Club Captain : William Towers
Playing Record : P28, W13, D6, L9, Pts for 183, Pts against 145.
Leading Points Scorer : – Dai Gwynn 22
(d) = International debut, (c) = captain of international side.
Played: 28, Won: 13, Lost: 9, Drawn: 6. Points For: 183, Against: 145.
Back Row(L to R): William Williams, W H Jones, Harry Bevan, William Bowen, W McCutcheon, Tom Williams.
2nd Row(L to R): George James, Arthur Whapham, W H Towers (Captain), E Thorogood, A A Matthews.
Front Row(L to R):, David Gwynn, Frank Pearce, Teddy Bishop
This is the second oldest known photograph (see 1879-80) of Swansea Rugby Football Club as a posed photographic record (the 1886-7 image is a collage though contemporary to the season).
Team Captain William Hunter (W H) Towers gained the second of his two Welsh caps this season against the New Zealand ‘Maoris’ having also led Swansea in their match against the touring side on Christmas Eve at St Helen’s.
At the Swansea Football Team AGM of 7th August 1888 it was enthusiastically proposed and seconded that E S Richards be reappointed as captain of the 1st XV but, explaining his inability to accept the office, he suggested G E Bowen for the position and W H Towers as his vice captain. The roles became reversed at some point and Towers took on the mantle of captaincy for 1888-89. He certainly contributed on-field and ended the season as joint top try scorer (6) with W H Jones and A. Whapham. Bowen’s time was to come. The Cambrian newspaper of 10th August 1888 reports that the Club had by now arranged fixtures with Newport, Cardiff, Llanelli and other South Wales teams with the chief “foriegn” fixtures being against Halifax, Gloucester, Oldham, York and London Welsh. The northern tour was made at Easter as it fell so late in the year that preparations were starting for the cricket season by then preventing home games. Swinton was included in this set of matches.
William Hunter Towers made his Swansea debut in 1886 and played for the club versus the NZ Maoris in December 1888. He made 2 appearances as a forward for Wales between 1887 and 1888, Wales winning both games. He captained Swansea in the 1888-89 season.
By the time of the 1888-89 season, Swansea Rugby Club had advanced from the point where Newport was the furthest away opposition travelled to. Now York had joined the Club’s fixture list! The season got under way proper with an unexpected win against Newport at St Helens. The Gwent side were much the favourites having lost just 3 games from 23 in the previous campaign (2 of those to Swansea). Another milestone was reached on December 24th 1888 when the New Zealand Maoris team touring Great Britain were hosted at a match at St Helens defeating Swansea by 11 points to nil. This was the first of the Touring sides to visit Britain and Swansea’s inclusion in their fixture list began a great tradition at St Helens with visiting tourist sides. The tourists were not all Maoris, being bolstered by several Colonists and captained by J A Warbrick, one of 5 Warbrick brothers to play for the team. Further details accompany the Maoris photograph below.
W H Jones made his debut for Swansea in 1887 and played for the club versus the NZ Maoris in December 1888.
Swansea’s Captain, Billy Towers led the home side against the Maoris and had gained the second of his two Welsh Caps two days previously at St Helen’s when Wales defeated the Maoris by 5 points to nil (Dec 22nd 1888). His Swansea team mate Billy Bowen also played in this match in front of a relatively small crowd. This was the third time Wales had played at St Helen’s following fixtures against England in 1882 and 1885 ( England did not play Wales in this season). On February 2nd in Edinburgh, Scotland beat Wales 2 tries to 1 with Teddy Bishop making his only home international appearance. Billy Bowen also played. Ireland played Wales at St Helen’s on 2nd March 1889 and won by 2 tries to nil. Dai Morgan and Billy Bowen represented Swansea in the Welsh side. The ground was establishing itself now as a regular venue for the National Side.
Billy McCutcheon appeared in this season’s team photo (above) but soon left to work and play football in Oldham. He returned regularly to Swansea and continued to turn out for the All Whites when in the town. this illustration probably represents him wearing an Oldham club cap. It was released as part of the Baines collection of sporting cards which were very popular at the time. (Image courtesy of Stuart Quinn)
This is believed to be one of the earliest Club squad photograph. It has been dated as 1886 but given the players shown it is more likely to be from 1888.
Back Row(L to R): A Wolff, E M Jones, D Burnie, A Whapham, T Russell.
3rd Row(L to R): G Bowen, W Bowen, D Williams.
2nd Row(L to R): W Smith, J Samuel, H Bevan, G James, W Wilcocks, T Roberts, C Coke, E Thorogood, A Lewis, S Rice, D Samuel, J Meredith, W J Bancroft, A Lewis.
Front Row(L to R): W Williams, P Jones, W H Gwynn, J Morgan, J Thomas, J Davies, T Blackmore, D Morgan, T Deacon, T Williams.
Back Row(L to R): J A Webster, G H Wynyard.
2nd Row(L to R): P Keogh, T Eyton (Treas.), A Warbrick, G A Williams, T R Ellison, W Karauria, J R Scott (Manager), H J Wynyard.
3rd Row(L to R): W Anderson, F Warbrick, J A Warbrick (Captain), E McCausland, H Lee, D Stewart.
Front Row(L to R): D Gage, W Elliot, W T Wynyard, R G Taiaroa.
The 1888 Maoris (or the Natives Team), a privately funded and the longest (103 matches) undertaking in the history of Rugby touring started in New Zealand, followed by matches in Australia and the British Isles. It was the first ever tour of the northern hemisphere, with the visitors being forced to play up to three matches a week to help the promoters make ends meet. The inspiration behind the venture and the tour captain was Joe Warbrick, who had toured Australia in 1884 with the first New Zealand team. Warbrick, who was born in Rotorua in 1862, died at Waimungu in 1903 killed by the accidental eruption of a geyser. He played seven times for New Zealand though did not win any caps. He was one of five brothers who were on the 1888-89 Maoris. He made his first-class debut at 15.
Maoris Matches in Britain: played 74: W49, D5, L20
Points for: 394; Points against: 188
To see a list of the Maoris tour fixtures use this link:
image Courtesy of Frederic Humbert – http://rugby-pioneers.blogs.com/
1888 Maoris touring team. centre standing: A Warbrick (team selector, coach & Captain) and brothers – Left: Frederick Warbrick, Right: Joe Warbrick.
image Courtsey of Frederic Humbert – http://rugby-pioneers.blogs.com/