THE SWANSEA RFC HISTORY PROJECT
An ambitious beginning
The project of a digital online record of the history of Swansea Rugby Club began in 2004 with the re-launch of the club’s official website as a Principality Premiership League club. With the club’s blessing, Bleddyn Hopkins (Club Statistician) Paul Hopkins (Match Programme Manager & Match reporter) and myself, began to accumulate data. Many other hands have helped since.
The original aim was to digitally copy and restore imagery belonging to the club to prevent deterioration of some of the older photos. The logical next step was to use these in conjunction with a narrative to describe the life and times of the club from its early days in 1873 to present. As systematic progress revealed, there was a huge quantity of photos that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades; worse, there were others that had faded in that light almost to invisibility.
Re-launch in 2010-11
To bring these images to life, they had to be described as well as restored. Diverse sources have been used and cross referenced to bring this about. This work was given a shot in the arm with the re-launch of the official website at the start of 2010-11. We were able to incorporate the extensive statistical archive of our new website builders and web hosts Sportradar, which was transferring over to Sporting Records Online in 2018. Unfortunately, this also meant the resubmission of the entire archive to a new template in order to take advantage of the new features available to us. This work is still ongoing.
Many of the digitally archived images have been restored, some extensively with the use of front line software. This will preserve some of the more degraded and delicate photos as digital files for future generations. In addition to the many photographs on display or stored at the club, former players, and in many cases their descendants have come forward with images and other items thought to have been lost, for us to record. Rugby supporters, writers and collectors have passed on Memorabilia such as jerseys, photos, cups, programmes, dinner menus and medals for us to incorporate into the project. Wherever known, the donations are credited beneath the image.
The addition of a descriptive text to the pictorial story is helped by access to many sources, both eye witness and written. Bleddyn Hopkins has made available his extensive records and worked with Sportstat to dovetail these with their own, giving the viewer instant access to many facts about seasons and players past and present. In addition, his book “Swansea RFC 1873-1945” has been a useful reference point as has the late David Farmer’s “The All Whites”. Many other sources have been referred to and are listed below but special thanks must also go to Peter Owens at the WRU for allowing us unlimited access to the WRU archive room at Cardiff Millennium Stadium (when will there be heating there please!).
Apart from the descriptive text, which is an ongoing task, we plan to insert movie clips from famous matches, and already have a small but growing collection of material and other clips we hope to get permission to show.
A section dedicated to the story of the world famous St Helens Ground is well under way with a fine collection of imagery facts and recollections of a ground as famous for it’s cricket as it is for rugby football. This includes the never previously viewed plan from 1945 for the development of the ground which was to have maintained it as an international venue.
The clubhouse at St Helens holds many items of memorabilia as yet unrecorded. These include such items as foreign international and club jerseys, cups, caps, signed balls and mementoes from Swansea RFC tours abroad. All will require recording. Also, a virtual reality tour is planned of the clubhouse and ground.
How can you help?
Your memories – many of the descriptive texts in the archive come directly from those who were there, whether players, committee or supporters. There is no description as valuable as an eye witness account from a personal viewpoint. It helps the reader to imagine himself or herself there. The facts recording a sporting event are brought to life by the human aspect. What was it like to watch John Faull kick two huge penalties to draw a match with the 1953 All Blacks? How did the Aussies react to defeat by Swansea at St Helens in 1966? Why did the touring ‘Whites’ end up in an Italian jail on the pre-season tour of 1972-73? You can add your piece of the history of Swansea Rugby Club to the online archive by getting in touch with us.
Memorabilia items – We are still looking for team photos (1st & 2nd XV) and pictures taken at matches. Old programmes from well known matches and badges, jerseys and other items all help put meat on the bones of any given season. If you don’t wish to part with the items, they can be recorded without ever leaving your home as many have been already. Let us know if you have something you think we’d like to see.
Your expertise – All the work done on this project is voluntary and for the benefit and enjoyment of people interested in rugby football and this historic club and its story. If you think you can help to forward this work you can get in touch with us. You may have skills that are necessary to the completion of a feature. We are currently looking for people who know about digital movie processing and generally, computer able people. Also we need people to help generally on archive photographing days at the club, where we have to remove, present, photo and return items in the pavilion. Get in touch with us.
Will Joseph’s 1905 Wales v All Blacks jersey and it’s proud current owner who allowed us to photograph it.
Enjoy your visit to the online archive of Swansea RFC
(Club Photographer & Archivist)
Sources and Contributors
Swansea Public Library Archived Newpapers:- The Cambrian, South Wales Daily Post, Western Mail.
National Library of Wales Online Archive:- Western Mail, The Times, Pall Mall Gazette, The Bristol Mercury And Daily Post, The Northern Echo, The Belfast Newsletter.
Bleddyn Hopkins: “Swansea RFC 1873-1945” Tempus Publishing 2002.
David Farmer: “The All Whites – The Life And Times Of Swansea RFC” DFPS Ltd 1995.
David Smith & Gareth Williams: “Fields Of Praise – The Official History Of The Welsh rugby Union 1881-1981” WRU 1980.
Wayne Thomas: ” A Century Of Welsh rugby Players” Ansells Ltd 1979.
Howard Evans: “Welsh International Matches 1881-2000” mainstream Publishing 1999. Also thanks for sending photos of teams playing during WWII and other information.
Jack Cullen at Pathe News for helping us with archive newsreels
John M Jenkins, Duncan Pierce & Timothy Auty: “Who’s Who Of Welsh International rugby Players” Bridge Books 1991.
John Billot: “Springboks In Wales” Ron Jones Publications 1974.
Bob Howitt & Dianne Haworth: “1905 Originals” Harper Collins (New Zealand) 2005.
Sportradar: Hugh, Mark and the team for their extensive records, creative approach and infinate patience.
Sporting Records Online: Ian Golden who rebuilt the new website after transferring from Sportradar.
Sian Tucker and the Community archives Wales team for making aural recordings over several sessions in 2009.
Dragon Tales Rugby
Special thanks to Peter Owens at the WRU for access to the WRU Archives room in Cardiff Millenniumm Stadium. Also to Life Patron and former Secretary and President of Swansea RFC, David Price for contributions, advice and encouragement. Also to former players Phil Llewellyn, Dai Protheroe, Stuart Davies, Mike Thomas, Terry Morgan of the Former Players’ Association and the late Horace Phillips.