Our History

Clwb Rygbi Y Tymbl - Tumble RFC

Y Piod / The Magpies

A copy of Tumble RFC 1897-1949 by John Myrddin Davies can be found HERE. It is a fascinating review of the club's first 50 years, including its Golden Jubilee season in 1947.

The history of coal mining and rugby union in Tumble is intrinsically linked as it is in many villages and towns across South Wales. Established in 1897 to provide recreational opportunities for workers from the Great Mountain Colliery and other mines and farms in the area Clwb Rygbi Y Tymbl or Tumble RFC are the most successful rugby club from the old West Wales Rugby Union (WWRU). Prior to the establishment of the Great Mountain Colliery in 1887 the village of Tumble was no more than an Inn (from which the settlement took its distinct name) and a few scattered houses and farms. With the rapid growth of the village to provide workers to service the needs of the colliery there was soon a need for a sporting club and so Tumble RFC was born.

(ABOVE) Great Mountain Colliery, Tumble.

Nicknamed the 'Magpies', or 'Y Piod' in Welsh due to their distinctive Black and White hooped jersey the club's peak in terms of success came during the 1980's where they managed the feat of winning the WWRU President's Cup five times, the WWRU Challenge Cup four times and the WWRU Championship three times. The club are the record holders of the WWRU Challenge Cup - 12 wins, WWRU President's Cup - 8 wins and joint record winners (along with Seven Sisters RFC) of the WWRU League Championship - 5 wins.

Whilst the Black and White hooped jersey is synonymous with the club it is a little known fact that the original club colours were Blue and Gold quarters and it was this strip that was worn in the first game back in 1897 when the team walked teh 2 miles to near neighbours Pontyberem RFC and defeated the hosts by a try to nil. In the early years the club colours changed to all Black with White Star (earning the club the nickname 'The Starlights'), Gold and Green vertical stripes, all White, before finally adopting the famous Black and White hoops in 1920/21, which earned the club the nickname of 'The Magpies'.

After a period of a few months where a group of miners, led by Orphie Evans and his brother George had been practicing and encouraging others to participate in the game of rugby union it was decided to form a club at a meeting held at Bryn Stores reading room in 1897. The club played its early home games at the Hotel fields which were across the road from the Tumble Hotel and roughly where the Pharmacy, Bethel Chapel and Tumble Hall now stand on Heol y Neuadd. Trees sawn down in a woodland in Upper Tumble, where the Mynydd Mawr Isolation Hospital was later constructed were used to make the goal posts for the Hotel fields.

Orphie Evans was given the distinction of being elected the club's first captain with Mr. Morgan Howells (chairman), Mr. Hamilton (secretary) and Mr. McNeile (treasurer) making up the club's original committee. The first team to take the field away against Pontyberem in 1897 was as follows: 

Fullback - Tom James

Threequarters - Orphie Evans (captain), Harry Rees, Wat Wiliams, Davies Jones

Half Backs - Arthur Jones, Moses Rees

Forwards - George Evans, P.C. Britten, Tom Howells, Rees Bowen, Dai Howells, Joe Hill, Arthur Watson Welburn, D.J. Davies

The wining try was scored by Watson Welburn.

Over the first 50 years the club moved headquarters and playing fields several times - with games also being played on Bethesda Road (near the chapel vestry), fields owned by Ty-Isha farm, a field near Ty-Rhos farm, the Hirwaun field off Blaenhirwaun Lane. In 1912/13 the club moved to Lletty Field above Ty-Isha Road. Originally rented, fund-raising efforts by committee members John Tierney and David Lewis, enabled the club to buy the pitch along with further land alongside it. Lletty Field was to remain the club's home until the 1936/37 season. Tir Becca housing estate now sits on the site of Lletty Field.

(ABOVE) An early Tumble RFC team wins the New Dock Stars 7's competition in 1917, captained by E. Davies.

In the 1921/22 season the club celebrated its first 25 years by being granted admission as a full member of the Welsh Rugby Union.

(ABOVE) 1921/22 season saw Tumble RFC become full members of the Welsh Rugby Union. Captained by Geo Davies.

In the 1936/37 season the club moved to the newly constructed Welfare Park, later renamed Parc y Mynydd Mawr and have remained there ever since. The Welfare Park was developed to provide recreational opportunities for the expanding village and as well as a new rugby field included a cricket field, bowling green, children's play area and a wooden pavilion. A new pavilion was erected in 1939 before being replaced by the existing changing rooms in 1983.

(ABOVE) Parc y Mynydd Mawr, formally known as the Welfare Park.

