Our History

The resumption of Rugby after hostilities officially ended in 1919, began a successful period for the club. This was a largely new team, the cost to the founding fathers of the club had been extreme. However led by one survivor of the pre war years, Abel Rees, rugby soon was alive and well in the village again. After returning from active duty in the Royal Navy, Abel captained the side twice in what was a very successful period for the club. By 1924 Tycroes had won the Amman Valley League Cup twice(1919 and 1923) and were runners up in 1924. Players endured facilities and conditions that we today would baulk at. As the late Gerald Anthony remembered,

“I well remember as a lad seeing the Garw Rovers team arriving in a horse drawn wagon and pulling up at Morgan Vaughn’s house where they changed in the large workshop at the rear of the house and of course convenient to the old pump, the first water supply that I remember in Tycroes” (75TH AB)

The water supply had only been established in Tycroes in 1912 and did not get piped into most houses for another 20 years. The pump quickly became a meeting place for local boys and an advert for a local policeman in 1913 makes reference to local youths soaking passers by (Amman Valley Chronicle).

However, despite Tycroes RFC’s success in the early 1920’s the club was not immune to local and world events. The year long colliery strike in the anthracite coalfield (1925-1926) which included the infamous, “Battle of Ammanford,” followed by the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression left little time for Rugby.This political struggle was continued on the pitch

One young miner from Cwmtwrch, the sole supporter of a widowed mother and eight children, was so badly beaten by batonning about the head that he spent a long period in hospital and never worked as a miner again. The policeman responsible was not forgotten. The next occasion he played rugby against one of the Swansea Valley teams he received such leg injuries that he suffered permanent incapacity.” (Ammanford Website)

Few alive in the village today remember the a daily struggle to survive, with soup kitchens and children scrabbling through the washeries in Penybanc for some coal to heat the fire. It is perhaps unsurprising then that players in such an economically difficult time chose to take the money and “go north” to Rugby League; a problem for all Welsh clubs at all levels until the advent of proffesionalism in union in 1995. The first but not the last was Evan Davies a guest player for Tycroes, who also played more regularly it must be said for Tumble and Llanelli. Davies played for Oldham and Great Britain earning three caps against New Zealand in 1920. He was followed by Ike Fowler who after leaving Tycroes played for successfully Bately RLC now the Batley Bulldogs and later Glyn Howells who went to Oldham RLC.  There is even the suggestion from the Amman Valley Chronicle that the clubs first captain Latimer Jones and his teamate Morgan Clarke had a brief sojurn with the intention of playing Rugby League but returned to Union.

Two gentleman who left us last july for the north of England have returned to offer their services to their native club”. (AVC 4/09/1913)

In a time of blacklisting and ostracism of league players when they returned to Wales, Tycroes RFC was a notable exception welcoming home defectors with nothing mentioned about their aberration in playing the thirteen man professional game. Although perhaps going north was a reason for Latimer Jones not being captain when he returned to Tycroes for the 1913-14 season.

The club was very lucky not to go out of existence at the end of the 1920’s, other local clubs did, most notably one of Tycroes first opponents the Curwen Stars folded to later emerge as Cwmgors RFC, still local rivals today. Survival of rugby in the village only happened because of a merger with another local rival Penybanc RFC in 1927. The team played under the name of “The Tycroes ex-Schoolboys”.  Meetings were held in Alun Davies shop and he and Billy Jonah were responsible for collecting the tuppence a week from players and supporters over the season. Thankfully it was just enough to pay for a full set of jerseys a massive £1,3,7d. In todays terms almost a weeks wages. Such shoestring finances indeed! The Club was kept alive in the 1920’s by players and administrators such as these and Rhys Rees (Tircoed). At the time of the Clubs 75th anniversary in 1986 Rhys Rees (Tircoed), was the last survivor of that generation of players His father J.D Rees (Tircoed) was one of the clubs very first officals, refereeing many of the early matches. (AVC 25/09/1913) and they both were succeeded by a third generation in John Rees (Tircoed) who played for and captained the club in the 1950’s.

Much of the sources for the history of Tycroes RFC in the Twenties comes from the memories compiled in the 75th Anneversary booklet. We are lucky that the memories of players such as Gerald Anthony and Shon Howells and contributions from notables such as Hermas Evans and Barry John were recorded. As an historian the work of Terry Morgan who compiled that booklet was invaluable when I began researching this period of the clubs History.


By the begining of the 1930’s Tycroes RFC was on  much firmer ground established at its present home on Penygarn Road. John Rees and his brother Mel were one set of many brothers who served the club first as players, then John as captain of the club in 1936. He later served the club with such distinction as both Treasurer in the 1940’s and Steward in the 1960s that with the refurbishment of the clubhouse at the start of the new millenium the Bar was named after him. He is not to be confused with John Rees Tircoed also a club player and captain. Indeed in a Welsh village of three John Rees’, it is obvious why they all bore monikers. John Rees (Tircoed), player and captain in the 1950’s should not be confused with T. John Rees, player and captain in the 1930’s and later steward whose service to the club was so great he gained the moniker “the club”. Or even then local farmer, Tycroes resident and milkman, John Rees (Clysgam)!

