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 Chris Thau - The Spirit of Penarth, One Hundred and Thirty One Years of Seaside Rugby

Title: The Spirit of Penarth, One Hundred and Thirty One Years of Seaside Rugby

Author: Chris Thau

Published By: CHT Publishing (14 April 2012)

Hardcover: 360 pages

ISBN-13: 978-0957048409

Review of the Book Launch from the Penarth Times:

The book launch at the clubhouse on Lavernock Road on Saturday 14th of April, was a day to remember, even by the standards of Penarth RFC hospitality. The sense of expectation and the detailed preparations reminded the build-up to a Good Friday match, when the Barbarians commenced their tour of South Wales against the local club.  Indeed, for more than half a century Penarth has been the “spiritual” home of the Barbarian Football Club at that famous seafront establishment The Esplanade Hotel. Between 1901 and 1986 the Good Friday clash between Penarth and the star-studded visitors had been the highlight of the local rugby season, an amazing day when Penarth became for 24 hours the centre of the rugby world.

  Sure enough, the club without a fixed abode were represented at the launch by their Vice-President Geoffrey Windsor-Lewis, a former Wales international and Barbarian, who told everyone how important Penarth was and still is in the Barbarian folklore and tradition. ”I have to say that before I came down to the clubhouse, I went to the Pier, to reminisce the old days when we used to come here every Easter. In the memories of hundreds of Barbarians Penarth is and will always be the place we called home. The old Esplanade Hotel is no longer there, but it still survives in our hearts,” he said.

  Earlier, Penarth RFC Chairman Mike Gooding had welcomed the guests explaining why the club had engaged in such an ambitious venture. “The main reason the club decided to go ahead with this project was to provide the new generations of Penarth players with an highly readable, accurate and well-researched account of the rich history of the club: its climb from obscurity to the elite of the Welsh game, its moments of greatness and more than anything its heroes - the several thousand players and officials who served the club during those unbelievable years. I was one of those players, so it was my son, though my father who was too old to play, engaged himself wholeheartedly in the administration of the club. This book is very much a community project if there has ever been one and I am grateful to all of you for turning up today to celebrate the club and its rich history,” said Mr Gooding. He also mentioned that the book was funded by the Penarth RFC and the author Chris Thau had donated all the proceeds to the club.

Among the many guests, the club welcomed its oldest player, 97-year old Herbert Norman, whose father Israel Norman also played for Penarth before the 1st World War. Herbert had played at Penarth on both sides of the Second World War having represented the club in the first post-war Barbarians fixture in 1946. Herbet Norman was presented with a montage of photograph of himself and his farther wearing the club strip. “I am delighted, he said. You have made my day.”

  The Normans are just another Penarth rugby family, among the many that have graced the fields of the town: the Batchelors, the Garretts, the Thomas brothers, the Lawdays, the Kirbys, the Bests, the Gibbs and Morels, the Sweet-Escotts and Dykes, the Bryants, the Hamiltons, the O’Briens, the Heslops, the Bush family, the Chandlers and the Watts, the McIntyres, Bonellos and Driscolls, the Arnolds and the Whites, the Marshalls, Llewellyns, and Prescotts ,the Howdon-Blake family, the Crothers and Candys , the Swaine brothers, the Gils and Coxes and so on.

  After the festivities the book went on sale and nearly 200 were sold on the day. “They went like hot cakes,” observed Penarth club secretary Sara Siddall. Symbolically perhaps, the owner of Windsor Books, Tony Hallett who managed the sales operation is a great-grandnephew of Captain Walter Hallett, one of the pioneers of rugby in Penarth and a leading Town administrator. The book is on sale at Windsor Bookshop for the discounted price of £39.95.




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