The tragedy of ‘Tich’ Evans – the most promising player in Wales

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.

Barry Herald
Friday, January 2, 1920

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.

David 'Tich' Evans

David ‘Tich’ Evans

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)


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