(Above: Meirion Howells from Board of Directors, Terry Morgan of the All Whites Former Players' Association and former All Whites wing Gwinfor Higgins, with the recovered jerseys).
It’s been a great week for Swansea RFC thanks to an anonymous stranger, who popped in to return four rare and valuable rugby jerseys that were stolen last May.
The club had feared the jerseys were stolen in order to be sold to collectors of Welsh or rugby memorabilia, and police had been investigating the theft.
The jerseys, one of which dated from the 1923 Rugby School Centenary match, were found in a cardboard box in a skip outside a local business in nearby king Edward Road, and handed in anonymously to the club on Saturday. Although the framed Scott Gibbs jersey was not in the 'haul', the club is grateful that the others are now "home" again.
The same day Swansea RFC gained a deserved and much-needed win over Newport at St Helens - another piece of good news, which made it a particularly good day for the club.
The management of Swansea RFC would like to thank the keen-eyed Good Samaritan – and want to make it clear he was in no way connected to their disappearance.
Meirion Howells, speaking on behalf of the club’s Board of Directors, said: “All four jerseys are in good condition and it looks like they’ve only very recently been deposited in the skip. We are sure that the active support of many rugby and media organisations around the world in publicising their disappearance, has been an important factor in the difficulty of selling these irreplaceable shirts. We would also like to thank Swansea Police Force who worked very hard in this respect and similarly, Frederic Humbert of Rugby-Pioneers in France, Michael Rowe at Twickenham World Rugby Museum and Michael Fahey in Australia, for spreading the word.
“We will need to do a little restoration work to get the jerseys back to their former glory, but they will shortly be on display for all to enjoy again. At a time when everyone at the club is working hard for the future, this is a great piece of news.”
Club Chairman Phil Llewellyn added: “At this time the club wishes to appeal to all lovers of rugby in Swansea to come and support the young team and the coaching staff who have worked so hard to maintain the proud tradition of a club that has been a part of this town and city for 140 years. We have just a few games left in which to secure our position in the Premiership for the coming season and I know the players would appreciate as much support from the grandstand and terraces as possible. Come and cheer on the hard working team from your city.”
The recovered shirts
1923 England/Wales jersey v Scotland/Ireland. Worn by Swansea and Welsh international Rowe Harding in the Rugby Centenary match played on The Close at Rugby School to celebrate 100 years since William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up and ran with the ball at Rugby School.
1924 Irish International jersey worn by George V Stevenson (wing three quarter). Ireland v Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on 8th March 1924. Presented to the club by Rowe Harding who was Stevenson's opposite number. It was Ireland's first win in Wales for 25 years (13 - 10).
1973 Japanese international jersey from the first ever match between Wales and Japan, 6th October 1973 Cardiff Arms Park (uncapped match for Wales). Wales won 62 – 14. Presented to the club by Chairman Phil Llewellyn who played tight-head prop in the match.
1963 Rugby Jersey – “Ranji Walker’s XV”. Touring invitation team begun by Wing Cdr Sidney George “Ranji” Walker O.B.E. at Swansea in 1948. They played Swansea and other leading clubs annually until 1959 and many international players and future caps graced their all-out attacking teams. Presented to the club by Air Commodore Ranji Walker C.B., O.B.E.