Ceri Shaw



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user image 2023-08-04
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: New Titles
BUY IT HERE - The Greatest Sporting Family in History: The Blue & Black Brothers

greatest sport in history.jpg Terry  Breverton , who has been translated into languages as varied as Chinese, Japanese and Turkish, recalls the almost forgotten eight brothers who all played for Cardiff Rugby Club, when it was universally acknowledged as the ‘ greatest rugby club in the world’ . For forty years to 1974, in every season at least one of the brothers was a regular first team member, and the youngest four brothers sometimes all played together. The careers of four of the brothers were halted because of World War Two, where the eldest and ‘best’, Gwyn Williams, was carried off on a death cart but recovered, never to play again. Brother Bleddyn was a fighter pilot, pressed into service as a glider pilot, flying paratroopers for the invasion of Germany. In the 1953 New Zealand rugby tour of Great Britain, the All Blacks suffered their only defeats to Cardiff and Wales, both captained by Bleddyn. Another brother, Lloyd, captained Cardiff and Wales, as did their cousin Bill Tamplin. Their uncle Roy Roberts played with the older brothers for Cardiff and won the Military Medal. Despite the war ending 6 years of fixtures for the 4 older boys, and the next 2 having to undertake National Service, the brothers played 1,400 games for Cardiff Firsts. They grew up with four sisters in a rented terraced house in the small village of Taff’s Well – theirs is a unique story of sporting achievement, impossible to replicate.

Some 5* reader reviews include: ‘This book not only records graphically the history of Cardiff and Taff’s Wells rugby clubs, but also the first hundred years of Welsh rugby. I could not put it down as I felt that I was there on the field. It is an incredible story of eight brothers from a small village who played for Cardiff when it was the greatest club in the world. This achievement can never be repeated. It is also a valuable document recording social history of its time in Wales, a wealth of information for historians and sportspeople alike. This is  Terry   Breverton  at his very best.’ - ‘Wonderfully researched … This is an important book in the annals of rugby history, and also shines a light on the social and economic history of Cardiff, Wales and the wider UK.’ – ‘Having spent time in conversations with four of the brothers, I can highly recommend this book to lovers of the game they play in heaven.’

‘Writing about sport can be neat and academic, with scores, records, reports, lives and opinions cited to describe this game or that as a social phenomenon…This is not such a book. It’s a love letter – to rugby, to Cardiff Rugby Football Club, and to the extraordinary Williams family. For you don’t go to Cardiff Arms Park – or Bath Rec or the Brewery Field or Twickers – to watch a social phenomenon. You go to see victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, or to bear disappointment with a pint; to applaud that outside break, that tackle, that kick; to bemoan the one-eyed referee or the team selection; to be partial but generous; to complain that the game isn’t what it was … but still to follow the latest stars and stalwarts, the clowns and villains that some rugby Shakespeare has placed upon the green stage. And to honour the Williams family and Cardiff RFC,  Terry   Breverton  has turned himself into that know-all who drives you nuts, but with whom you will always go the match. The one you tell to shut up, because he goes on so – but when you want to know something, he’s the one you ask. This book is long overdue, but none the worse for it. Read it, and cheer.’

