Keith Burkinshaw, the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, was sitting in his office at White Hart Lane a few days after the 1978 World Cup Final. He had less than two months to prepare for the start of the new season. Spurs were returning to the First Division after a year away.
Bill Nicholson, Burkinshaw’s most eminent predecessor, the man who’d overseen Spurs’s glory days of the early 1960s, had joined him for a chat. There was plenty to discuss.
While they were talking, the phone rang. Nicholson answered it.
“Hello Bill, it’s Harry Haslam.”
Haslam, a friend of Burkinshaw, was the manager of Sheffield United.
“Hello Harry, what can we do for you? “ asked Nicholson.
“Would Keith be interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles?” said Haslam.
Nicholson turned around to Burkinshaw.
“Harry Haslam’s on the phone and he wants to know if you’re interested in signing Osvaldo Ardiles,” he said.
“Is he pulling your leg or what?” said Burkinshaw.
(Adapted from the Nick Harris book ‘The Foreign Revolution’ and sampled from Sporting Intelligence.com)
Haslam’s playing career, and the Barry Town years
“Happy” Harry Haslam was a hugely popular character at Jenner Park and had previously played for Rochdale as an amateur, before moving to Oldham Athletic in the 1946-47 season for whom he made a handful of League appearances.
After a short spell with Brighton & Hove Albion, Haslam moved to Leyton Orient for the 1948-49 season, with whom he made 7 League appearances, before joining Guildford City.
Haslam joined Barry Town in the summer of 1956 replacing previous Linnets’ manager, Maurice Lindley, who later became well known as Assistant Manager to one Don Revie during Leeds United’s glory years.
With Barry Town struggling for money, he worked closely with the Chairman John Cecil Bailey and will always be remembered for being a man who managed Barry’s international superstars such as Bengt ‘Fölet’ Berndtsson (who would play almost 600 appearances for IFK Goteborg) and Sven Lindberg of the 1950s.
Indeed, I’m struggling to find knowledge of any non-League manager who signed players who had featured just months before in a squad that went to a World Cup Final.
But Harry did, signing – amongst many others – Swedish internationals Bengt Berdntsson and goalkeeper Sven Lindberg. He was closely familiar with staff at Manchester United, having been an apprentice at the club and was deeply affected by the Munich Air Crash in 1958 where he lost several old friends. Other Scandinavian players that played for the club during this exciting, if unrewarding, period in Barry Town’s history were Karl Lindberg, Bjorn Andersonn, and the extremely popular Finnish international player Hannu Kankonnen.
However, despite the glamour of Haslam bringing in overseas international stars into the club, it did little to stem the slide in fortunes for the club. The successes of the early and mid 1950s were now firmly behind the club, and attendances had fallen off dramatically. From being disappointed at the club averaging at 3,000 for home attendances, by the 1959-60 season rarely did these attendances surpass the 1,000 mark.Ultimately, Harry’s team lost 4-1 in the Welsh Cup to Merthyr Tydfil on January 2nd, 1960, and he was unceremoniously sacked by one of the Barry Directors rather than being given the grim news by the club’s Chairman John Bailey, a fact that the press at the time found very distasteful. As the Barry Town circus rolled into Wisbech with Albert Gardner acting as manager, Haslam still had time to send them this note of good luck.
The truth was that Harry had become a victim of a number of colliding and conflicting interests. His tenure at the club was marked by a bitter and prolonged fight between the Supporters Club, the Board of Directors and its own supporters organisation (very much similar to the failed organisation once infamously proposed by Stuart Lovering and which caused similar discord between owner and supporters).
Money as ever was the root cause of the argument, notably the supporters money and the house the supporters owned and used to house the manager. That house is now the Beeches care home on Barry Road adjacent to Neal Street. And eventually, a cowed supporters club signed over the house to the Board for free, and in doing so weakened itself mortally.
Leaving the club with Haslam and Manning was his right hand man and manager of the club’s Barry League Eddie Ambury.
He managed Barry’s Southern League rivals Tonbridge after leaving Jenner Park, winning the Kent Senior Cup in 1964-65 and went on to manage the club on a record 552 occasions.Haslam then became manager of Luton Town in 1972 and he led them to promotion to the Football League First Division in 1975.
