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history of the club
On 23rd May 1873, the North West Mounted Police Force was founded in Canada. In the same year, Monmouth Rugby Club was formed according to the late Bob Croudace, who was proud to point out that his father, Jim Croudace was playing
for them then. The game came into the town through Monmouth School. A master introduced it, and it was a combination of older boys and town players who continued thus for a number of years before separating.
The Monmouthshire Beacon bears evidence of the first official town team in 1878. Rugby was very strong in the town in the 80’s and into the 1890’s. In addition to the senior side there was a very keen junior side known as Monmouth Juniors,
attached to the present body but conducting it’s own affairs in a most successful manner. The 1888-89 team under E. Dodds’ leadership were ‘invincible’. They played 15 won 12 and drew 3. In their ranks they had P.L. Nicholas, an English international
from Devon. The Beacon proclaimed that “the phenomenal success of the Club has been due to something more than what is commonly called ‘flukes’ but by downright hard work, and thoroughly deserving of the title ‘invincible’.
1902, Monmouth were again ‘invincible’. They played 20 games, winning 17 and drawing 3 matches. Their captain was R.G. Williams. The club is proud to display in its lounge, the caps that were awarded to L. Merrick and T. Hughes who were
members of that great side.
In the 1930’s, Monmouth fielded several good sides. In 1932, the team had a cosmopolitan flavour, containing A.C. Smith, an Australian, R. Thompson, a Scottish international, English international, Peter Horden, and Scotsman Crictai Millar.
The 1935/36 team was quite outstanding. They had a wonderful record, playing 33 games, winning 28, drawing 4 and losing only 1 game, with 267 points gained and 97 against. A year earlier the Club started playing at Monmouth Sportsground for the first time. The sportsground remains the main venue for the Club, although today it requires two more at Chippenham to accommodate 2nd XV, youth, junior and mini-rugby matches.
In 1947/48 John Arthur Gwilliam won his Cambridge ‘blue’. J.A. Gwilliam went on to play for Wales 23 times at lock, what we would call No.8, from 1947 to 1954. Under J.A. Gwilliam’s captaincy, Wales won the Triple Crown and Grand Slam in 1950,
and again in 1952. Today, living in retirement in Anglesey, Mr Gwilliam is Patron of Monmouth R.F.C. The club is proud of having one of Wales’ greatest captains as its patron.
The 1980’s was to see another Monmouth boy and Cambridge blue captaining Wales. Coincidentally, it was another No.8, Eddie Butler who captained Wales in six major internationals and toured New Zealand with the British Lions. In 1975/76 the
Club was delighted to produce its first Welsh Youth Cap, David Fryer, who went on to captain Ebbw Vale and was selected to tour Canada with Wales, but, unfortunately, had to withdraw because of injury. The Club continues to run a youth XV and several members have represented their District XV. One of the notable moments for the youth was at the Tiverton Sevens in 1976. Superb performances saw Monmouth account for Cardiff, who had the future Welsh scrum half, Terry Holmes in their ranks, and Bristol in the Final. By all accounts, appreciable volumes of beer were drunk in celebration!
By 1969 the Club took over the old Druid’s Head pub which remains its headquarters. In 1984/85 the club built a lounge extension and new changing rooms. In 1998 a two storey extension was built to provide a large function room with a new kitchen on the first floor, and a larger ground floor bar area. This latter project was paid for by the Club mainly through the fund-raising efforts of its hard working voluntary committee.
(This history of the Club, with the exception of the last paragraph, was written by former chairman, John Evans.)