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In the April 1968 magazine –Welsh Rugby.

The real beginning was in 1904 when they were known as the Aberavon Excels and played in an all white strip. After the first world war in 1918 the nucleus of the Excels met and formed the Aberavon Harlequins R.F.C. as it has been known as ever since. They played on flat waste ground in what is now the Sandfields Estate; this then became to be known as the Harlequins Field. They changed in St Dyfrigs Church Hall. Sid Davies who had been with the Excels was the secretary and the skipper was Griff Bamsey, who together with his brother Willie became stalwart forwards with Neath & Aberavon.

Players and players were intermingled and names which must be mentioned include, Cliff Tanner, Will Hopkins, Jim Randall, J. Arthur Jones, David James (The coal), Tom Hyatt, George Boobyer and John Marshall.Gwyn John was chairman; Jim Davies succeeded Sid Davies as secretary.

The earliest photograph to hand ( in 1968), is indicative of the playing strength of the team at that time. It includes, Stan Davies, Willie Charles Thomas ( Welsh Reserve & Aberavon), Arthur Cook, Trevor Walters, I.O. David, Sam Williams (The Drummer), George Gray, Willie Bamsey, J.A. Jones, Tommy Gibbon, Dick Tucker, Sid James, Idwal Rees, Billy Radcliffe, ‘Jinks’ Stanford, Dai James ( Aberavon), Phil James & trainer Rhys Cook. They were winners of the Aberavon & Port Talbot Junior League Championship Cup and Hospitals Cup.

Aberavon Harlequins RFC 1922-23. League Champions, Winners of Hospital League Cups and Medals

Aberavon Harlequins RFC 1922-23. League Champions, Winners of Hospital League Cups and Medals

In 1926/27, Aberavon R.F.C. formed a second XV. This inevitably attracted the better Quins players and for a few seasons for which this team ran it was a struggle to keep the Quins going. This period of the depression in South Wales brought it’s inevitable hardship. There was no money, all of the players were on the dole and symptomatic of the spirit which spurred many such men on that time, energies were devoted to a most worthy cause. The Corporation had established a rubbish dump which by dint of much hard work, all the labour was voluntary, became transformed into what is now the Quins field. The field was virtually made by theses men. Willie James’ father, the local coalman carted the turf and gradually an excellent playing pitch took shape. A great spirit prevailed. Names always to be remembered with this enterprise are Sam Long, Frankie Freeguard and his brother Evan, Jim Forrester, Cyril Davies, Frankie Davies, Dai Jones, Iestyn Davies, Reg Mears, Will Lloyd, Will Jones and Will Roberts (Aberavon). They all worked, trained and played together. Reg Mears became trainer after breaking his leg.

There being no financial aid from any source it was a case of pay to play. Changing quarters were in the Green Meadow Hotel and ‘Buller’ Thomas, a good forward and committee man organised a weekly raffle for cigarettes, the draw being made each Friday in Charles Fugoni’s shop. Thomas’ shoe shop allowed layers to buy boots for a shilling a week.

Jim Davies was still secretary. Edwin Heggett and Evan Dummer with Jim Forrester on the committee. Among the players were Trevor Williams, Patsy Sullivan (Well known boxer), Eddie Thomas, Eddie Lewis (1968 chairman), Raymond Llewellyn, Harold Evans & George Cook. In 1932/33, the club was reformed and Dick Lody (of whom more later) took over the reins. Together with him were Dill Stanford, Don Mainwaring and H.Williams. This marked a period of great expansion there was great improvement in enthusiasm and fixtures, plenty of players ready to buy their own kit (only jerseys were supplied. The club went from strength to strength, until the outbreak of World War II. Inevitably playing of all sport was curtailed but a decision by the local authority in connection with the war effort brought mixed blessings to the club. Their playing area laid by their own efforts, was needed for the ‘Grow Your Own Food’ campaign, and became allotments for local residents. Club members who took advantage of this were Reg Mears, Will Roberts and Eddie Thomas. They had plots in the centre of the field and present sec (1968), Ron Jones remembers buying as a child cabbages from Reg Mears grown on the half-way line. At least it meant that some players and officials could stay together, if only horticultural and reminisce over past games. And plan the future whilst keeping down the weeds. They were still an organisation, if only an allotment association which maybe unique in any club history.

When the war ended another era began. The club was again to reform. Dick Lody was the sec., Fred Bamsey the Treasurer Fred’s father Griff was captain in 1922/23. Players were keen to get back in harness but there was still a food shortage and the allotments were still needed. Despite appeals, the council, very sympathetic as they always had been, were adamant that rugby had to take second place to vegetables and the Quins were forced to switch to the nearby but unenclosed Vivian Park. This was not very satisfactory and not always available; there were many occasions when home games were played in the village of Bryn some miles away.