Joining Sheffield United in 1978, some 20 years after signing Swedish internationals following the 1958 World Cup, Haslam was at it again. Admittedely, Haslam had his eyes set on a young lad that would make more of a mark on the world stage than the overseas signings he’d brought to Barry two decades earlier, but there’s little doubt that memories of his time managing internationals at Barry Town must have filled him with confidence.
Haslam was now in Argentina following the World Cup that summer and on behalf of Sheffield United attempted to sign a 17 year old Diego Maradona for £200,000. This was a sizeable amount. Gordon McQueen had recently become the UK’s most expensive signing when Leeds United sold him to Manchester United for £500,000. £200,000 for an unheard of teenager from South America was too much risk for Sheffield United.
They denied Haslam the funds to purchase Maradona, but allowed him the £160,000 needed to buy the more established Alex Sabella. Sabella flopped at Sheffield United, but is currently Argentina’s international coach. It was while out in Argentina that Haslam contacted Tottenham Hotspur’s manager Keith Burkinshaw about Spurs possibly signing Ardiles. Burkinshaw flew out to Buenos Aires and the deal was done with Ardiles who also suggested to Burkinshaw that Spurs also sign Ricardo Villa.
Haslam remained with the Blades until 1980 after a pretty disappointing tenure for both the man and the club, but Haslam was not out of football yet. Haslam was to join Bobby Robson’s staff as Robson prepared England for – you guessed it – the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
Harry Haslam died in 1986.
From signing Swedish international Bengt Berndtsson and a host of others in the Scandinavian invasion of Barry Town in the 1950s, to bringing Sabella, Ardiles and Villa from Argentina to England in the 1970s, ‘Happy’ Harry Haslam was certainly a revolutionary when it came to looking outside the ‘four walls’ of the British Isles when it came to spotting talent. It’s a privilege to list him here as part of the development of football in Barry.
(Jason Pawlin and Jeff McInery)
Today, the Vale of Glamorgan League clubs can compete for the Barry Cup, the ASRS Cup, the Dockers Cup, and the Supporters’ Cup. There are also several youth cups.
The oldest cup, and competition, in the district is the ASRS Cup. The ASRS Cup also has the distinction of being the first Cup Final played at Jenner Park in April 1914, won, appropriately enough, by the home club’s ‘A’ team. The ‘A’ team would later become the equivalent of Barry’s Welsh League side, but more on that at some later date.
The Barry Cup, Dockers’ Cup, Youth Cup, and Supporters’ Cup all came after the ASRS Cup competition. With the establishment of the Barry & District Association Football League in time for the 1920-21 there was a great surge of interest in local football.
Local tradesman paid for the Barry Cup and medals initially, and then came the Barry Dockers’ Cup soon after. The Youth Cup has its origins as the Harris Cup, but the present Youth Cup dates from the 1960s and was known as the Billy Butlin Cup due to the opening of the holiday resort on Barry Island.
The Supporters’ Cup, or to give it it’s full title, the Barry Town Supporters’ Cup was donated to the Barry & District League by the Barry Town Supporters’ Club after the Second World War when both Barry Town and the local league were beginning to re-emerge.
The ASRS Cup
The ASRS Cup is a terrific time capsule of Barry history. The ASRS stood for the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and was one of the first, if not the first, trade union.
Begun in the 1870s, the first branch of the ASRS opened in Barry in 1889 on the completion and opening of No.1. Dock. This first Barry branch soon took in four other local branches, such as Cadoxton and Hafod, and with over 500 paying members soon became the biggest single branch in Wales.
One of the main initiatives of the ASRS was to provide relief for wives and children of workers who had died while working on the railways. This ‘Wives and Orphans Fund’ had many fundraisers, and although in the early years this took the form of picnics and dances, by the 1890s and early 1900s the two leading rugby teams in Barry were playing an annual charity fundraiser match at Romilly Park. Usually taking place over the Easter weekend, large crowds were guaranteed.
However, as association football became increasingly more popular in the district, so these annual charity fundraisers became more focussed around football – or at least, it was football that was now grabbing the headlines.
The first recorded football match specifically in aid of the ASRS came over the Easter weekend in April 1911 when two leading local sides, Barry Island and the Pyke Street Old Boys played in front of a large holiday crowd at Romilly Park, with the formidable Island team running out 4-1 winners.
