You may well ask who and where is Ynysybwl RFC.
Well the village of Ynysybwl lies in the beautiful little Clydach valley, nestling between the Rhondda Fach and Cynon valleys. At present it is part of the Rhondda Cynon Taff Council, but still remains in the Parish of Llanwonno, the Church being situated some 2 miles northwest of the village.
No doubt, before the intervention of coal mining in the village, the valley would have been as beautiful and picturesque to have challenged any part of the world. It was rumoured that when God finally put the finishing touches to the area, he reserved it for himself as a retirement home.
||obviously a Welsh name place consisting of 8 letters, but not one vowel.
||in English, could be an island or river meadow
||in English, ‘the’
||maybe from the French, ‘Boule’, or the English ‘bowl’ — ball, round object.
Or even from the Scots ‘bwl’.
BwI is not as uncommon in Welsh as it might seem. It is used either in a topographical sense, as in a bowl shaped valley or round hill or hillock. Or as in the name river meadow used for a game played with a ball or bowl hit against the pine-end of a building for example.
There is evidence of this type of ball game being played at the Old Ynysybwl Inn, where competitors from all over the Parish would participate. It has often been said that Welsh is the language of heaven. I personally believed they looked down and called this beautiful, unique spot Ynys y bwl, the bowl shaped river meadow.
Prior to the sinking of the Lady Windsor Colliery in 1884 the area would have been predominantly of a farming community with just a few small drift mines where the coal outcropped to be used for domestic purposes.
When the colliery was fully operational there was a wok force of approximately 1,200 people; and the population in the 1940s would have soared to some 6,000-7,000 inhabitants. Virtually everyone in the village would have been connected to the coal mining industry in one way or another.
Unfortunately the Lady Windsor Colliery was forced to close on political grounds in 1988. Many thought the closure would be the death knell of the village. But Ynysybwl is still surviving even though the population has now dwindled to some 4,000, with no major alternative provided for.
Fortunately in many, many ways the Rugby Club for so many adults and youngsters became the focal point of the village. The clubhouse is home to Ynysybwl Bowls Club, the Choir, Old Tyme Dancing, Line Dancing, Netball, Ynysybwl Mini/Junior Rugby, Council run playgroups, and many various functions, weddings etc held in the ‘main hall’ - long may it continue.
But what about the actual rugby side of events in the village ……………
Well, we became members of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1880 and celebrated our Centenary with a Dinner in a full to capacity clubhouse in 1981.
During our hundred years of existence we have had 3 golden eras so to speak, ironically during the same time as 3 golden ears of Welsh rugby.
From 1919 to 1925 the famous ‘All Whites’ of the club were feared and respected throughout the County of Glamorgan, and even far-off countries. During this period the ‘All Whites’ achieved the most enviable distinction of creating a 6 year undefeated home record, which even by today’s standards was an incredible achievement.
Historians have claimed that visiting sides would often be accompanied by 3 or 4 charabancs of spectators, all coming in the hope the BwI would loose this fine record and that their team would be the victorious one. When you consider entrance fees in those days would have been the equivalent to 3p it is almost beyond belief that average gate receipts were in the region of £40 per match.
Seasons 1945— 1955 saw us win the old Glamorgan League and Cup with the likes of Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale, Newbridge, Cross Keys, Glamorgan Wanderers, Penarth, Treorchy and Mountain Ash appearing on our fixture lists.
The 1980s brought us the Mid District League, and runner-up in the Wrexham lager final played in Aberavon. We did achieve our life-time ambition of winning the Glamorgan County Silver Ball in 1999, outside of our Golden Eras.
Our rugby sons and heroes have been many at all levels and travelled throughout the world, always being proud that they were Bwl Boys. It was way back in 1930 when Tommy Scourfield, then playing for Torquay, became the first of our capped players. A long delay, with many, many talented players having passed through our ranks, and that great character Staff Jones burst into the Welsh side in 1983, and had the audacity to score a try on his debut. Staff later reached his pinnacle and toured New Zealand with the 1985 British Lions.
In 1991 the tenacious yet humorous Garin Jenkins won the first of his Welsh Caps, and is currently the most capped Welsh hooker of all time. I could write a book about Garin alone, but then he beat me to it having recently published his biography ‘Eye of the Storm’.
There have been numerous players who represented Wales at A and B levels, youth, secondary schools and Schools Rugby Union levels. It would be remiss of me not to mention a regular visitor to the club, Stuart Burgess, who was capped at schools, secondary schools and youth level.
We are a most solvent club, currently playing in Division 3 South-east of the Welsh Rugby Union National League. Because of our financial standing we ignored, luckily, the advent of professionalism and concentrated on stability and the development of rugby football within the club. On a regular basis we turn out 11 sides, from mini/junior rugby, a most successful youth side (who particularly brought fame to the Bwl last season) and Second and First XVs.
After many years of utilising the old Windsor Hotel, and then the Robertown Hotel as our club headquarters we eventually opened our own clubhouse, of which we are still very proud, opposite the Recreation Ground in 1974.
Our administrators over our years are too many to mention. But again I feel I must mention our own lvor Edwards (‘the Red Fox’), secretary of the club for over 40 years and then, on resignation, joined Mountain Ash RFC and served as their secretary for a further 17 years.
Clive Pritchard, a club trustee, former club secretary who went on to serve 10 years with the WRU General Committee, and was the manager of the Welsh side that toured America and Canada in 1999.
Ken Rowlands, also a club trustee and Life Member, served on the club committee as fixture secretary, vice-chairman and chairman during a period of over 30 years. He became a long standing International panel referee, travelling the world and eventually retiring after a 10 year stint as the first ever Director of Referees for the Welsh Rugby Union.
Another ex-player, and World darts Champion Leighton Rees, unfortunately recently passed away. The ‘Gentle Giant’ will always be remembered within the club.
Perhaps we should also mention that Alun Davies (Barrie to those in the Bwl), former coach of the Welsh national side was a Bwl Boy, and frequently visited the club during his reign.
I have every belief that Ynysybwl RFC will prosper, not so much in monetary terms but in player development for many years to come.
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