Match reports from the 1930’s show Tycroes as having a hard reputation with small forwards but some sparkling backs. Another feature of the period is the amount of brothers who played in the team, the Anthony brothers, Cyril and Gerald, the three Hanham brothers and the Howells brothers, four siblings who served the club admirably as Tycroes RFC enjoyed great success.  Edgar the youngest brother was also the clubs youngest recorded captain at 17 in 1933; but any sibling rivalry at being ordered around by their younger brother can be dismissed; as his brother Shon recalled in the 1990s, “Edgar had enough of a gob on him for the four of us”.

Both Glyn and Gwyn captained the side in the the 1930’s and in 1939 the club won the Amman Valley Hospital Cup under Glyns captaincy. David John (Shon) served as player, Captain, as well as a five games for Swansea RFC (one short of the required six games to be considered an official All White) and later Chairman of Tycroes RFC until his death in the 1990’s.

Match reports from January 1939 shows the importance of these players to the clubs onfield success in the thirties

“The long awaited game between these old rivlas was played on Saturday last but, unfortuately the prospects of a substantial gate was dimmed by the boisterous state of the weather. The Howells brothers were responsible for scoring all the points to enable their side to win well.”(AVC Jan 19th 1939)

Success in the 1930s included the club winning the Llanelli League Championship in 1932 beating Tumble in the final and taking Furnace RFC’ four year home record in the same season. In 1936 Haydn Davies gained his Welsh Schools cap whilst at the club and in 1939 the team won the Amman Valley Hospital club with a young side that would only have matured had the Second World War not intervened.

The 1930’s also saw the beggining of the clubs attempt to become a recognised member of the WRU a process that lasted nearly 60 years with the application finally accepted in the 1990s. Few of the players who had first hoped for membership in 1936 were alive to see their dream fulfilled but it is to them that the first initiative and early drive that enabled the club to eventually become a member of the WRU must be attributed.

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 again brought an end to regular rugby however there were some notable exceptions of Tycroes players being involved in the few representative matches that were played. Edgar Howells represented Devonport and the United services whilst serving in the Royal Navy and Huw Lloyd Davies went one better gaining a varsity blue and a welsh schools cap. Unfortunatly many Tycroes players (the Cup winning side of 1939) were in their prime whilst fighting in places as far afield as Burma, Arnhem, Normandy and North Africa rather than on the pitch facing opponents no more fearsome than local rivals Penybanc or Pantyffynon RFC. One former player spent much of his war interned in the hell of a Japanese POW camp building the Death Railway in Burma that included the infamos Bridge on the River Kwai. For the second time in 30 years Tycroes RFC had lost a team in a world war. Once again some players returned for a season or two. However the return of Rugby was too late for most of the Cup Winners of 1939.

One development in the immediate post war years was the establishment of a Youth side in 1947. This was a feature that was to play an important role in the long term survival of the club and the youth members have often gone on to provide the foundation of our senior sides. They celebrated a remarkable 75th anniversary in the 2012-13 season.

The resumption of Rugby in 1945 saw a new generation of players begin to make their mark and become established in the first team.  Initially the club played in the Swansea and District League but with the purchase of the ground at Penygarn Road joined the Llanelli and District Junior League in 1951. The change was to lead to the most sustained period of success that the club had enjoyed.  In 1952 under the captaincy of Gwyn Davies and coach, Emrys Llewelyn, the club won the District Shield and in 1955 lifted both the Championship Shield and the Llanelli Junior and Lady Howard Cup; a double that is still the Clubs greatest on field success in a single season. Con Mathias one of the few survivors of this period of the clubs History was also vital in helping Tycroes achieve this success. It was his kick ahead in the semi final that allowed John Rees to score the winning points and match reports from the 1950s show Con as a graceful three quarter who was often the creative catalyst for Tycroes.  

Con made his debut for Tycroes at the age of 17 along with scrum half Errol Lloyd. His overriding memory of his debut was the opposition hooker complaining after the game of all the kicks he had received at scrum time. Llew Watkins, the Tycroes Hooker simply replied that with such exciting youngsters at halfback he needed to win the ball for them. The level of support from the village was also a factor during the fifties. At the 1953 final in Trimsaran three double decker coaches were needed to transport the fans to the game.

Tycroes’ success in the 1950’s was marred by only one thing, the lack of a clubhouse. Whilst the local pubs, the Mountain Gate and the Bridgend Inn were used in rotation on an annual basis, Tycroes RFC needed a permanent base. The first steps in this direction had been taken with the purchase of the ground at Penygarn Road and in 1958 on field activities were held in abeyance as the clubhouse and ground were re-developed. The finance for the new clubhouse was in no small part due to the income generated by the involvement with the TOTE tickets from 1952 onwards. Much like the pools a feature of life in until the 1970’s, now almost forgotten.