At this point, the leading senior side – Barry District AFC – played at their own Jubilee Field ground located somewhere on or near the present-day Buttrills playing fields. With Barry District playing away at Mardy, the local Barry Schools Cup Semi-Finals took place and there was a large ‘gate’ in aid of the ASRS Widows and Orphans Fund. It’s interesting to note that the Jubilee Field ground had an upgrade in 1911-12 when a roof was installed on the stand. It was the ‘Butts’, but evidently not as we know it today.
The following season, 1911-12, saw the birth of the ASRS Cup competition as a formal competition, and presumably the physical cup itself dates from this period, although these needs verifying. Barry had been granted the honour of hosting the ASRS Annual General Meeting in 1911, so presumably the formalised cup competition was a spin-off of that honour.
The first recorded teams taking part in the 1st Round of the competition were: St. Mary’s (Barry), Barry District Juniors, Bethel Baptists, Barry Woodvilles, Rhoose United, Southerndown, Rhoose District, Cowbridge United, Cowbridge Scouts, Grange United, Cadoxton Baptists, Cardiff University Settlement, Pyke Street Old Boys, and the Barry Lyndons.
There was also a new team created, the Barry ASRS FC, but little is known of this outfit, and I believe it became defunct pretty soon after its formation.
The very first round of the new ASRS Charity Cup competition took place on Saturday 13 January 1912 when Pyke Street Old Boys swamped Cowbridge United 5-0. The second round, later in the month, saw a local powerhouse, Barry West End who were based at Romilly Park, beat Talygarn 8-0.
Barry West End then set off for a friendly against Bolton Wanderers Reserves on Easter Monday, 1912, – and it was out of this match that William ‘Billy’ Jennings got signed up for Bolton Wanderers.
One minute playing in the ASRS Cup at Romilly Park, the next minute playing in front of 200,000 at the FA Cup ‘White Horse Final’ for Bolton Wanderers and numerous Welsh caps, becoming the first Barry-born player to represent Wales.
Played at the Buttrills, for an admission fee of fourpence, the first ASRS Cup Final was between Bethel Baptists (with Billy Jennings) and Barry Island. The Islanders triumphed once again – despite the ‘brilliant display’ of Jennings, and the cup was presented to the Barry Island captain, Eli Lewis, by Councillor C.B. Griffiths. ‘CB’ of course later becoming the first Chairman of Barry Town.
It was later reported that the new cup competition had raised over £20 for the ASRS Widows and Orphans Fund which is over £1,700 in today’s money – a decent amount of money even now.
The 1912-13 ASRS Cup Final, also played at the Buttrills, was between Barry West End and Pyke Street Old Boys, with Barry West End being triumphant by 2-1.
And so on to the 1913-14 season, and the first season the ASRS Cup Final was to be played at the new Jenner Park stadium. The opening game of the competition came at Jenner Park when the Barry ‘A’ side took on the more experienced Barry West End in front of a ‘goodly number of spectators’ which were treated to a ‘spirited encounter’. Barry ‘A’ rushed into a 2-0 lead before being pegged back 2-2 by half-time. The game ended 2-2.
The replay, at Romilly Park garnered ‘tremendous local interest’ and this time West End went into a 2-0 lead, before three second half goals meant Barry ‘A’ would meet Wenvoe in the next round.
Charlie Probert, a future Barry Town pro, put the West End ahead, and Bunford made it 2-0 after some incredible pressure on the Barry A goal. So, at 2-0 at half time, it was all going the West End way.
However, the 2nd half saw the Jenner Park outfit play their best football of the season with Thomas scoring two goals in quick succession to level the tie at 2-2. Farmer, the scorer of the two goals in the previous round, popped up to score the winning third goal for the Barry ‘A’ in extra time.
A week later Barry West End FC, based at Trought’s Restaurant, decided to make a presentation for Billy Jennings who had signed for Bolton Wanderers the season before from the West End and had just received the call-up to the Wales squad.
Barry ‘A’ met Wenvoe in the next round and the 3-0 victory (with goals from Crockett and Billy Saunders) was straight forward enough, as was the 4-1 win over Barry Roxburgh in the ASRS Cup Semi Final, and this set them on course to a mouth-watering ASRS Cup Final clash with the mighty Cadoxton Old Boys.
