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The Bulldogs of Rhondda

The Bulldogs of Rhondda

By D. Jenkins

The series of Noted Footballers issued in 1910/11 by Cope Bros & Co with their “Clips” Cigarettes covers both Association (I refuse to use the word “Soccer”) and Rugby Football, although Association teams dominate. Card Nos. 111 to 120 show players of the Ton Pentre team, and I (and many others) have always assumed that these were members of a Welsh Rugby Club. Not so. A closer exam-ination of the cards will show that the players are wearing “jerseys” of the type worn at that time by Association Foot-ballers and may well be modelled on the strip of Aston Villa. This was not uncommon, at the time, for teams to imitate the then most famous team in the country. bulldog1Indeed, my own team Burnley chose, round about this time, to adopt the AstonVilla colours, which is why they appear in the Clips series (No. 436/444) in their old strip of green and their new “Aston Villa” jerseys.

I therefore came to the conclusion that Ton Pentre was an Association team, and decided to investigate further. Lo and behold, upon using the newfangled device, the Internet, I found that I was right.  Ton Pentre has been operating, off and on, as an Association Club since 1896 in that hotbed of Rugby, the Rhondda Valley.

It has of course had its ups and downs over the years, following the declining fortunes of the mining industry. The team now plays, in the national colours of red, in the Welsh League, where in 2004/5 they became Champions for the sixth time in eight seasons!
One of the many highlights of the Club’s history was to reach the First Round proper of the FA Cup in 1986 where they were drawn against, of all teams, Cardiff City. Although losing 4-1 they were not disgraced. The Programme for that game states “In the oval valleys of Rhondda, Ton Pentre stands unique as a round ball oasis”.

I had a few duplicate Clips cards which I sent to the Secretary of the Club. I received a very nice reply indica-ting that the cards were to be framed and hung behind the Clubhouse Bar. I am also the proud possessor of a Club Badge, which incorporates their nickname “The Bulldogs”. I would like to think that this story reaches the very heart of the Association game and makes a refreshing change from reading about overpaid, overblown, so called “Stars”, some of whom probably “earn” more in a week than Ton Pentre’s turnover for a year. Best of Luck, Bulldogs!

Incidentally, and purely by chance, I found the village of Ton Pentre mentioned elsewhere on a Cigarette Card. In the Ardath Photocards series, subtitled “Pastimes of our King”, George VI, when Duke of York, is shown on Card No. 204 as playing in a golf match with Mr. Frank Hodges “at Ton Pentre, Glamorganshire”. Further investigation (Internet again) elicited that Mr.Hodges was the local MP and had arranged a foursomes Match in which the future King had agreed to take part. The course had been set up by local miners on a piece of mountain over Ton Pentre, and was originally somewhat basic. With the help, however, of local benefactors, including the Mining Company, a 9 Hole course emerged and an old barn was converted into a pavilion for players. Alas, the Club did not continue to flourish, and the land has now reverted to farming use.

It’s amazing what you can find out from Cards!!!

This article originally appeared in August 2014.

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