 Fred Bamsey recalled that in those first, critical, post war years, they had no money; in fact Fred and Dick Lody put a pound each in the kitty to start the ball rolling. The first game was against Pencoed and such was the desperate kit position that they played in three different coloured jerseys before later in the familiar red & black. Then it was the time of clothing coupons, and problems galore; all of which only served to spur them on. The fixtures were always fulfilled although in those days of petrol rationing transport was invariably by public bus or rail transport. The local Junior Trophies were regularly won and the standard of play was good. The ground position was always the biggest bugbear of all and in 1950 they circulated every one of the 100 allotment holders, still in residence in Sandfields Road, to ascertain their feelings on the matter. These still included several club members of the club itself. Only two of the 100 replied to the effect that they wished to retain their plots and armed with this almost unanimous reply in their favour the Council were persuaded to release their hold on the ground and return it to the Quins. The allotments were ploughed up and levelled, reseeded and the area fenced off. All this took a lot of hard cash and here the ‘Tote’ was the saviour. Posts were moved to an area close to the Brwyna and once more they changed in St Dyfrigs Hall as in 1918. The captain of the team was Griff Davies who was later a long serving treasurer. Despite difficulties The Burton Cup and Hospitals Cup were won.

March 1951 saw them back at last where they belonged although there were still some remnants of pigsties to be cleared away. All this entailed great expense, but they were determined to build for the future on a sound foundation, a continuing feature of the Aberavon Quins story. New Zealand Rye grassed was used to seed the pitch and Haydn Williams was a worker of note at this time. The whole area is almost three acres and is adjacent to the vast Sandfields Housing Estate. At this time the playing strength received a tremendous boost, when quietly but un noticed, local lad,ex-star of Maesteg, Wales and British Lions scrum half Trevor Lloyd came back to his original club Aberavon Harlequins. Trevor, one of the characters of post war Welsh rugby made an immediate impact on the playing side and soon made his presence felt. His arrival co-incided with the club’s application for WRU Status.

With big neighbours Aberavon just two miles away and Taibach two miles further on, the Quins were determined to be the third WRU team in Port Talbot. 1955/56  was the best ever playing record in the Quins history. In over thirty matches they lost only once, against Bettws in December but twice before the season ended they gained their revenge. They beat Taibach (Silver Ball winners) three times and beat a number of WRU clubs. Trevor Lloyd’s invaluable experience, toughness and enthusiasm made all the difference to the team. He was a fine example of how clubs like the Quins have been repaid for their existence as a nursery. His presence demonstrated that traffic between smaller and bigger clubs does not need to be one way.

Over the years the Quins supplied more players to Aberavon than any other junior club. In 1928 there were 14 ex Quins in the Aberavon line up. In 1956/57 the club achieved their aim and were admitted to the Welsh Rugby Union. They will be ever grateful to Dai Phillips, Enoch Rees And Lord Heycock  for the efforts they made on the club’s behalf. Dick Lody, who served the club for 34 years as player and secretary, was awarded the Wills Castella Award for services to rugby. The club committee ably led by Fred Bamsey and Ron Jones carried on the work of their predecessors and planned the building of the clubhouse.

History In Brief

The Quins came into being in 1891. During their history they have produced many players who graduated to the abundance of first class clubs in the vicinity. Prior to the second world war, eleven such players went on to play for WALES. Perhaps the most famous of all was the legendary Johnnie Ring, who became a local hero in Aberavon before he went north. Johnnie held the Rugby League try scoring record for over sixty years, before he was overtaken by Martin Offiah. Since the war ex-Quins players who have graced the International scene, include Trevor Lloyd, Len Cunningham, Tony O,Connor and most recently Alan Martin. Trevor Lloyd rejoined the club immediately after the 1955 Lions Tour to South Africa, and it was under his captaincy when the club was admitted membership of the WRU in the following season.

The Quins have a great Cup reputation, and became the first "Giant Killers" when they saw off Cross Keys by 16-10 in the first round of the inaugural season. Two seasons later they were at it again when Maesteg became the victims by 14-12. They had to wait sixteen years for the next success, but it was very sweet when it came in December 1988, eclipsing their big brother Aberavon by a resounding 19-6. The opposing captains on that day were David McGrath (Quins) and Gary Matthews (Aberavon) Other first-class opposition have also been given a fright. In 1982 visitors Neath came close to defeat scraping home 12-9, and then again Aberavon on their own Talbot Athletic Ground just squeezed home with a 9-4 win. In both these games neither of the first class sides could cross the Quins line. The Quins also gave Cardiff a good game in 1989, when Cardiff ran out winners at the Arms Park 22-15. Two of the Cardiff tries were scored whilst the Quins were down to fourteen men, while winger Paul Bamsey was receiving treatment.

The Quins were three times winners of the Central Glamorgan League during its nine year history. The sweetest league win, however, was in the last season of the competition in 1989/90, when their success ensured the Quins a place in Division 3 of the inaugural Heineken National League, ahead of local rivals Pyle, Kenfig Hill and Tondu. The Quins celebrated their Centenary in 1991/92 with a tour of Cyprus. During the build up to the Centenary Season the ground was redeveloped under the leadership of the club's Life President, Cyril Cowell. A two hundred seater stand was erected by club members and volunteers whilst a first-class flood lighting system was also provided with the assistance of the WRU.

                                                                                          Ron Bagshaw




ABERAVON HARLEQUINS RUGBY CLUB - HARLEQUIN ROAD,PORT TALBOT, SOUTH WALES, UK | SITE BY KEVIN CASEY