Playing Record : P35, W29, D2, L4, Pts for 732, Pts against 47.
Club Captain : Billy Bancroft
Leading Try Scorer : Billy Trew 33
Leading Points Scorer : Billy Bancroft 191
Club Honours : Champions
Capped v England : Billy Bancroft (c), Evan James, David James, Fred Scrine (d), Will Parker (d)
Capped v Scotland : Billy Bancroft (c), Fred Scrine, Will Parker
Capped v Ireland : Billy Bancroft (c)
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
Swansea RFC 1898-99 Season (photo taken in 1898)
Back Row(L to R): Harry Ball(Trainer), L J Davies, T Harries, G E Bowen(Com), T Jackson, W T Farr(Treas.), D Harries, B Thomas, F E Perkins(Sec.), W Parker, W Bowen(Com.), J Prescott.
2nd Row(L to R): David James, F J Gordon, S Rice, W J Bancroft(Captain), A Jones, F Scrine, Evan James.
Front Row(L to R): H Davies, W J Trew, G Davies, D Rees.
The James brothers appear in this photo which was taken at the beginning of the season. Both had departed by February 1899 and the half-back partnership was replaced with that of Dick Jones and Dickie Owen. Despite the upheaval and departure of the famous pair who left the copperworks of Swansea for the paid employ of Broughton Rangers ‘Up North’, Swansea finished the season as Champions, a feat they repeated in the next 3 seasons. (Courtesy Bleddyn Hopkins).
Back Row L to R: R Rice (linesman), J A Smith, W Joseph, D Harris, H Davies, W J Parker, Harry Ball (trainer).
2nd Row L to R: E J Gordon, D Rees, G Davies, W J Bancroft (Capt.), W J Trew, F Scrines, R Thomas.
Front Row L to R: R M Owen, P Lockman, R Jones, A Jones.
The photo shows the new half-back pairing of Dicky Owen (left) and Dick Jones (3rd from left) in the front row.
Back Row (L to R): Arthur Jones, Tom Owens, Will Jones, Aubrey Smith, M Lee, Ernie Morgans, George Morgans (Trainer).
2nd Row (L to R): Dai Davies, D J Rees, W J Hill (Captain), Ned Jenkins, E W Stround, Alby Ball.
Front Row (L to R): Sam Howells, Dick Jones, Dick Owen, Peter Lockman. (Club Archive)
Billy Bancroft started this season as captain for the fourth time and third consecutive. Frank ‘Genny’ Gordon was named Vice Captain in recognition of his contribution the previous season. This reward was to encourage him to flower as a player and was to bear great fruit within a short time. Optimism was high on the tailwind of the previous campaign and there was added spice as Club Chairman James Livingstone was said to have procured a fixture in the French capital of Paris with the Stade Français Club. ‘Northern Poachers’ were again active and both Dan Rees and George Davies were approached though neither signed up.
Good form in the early part of the season with solid wins in October set up a tour to the West Country. Wins over Devonport and Bristol followed with Billy Trew receiving laurels in the press for his contributions as The Whites gave dazzling performances. Regular visitors from London, Old Merchant Taylors were beaten in the New Year by two goals and six tries to nil. With the three quarters line now acting as a well oiled unit, there was talk of the kind of success not experienced since Billy Bowen led The Whites a decade before.
The season ticket above from 1898-99 shows the opponents for the 1st and 2nd XV’s and gives an idea of the clubs played during this era at the turn of the century. (Club Archive).
On New Years Day St Helens hosted the International between Wales and England (see photo below) which Wales won but at a cost to Swansea as stand off Evan James was badly injured though he continued to the final whistle. His brother Sam was drafted into the Swansea 1st XV to help out thus giving the James’ the distinction of being the first to have three brothers play for the Swansea 1st XV in the same season. Despite a growing injury list (including now David James and Billy Trew) Aberavon were beaten and Swansea remained undefeated.
The news that David and Evan James had finally been lured away to Broughton Rangers was a disappointment but not a great surprise. As a great crowd draw, they were always going to be high on the lists of the Northern Poachers and they left with their families to play in England . This departure in January, though a loss did not prevent Swansea from beating Lampeter College at St Helens in the next game by eighty three point s to nil, a Club record at the time. But the unbeaten record finally went in early February to Gloucester by a narrow margin with Bancroft failing to convert what would have been a winning score. Newport also lowered Swansea’s colours on the next game at St Helens though it was noted that one RM (Dickie) Owen made his senior debut at scrum half for Swansea. Outside half Dick Jones had debuted in the Gloucester game previously and these two were to take Swansea forward from the days of the James Brothers to new heights and a Golden Era for the Club.
At last, the trip to Paris came and they crossed the Channel to become the first Welsh side to play in France (16th April 1899). The team enlarged to a party of about 200 including the supporters who were able to (and could afford to) make the voyage. In 1890, Stade Français had been the first French Club to adopt the rules then generally prevalent in Britain and so, were the first to qualify to play clubs from across “La Manche”. Swansea were already Welsh Champions. As such, the Stade Francais Club asked if they might field a side from ‘All France’ to provide a sterner test for the Welsh side. This was agreed and Swansea won the game by 30 – 3, an emphatic end to a tremendous campaign.
Invitation sent to Swansea RFC to play the groundbreaking game in Paris. Swansea were the first Welsh team to play in France. (Club Archive)
This was the itinery card laying out the travel arrangements of a trip to Paris which took nearly 24 hours. Despite this, a group of about 200 went from Swansea and only the intervention of the Welsh Union (prohibiting matches on Sunday – even abroad!) prevented more such trips. (Club Archive)
The menu for a dinner held in Paris to honour the Welsh Champions after their emphatic win against the Stade Francais side. (Club Archive)
A menu from the sumptuous dinner laid on following the match in Paris. (Club Archive).
Five Swansea men played against England at St Helens in 1899 including Will Parker and forward Fred Scrines who made his International debut. The James brothers in this their farewell match, gave a great performance. Bancroft played in the match lost to Ireland at Cardiff and was joined by Will Parker and Scrine in the loss away to Scotland.
Wales (26) v England (3) played at St Helens.
Back Row(L to R): T Dobson(Cardiff), F Scrine(Swansea), W Parker(Swansea), J Hodges(Newpot), A Bryce(Aberavon), J Blake(Cardiff), D J Daniel(Llanelli).
2nd Row(L to R): R T Skrimshire(Newport), H V P Hussey(Cardiff), W J Bancroft(Captain – Swansea), W Llewellyn(Llwynypia), E G Nicholls(Cardiff), W Alexander.
G Bowen(Linesman), Evan James(Swansea), David James(Swansea).
(Image made available for copy by John & Ira preece. Ira preece is the Grand daughter of David James).
Match ball – Wales v England, St Helens 7th Jan 1899 (captain – W J Bancroft of Swansea).
This is the match ball from the Wales v England international played at St Helens on 7 January 1899. Wales won by 4 goals and 2 tries to 1 try. Swansea’s Billy Bancroft was the Welsh captain. It was the last international played by the Swansea half-back brothers Evan and David James.
Fred Scrine was a forward who first played for Swansea in 1895. He was used effectively as a roving forward by the club, utilising his great mobility and speed as an attacking option. Scrine won his first two caps in this season against England and Scotland. He was only to gain one more in 1901( v Ireland). An outspoken player in an era of deference to the class system, he campaigned for players’ rights and was more than once rebuked by the Welsh Union for responding to referee decisions and for suspected ‘broken time’ payments. He scored the only try of the match against the first All Blacks in 1905 at St Helens when Swansea lost by a point in the tourists’ final game in Britain. (Club Archive).