The Cadoxton Old Boys had strolled past the Barry Lindens 7-1 at their Semi Final at Jenner Park on March 17, 1914. Future Barry and Swansea star ‘Tich’ Evans scoring no less than 5 of the goals.
ASRS Cup Final 1914
at Jenner Park
Barry ‘A’ 2
(W. Farmer, A. Green penalty)
Cadoxton Old Boys 1
Keen rivalry existed between these sides and when they met on Saturday in connection with the final of the A.S.R.S. Cup there was a large attendance. The proceeds of these games are devoted to the widows and orphans of the railwaymen. The teams have met previously in other competitions and are about evenly matched. In the first half, Farmer opened the scoring, and from a penalty Green also scored. Cadoxton tried hard to decrease the lead in the second half and Nin Jones, one of their forwards, landed a fine goal. After the match Councillor Felix-Williams presented the cup to the winning side in the presence of a large crowd, who congregated in front of the band stand.
As far as I am aware this is the first, and last, mention of a ‘band stand’ at Jenner Park. Romilly Park had one, and Victoria Park still has one, but hearing that there was one at Jenner Park in 1914 comes as something of a surprise.
Whether or not this was constructed specifically for the cup finals at Jenner Park that season I guess we may never know. Either way, the band stand is not mentioned again in any later report that I’ve seen. Besides which, with the nation plunged into World War months later, there was little requirement for one.
The season was rounded off by the Bevan Shield Final between Cadoxton Victorias and Roath Park United, both Cardiff League sides (Cadoxton winning 3-1), and the season was concluded with a fund-raiser between Barry and the ‘Pick of the District’ in aid of the Barry Horticultural Society. The District side being a mix of players from the Barry ‘A’ side (P.John, Billy Saunders, J.Watson), Barry Island (E.McWade, A.Laily), Cadoxton Old Boys (A.Snook, ‘Tich’ Evans and E.Jones) and Barry West End (Charlie Probert, C.Moore, and S.Lathy).
Due to the worsening crisis on the continent, it appears that the ASRS Cup competition was back to simply being a one-off fundraiser. Again held at Jenner Park, over the Easter weekend, the match was a one-sided affair in which the 4th King’s (Shropshire) Light Infantry defeated the 12th Service Battalion Welsh Regiment 11-0. The brief mention of the match in the press listed the game as being “in aid of the N.U.R. widows’ and orphans’ fund”. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants had merged with the United Pointsmen and Signalmen’s Society to form the National Union of Railwaymen in 1913.
The competition next came back in Easter 1916 when, played at Jenner Park once again, the Glamorgan Fortress Royal Engineers defeated the 3rd Welch Regiment 3-1. The Royal Engineers featured future Barry player-manager Syd Beaumont in their ranks. Similar to the 1915 match, this appears to have been a one-off match rather than any kind of organised competition.The competition was again absent in 1917, but May 1918 saw Jenner Park once again host the Final in front of a large crowd. Despite Tich Evans scoring for the Cadoxton Old Boys, it was two goals from Len Davies that sealed a 2-1 victory for the Park Rangers. Councillor C.B. Griffiths again awarded the cup to the captain before the Park Rangers captain was ‘borne shoulder high from the field.’
The 1918-19 season was a very interesting one in as much as although no proper league system had yet to be set up to accommodate clubs back to their pre-War positions, the Barry players and staff all re-assembled as Barry District AFC. Those who know their local football history are aware that the District name dated from the 1890s before moving into the Southern League as Barry AFC ‘The Linnets’.
Quite why the club was calling itself Barry District is unknown, but it may have been because the games were still friendlies and not
competitive matches as such. And it was as Barry District that the club won the 1919 ASRS Cup Final at Jenner Park, against the competition’s first-ever Cardiff opponents, Splott Amateurs, winning 2-1.
Splott Amateurs would eventually win the cup in 1919-20 and again in 1920-21. Throughout the rest of the 1920s the competition carried on apace, although some of the ASRS Cup Finals were returned to Romilly Park. This was probably due to the pressures placed on Jenner Park with the onset of the Barry & District League and its own cup competitions such as the Barry Cup, Dockers Cup and Harris Cup.
The competition had disappeared by 1934 with Cadoxton Athletic claiming the cup in 1932-33. The competition didn’t return again until the 1957-58 season when the all-powerful Cadoxton Albions picked up three of the following four victories in the ASRS Cup.