The 1930's was a great decade for the club where they were the first winners of the newly created WWRU Challenge Cup in 1933, successfully defending the trophy for a further two seasons before being crowned WWRU league Champions for the first time in season 1937/38.

(ABOVE) Tumble RFC pictured in 1932, captained by Albert Merchant.

Play was suspended in 1939 at the advent of the Second World War but rugby in the village was kept going by the 'Pigstye Rovers', a local ex-schoolboy club. Thanks to the efforts of the Pigstyes the senior club was quickly re-established and in season 1945/46 the club won its first post war trophy when it picked up the Challenge Cup for the fourth time. The final at Stradey Park against Amman United RFC drew a crowd of over 10,000 spectators. In this era scouts from rugby league in the north of England were common place at WWRU games and a number of Tumble RFC turned 'professional' and went north. Three players from the 1945/46 cup winning side turned professional including centre Lynn Walters and full back Mel Tierney.

(ABOVE) WWRU Challenge Cup Winners 1945/46 captained by Jimmy Wiltshire. Great Mountain Colliery to the rear.

Tumble successfully defended the Challenge Cup in 1946/47 season, its Golden Jubilee. The first 50 years of the club were celebrated on March 12, 1947 when a Cardiff RFC side containing five full Welsh international players, including the great Bleddyn Williams at centre played the Magpies at the Welfare Park. The first half was kicked off by Archie Skym the former Tumble, Cardiff and Wales prop whilst the second half was started by Orphie Evans, the club's first ever captain from 1897.

   

(ABOVE) Programme from the 1947 game versus Cardiff RFC

(ABOVE) Team Photo from the 1947 game versus Cardiff RFC at the Welfare Park. Captained by Lloyd Morgan.

The WWRU league Championship was again secured in season 1949/50 before silverwear became became more elusive to obtain.

(ABOVE) Tumble RFC WWRU League Champions 1949/50, captained by Bryn Rowlands.

During the next three decades the club's success waned a little with the Magpies only wining the Challenge Cup twice, in seasons 1962/63 and 1971/72, when they defeated Penclawdd RFC at Stradey Park in the final before also claiming the President's Cup. During the 1970's, mostly under the captaincy of goalkicking front-rower Brian Jones there were also Challenge Cup final defeats to Kidwelly RFC (1973) and Seven Sisters RFC (1975) as well as wins in the WWRU Cup 1974/75, 1975/76 and the Eurof Davies Memorial Cup 1974/75. 

(ABOVE) WWRU Challenge Cup winners 1962/63 pictured at Stradey Park in 1962/63, captained by Howard Davies.

(ABOVE) Highlights from the 1972 WWRU Challenge Cup final verses Penclawdd RFC at Stradey Park

(ABOVE) The Magpies win the 1972 WWRU President's Cup at Stradey Park, captained by Brian 'No8' Jones

In January 1977 the club played out an epic 12-12 draw at home to the mighty Newport RFC in the Welsh Cup. The Black and Ambers proceeded into the next round having scored the 'away' try. Referee Meirion Joseph was the centre of controversy when he ruled out a Steve Lewis penalty attempt which went high over the posts despite both linesmen having signaled a successful attempt. Newport would go on to win the Welsh Cup that season.

(ABOVE) A press cutting from the Carmarthen Times detailing the epic 12-12 draw with Newport RFC in 1977.

Up to this point the club had changed head quarters on a number of occasions, including the Old Reading Room behind High Street, a shed alongside Morawel, a room at the Lodging House, Ma Perkins Sweet Shop at 95 High Street and the Tumble Hotel before in 1964 the decision was made to amalgamate Tumble RFC with the Great Mountain Workingmen's Club. The amalgamation of both clubs created the Great Mountain and Tumble Rugby Football Club which was official opened by Col. W. Kemmis Buckley of Buckley's Brewery on 20th September 1966. A large new function / concert room was added to the rear of the building replacing the old long skittle alley.

(ABOVE) The Magpies playing Cefneithin RFC in the 1960's, Morton Howells (later of Aberavon RFC) attempts the charge down.

The 1980's can be seen as the Golden Era for the club when the Magpies, under the coaching of John 'Coch' Williams and then the John brothers, Clive and Alan (brothers of Barry and former Llanelli RFC players) became the dominant force in West Wales rugby. In season 1981/82 the club won the WWRU Section B championship to gain promotion back to Section A under the captaincy of the great Number 8 Peris Williams. This was to be the start of a great era for the club with a number of outstanding players turning out in the Black and White hoops. Along with captain Williams there were many other club legends playing in this era including scrum half Arwel Davies (who would go on to captain the club for seven seasons), back rowers Gareth Davies and Robert 'Tonto' Roberts and full back Wynford Lewis, who had returned to the village from Aberavon RFC.

