 and lost 9 with 303 points for and 133 against with J. M. Lloyd selected for a trial.
Normal transport was by charabanc with the probability of arriving half frozen. On March 10th, 1922 the charabanc to take them to Pembroke Dock broke down and "great difficulty was experienced in procuring small cars".
During the season 1924-25, two people from Carmarthen, the late Sir Ungoed Thomas and Sir Alfred Mond, were responsible for bringing a combined Oxford / Cambridge side down to Wales to play against Carmarthen at Carmarthen Park. The late Sir Lyn Ungoed Thomas was a Welsh Trialist, and later be-came Solicitor-General and a High Court Judge.
The Captain of the combined Oxford-Cambridge side was Rowe Harding of Swansea, who like Sir Ungoed Thomas, was to make his mark in the legal field, ending up as a County Court Judge. The game played on March 19th, 1925 was watched by a crowd of some 4,000. The Quins, led by Fred Webb (former English Trialist and Captain of Gloucestershire) was defeated by 11 points to 6 points, I. K. Thomas and Fred Webb being the Carmarthen scorers. In the 1927-28 season, Leslie Phillips scored 104 points during the season, including 33 tries, which is still a record for the Club.
The first fact of interest in the 1930's was Ted Merry playing in a Final Irish Trial in 1931. The highlight of the decade was the 1936-37 season, when under the captaincy of W. J. Orman, the Quins became the champions of the West Wales League, when they defeated Ystradgynlais on May 1st at Pontardulais. The Journal states that Carmarthen .... proved themselves to be the best second-class side in West Wales. In the Final, the Quins fought back after being three points down in the first five minutes but equalised within three minutes through a try by Harold Thomas. W. R. J. Jones kicked a penalty in the second half.
The triumphant Harlequins team was as follows:-
C. Treharne, Jack Mathews, Emrys Davies, W. R. J. Jones, H. Thomas, D. O.Griffiths, Ivor Hopkins, B. Williams, W. Orman (Captain), Glyn Howells, E. P. Merry, D. Evans, H. A. Trumper, Roy Ovens and E. Taylor. Ovens had travelled down from Reading, where he was a sports master, to assist the Quins, as also did D.O.Griffiths from Cardiff University College. The referee was Mr. D. George of Neath.
During the season, the team won 24 out of 36 games played and registered 329 points for and 79 against. The leading points scorer was Jack Mathews with 78. Emrys Davies and W. R. J.Jones had returned to the Quins from Llanelli.
The Second World War caused another cessation of activities for the Club. After a six year gap, Carmarthen Committee found it a very difficult task to restart, for some of the players were still in the Forces and, worst of all, there were only seven jerseys readily available and Carmarthen had the grand sum of 15/8d in the bank! But gradually, with the help of willing Committee-| men and the Club's energetic Secretary, Mr. Bill Sandbrook, who became Secretary in 1948, things improved. Success was not finally achieved, however, until 1957 when Carmarthen won the West Wales knock-out Cup for the first time ever. The actual Cup-winning team consisted of:-
K. Jenkins, A. Richards, G. Tucker, J. Cavanagh, P. Hart, B. Francis, I. Jenkins, R. H. Davies, R. Davies, S. Lewis, G. Davies, J. Evans, Captain; B. Jones, D. Lewis and B. Roberts.
The record for the season was played 48, won 38, lost 8. points for 529 and against 158.
It was in 1957 that Carmarthen made a far-sighted decision. The Committee decided that the Club should have a permanent base and they bought the Buffalo Inn-a local public house, situated in the middle of the town. After some major alterations and renovations, it became a most pleasant place for social activities.
The Club itself was officially opened by Lady Megan Lloyd George, the sitting member of Parliament for Carmarthen and daughter of the former Liberal Prime Minister. The gymnasium, which was a main feature of the Clubhouse, has been utilised by Howard Winstone. the former Word Featherweight Champion, in the preparation of his World title-fight against Seki. the Jap. It was his victory in this contest which was to bring Winstone the World Crown.
During recent years. Carmarthen have found very little success in the West Wales Championship and Cup Competitions, although during the season 1972-73 the Sevens, side won the District G Competition of the National Sevens Tournament at Stradey Park and went to do 'battle' with the big 'guns' at the National Stadium in Cardiff. During 1973. Mrs. J. M. Lloyd kindly donated to the Club a Captains Board, as a token of her late husband. Mr. John Lloyd’s long association with the Club both as a player and Captain. The Board, which has enrolled on it the names of former Captains of the Carmarthen teams, will serve as a constant reminder of the Club's proud history over the past one hundred years.
However, with good organization, clubhouse and playing fields Carmarthen Rugby Football Club is in good heart to meet the challenge of its next hundred years and in so doing, help to contribute to the well being of Welsh rugby. Certainly, the re formation of a Youth XV during the season 1972-73 is paying dividends. The current Youth XV is one of the most successful ever fielded by the Club and it is in this direction that the aspirations of Carmarthen RFC lie. On April 12th 1974, the Youth XV won the Llanelli & District Cup by beating New Dock Stars Youth.