The opening of the new changing facilities in 1962 and clubhouse in 1964 provided players at Tycroes with some of the best facilities in Wales marking Tycroes out as a modern forward thinking club as former Wales and British Lions Fly Half, Barry John remembered in the 75th Anniversary Booklet

In fact, it was during that period (the early 1960s) that I came to Tycroes with Cefneithen Seconds and the thing I remember most to this day was your clubhouse. Obviously there were people at the Club who were far ahead of their time, for the facilities were easily the best in the area”

The Club in the 1960s were gifted with some of the most skilful players ever to don the Tycroes jersey. Dennis Lewis captain of the Youth Team in 1964 went on to play for the Llanelli in the side that beat Australia in 1967 then moved to Swansea RFC, becoming the All Whites record holder for most points in a single season; Gwyn Ashby, who played for Tycroes, Llanelli against both South Africa and New Zealand, Neath, Irish Wolfhounds and Carmarthenshire. Gwyn was still playing for Tycroes in his forties and in training would regularly put much younger players to shame. Players such as Don Davies who became the first player to win a Wales Youth cap directly from the club. These players drove the success of the Youth Team during the 1960’s winning the local seven a side tournament for four consecutive years 1964-67 and the Amman Valley Youth Cup at full strength in 1972.

The establishment of a Youth Team in the 1940s and later a junior section was a great development for the Club in providing a succession of players that went on to play for the senior side. It is a tradition that continues today with the Tycroes Youth and Juniors both successful sides that have built a tremendous reputation over the years throughout the district. This is in no small part due to the efforts of the parents, coaches and helpers who regularly show up to help out with training providing support at matches and hosting regular fundraising events.

There have been some notable players who have moved through the club from juniors to youth and onto the senior side. Gwyn Ashby of course captained the Youth side in the sixties and was a stalwart for the first XV. Dean Bromham captained both the Youth side and the Senior team in 2007 after regular captain Stuart Mander was injured. Dean then captained the first XV in his own right in 2008.

The profile of the club rose significantly with Hermas Evans as Chairman until he was succeeded by Eddie Knight in 1976.The club possessed contacts that spread far and wide in international rugby circles. Hermas was to become chairman of both the Welsh Rugby Union and the International Rugby Board. Tycroes’ reputation had spread even to the other side of the world.

“On one occasion in Canberra Australia, on being introduced to a High Commissioner, he enquired as to which part of Wales I came from. In replying that it was Ammanford he further enquired which part of Ammanford. In mentioning Tycroes he said “oh I know it!”

(Hermas Evans 75th Annerversary Booklet)

The 1970’s were a period of growth and success for the Club, whilst the team was firmly established in the local league. The clubhouse was, due to its facilities at the heart of the village community as a venue for weddings and wakes, TV programmes and local fetes. The clubhouse became a valuable source of revenue placing the Club on a solid financial footing a testament to the “forward thinkers,” of the 1950’s who had planned the redevelopment.

The team spread their wings far and wide with successful tours to Europe and receiving touring sides from France establishing international friendships that persist to this day. Our links with Rugby Club Rhodanien established in 1978 that has produced many memorable nights and matches over the years, their most recent visit to Tycroes was March 2012. 

The long link between the services established during World War Two saw Tycroes play teams from Devonport. Tycroes exiles from the services often formed the backbone of opposition teams at the annual Boxing Day Celebrations. Matches against the services and a BAOR XV were once a regular feature of the calendar; it is a sad fact of the restructuring of Rugby since 1995 that many of these traditional Christmas games have now disappeared. Nevertheless Tycroes gained memorable victories in the Ron Higgins Cup in 1974 and 1979.

The 1980’s were a period of massive social upheaval and change in the Amman Valley and Wales as a whole. The traditional industries of Iron and Coal that had been the bedrock of the economy and the foundation of social institutions were wiped out after the bitter year long miners strike.

Tycroes RFC like all small local clubs suffered from the effects of high unemployment, migration and industrial unrest. Whilst in the 1920/30s the club had only just survived. In the 80’s it was better placed to weather the storm but not without much difficulty! As the Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary, it faced difficult challenges both off and on the pitch. On the pitch the difficulty in retaining our best players and youth prospects was compounded by the extremely difficult financial circumstances off the pitch. Our survival was helped in no small part by the support and sponsorship of local businessman Maurice Wright. There were some successes for the club on the pitch in the decade of Thatcherism with the team winning promotion to Division A and winning the final of the Amman Valley Cup in 1984 in Blaenau. In 1986 the club went on tour to Plymouth with Meirion Walters as coach after he had taken over after Lyn “Tosh” Davies left to join Llandybie.

In the Seventy Fifth Anniversary season the Team managed to reach the semi Finals of both the Amman Valley Cup and the Welsh Brewers Cup. Hywel Pugh was named Captain of the Welsh Districts side. Captain during the 75th celebrations was Ray “Nip” Davies. Now still serving the club as Bar Manager, Nip remembers his time as a player and Captain fondly. Whilst humble about his own contribution to the club Nip is full of praise for his team mates.

Players such as Gwyn Ashby, Tancock or Hywel Pugh really stood out for me. Really it was just a great honour to captain the club in such an important year. The standout moment? Beating Betws in the cup, make sure you put that in.”

(Ray Davies interviewed 2011)