(ABOVE) WWRU Section B champions 1981/82 under the captaincy of the great Peris Williams.

The club faced Cardiff RFC, captained by former Magpie Gareth Davies on 28 March 1983 to raise money for young Huw Jones who had been seriously injured whilst playing for the Youth team. The Blue and Blacks brought a star studed team to Parc y Mynydd Mawr, including Welsh Internationals Davies, Terry Holmes, Bob Norster and Alan Phillips.

(ABOVE) The Magpies v Cardiff RFC, 28 March 1983. Captained by Peris Williams.

(ABOVE) Tumble RFC v Cardiff RFC, 28 March 1983 at a packed Parc y Mynydd Mawr.

In 1983/84 Tumble were crowned WWRU Champions for the first time in 34 years, a title they reclaimed the following year, along with the WWRU Challenge Cup. They held onto the cup for a further four years and in 1987/88 they won the WWRU Championship for the last time before the nationalisation of the league system. 1987/88 season was somewhat of a pinnacle for the club where under the captaincy of scrum half Arwel Davies the 1st, 2nd and Youth XVs had the distinction of wining every competition they were entered in, the fabled 'Grand Slam' season.

(ABOVE) 1987/88 Grand Slam winning 1st XV squad. WWRU League, Challenge Cup and President's Cup Winners. Captained by Arwel Davies.

(ABOVE) Highlights of the 1987/88 WWRU Challenge Cup Final verses Penclawdd RFC at Stradey Park

1988/89 season saw the Magpies win their last trophy of the illustrious 1980's when they defeated Felinfoel RFC 23-13 at Stradey Park in the WWRU Challenge Cup - their fourth cup win in four seasons. This was another great Magpies team containing players such as Arwel Davies, Peris Williams, Gareth Davies, Wayne Price, Errol Price, Wayne Richards and Mark Lewis.

(ABOVE) The Magpies celebrate wining the 1988/89 WWRU Challenge Cup at Stradey Park, captained by Arwel Davies.

The club remain the most successful WWRU club with a record 12 wins in the Challenge (Tovali) Cup and 8 wins in the President's Cup. The Magpies are joint record West Wales Championship winners with Seven Sisters RFC on 5 wins each.

(ABOVE) Highlights from the 1988/89 WWRU Challenge Cup final verses Felinfoel RFC at Stradey Park.

In 1990 Tumble gained WRU Heineken National League status and with that departed the Great Mountain Workingmen's Club to take up residency in the former Tumble Hotel which became the new clubhouse.

(ABOVE) The former Tumble Hotel, then clubhouse to Tumble RFC

In 1991/92 the club won the WRU Heineken National League Division 4 Championship under the captaincy of scrum half Arwel Davies in his last season as a player with Tumble RFC before moving to Cefneithin RFC as player-coach. What followed was a period of transition as the club lost many of its senior players from the 1980's and had to rebuild with a new crop of promising young players. 

 

(ABOVE) The club clinch the 1991/92 Heineken League Division 4 title under the captaincy of scrum half Arwel Davies

(ABOVE) 1991/92 Heineken League Division 4 Champions.

In 1995/96 Arwel Davies, Peris Williams and Gareth Davies all returned to the club as a new coaching team. An outstanding young team was put together under the captaincy of centre Richard Hardy and saw the Magpies reclaim the WWRU Challenge Cup for the twelfth time, beating Felinfoel RFC 33-17 at Stradey Park. The club also narrowly lost out on the WRU Heineken League Division 4 title to Merthyr RFC on bonus points, despite having won more games (18) and having beaten Ironmen home and away.

(ABOVE) Captain Richard Hardy holds aloft the 1995/96 WWRU Challenge Cup at Stradey Park.

(ABOVE) The Magpies line up prior to the 1995/96 WWRU Challenge Cup at Stradey Park, captained by Richard Hardy.

The IRB made the game of rugby union 'open' to professionalism in 1995 and it was at the time of its centenary season in 1996/97 that the club began to struggle. Not being able to compete financially against clubs from towns and those with backers able to pay players to play there was a serious downturn in fortunes and it was only due to the number of players being produced by its junior and youth sections that the club survived. A number of outstanding players continued to come through the system at the club but it provided increasingly difficult to keep hold of these players long enough to be able to build a side capable of challenging for league titles. Prop Alan King was club captain for many of these seasons, being skipper for five consecutive seasons from 1998/99 to 2002/03. Following spells at Carmarthen Quins RFC and Kidwelly RFC (who he also captained) King would return to the club and captain the Magpies for a further four seasons (2009/10 to 2012/13), making it nine seasons in total and breaking the record previously held by the great Arwel Davies (seven seasons).

