The ASRS Cup competition

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
(E. Jones)

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.

ASRS Cup report 1918

ASRS Cup Final report from the Barry Dock News, May 3, 1918.

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.

ASRS Cup

Chris Coleman presents the ASRS Cup to the captain of Cardiff Airport after the 2012-13 ASRS Cup Final at Jenner Park. Photo courtesy of Matthew Davies, Secretary of the Vale of Glamorgan AFL

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
1924-25 Brooklands
1925-26 Barry YMCA
1926-27 UNKNOWN
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.)

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Barry Holton United AFC

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?

Barry Holton United AFC

Barry Holton United AFC (courtesy of Sue Bowyer, Barry Island)