Taken from an interview with Eric Cox, Founder of the Club in 1950/1951.
This is how the Old Tyleryan rugby football club started. I played rugby at school, at college and in the RAF. I then found when I was de-mobbed if you didn’t belong to an organisation, getting a game of rugby wasn’t as easy as it sounds. In Abertillery at the time there were only two teams: the town team - they didn’t want me obviously, I wasn’t good enough – and Blaenau Gwent. I played for a while for Blaenau Gwent and then competition got a bit warm and I couldn’t hold my place there.
It was then that the idea struck me. I was teaching at Aberbeeg School at the time and Ken Lloyd, who taught there with me, was the Sports Secretary of the Old Tyleryan Association. And as such, he had some sports equipment – he had cricket equipment, hockey equipment and a set of rugby jerseys, which we used once a year on Boxing Day for the Old Boys match. So I said to him, “if I could fix up a match, say, with the Old Hafodians, could I use the jerseys?” He readily agreed. I fixed it up, with difficulty, and we had a game in Blaina because they had access to a field and I didn’t.
It then struck me that it might be an idea to try to get a permanent side going, which wasn’t easy, but it was at this point that I roped in Colin Blacker and Colin Lewis. Now they had both played a bit of rugby at school and both thought the idea was sound, so off we started.
I did all the paperwork, I contacted the Head of the school and got his support and I wrote to the Governors and asked for the use of the school field. We had a bit of a set-back there as they only granted us use of the field for six games per season, which was a start but hardly a basis on which to run a full time rugby football club. However, I managed to get some fixtures, home and away, so that gave us a dozen games. Then we managed to get one or two games with local teams who were prepared to give us just one game on their grounds, Cwm and Blaenau Gwent for instance. And then, once I explained to some of the Cardiff clubs (we played a lot of the Old Boys down there) our predicament they offered us two fixtures, as long as we were prepared to travel twice, because they had unlimited use of grounds in their area. So that was the basis on which we started.
It was a bit of struggle to start with because we could hardly get 15 together; we rarely had a full side, we often travelled and had to use a couple of the opposition. We used the bus driver, and often went around the town on the Saturday morning on route, trying to pick people up just to make up the numbers. This often made us late for matches so we got used to changing in the bus, which enabled us not to be too late getting there and we could go straight onto the field and play.
We went a complete season without scoring a single point to the best of my recollection - not even a kick! First point we scored was in our second season. The first try was scored by Islywn James, our hooker. The rare occasion when we got the ball and it was kicked forward, it struck the upright of the opposition posts, ricocheted back straight into his arms and he collapsed over the line and scored a try. I don’t know whether we converted it, although it was under the sticks, but it was an important point. We didn’t score much after that again.
Financing things was a little bit sticky, but fortunately Ivor Evans, who was in charge of the local bus department, at least the office in town, was a member of the club and I knew him, and he was able to do us a special deal whereby the buses weren’t terribly expensive so we managed it.
From time to time we tried other forms of transport – a bread van on one occasion which was illegal, but as long as you kept the shutter down at the back and lay on the bread shelves (you got covered in flour of course) it was OK but that wasn’t too successful, we were in no shape to play anything when we got out of that. And one or two occasions as cars were becoming more and more available we did a little bit using public transport and motor cars, but that wasn’t too clever either.
But that’s how it all started. We used the pit head baths, we didn’t have any trouble getting permission to use Rose Heyworth baths. The only stipulation was that we tipped the bath attendant, E B Jones. He lived near me so that was very easy, I knew him. And of course we had to tip the school Groundsman, Mr Hardwick, for unlocking the field for us to use. It used to cost us half a crown for a ball boy to retrieve the ball from going down the bank on the other side because only the one field was there in those days.
I was de-mobbed from the RAF in 1948, so what I have been saying as you can see all happened roughly between ’48 and ‘52, which is why as near as I can remember we made a start around about ’50 / ’51, which I think you already know.
Now of course, finally arrived a time when, for the first time ever, we actually knew we had 15 men before the game started. We were playing at home and, as usual, as we were trotting down towards the field I was shouting out to various people where they were supposed to be playing. It was not unusual, once we got on the field, for people to be not too sure which positions they were in and it used to be sorted out as we made a start.
On one occasion, as I say, we actually had 15 men to start, or so we thought, and we must have been playing for at least 10 minutes, we survived several line-outs and we came to the first scrum. And they seemed to be having a bit of difficulty forming the scrum, and then it became obvious that there were too many men trying to pack down. And once we looked around the backs were full and, absolutely true story, we had 16 men on the field!
Well we couldn’t continue like that. Now, several of those that we had roped in, if we had told them not to bother before the game started, they would have been delighted. But once we had got them on the field, nobody was prepared to leave. So the only way we solved the problem was that the captain left. That caused another delay while we picked another captain for the match. But it actually happened, that’s the kind of way the whole thing began in the early days.
Eric Cox, founder of Old Tyleryan RFC, July 2010.
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