In season 2006/07 after a number of struggles and false dawns the club won the WRU Division 3 West Championship and the WWRU Brains SA Bowl under the coaching team of player-coaches James Jones, Paul Davies and former Swansea RFC and Wales wing Richard Rees, who had returned to finish his career at the club where it all started. Number 8 Derek Lewis, who had recently returned to the club from Llangennech RFC was installed as club captain. The WWRU Bowl was secured with a win against a Mumbles RFC at Dunvant RFC.

(ABOVE) The Magpies clinch the 2006/07 WRU Division 3 West Championship, captained by Derek Lewis.

(ABOVE) WRU Division 3 West Champions 2006/07, captain Derek Lewis.

Promotion to Divison 2 West came at a cost and with a number of retirements from senior players the club again struggled and suffered successive relegations in seasons 2007/08 and 2008/09. Season 2009/10 saw the return of club legends Arwel and Gareth Davies to the club as senior coaches after over 12 years away coaching to great success at clubs such as Llangennech RFC. Scrum half Chris Davies also returned to the club having captained Llangennech RFC for a number of seasons. An outstanding season saw the Magpies clinch the WRU Division 4 West championship as well as adding the WWRU Brains SA Plate to the trophy cabinet (beating Cwmgwrach RFC at Dunvant in the final). This win ensured that Tumble RFC had the distinction of becoming the first club to win the 'treble' of WWRU Cup, Bowl and Plate.

(ABOVE) The Magpies celebrate the 2009/10 WRU Divison 4 West Championship under the captaincy of prop Alan King. 

(ABOVE) WWRU Plate Champions at Broadacre, Dunvant having defeated Cwmgwrach RFC.

It was in 2010 that the club moved it's headquarters back to the Great Mountain Workingmen's Club after 20 years at the former Tumble Hotel which was earmarked for closure.

(ABOVE) Great Mountain Workingmen's Club, current home of Tumble RFC.

Further trophies followed when the club won the Brians SA Bowl for the second time in season 2011/12, defeating Seven Sisters 27-26 at Loughor RFC (the game was rearranged as the original fixture at Dunvant RFC had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch) under the captaincy of prop Alan King and the coaching of Gareth Davies and Chris Davies, who had replaced his father Arwel as backs coach.

(ABOVE) Programme from the 2011/12 WWRU Brains SA Bowl versus Seven Sisters RFC.

(ABOVE) Captain Alan King with the 2011/12 WWRU Bowl. King is the club's longest serving captain having fulfilled the role for nine seasons (artwork by Hefin Dumbrill).

Season 2013/14 saw the disappointment of a bottom place finish and subsequent relegation. The appointment of Marc Kinnaird and Hugh Gustafson to assist Chris Davies in a new coaching unit saw the club recover to secure a fourth place finish in Division 3 West A for 2014/15.

Season 2015/16 will do down as another successful one in the history of the club with the 1st XV clinching the Division 3 West B championship by a point from second placed Lampeter Town RFC in the last fixture of the season. The Magpies defeated Aberaeron RFC away whilst title contenders Burry Port RFC lost and Lampeter Town RFC could not make-up enough points from their remaining fixtures. The Magpies finished the season with a playing record of played 20, won 16, drawn 1, lost 3 - points 79. 

(ABOVE) WRU SWALEC National League Divison 3 West B Champions, 2015/16. Captained by Hefin Dumbrill.

Another season of transition followed in 2018/19 with relegation back to Division 3 West B. At the point of the 2019/20 season being canceled due to the Covid-19 global pandemic the Magpies had been joint top of Division 3 West B (along with Amman United RFC) and had also found themselves one game off a Principality Stadium final in the semi-final of the Specsavers National Bowl against Abertysswg RFC. Captain for the 2019/20 season had been young centre Steffan Price who has strong family ties with the club being the son of former captain Errol Price, grandson of former chairman Roy Price and nephew of another great Magpie Wayne Price.

The club currently run a full complement of junior sides from under 7's to under 16's and a Youth team (under 19's).

In 2016 the club reformed it's womens team which were duly nicknamed 'Y Piod Pinc' - 'the Pink Magpies' under the captaincy of Tina Thomas. The club had originally run a women's team for three seasons from 1992/93 under captain Ann Marie Walters before it was disbanded. The women's section within the club is slowly establishing itself and a girls junior side 'Y Pinc Bach' were added in 2019. The club had established its own girls rugby hub called 'Merched Mynydd Mawr' in 2020 which was to operate out of Ysgol Maes y Gwendraeth and act as a development pathway for girls rugby in the area. Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic has led to its postponement.

Ymlaen Y Piod