Swansea RFC was saddened to hear of one of our former players having passed away this month. Those who knew Ernie Williams from the AWFPA Annual Dinners will miss him. His daughter Anne has penned this vivid description of a son of Wales, who travelled far but whose heart was always in Wales and proud memories very much with St Helen’s and the ‘All Whites’…
It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Ernie/Taffy Williams.
Wales and rugby were two themes that dominated Ernie’s long and adventurous life. Born in Skewen in 1930, Ernie attended Neath Grammar School and played hooker for Swansea from 1947-1951. He was enormously proud of his association with Swansea RFC and often attended Former Swansea players meetings, using them as an excuse both to meet old friends but also to stock up on cockles and laverbread! He also played for Wales youth.
Age 21, Ernie left Wales for East Africa to shoot wild game, something he later regretted. So began a nomadic life living and working all around the world, largely in Africa and the Far East. He was always a proud Welshman wherever he went.
In Mombasa, Ernie met and married his wife Lorna. He played rugby in Mombasa, Nairobi and Tanga for various teams including Coast Province XV and in 1954 played for the combined East African side. By this time he was working as a surveyor for East African Railways building the line that was hopefully to run from Cairo to Cape Town. During a short stint back in England, Ernie combined playing rugby with being a society referee, coaching at a reform school, having a family and pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals. He and his young family then moved to Karachi where the rugby pitch had no goal posts as it was on the mud flats and had to be marked out each time afresh.
Next stop was Johannesburg. Ever the hospitable Welshman, he was fortunate enough to host at his home many of the 1974 ‘Invincible’ Lions team that was now managed by his ex Swansea team mate Alun Thomas. He travelled around the country supporting the tour. In Johannesburg, Ernie got his private pilot’s licence, then his commercial licence and became Chairman of the local flying club. He would then fly himself on business trips to the likes of Angola and Mozambique. He served on the board of the South African committee investigating air crashes and safety.
And then to Hong Kong. By this time, Ernie was managing director for the Far East for American Cyanamid, an agrochemical multinational for whom he travelled extensively in the region. He continued refereeing and had the dubious accolade of being the only ref to break his leg during a game when the scrum fell on him! Ernie was also a supporter of the inaugural HK Sevens Tournament in 1976, which has now grown into probably the most prestigious Sevens tournament m in the world. He also served as the chairman of the Hong Kong Welsh Society.
Ernie and his wife, Lorna, retired to UK in 1987. They built a house on the river at Chertsey. Ernie was involved with the local Conservative business group and devoted much of his time to creating a beautiful garden. Ernie also served as Chairman of London Welsh from 1993 – 1996 just as rugby was turning professional.
He and Lorna then moved to Cobham. Lorna predeceased him in 2012. Ernie and Lorna had five children, 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren who will all miss him enormously.
If anyone reading this knew Ernie and would like to attend, Ernie is having a service of Thanksgiving on Wednesday 8th September at 3.30pm at Cobham United Church, 38 Stoke Road, Cobham, KT11 3BD.