Early ASRS competition & Cup Winners (1911-12 to 1932-33)
1911-12 Barry Island
1912-13 Barry West End
1913-14 Barry ‘A’
1914-15 4th King’s (Shropshire) Light Infantry
1915-16 Glamorgan Fortress Royal Engineers
1916-17 NO COMPETITION
1917-18 Park Rangers
1918-19 Barry District
1919-20 Splott Amateurs
1920-21 Splott Amateurs
1921-22 Aberthaw & Rhoose
1922-23 Atlantic Mills
1923-24 Barry Reserves
1925-26 Barry YMCA
1927-28 Rank’s Mills Athletic
1928-29 Rank’s Mills Athletic
1929-30 Cadoxton Athletic
1930-31 NO COMPETITION
1931-32 NO COMPETITION
1932-33 Cadoxton Athletic
The ASRS Cup competition was briefly brought back for the 1932-33 season after a couple of seasons away, but would not return to competition again until the 1950s. Since that time, however, and some 100 years after the union’s name fell into disuse, the ASRS Cup is still a trophy being played for in local football, and is a genuine relic of a by-gone era from Barry’s industrial past.
(This article first appeared in the Volume 1 Issue 8 of the Barry Town United matchday programme of 29 October 2013, and is reproduced here in memory of Bob Crow, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.)
Barry & District News
Thursday 25 March, 1982
FEARS OF TOWN SUPPORTERS ARE REALISED AS CLUB ANNOUNCE SOUTHERN LEAGUE RESIGNATION
The worst fears of supporters and other people closely connected with Barry Town Football Club were confirmed this week when the vice-chairman, Mr. Neil O’Halloran, announced the club’s resignation from the Southern League as from the end of the season.
What Mr. O’Halloran described as a ‘sad decision’ had, he explained, been taken purely for financial reasons.
The statement said “We have reluctantly had to resign from the Southern League to ensure a solid future for Barry Town.
“As from August 1982, we shall be playing our strongest side in the Welsh League.
“This decision results from the Southern League management committee issuing the club with an ultimatum that, unless floodlights are installed by the start of the 1983-84 season, we would not be considered for the Southern League.
“At a board meeting it was decided that, in order to consolidate our financial position, we would have to resign from the Southern League and play in the Welsh League, where travelling costs and general expenses would be nominal compared with the Southern League.
“It is believed that taking this action will enable the club, with careful and sensible planning, to install lights, erect new dressing rooms and improve the social facilities and generally improve the club’s status.
“This action has been taken purely for financial reasons, but, having regard to the financial state of a lot of football clubs, we must look at the warning signals and take the necessary steps to consolidate.”
Mr. O’Halloran hoped that the proposed Welsh National League would begin in the 1983-84 season, with Barry among the founder members.
It was somewhat ironic that the decision followed just two days after around 50 regular supporters of the club got together to reform the Supporters’ Club in an effort to keep the club in the Southern League.
At their meeting on Sunday, the club, under a new chairman, Mr. Bill Lewis, decided to send a letter to Mr O’Halloran seeking assurances about the club’s Southern League future and calling for a meeting with the Board of Directors.
But, it seems, the decision had already been made, especially as Southern League officials were due at Jenner Park yesterday to grade the ground. At Sunday’s meeting it was agreed that it was highly unlikely that, once they quit, Barry would be readmitted to the league.
Although appreciating Mr O’Halloran’s support for the club in recent years – and realising that without his injection of cash this week’s decision might have come before – supporters rang the ‘News’ yesterday to express their amazement at the finality of the decision.
A number felt that no opportunity had been taken to find out whether other individuals or businessmen in the town could come to the aid of the club. “No avenues have been explored whatsoever,” explained a ‘very dispirited’ Bill Lewis.
“We are not doubting that Mr. O’Halloran has every right to do what he has done, but it seems a very unsatisfactory situation that a decision of this nature should be taken without looking at other ways of helping the club.”
Billy Jennings was born in Barry, played local football in Barry, got selected to play in the first Schools International in 1907 versus England, signed for Bolton Wanderers, represented Wales, won some FA Cups, and later became Barry Town’s first home-grown manager.
Getty have recently allowed the likes of this blog to use their images without a watermark, or requiring permission. So, with thanks to Getty, here are some relevant images to football in Barry.
