HISTORY OF LLANDAFF NORTH RSSC.
North of Cardiff, North of Cardiff itself, over the River Taff, past the imposing Ysgol Glantaf, is yet another part of Cardiff, our Capital City, a part steeped in pride and stories in particular of its own Rugby Club whose past goes back so far that there is no record of its actual beginning.
What is known is that there was a side, known as ‘Llandaff Yard’ which was formed in 1898 and it is claimed that the deep rooted traditions go back even further than local rivals, LLandaff City R.F.C., which was one of the founder members of the W.R.U. in 1884.
‘Llandaff Yard’, was named because at the time there was a physical division formed by the long disused Merthyr to Cardiff canal, which separated Hawthorn from Highfields. North of this division was Yorath’s Yard which gave its name to the Rugby Club there from.
The old canal bridge was in existence until quite recently, in fact the old cottage on the spot is still named the ‘Lock House’, after the canal lock which was controlled by the then presidents. Opposite is one of Cardiff’s oldest hostelries, ‘The Cow and Snuffers’ and later on in 1900 when in order to ‘Bridge that gap’, the ‘Llandaff North United’ was formed for that specific purpose, the Headquarters were established therein.
Amongst these memories will no doubt be their achievement in season 1902-03, when, after a number of epic ‘Battles’, they became the proud possessors of their first trophy, the Cardiff Shield, which was the forerunner of the present Mallet Cup, the trophy awarded to the senior Cardiff and District R.U. competition.
Then came the great War, immediately it was over, they re-started wandering from ground to ground around the Llandaff North district and changing and meeting in ‘Locals’.
The next material evidence of this came in the 1920-21 season when they became the winners of the Whitchurch and District Cup Competition.
Difficulties were many. There was never the problem of players fortunately; but in their search for a settled ‘Home’ they were compelled to use various establishments as, the Railway Hotel, the Old Institute, The Cow and snuffers and more as headquarters and their playing areas varied almost equally. The allotments where Ysgol Glantaf now stands, served that purpose at one time; they went further afield to Fairwater and Radyr in their search and at that time were very tempted to take advantage of the offer to take over the attractive ground belonging to the nearby Melingriffith Steel and Tinplate Works. This works had long played its part in the sporting life of the city, but with a change economically the ground was no longer required by them. It could have been taken over by Llandaff North but there was a condition which with their long tradition and pride, they could and would not accept. The powers controlling the ground and with whom they had to negotiate insisted that it would be necessary for them to change their name to Elyn. This they rejected in the same way as they had rejected other suggestions to be called Cardiff North or Gabalfa, to avoid confusion with Llandaff City. No, they felt quite rightly that they owed it to their early founders to maintain the name as they had maintained the traditions and spirit of those days .
Incidentally, some years later, with the old Melingriffith ground still idle, Cardiff R.F.C., itself investigated the possibility of using it as an alternative pitch to save the Arms Park and now Cardiff High School Old Boys are settled there.
Then Cardiff Corporation came to the rescue of this so deserving Club by offering the use of the nearby Hailey Park.
Their nickname of the ‘Wandering Gypsies’ no longer applied but changing sometimes in a loft, sometimes in a cellar amongst other places, only seems to have spurred them on; it certainly never deterred or really downhearted them.
Ultimately the hurdle of changing rooms was overcome when they were granted the use of the Old Institute, behind the old established Cow and Snuffers, again associated with them for so long. Here they enjoyed the luxury of real showers with ‘Hot and Cold’ and dressing rooms.
After all that was done to make the ‘Institute’ somewhere to be quite proud of, they were given six months notice to quit. The Corporation intended to demolish this old part of Llandaff North itself in the cause of inevitable progress, in this particular case, council houses were to be built on the site.
It seamed that all that they had done has been in vain and recourse to the old, wishing to be forgotten, days of meeting in local pubs, changing and showering wherever they could find such facilities, was for some time staring them harshly in the face.
The players themselves, provided all the enthusiasm to spur the officials on and due to their enterprise, particularly Chairman Viv Jones and the then Vice-chairman Arthur Birch, the day and the future of the club was saved.
Viv found out that Roderick’s Old Pie Factory at the rear of 42 Radyr Road was going vacant. This old established factory had in its time produced doughnuts, dairy products, and housed an upholstery business before being used for pies, and old Mr Roderick would certainly never recognise it now. Viv and Arthur Birch negotiated to rent the factory premises for the ridiculously low rental of £2 per week. This must have been intuition, as the club had paid only three weeks rent, before the factory and house was up for sale.
At last, Llandaff North R.F.C., the ‘Wandering Gypsies’, had ceased their wandering, they had a home they could call their own and since then their progress has been corresponding with all their dreams.
Llandaff North has always been fortunate in its administration, with no shortage of ex players prepared to put something back into the game.
In season 1960-61, then LNRFC, formed their youth side. This important section of the club, run in addition to their three senior sides, has proved a great success
The next and in many eyes, the most important milestone, came in 1963. After six previous unsuccessful application this season, sponsored by Cardiff and Glamorgan Wanderers, they at last gained their cherished dream of admittance to the W.R.U. With social facilities and accommodation second to none, two pitches at Hayley Park allocated solely for the use of the club adjacent, adequate spectator accommodation, excellent membership, finances very healthy – the bank loan had been paid off, first class administration, steadily improved fixture lists and a continuous record of good standard of play, their qualifications were more than satisfactory.
Llandaff North R.F.C. proudly boasted a distinctive ‘Cock of the North’ badge designed by then prop forward Alan Griffiths, had truly something to crow about and the years since 1963 have continued in that forward vein.
The 70’s through to the 80’s saw many changes to the way rugby was administrated and played with the later years turning professional. During this period the North enjoyed remaining amateur, refusing to go down the path of paying players. Whilst serving coaches have received a small honorarium, players have not.
East District League were introduced, where the North soon established themselves as hard opposition with one of the most respective sides by admirable lead by Captain Johnny (Skipper) McCarthy.
More recently with the introduction of WRU League the club has progressed from winning Division 7, (by reformation of Leagues) promoted to Division 5 and winning Division 4, South East and East District Cup with Captain Mike Fussey. Remaining unbeaten at home to where we are at present today in Division 3 South East.
International Honours have also come through the club at senior level, with Mike Rayer, Sean Legge and Mark Hembury representing Wales. Whilst at youth level, Tommy Whitfield, Mike Rayner, David O’Driscoll, Jason Gardner, Adam Williams, Gareth Knight and Peter De Snider have done us proud. Most recent additions to our hall of International Fame is Tom Isaacs winner of World Cup 7’s Medal.
One of the most successful youth side at the North was in our centenary season. Ably lead by Gareth Morgan as captain winning the East District Cup and Western Mail Team of the month. Many of the players from this successful side are representing or volunteering at the club today.
In the 25 years or so since Mini Rugby was introduced our pitches and clubhouse has resounded to the noise and success of that happy venture. Over 120 children turn out regularly on Sunday morning for practice and games. They are supported by enthusiastic, devoted and able helpers, from coaches to cooks, parents and friends.
Whilst there was already a youth team in existence at the North before the advent of mini rugby, the mini’s have now helped feed the youth side and later the senior side.
This story of Llandaff North would not be complete if mention were not made of the other activities associated closely with the club. In addition to Rugby football they run Darts and Skittles and baseball are well represented.