TG Blainey : Barry’s ‘Knight of the Whistle’ and SWFA rep

Thomas Gibbs Bailey

Thomas Gibbs Blainey

Thomas Gibbs Blainey was born in Barry in 1899, and later lived in Evelyn Street, Barry Dock. In many respects ‘TG’ was at the heart of the game in Barry, being a referee, an official with the local league, secretary of a local football club, officiating international fixtures, Councillor, Chairman and Vice President of the regional Football Association, and a graphic designer. The man had passion.

The first record we have of TG officiating is for a Barry & District League Division Two fixture between Atlantic Mills Seconds vs Penarth Wesleyans in October 1921. The original Barry & District League started in 1907 but folded after several years. After the War, local football types were determined to make another go of it, and it’s the Barry & District AFL that began in 1920-21 that was the forerunner to today’s Vale of Glamorgan League.

By the 1923-24 season TG had become Chairman of the Barry & District League, while still officiating games on the weekends. At the time, the League was based at the YMCA building at Newlands Street, Barry Dock. The Chairman of the YMCA was one A.C. Morrish, another local football personality, and someone who also served on the committee of the Barry & District League.

TG became a Councillor in the local FA, the South Wales & Monmouthshire Football Association before the start of the 1924-25 season, and remained a referee when he moved up to become Vice President of the Barry & District League in 1926-27, as well as being part of the Referee’s Selection Committee. He was on hand to present Cardiff Fairoak with the Barry Dockers’ Cup at Jenner Park following their 2-0 victory over Llantwit Major.

By 1928-29 TG was now acting as a Councillor in the Football Association of Wales, and on 27 October 1928 had the honour of running the line for the Scotland v Wales international fixture at Ibrox. One of the faces in the Wales line-up that day was one TG would have recognised; Robert ‘Bob’ John who had come up through the ranks in local football in Barry. Bob John had played for Barry Town, before moving to Caerphilly (which is a story in itself!), and then later earned himself Hall of Fame status at the Arsenal.

Scotland v Wales programme, 1928

TG Blainey officiated in several international matches. Here is his name on the matchday programme for the Scotland v Wales match from 1928.

The 40th AGM of the South Wales & Monmouthshire FA was held in Cardiff in July 1930, and TG Blainey was presented with a medallion to commemorate his year of office as Chairman of the SW&MFA, and at the same meeting he was subsequently elected as one of the six vice-presidents of the Association, polling the highest number of votes out of nine candidates.

The Barry Herald newspaper ran a report on the meeting:

Presentation to Barry sportsman

The 40th annual meeting of the South Wales and Monmouthshire Football Association was held at the Grand Hotel, Cardiff, on Saturday, and was attended by hundreds of delegates representing clubs from all over an area including Monmouthshire and that part of Wales south of a straight line drawn from Cardigan to Hereford. Among the members of the Barry League present were Messrs. L.A. Lewis, Phil Squires, and T.G. Blainey (Barry League Committee).

Mr. P.T. Sockett (Newport) was then called upon to perform a very interesting ceremony. He presented Mr. T.G. Blainey, Evelyn Street, Barry, with a medallion to commemorate his year of office as chairman of the Association Council. He said that Mr Blainey had earned honours in the field of play, as a “knight of the whistle,” and also in the realm of legislation. He had been in the forefront as a referee, and had earned his legislature spurs with the Barry and District League. Seven years ago he entered as a member of the Association, and 12 months later was called upon to make a momentous decision, when it was decided that referees should not be allowed to legislate. Mr. Blainey, however, had served the whistle well, and he decided to give up refeering in favour of Association work. Since then he had listened to many cases and refereed well and truly from the chair. He had carried out his onerous duties in a very able manner, and had won a large host of friends.

