Our History

Tonmawr achieved international ‘notoriety’ following the release of the film “The Night of the Iguana” in 1964. In response the diatribe “I am going to have you blacklisted in every travel agent in America, Africa, Tasmania and Beuchualand”… Richard Burton’s rather obscure remark… “and what about Tonmawr?...” sent researchers into a spin. They all desperately tried to discover its whereabouts.

According to Sir Tasker Watkins VC.GBE.DL (A Century of Passion 1987) if you

“Take a walk from Kenfig where so much history was made in days gone by and go north towards Mynydd Ton-mawr and you will find, as old ordinance maps will tell you, the village of Tonmawr… Off the beaten track it may be to the cartographer, but known well beyond the parish boundary it is most certainly is for the character of its people and its contribution to many years of mining activity. Moreover it boasts a rugby team, making it altogether typical of many another South Wales villages where a warm community life has provided activities of a most working and enjoyable kind of local pride.

Nowhere has that been more evident than on the rugby field where playing for the village team has been a prized endeavour”.

The birth of the club

The early days of Tonmawr RFC are shrouded in mystery. The club signposted its appearance on the effervescent South Wales rugby scene in 1897 when on October 23 the South Wales Daily Post carried the following advert;

“A new football club has just started in Tonmawr. They expect to be able to give a good account of themselves. The Secretary Mr. R. Barton, Tonmawr, would be pleased to arrange fixtures with any good second rate teams. Address as above”.

The mysterious Mr. Barton is particularly strange to the village which has a fine tradition of oral history and whose family ties and relationships can be retold by many. The census returns and poll books shed no light on the enigma. It must be concluded that he was a visitor, most likely an engineer or labourer involved in the construction work of houses or colliery building during the expansion of the 1890s.

It is said that in the early days matches may have been played at Tyn-Ton Farm, where in order to reach the pitch the players had to cross a river and climb a mountain. Spectators would resist from following the teams, with the players “fording the river at Pont-flags, up to their waist in water, followed by a climb to the top of the mountain”. These men were the pioneers of rugby at Tonmawr, the first to start a rugby tradition.

The Railway Inn was the club’s headquarters in the early years, the players would meet in the pub before and after the game as there were no licensing laws until 1914. It is known that by 1911-12 the players were changing in the church vestry. It is not known however, whether they had used it before the turn of the century, although dressing rooms may have been an unnecessary luxury during the early years.

Little else is known about the early years of the club, in terms of results, playing personnel and opposition. The club’s brochure to celebrate 75 years mentioned that after the formation of the club in 1897 Dan Thomas Ton y Grugos, became secretary and Davy Hughes was captain. There is no record of other club captains until 1911-12 season when Ned John was recorded as the Tonmawr skipper.

Image: http://images5.pitchero.com/ui/470319/1344030048_0.jpg

Back Row: Tommy Sparkes, W. Hughes, .. Selway, Unknown, Will John, Unknown, Ben Hughes.
Third Row: Mr. Llewellyn, Unknown, Mock Bevan, A. Beck, W. Beck, Sam Hobbs, M.M., Mock Morgan, Unknown, Will Hughes.
Second Row: Walter Beasley, Will Phillips, Arthur Bevan, Ned John (Captain), David James Hopkins, Matt Hughes, David Harmon, Gershom Hopkins, David John.
Front Row: Tom Hopkins, Tommy John Morgans.

The oldest photograph at the club shows Ned John and his 1911-12 team. Unfortunately, a few years later some were to pay the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.