William “Billy” JennningsEmbed from Getty Images
Edward T. “Ted” Vizard
Born in Cogan, Ted Vizard was playing for Barry District AFC when he signed for Bolton Wanderers. Also an FA Cup winner, and Wales international.
Bolton Wanderers, 1920
Jennings is standing in front of Vizard, who’s looking to the side.
When Billy Jennings was called up to the Welsh squad for the first time, a civic reception was held in his honour in Barry.
28 February 1914 at Celtic Park (Parkhead), Glasgow
SCOTLAND 0-0 WALES
Wales: Ted Peers (Wolverhampton W), Thomas J Hewitt (S Liverpool), William Jennings (Bolton Wanderers), Thomas J Matthias (Wrexham), Lloyd Davies (Northampton T), Joseph T Jones (Stoke), Billy Meredith (Manchester Utd), George A Wynn (Manchester C), Walter O Davis (Millwall Ath), William ‘Lot’ Jones (Manchester C), Jack Evans (Cardiff C)
Referee H H Taylor (England)
16 March 1914 at Ninian Park, Cardiff
WALES 0-2 ENGLAND
Wales: Ted Peers (Wolverhampton W), Thomas J Hewitt (S Liverpool), Moses Russell (Merthyr T), Thomas J Matthias (Wrexham), Lloyd Davies (Northampton T), William Jennings (Bolton Wanderers), Billy Meredith (Manchester Utd), George A Wynn (Manchester C), Stan Rowlands (Tranmere Rovers), William C Davies (Crystal Palace), Ted Vizard (Bolton Wanderers)
Referee James Mason (England)
(Welsh international stats courtesy of the Welsh Football Data Archive)
Barry Dock News
Friday 20 March 1914
INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALLER HONOURED
Presentation to Mr W. Jennings at Barry
Barry footballers – the West End section in particular – met at the Co-Operative Hall, Barry, on Tuesday evening last, to celebrate the selection in the Welsh Association team which met England last Monday, of Mr W. Jennings, of Bolton Wanderers, who is the first Barry boy to gain senior international honours. It was a happy and convivial gathering, and during the evening Mr Jennings was made the recipient of a gold albert and pendant and sovereign case.
Mr. W. Jennings, who has just attained his majority, received his education at Romilly Road, under Mr. R. T. Evans. He had always displayed the essentials of a good footballer, and it was in 1907 that he was honoured by being chosen to represent his country against the English boys at Walsall. As time wore on, he captained the Romilly Old Boys and Barry Bethel Baptists, and frequently assisted the Barry West End. He joined the Bolton Wanderers in August, 1912, and in February of this year gained his first international cap against Scotland at Glasgow.
Mr R. A. Lewis made a presentation to Mr. Jennings, and in the course of his remarks gave the gathering an interesting account of how Vizard and Jennings joined the Bolton Wanderers Club. A few years ago, Mr. Lewis went on, Vizard signed an amateur form for Aston Villa, but was not called upon. The nest season (while playing for the Barry District AFC) he offered his services to Cardiff City for 30/- a week. Two of their directors informed Vizard that he should be ashamed of himself for asking such an amount – they could get “first class” players for that figure (Laughter).
However, Mr. Lewis recommended him to the Bolton directors, who at once realised that they had a good man. Then, again, the speaker was so impressed with the play of Jennings when at Barry, that he wrote to Bolton, and as Vizard had been such a success they readily included Jennings in the team. “If there had been a professional side at Barry,” Mr. Lewis added, “I should not have recommended them anywhere else, for it is the duty of every Barryite to do his best for local sport.” (Applause)
In handing the gift to Mr. Jennings, he made reference to his qualifications and capabilities as a footballer. Barryites, he added, were proud of the recipient. (Cheers.)
Mr. Jennings made a modest and brief response, which was much applauded.
On the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the first Barry football player to be called up by the Football Association of Wales to represent his country, Billy Jennings is duly Inducted into the Barry Town Hall of Fame.