Mr. Blainey, responding, thanked those present for their kind support at previous meetings, and he was proud to say that he had been chairman during such a critical year – the year of economy. They had come through successfully, and notwithstanding industrial depression and general slackness of trade, he believed they would keep their heads above water. Although there had been disputes during the season, and keen divisions had been experienced on certain matters, he thought they had ended up friends at the close. He found, however, that the challenge was never to the chair, and he had been treated most fairly.

Subsequently Mr. Blainey was elected as one of the six vice-presidents of the Association, polling the highest number of votes out of nine candidates. He obtained 181 votes, a majority of 12 over the next candidate.

Mr. Blainey, who was first elected to the Association in the 1923-24 season, has served continuously since that date. He was nominated by the Cardiff Saturday League, Barry Dock Wesleyans and Barry Juniors.

Prior to the meeting, TG had organised a Barry & District League XI to tour the West Country. Although League XI’s had been around since the creation of the League itself – occasioanlly playing Barry Town in a Christmas friendly – this is the first instance I have found of the representative XI going on a tour. They did very well, and obviously put the League in a positive light. Whether TG had an idea under his cap already, or whether the tour resulted in his idea I guess we’ll never know, but come the summer of 1930 around the time of his election as Vice President of the SW&MFA he was proudly promoting a new venture in local football. He had put together a team of the best local league talent and called the club Barry Amateurs AFC. He declared that the club would wear white shirts, with a red ‘BA’ badge, black shorts and white and black socks.

I was fortunate enough to have had some correspondence with Alan Blainey, the grandson of TG, and he had in his collection TG’s original hand sketched idea for the Barry Amateurs club badge he had described to the local press. And amazingly, here it is.

Barry Amateurs badge

TG Blainey’s badge design for the Barry Amateurs AFC

The creation, dominance and death of the Barry Amateurs is a blog entry in itself, so there won’t be too much depth here, but between 1930-31 and 1931-32 pretty much dominated amateur football in south Wales. The club became something of a nursery to Barry Town – indeed, in its first season it was based at Jenner Park – and many a star came through the ranks of the Barry Amateurs.

For the rest of the 1930s, up until the War, TG continued to serve as Vice President of the SW&MFA and was still handing out cups at Jenner Park-based Finals. Following the War, the secretary of the Barry & District League, WH Gardiner, although not naming TG by name, critised the creation of the Barry Amateurs AFC some 20 years previously. It had threatened the survival of the league itself, he argued. Barry Town Historian, Jeff McInery, had done a bit of sleuthing around this fact a couple of years ago, and found something intriguing. It appears that when TG Blainey and WH Gardiner were serving on the Barry & District League, Blainey had stopped a player from playing football under a technicality. That player was Alec (or Alan) Watts. Jeff found out that Alec was WH Gardiner’s nephew and this spat could have seriously compromised the working relationship between the two.

When TG formed the Barry Amateurs, they were advertised as acting as back-up to Barry’s Southern League and Welsh League squads, and in instances, this was true. Their home ground was Jenner Park, and everything appeared fine until the following season when they were given the cold shoulder by Barry Town and were not granted further use of the Jenner Park pitch. TG and the Amateurs were out. In its place came a new Barry Town ‘A’ team – the club’s first foray into the local league. The club secretary for this new venture? WH Gardiner.

Gardiner appears to have held a grudge against TG and his Barry Amateurs because of the situation with his nephew, as well as the fact that the Amateurs acted as a Barry League XI, but actually played in the rival Cardiff & District League. This, as far as Gardiner was concerned, was a huge snub. The Barry Town ‘A’ joined both the Barry League and the Cardiff League.

Homeless, and without a ground to bring in proper income, the Barry Amateurs faded away at the end of the 1932-33 season, failing to complete it, but TG continued his work for the SW&MFA until the outbreak of the War. By now, TG had moved with his wife to Cardiff, where he remained until his death in 1977, aged 78.

Jason Pawlin

(With thanks to Alan Blainey and Jeff McInery. All photographs courtesy of Alan Blainey)

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