Fifties Reminiscences: An Undistinguished Career in Dynevor Rugby

I was never much good at it, being rather slow and ponderous about the field, invariably late at rucks and mauls (though very enthusiastic on arrival). Since my junior school hero was the splendid Horace Phillips, a fine dashing ex Dy’vorian left wing of the all Whites and Wales, I had delusions of becoming a touchline flyer, but wise gentle Sam Bassett, the coach of the First Year XV had no doubt that the absolute ceiling of my ambition was a loose-head prop, maybe a hooker. He was dead right, of course.

The school was served by a plethora of rugby teams, 1st and 2nd XV, A B C D and First Year XV’s – and this was in addition to a parallel set of soccer XI’s, masterminded by Tom James. Graham Gregory, of course, was the Graham Henry of his day, though considerably less laconic and much more animated. He once ran 30 yards on to the field at Ashleigh Road and belted me round the ear for missing a tackle against Bishop Gore; mind you, they did score the winning try as a consequence. But we also had the quite different coaching styles of Glyn Jones (quiet persuasion); Iorrie (messianic exhortation of the Clive Rowlands’ type); Fuzz Lloyd (who pioneered the Afro hair style); Sam Bassett (cool rationalist); and Derek John (for whom our puny efforts in the First Year XV disillusioned him so much, he emigrated to Nigeria). These splendid gentlemen spent hours of their spare time after school and weekends trying to inculcate in us the basic skills of passing, tackling, scrummaging etc. and inspiring us to levels of achievement of which (from time to time) the School might be proud. This was, of course, well before the NUT work to rule campaigns of the 1980’s brought a halt to such dedication.

Dynevor, of course, had no playing field, other than Gange’s Townhill acres, so it was training in the Yard (not the best location for practicing tackling) and invariably Saturday away matches at Ashleigh Road, the Rec at St. Helen’s (which doubled up as a car park for the afternoon All Whites’ matches), Llansamlet and Port Talbot. The First XV even ventured to Llanelly (as it was spelt then), Llandovery and Brecon (the big time!). So it was that Alan Goodwin, Chris Edwards and I gathered in Manselton Road with our black and amber shirts and multi farious shorts and socks (Chris even had the effrontery to wear his brother’s Bishop Gore socks) and embarked for these exotic destinations with great expectations and pride. We even got our picture in the “Evening Post” once, headed “Stars of the Future”. This was kind of the reporter, though our exploits over the following decade did not really adequately repay his optimism. Various citizens played honourably for Swansea Schoolboys and Billy Hullin for London Welsh, Cardiff and Wales, of course. After the game, wherever it was, it was straight to St. Helens (still caked in mud and rather damp) to admire Clem Thomas; Billy Williams and Dewi Bebb showing us how it should be done – or to the Vetch to marvel at the sublime artistry of Ivor, Len and Cliff).    What a privilege.

There were some splendid players in my time in the A team, including the Lewis brothers (Hwyel and Gwyn), the formidable crash tacking Tudor James at centre (I still can’t avoid him in my dreams), the mercurial fly half Colin Richards, the redoubtable Martin Twomey at full back, Colin Lane on the flank, Terry Thomas on the wing who reduced Iorrie (who was refereeing one game) to total bafflement by sending himself off in a fit of pique and my conspirators in the dark arts of front row play, David Bevan and Alan Tribe.

For some reason at that time,(probably because they were considerably better) Bishop Gore were always our nemesis, sorry to say. We used to dread Glan Powell or Meredydd announcing the weekend result in Mount Pleasant Assembly, and the consequent disgust of our peers – and Gregory – was always painful However, in the cold light of fifty years on, I have to concede Bishop Gore were very good – but we were very stylish running on to the field, though not as impressive staggering off it as 25 – 3 losers!

I wonder what the above mentioned Dynevor hopefuls managed in their subsequent rugby careers? Billy Hullin we know about. For myself, I dabbled in Aber, virtually broke my neck playing against Felinfoel, turned to refereeing (much less dangerous and you can slow the game down to suit yourself). Whilst undertaking a visiting professorship in an US university in the late 1970’s, I was persuaded against my better judgement to become coach of the University of Utah XV, where various tactical tricks learned from Gregory and “Fuzz” came in most useful. US rugby at that time, had not yet come across the possibilities of carefully planned skulduggery relating to the “Up and Under”. This was my great contribution to rugby thinking in North America.

As in many other things, our esteemed masters inspired us with their love of the subject – how could we not absorb their wisdom for subsequent use?