Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Brief History of Resolven Rugby Club 1885 to Present

The Vaughan Field 2006
In the beginning

If the “Good Book” itself can begin with the words “In the Beginning” then why not this brief offering. The main source of information for this article is the Club’s Centenary Book – “Resolven RFC – 100 YEARS OF RUGBY” written by the late JR Davies of Neath Road Resolven. The book had been researched in great depth and must be accepted as an accurate account of the Club’s first one hundred years.It appears that the Club was founded in 1885. Two representatives of a Newport (Mon) Engineering firm arrived in Resolven to install boilers at Glyncastle Colliery. These young men were playing members of Newport RFC and during their stay combined business with pleasure by training to keep them selves fit for the rugby matches to follow. The first rugby ball was seen at “cae’r berllan” (orchard’s field) in the vicinity of the present library. The strange activity of Charlie Thomas and Alf Morgan soon gained the curiosity of the locals who required no second invitation to join in. A local team soon followed and so was born the game of Rugby Union Football in the village.

“Grounds” for Improvement

The Club first played at Tan-y- Rhiw, and after a few seasons moved to the Brick Field. In 1898, Sardis field was used as a playing base before moving again, this time to the Farmers Field. The club also took its first sabbatical in 1904 – 6 owing to the religious revival of that time.The Drehir ground was used between the wars and the ground had a dressing room and grandstand, which were the Club’s greatest asset and the culmination of a half-century of hard work. The Second World War posed a threat to the very existence of the Rugby Club since a munitions factory (now known as TRW Steering Systems) was built at Drehir. In 1945, Resolven faced a rather unique position of being a member club of the Welsh Rugby Union without a ground.
However, owing to the hard work of Officials and Committee the Club moved to a new ground at Tan-y-Rhiw field (our present home) which opened on the 31st October 1946. The Club was much indebted to Capt. J.N. Vaughan who had granted the use of the field. On the 14th October 1954 the Vaughan family of Rheola kindly donated the freehold of the property to Resolven Rugby Football Club and the re-named Vaughan Rugby Ground and Pavilion was officially opened.
Resolven Rugby Sports and Social Club was formed in 1957 and soon became a focal point of social activity in the village. The facilities of the club have been improved including extensions to the Clubhouse, new dressing rooms, a second playing field and floodlights all gained by the hard work and generosity of those with the Club at heart.

Performance rating

Over a span of 118 years the Club has enjoyed varying degrees of success. It is difficult to compare success in any era since sheer survival could be deemed the ultimate success in the early years.The Club won the old West Wales Rugby Union Championship in 1934-35 and it is difficult for youngsters today to appreciate the magnitude of that achievement alone. The 1970’s and 80s were generally disappointing however the 1990s heralded a change in the Club’s fortunes with an era of unprecedented success. Section E of the West Wales was won in 1989. Following reorganisation of Rugby in Wales in 1994 the club progressed from Division Seven to the dizzy heights of Division Two. In 1995 – 96 the Glamorgan County Silver Ball was won in a memorable encounter with Penygraig at the Brewery Field. The 1990’s also featured two major Welsh Cup encounters, with the mighty Pontypool almost humbled in the process and a team of Welsh Internationals in the form of Llanelli RFC given a tight game.
However, following the Rugby World Cup in 1995 the world of rugby changed forever, as the game was declared “open”. Hindsight is a wonderful thing however there is no doubt that the advent of semi professionalism laid the seeds of destruction of not only Resolven but also many other teams throughout Wales and beyond. Most crucial to this was the loss of ownership, which many traditional supporters felt towards their team. This is a trend, which is currently being laid bare as our national game struggles to embrace a regional structure below international level.

The Future

Resolven RFC took its second voluntary “sabbatical” during the season of 2002-03. The wounds of the events which led up to the loss of our senior side are far too fresh to discuss with clarity, however let it be suffice to say that the Club continued to play rugby throughout its troubles, by way of its Youth and Junior sections which are the seedbed and foundation of any club. It is also appropriate to congratulate the Committee and friends of Resolven RFC that kept the Club afloat both financially and on the field during the lowest of times.Currently, a side which is composed of players which are either Resolven boys or have played for our junior sides are re-starting Resolven’s fortunes on the playing field. The new side has enjoyed much success so far and was unbeaten in 2003. Despite achieving promotion to Division Three South West in 2004, the retirement of key players made the following season rather a trial for a young squad. Nevertheless there is a “buzz” in the Club, a cabinet minister as Club President and the discussion on the touchline concerns what is happening on the field rather than that off it.

This article appeared originally in “Resolfen Recalled” and was written by Alun Morgan. It has subsequently been updated by Trefor Jones.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Behind the Scenes

The Miners Welfare, Resolfen (2006)

“John would you like to help paint the scenery for the opera?”

This request was casually dropped on me in 1967 by Resolven’s leading man, a colleague at Llangatwg School.

