Sporting Moments from the Guildhall

I spent 28 years in Swansea’s Guildhall working for The County Borough of Swansea and latterly Swansea City Council following local government reorganization in 1974. Following a failed attempt to qualify as an accountant I found my niche as a town planner. However my most memorable moments were  representing the Local Authority in a number of sporting activities. We are belonged to the union, NALGO (national association of local government officers) who organized sporting competitions between the various local Authorities across South Wales. They were knockout competitions, so if you lost in the first round the season was over!

The first sports competition I took part in was darts which comprised a team of eight playing the best of five legs of 501 apiece We traveled up the Swansea Valley to parts unknown to play our opponents and were soundly thrashed. There is a long interval between throws with a team of eight, and copious pints of beer doesn’t help the concentration. My lasingt memory was one of my team mates, Mike Hurst, teaching us bawdy rugby songs as we travelled back to Swansea in the mini bus.

Not long after, I read a notice asking for rugby players to form a team to play Port Talbot Town Council in a forthcoming match. I had played rugby in high school, but I had always had an inkling to play scrum half to emulate my hero, Gareth Edwards. My friend, David Abbott, and I signed up to play at scrum half and outside half respectively. We were soundly annihilated 0-40 on our home turf, and I was made the scapegoat for our abject performance. I couldn’t really argue with their withering assessment, so I decided to hang up my rugby boots and head for the hills.

When I moved to the planning department, the sporting challenges came thick and fast. Next up was lawn bowls comprising a team of four: Jack Jones (my old boss,) Gareth Jones, Dave Firkin, and your truly.  We bundled into a car and  headed for Llandeilo to face our opponents, who proved to be very hospitable hosts. They plied us with food and alcoholic beverages (mostly alcohol) during the match. So much so, that our skip  (the venerable Jack Jones) had difficulty keeping his balls (no pun intended) on the rink, and we capitulated in a drunken haze.

Skittles was probably my favorite and most successful  sports event in the colors of Swansea Nalgo. A skittles team comprises 12 players each armed with three wooden mis shapened balls which are rolled along a wooden alley with the intention of knocking down nine skittles standing at the other end of the alley. The game takes place inside a pub and is usually played over five rounds whilst drinking several pints of beer. Not one pub in Swansea had a skittles alley and we played all our matches in a pub in Pontardawe which is approximately 10 miles from Swansea.  We always ordered fried chicken in the basket for each member of both teams during the interval, but the meal was affectionately known across the country as the French Revolution (head in the basket, get it?)

A skittles match could evoke various emotions over the course of an evening, and could also lead to physical interaction which sometimes bordered on sexual harassment. We were playing a women’s team in the Cynon Valley, and two women began groping me as I was about to throw. Being the complete professional, I completed my throw and suggested they continue their massage on completion of the match. They replied: “What you take us for, we’re married?” All is fair in love and war I guess.

We had reached the semi-finals for several years only to be knocked out at the penultimate hurdle by our nemesis, Cardiff City Council. We made the final at long last, defeating our dreaded rivals on our own patch. The final was held in Cardiff against South Glamorgan County Council, and we felt we only had to turn up to win the coveted trophy.  We were dead level after four pulsating rounds, but unexpectedly lost our nerve in the deciding round. Well some of us did. My boss, Robin Blakely, rolled two of his balls (please) into the gutter along the alley which proved decisive.

I played cricket for Nalgo only once and never wanted to repeat the experience. It was really the Albert Quirk x1 who usually selected his cronies. He asked me to play because they were a man short, and I reluctantly agreed. Now I was a useful medium paced bowler in my twenties, but not in Mr. Quirk’s eyes. He eventually brought me onto bowl when the opposition had amassed a massive total and the batsman were seeing the ball like a “football” and smashing the ball to all parts of the ground. I bowled a couple of overs without success and retreated to the confines of third man. The most excitement I had that day was when Andrew Miners gave me a lift home after the match in his Triumph TR7. We had no seatbelts, red traffic lights were of no concern to him, and speed limits were for the faint hearted. Memo to myself, never accept a lift from Mr. Miners again.

Some of the quirky aspects of the Guildhall included a table tennis table in the “Green Room” behind the Brangwyn Hall. I played a couple times a week during my lunch break, and Martin Appleby asked if I would like  to play in a three man team against opponents residing in the Rhondda Valley. However, I was just an average player and no match for my opponent. Our best player was a 64 year old commissionaire on the verge of retirement who had a compulsion to deride his fellow team mates. Moving on……….

The most competitive and enthralling game I took part in was a football match between Swansea City Council and West Glamorgan County Council, both of which were located in  Swansea about a mile apart. It was the semi-final stage of the Nalgo competition and we played at Fairwood which was used as a training facility for Swansea City Football Club. The game was a battle royal between two very competitive teams with the play ebbing and flowing from end to end. The lead changed hands several times, but West Glam finished stronger  and won with a flattering score line of 5-3. I bumped into their captain, Mike Nantcurvis, the next day somewhere in town, and he was anxious to tell me it was a great game. I thanked him, but it was little consolation for losing.

We had some great times courtesy of NALGO despite ending up on the wrong side of the result for most of the time. How does that old saying go: ” It’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play the game. What a load of codswallop.

 

 

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