D. T. Evans
1976 to 2018
The Quins won promotion to the Welsh League in 1991/92 by beating Vardre 12pts to 6 in the very last match of the season. Vardre were the league leaders going into the match and a win or a draw would have given them promotion. Under Phil Beynon’s captaincy they also went on to win the President’s cup by 6pts to 3 in Stradey against Pontyberem. The Quins were in Division 4 from 1992/93 to 1997/98; Division 3 in 1998/99; Division 2 in 1999/2000 and were promoted that season to Division 1 as runners up. The Quins maintained a good standard in Division 1, being 4th in 2000/01; 3rd 01/02; 3rd 02/03 and in 03/04 were promoted to the Premier Division. It was a sad day for the Quins when they were relegated to Division 1 in 2006/07 but fortunately the team made a return to the Premier Division in 2009/2010 ending the season in a creditable 9th position.
Carmarthen RFC has used a number of grounds within the town during its 134 year history and made Carmarthen Park its home venue during the intervening years between the two World wars. In 1962 the club purchased an eight acre field known as Parc-y-Deri in the village of Abergwili and this has been the home ground for the Youth and Second XV’s as well as the club’s training facility.
The Quins over the years have played in several different colours. Their first kit was a dark jersey with a white diagonal sash which they retained until 1889. From 1890 to 1894, they played in a dark blue jersey with a white midriff band. They changed to dark green with white cuffs and collars in 1897 and kept these colours until 1903. They changed to an all white jersey in 1904 which they retained up until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.
From 1919 to 1921 they played in an all green shirt. From the 1921/22 season they played for the first time in what is their current strip of Cardinal, Amber and Black. However, for some reason they returned to white jerseys for the two seasons between 1929 and 1931. (These are the colours worn in the team photographs on display at the club for those two seasons and I cannot believe they just happened to wear white for the team photographs). From the 1931/32 season to the present Carmarthen “Quins” have continued to wear Cardinal, Amber and Black.
Carmarthen Quins have won the West Wales knock-out Cup on five occasions, the first success in 1955-56 against Crynant; 1994-95 against Ystradgynlais; 2006/07 against Cwmllynfell; 2007/08 against Carmarthen Athletic and 2008/2009 against Loughor.
The following players, who were connected with the Club in its early years, have won International honours:-
W B Norton 1882-84; T. Price Jenkins 1888.; C. S. Arthur 1888-91; Percy Lloyd 1890-91; I. T. Davies 1914; W.J.Jones 1923; Dudley Bartlett 1927-28; T. E. Jones-Davies 1930-31; R. Boon 1930-33; R. R. Morris 1933 and 1937; C. L. Davies 1956; Ivor Mathews (latter half of the 1920′s); John Evans Welsh Trialist. Club Captain 1955-58;
The great Delme Thomas played one game in Quins colours but has appeared on several occasions in representative matches against a Quins XV. Players from the Scarlets who have played for the Quins when they were in the Premier Division are: Mark Jones; Robyn McBride; Arwel Thomas; Gareth Bowen; Aled Gravelle; Ken Owens and Rhys Priestland whilst Andrew Lewis when with Cardiff also turned out for the Quins. Three Quins players who have been part of the Welsh Seven’s squad are: Gareth Williams; Aled Thomas and Wayne Evans.
Click here for a detailed list of Internationals who played for the Quins.
Click here for a detailed list of players who have achieved Age and Representative Honours.
For the last 60 years the club has had a strong Second XV which was temporarily suspended in 2006 due to difficulty with other clubs fulfilling fixtures. However, the Second XV was re-established in the 2009-2010 season and with the return of a few “veterans” and inclusion of ex-youth players they continued for another few seasons. They disbanded again in 2016. However, the club will continue to make efforts to re-instate a Second XV which is such an essential part of the club, especially for retaining Youth XV players who need to move on to an older age group..
The Youth XV has been a crucial link in the club’s development with several local lads having gone on from the Youth team to represent the Welsh Secondary Schools and Welsh Youth XV. The players listed above * have all gone on from the youth team to gain full Welsh XV international honours. The youth team have won the Llanelli and District League and Cup trophies on numerous occasions and have won the Welsh Youth Knock-out cup on four occasions winning in 1974/75; 75/76; 93/94; 2002/03.
The club has junior sides ages 8 – 16 which is an indication of the club’s commitment to developing rugby at a local level through all age groups. The club also runs a Ladies XV.
To bring us up-to-date, since returning to the Premiership in 2010, the Quins have continued to maintain a high standard and have justified their position at this level. They have reached two finals of the National Cup Competition.The first in 2009/10 when they lost by 20 points to 8 to Llanelli at the Millenium Stadium. The second in 2015/16 at the same venue when they also lost but this time to Llandovery by 25 points to18 at the Principality Stadium. We are now half way through the fixture card (January 2018) having played against local teams, but now look forward to taking on teams across the whole Premiership Division. It would appear we may well be looking at a new format in the 2018/19 season so it’s a case of “watch this space.”
Percy Jones/Club Historian/January 2018
A special thanks to Alan Bowen, Club statistician and Life Member who has provided me with player statistics and club playing records from 1996 onwards.