David ‘Tich’ Evans was an excellent young football player who burst onto the scene playing for Hannah Street School (now Jenner Park School), for Cadoxton Old Boys in the Cardiff & District League, and ultimately for Barry Town. It was possibly during the ASRS Cup, when Cadoxton Old Boys defeated the all-conquering Barry ‘A’ side in the Final, that Tich Evans first came into focus with the directors at Jenner Park. At some point soon after, he was snapped up by the Linnets. Unfortunately, his Barry career almost entirely spanned the club’s War-time friendlies during the First World War, so details of him playing in the green and white of the Linnets are scant.
Despite the lack of competitive football due to the suspension of league football at the end of the 1914-15 season, ‘Tich Evans’ was on the Barry books for at least three seasons as his reputation grew. The first report for him playing for Barry was in the Barry Dock News report that had him scoring on September 9, 1916 at Jenner Park when Barry played the Glamorgan Royal Engineers (who were based on Barry Island at the time). The result was 5-0, and although the Barry & District News lists the scorers as Fred ‘Nunc’ Sheldon (4) and Ernie Webb, the Barry Dock News has the scorers listed as ‘Nunc’ Sheldon (3), Billy Price, and ‘Tich’ Evans.
A couple of weeks later ‘Tich’ Evans scored all three in a 3-0 victory over Mid Rhondda United and a further goal came against the Cardiff Albions in a 12-0 rout at Jenner Park. Needless to say, he’d made his mark. He’d also score against the likes of Swansea, Cardiff City and Newport County. Barry did play some competitive football during this season, and the club won its first senior silverware in the South Wales Senior Cup at the end of the 1916-17 season (6-1 vs. Abertillery).
As the depravity of the War worsened, so the irrelevance of football became more obvious. If the previous war years had seen football used to rally the folks back home, the following season saw even this relief from the news from the continent lesson. The 1917-18 ‘season’. if you can call it that, simply amounted to four home and away friendlies with Cardiff City during Christmas 1917 and May 1918. In a Christmas Day match at Jenner Park, Barry beat Cardiff City 6-4 in a game where player-manager Syd Beaumont scored four, E.Howells got one and so did ‘Tich Evans. The Boxing Day match at Ninian Park, and the May friendlies all ended 0-0, 1-1, and 2-2 respectively.
On Easter Monday in March of 1918, Swansea took on a team from the Royal Flying Corps at the Vetch Field, and the starting XI was:
Fisher; Hewitt (captain), Lieut. Percy Jones; Pinch (Preston), Ball (Barry), H.Crockett (Barry); Beare (Cardiff), Leopold, Weir, Brown and ‘Tich’ Evans (Barry). The referee was Harry Bamlett, manager of Oldham Athletic, and the referee for the 1914 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Burnley.
No competitive football was scheduled for the 1918-19 season, but even before the Armistice was signed the Barry club announced they were ready to start back up once again and announced a second half of the season full of top class friendlies, beginning with Cardiff City on January 11, 1919.
The Barry line-up for that match was:
W.Bowen; F.Sheldon, H.Beresford, H.Crockett, R.John, D.Evans, E.Howells, H.Woodward, Hogan, W.Price, J.Griffiths & P.Hughes.
Other friendlies would include Newport County, Swansea Town, Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd, Llanelly, LLanbradach, Abertillery, and various XI’s of demobbed soldiers and sailors.
The March 8, 1919, meeting with Swansea Town was to prove a fateful one.
The 3-3 draw at the Vetch included ‘Tich’ Evans in the Barry line-up and he had evidently greatly impressed the Swansea board. Considering the Barry side that day also included Bob John, the future Arsenal and Wales star, Evans was undoubtedly a rival star in the making.
‘Tich’ Evans’ last recorded goal for Barry came, yet again, against Cardiff City in a 3-1 victory at Jenner Park in March 1919, although he was still representing his home-town club come April 1919. During the summer, however, on the dawn of the 1919-20 season, Barry announced that they had sold Evans for £100 (around £10,000 in today’s money).
There was a bit of a stink in the local press after it was announced that Evans was to be permanently transferred to Swansea. Evans was so popular, even his wedding earlier in the summer had made the local papers. At the time the Barry board were saying ‘We received £100 from Swansea for him. We’re not getting that from anywhere else.”
Unfortunately, the ‘Tich’ Evans story is ultimately a tragic one. His bride of 10 months had died during childbirth, and from that point onward no doubt inconsolable by this, Tich took his own life, with a blade, in the grandstand at the Vetch. The Barry Herald ran a story on the news, and some 95 years later it makes for some gruesome reading.
