A SHORT HISTORY OF ABERCARN RFC by Garnet Herne
PLAYER 1965-1976 with over 300 games for the clubCOACH 1978-1988FIXTURE SECRETARY 1982-2002SECRETARY 1988-2002LIFE MEMBER 2002
Abercarn RFC celebrated its centenary in 1995, however whilst researching the history of the club in preparation for the "Centenary Souvenir Book" in became clear that rugby had been played in the village since the early 1870's. I will explain later in this article where the confusion arose with the date of 1895.
Examination of early newspaper reports clearly shows that Abercarn RFC was a significant force in local rugby well before 1894. There are several match reports which prove that the club functioned in the 1870's - in fact Blaina were payed in 1871 and in 1873 Abercarn featured on Newport's fixture list.
There are a number of important dates in the history of Abercarn, namely 1878, 1895, 1950, 1955, 1963, 1970/71, 1972, 1974 & 1995.
In 1878 the village was to suffer one of the wotst ever mining accidents which undoubtedly brought to an end, at least temporarily, the club as it was known then. The following paragraphs are taken form the newspaper report of the disaster in the Star of Gwent and South Wales Times dated Fridat 13th September 1878.
"The accident occurred on Wednesday 11th September at the prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn which was the property of the Ebbw Vale Steel, iron & Coal Company.
The pit was 330 yards deep and the coal seam was one of the highest standard. The pit had been deemed safe, every precaution for winching, punping and ventilation was of the most perfect kind. The shaft had been sunk in 1863 on th eday of the marriage of the Prince of Wales, hence the name.
The explosion took place at ten minutes past twelve, midday. Up to this timethere had been no warning of anything being wrong, but at the moment named, a loud rumbling sound, a flash of flame and a column of black smoke ascending high into the air told the sad story.
Eighty-two men and boys working within a few hundred yards of the pit mouth were resuced but it was evident that little hope could be entertained of any more surviving the catastrophe.
272 lives were reported lost, the mineshaft having to be flooded in order to quell the raging fires."
Although there is no confirmation of the fact, it is a virtual certainty that payers from Abercarn RFC will have been amongst those killed and the tragedy probably resulted in the rugby club as it was then being disbanded. Fortunately for future generations of rugby players and supporters the club must have reformed in the 1880's, as numerous clubs are recorded as playing against an Abercarn side at the time and have continued ever since.
1895 is the date assumed to be the year that Abercarn RFC was formed but as previously shown this was evidently not the case and I will explain why that year was such a important one in the history of the club.
In March 1950 a second disaster was to befall the club. A plane carrying welsh supporters from the International match in Dublin crashed at Llandow killing 80 passengers, including payers Ray Box, Don Rowlands & Doug Barnett, as well as baggage man Jack Robbins and members Mark Lewis & Bert Wilcox. The village was again in shock and for a time the club tottered on the brink of collapse.The club had sufferred the loss of players, committeemen and supporters, and the horrific memory was to remain in the minds of club members for many years.
In 1955 the first club badge was designed by David Bengamin, a former player. The badge depicted a propeller, in memory of those who lost their lives in the Llandow air disaster, the Prince of Wales feathers representing the disaster at the Prine of wales colliery where the Welfare Ground is located, a swan indicating the Swan Inn, the first headquarters of the club and finally the date 1895, assumed to be the date the club was formed but later established as the date the club was accepted as a member of the Welsh Rugby Union.
In 1963 Abercarn RFC purchased the former Abercarn Tinpalters memorial Institute and converted it into a rugby club and headquarters. For many years it was the hub of the village with dancing, bingo and various other forms of entertainment every night of the week. Sadly however, this is not the case now with the downturn of the local financial prosperity being reflected in the club's finances.
In season 1970-71 Abercarn celebrated its 75th anniversary and special games were arranged against first class opposition from Newport, Crosskeys, Pontpool & Ebbw Vale. In March 1972 Abercarn played a Monmouthshire Rugby Union XV to celebrate the opening of the Llandow air disaster Memorial Stand.
Abercarn became one of the first WRU clubs to embark upon a North American tour, when in June 1974, 40 players, coached & commitee members embarked for two weeks in the Toronto and Niagara area of Ontario, playing nine games of of which six were won, which considering the kind hospitality of the hosts off the field was no mean feat!
Further overseas tours were later arranged in Canada (twice), France (twice), Malta, Spain, Germany (twice), USA (twice) and South Africa.
Finally in 1995 Abercarn belatedly celebrated its Centenary and special games were arranged against Newport, Newbridge, Bridgend and Crosskeys XV's. In March 1995 a Centenary dinner was held at Newbridge Leisure Centra attended by 150 guests with Guest speaker Max Boyce.
The final event of the celebrations was a two week visit to South Africa to coincide with the Rugby World Cup. A party of 57 were located in Durban where three games were played against what can only be described as Premier Division opposition who proved to be far too strong for a gallant Abercarn team who provided stern opposition before losing all three games.