“I’ll have a go”, I naïvely replied.

Four little words that changed my life. At that time Resolven was a name that existed only on the pages of my register and the front of buses. To me Cory was a brass band, Rugby a game and Lyons a tea – house. Little did I think Resolven and its inhabitants would influence me to such an extent those thirteen years later I would move from suburban Cimla to the village?

My reason for writing this article is to give some insight into the other side of our much-acclaimed Operatic Society. Namely, the unseen army of backstage workers.
I agreed on the strict understanding that I was launching into the unknown. As Columbus said to Isabella: “Don’t blame me for America, I wanted to go to India”.

Painting the sets for Carmen commenced at the Vivian Hall, now sadly a forsaken car park. This I shared with a contingent of wannabe assassins, namely the Army Cadets, and a family of visually impaired mice, who found my backcloth of Seville more tasty than artistic.

Four months later the scenery completed, the big day arrived. Dress rehearsal started early for me as I tied papier maché rocks to the roof of my Ford Anglia. Carmen for legal reasons had been re – named Passionflower, clearly displayed in my rear window. Tonna was soon buzzing with rumours of a hippy rock concert up the valley. Bearing in mind that this was at the height of the flower power swinging sixties and I was sporting a pair of John Lennon glasses and a Zapata moustache.

The Welfare, this anthill of an auditorium resounded to an overture of human effort, hammering, pushing, hoovering and shouting. Lots of shouting.

“Anyone saw the orchestra curtains?”

“Will could you put the lights on please?”

Note the please, first lesson in stage management, never upset the electrician.

At the centre of this apparent chaos the leading man was unravelling a piece of Celtic knotwork which turned out to be the orchestra lights. A dust covered bobble – hatted worker excused him and disappeared. He reappeared later conducting the orchestra. The quality of the performance took me by surprise, although a section of the male chorus seemed to have raised inertia to an art form. With this kind of community commitment - I WAS HOOKED.

As time passed I learned the hard way, for instance how to build a gondola. How to steer a gondola, only after it had demolished half of hardboard Venice. Most societies have their difficulties; ours was lack of space backstage. A large area was taken up by a sound system which was probably a recycled mediaeval siege tower. It’s a tribute to our stage crews that they managed so well, of course many of them had experience of working in confined spaces, either underground or in crowded dance halls.

Transportation of the scenery from preparation site to the hall was a major task. The Sunday morning rush to get the sets delivered to the hall had to be seen to be believed. The Welfare was still used as a cinema on the Saturday. This became even more difficult when the sites were moved further afield.

The Vivian Hall being no longer available we moved to the stables at Rheola House, a very difficult place to work. Backcloths were painted on a spool system, paint a piece, roll on, remember it and paint another piece etc. etc. Couldn’t do it today as it took me half an hour to remember where I’d left my glasses before starting this epistle. The stables were an eye – opener regarding the class distinction practised in former times. Polished mahogany and wrought iron for the riding horses, bare basics for the working horses which were marginally better than the workers accommodation.

Our next move was from the stables to the cow shed at Drehir. The premises were empty when I started but circumstances changed. The original occupants returned and I was driven out by their unsatisfactory toilet training. The show was completed across the river at Ynysarwed farm. Here we removed the upstairs floors; I painted the top of the flats sitting on the beams, dropping eight feet to the ground floor to complete the job. I may not have been the most artistic designer around, but I certainly was the most athletic.

Then we moved to the Glyncastle pithead baths. Plenty of space at lasts, but ironically no water or electricity. On the days we needed to scrub the backcloths, a major task as each one measures thirty feet by fourteen feet, my helpers really showed their commitment. They set up a chain of buckets passes hand to hand from the Clydach brook. In retrospect it might have seemed we were making a John Ford Western. I finished at the baths after another encounter with the wildlife of the district. This time the problem lowered him through the broken skylight. When challenged he informed me he had come to see about the generator and forgotten his key. Twenty years my junior, six inches taller and four stone heavier, I didn’t argue. I left the building. So did the generator. This incident, constant bombardment from the Heights of Glyncastle and a defaced backcloth put the show on the road again.

Once again we moved bucket, brush and a backcloth to the Adult Centre, where we continued for a number of years before it was declared unsuitable for public use.

After the school, we transferred to the Welfare which proved ideal, being only twenty yards from my home in Neagh Road.With the easy access and full co – operation of the management, we have produced many shows there ever since.

It lies with more qualified people than I to judge the performance given by Resolven Amateurs. Sufficient to say I’ve enjoyed all of them and this from one whose musical contribution consists of singing at the Arms Park and miming at funerals. Some say the latter being my better performances.

The efforts I’ve described could equally be matched by wardrobe, props, make-up, prompters, publicity, ticket sales, steward’s etc. etc. etc.

One final thought, in the grand scale of communal activities: -
If your two pence of effort doesn’t seem much, remember, that fifty of you make a pound.

John Rees