Friday, January 2, 1920
SUICIDE OF ‘TICH’ EVANS
AFFECTED BY EXTREME GRIEF
A sensational discovery was made at Swansea on Thursday afternoon the week before last.
‘Tich’ Evans, one of the principal players in the Swansea Town Association team, was found on the Vetch Field with his throat cut, his head being almost severed from his body with a razor tightly grasped in his right hand.
It is stated that he had been depressed owing to the recent death of his wife. He was a native of Cadoxton-Barry and was one of the most popular players in the team. He was son of Mr and Mrs Evans, 21 Fairford-street, Cadoxton-Barry, who are exceedingly well known and respected in that district.
He commenced his football career quite early in life, having played for Hannah-street School and in later years for Cadoxton Old Boys. He then came under the notice of the Barry directors, and for about five seasons played on the left wing for the Seasiders, where he always played a great game.
It was, whilst in Barry, employed as a boilermaker at the Barry Graving Dock. In July last he married a Cadoxton girl named Miss Fannie Hawkins, who died a fortnight ago.
This is the fourth death Mr and Mrs Evans have sustained in the past two years, one being their other son Willie, who was killed while serving in the Navy.
Until this season ‘Tich’ had been on the list of the Barry Club, and although Barry secured £100 for his transfer, Swansea has been offered by Tottenham Hotspur four figures to release him.
After some investigation, Tich’s brother was William W. Evans, son of Thomas and Anne Evans of Barry, and Willie was serving as a Royal Navy Reserve (6830/S) on the HMS Ganges, a training ship based at Shotley. Willie Evans died on 15 July 1918, aged 22, from ‘illness’. The HMS Ganges suffered an outbreak of influenza and then diphtheria in 1918 and so it’s likely that Willie died during this outbreak.
We remember William Evans with Honour, as a casualty of the War.The local newspapers in Swansea also expressed the extreme grief that had been caused by the shocking fate of their young starlet. The reporter stated that at a previous training session on the Vetch, he was standing next to the Swansea manager, Mr. Watts, and how he remarked that ‘Tich’ was ‘not the same man’. Writing in the Cambria Daily Leader he continued;
“Little did we dream that the diminutive winger was undergoing such great stress, with its distressing sequel. It is indeed a heavy blow to the Swansea Town Club, one that is irrepairable, and all the more unfortunate.”
As is known only too well known, the deceased played outside left in the Swansea Town premier team, and never was there a more successful player for this position. Indeed it is true that ‘Tich’ had a brilliant football career before him…
…Wherever the Swans journeyed ‘Tich’ always earned a high name for himself, and prominence had been given to the statement that this season he would have been ‘capped’ for Wales. This popularity with the Swansea football crowd was as great as could possibly be, for he was one of the most – if not the most – successful signatures the Swans had obtained.”
Dreadfully, it was another of Swansea’s players who discovered the body. Completing Thursday training at the Vetch, in which Evans did not take part but chose to watch from the grandstand by himself, Swansea team-mate Jack Nicholas saw that somebody was laying down in the stand, almost out of sight, when he went to get goal for the players ‘quarters’. On approaching the person, Nicholas soon realised that it was Tich Evans and the police and a doctor were immediately called. Due to the severity of the injury, the doctor pronounced death at the scene, and the Swansea players and officials were rocked by the news.
Further recalling the details of the death and of his career, the Cambria Daily News stated
One cannot help expressing the view that the blow is the heaviest that could possibly be delivered upon the Swansea Town Club. It is, indeed, a great pity, for ‘Tich’ was without shadow of a doubt the most promising footballer in Wales.
Instead of becoming one of the stars of Barry Town, or Swansea and Welsh football in general, Tich Evans was destined to become largely forgotten and reduced to simply being the man behind the story of the ‘curse’ at the Vetch, and further belittled by the visit of Uri Geller of all people in more recent times. Hopefully, in some small way, I’ve brought the REAL ‘Tich’ Evans story to football lovers and given the man some of the respect he undoubtedly deserves.
By Jason Pawlin
(Adapted from my original blog entry from 2011)
Photograph of the Barry Holton United AFC team from, what looks to be, the early 1900s. I’ve not come across the club in any of my research so far. Bill Baker is the chap in the cap sitting in the centre of the photograph
Anybody got any further information?