It's a bit of a doorstop, 650 pages showing why for over 100 years Cardiff were regarded as  'the greatest'  - alongside the history of the Cardiff club, Taff's Well RFC and the Welsh team to the era of Gareth and Barry in the mid-1970s.  Terry  began writing it because a few people had heard of Bleddyn Williams, but hardly anyone recalls the family. He tells  Nation Cymru  that: "Amazingly, eight brothers played rugby for Cardiff, when it was regarded as 't he greatest club in the world ' . An unknown story - two of the boys captained Cardiff and Wales, as did their cousin Bill Tamplin, who played with the famous Bleddyn Williams. Their uncle Roy Roberts also played for Cardiff with the older brothers before and after the War, winning the MM as a tank commander. The three eldest boys, Gwyn, Bryn and Bleddyn Williams fought in the War, Gwyn getting hauled off on a 'death cart' in North Africa for a desert burial, before a miraculous rescue. Gwyn was riddled with shrapnel, blinded in one eye and in pain for the rest of his days. Bleddyn risked court martial by racing to Gwyn's hospital in Oxford, talking constantly to him about their childhood and rugby, until Gwyn came around from a coma. Gwyn did not even know he was married. In his spare time, Gwyn’s Taff's Well schoolmaster selflessly threw himself into teaching Gwyn to read, write and count again. Bleddyn had trained as a fighter pilot but had to retrain, to fly paratroops through immense flak for the Rhine Crossing, as so many glider pilots had been lost at Arnhem. The rugby careers of Gwyn, Bryn and Bleddyn were put on hold for six years because of War, and the next three brothers Vaughan, Lloyd and Cenydd, lost two years for National Service.   

Despite thus losing 24 seasons of playing time, the boys played 1,480 times for Cardiff Firsts. By the time their careers ended, three were in the top 8 appearances for Cardiff - Elwyn with 339 games, Tony with 328 and Lloyd with 310. Tony and Lloyd were the only backs, the other six being forwards. The book takes us over 100 years from the founding of Taff's Well and Cardiff rugby clubs in the 19 th  century up to the mid-1970s, when the youngest two brothers, Elwyn and Tony returned to play for Taff's Well with great success. It is a UNIQUE story, never to be repeated in any team sport, with what amounts to a social history of rapidly changing times, and describing why Cardiff were acknowledged as  'the greatest ' team for a century. They played the best teams in Wales and England, and all the major touring sides, never coming close to a losing season. In many seasons they scored three to six times as many tries as their opponents, but the other teams scored more penalties. Cardiff always preferred to run the ball, the mission of the forwards being to get the ball to the backs for entertaining flowing rugby that brought record attendances wherever they played. 

We may have heard of Bleddyn, who captained Cardiff and Wales to the only two defeats of New Zealand on their 1953 tour of Britain, but there are the rugby biographies of all the brothers, their relatives Roy Roberts and Bill Tamplin, and some of the greatest men in Welsh rugby that they played alongside, for Cardiff, the Lions, Barbarians and Wales. I sometimes saw the four youngest in the same team - Lloyd (who also captained Cardiff and Wales), Cenydd, Elwyn and Tony - and this was the most difficult team to play for in British, if not world, club rugby. From 1933 to 1974, at least one brother was a regular first-choice player. Theirs is a frankly  incredible and inspiring  story of 8 brothers and 4 sisters growing up in the Depression and War. Their father was out of work as a coal tipper down Cardiff Docks for 6 years before War broke out, and they grew up in a 2.5-bedroom rented terraced house in a tiny, polluted village. 

Despite constant offers to turn professional - Bleddyn was offered a world record fee - only two 'went North'. Gwyn before the War joined Wigan, known as  'Wigan Welsh'  for their preponderance of Welsh players.

He told the press that he went to help his father financially, but three years ago I discovered that he turned professional to pay for Bleddyn's Rydal School fees. Cenydd was being touted in all the press as the next Wales outside-half or centre, but had played outside-half to rugby league legend Alex Murphy as his scrum-half for the RAF. Murphy convinced St Helens that they needed Cenydd, and he decided to go, for a record for a non-international. He and his wife were living at his in-laws' terraced house in Rhydyfelin, and the fee enabled him to buy a new four-bedroom house in a Lancashire village, with plenty of money left over. His rugby union career could have ended at any time with an injury, and he has never regretted the move. (Incidentally, turning 'professional' meant that one was paid for playing rugby, but still had a full-time job.)  In effect this is the story of the first 100 years of Welsh rugby, along with that of the Taff's Well and Cardiff clubs - a engrossing read and a riveting history of changing times."