Ferndale RFC are a rugby union club based in the Upper Rhondda Fach, South Wales. First formed in 1882, and disbanded in 1921, the club reformed in 1989. They currently play their home games at Greenwood Park, Ferndale (once the site of the infamous Banana Tip) formerly playing their home matches at Blaenllechau Park. They will play in WRU, Division 4 South East in the 2007/08 season.
The club prides itself on its status in the village of Ferndale, and is a strong believer and forerunner in rekindling the idea of togetherness and community spirit within the Rhondda Valleys.
(Written by A.A. Clement)
Our forefathers had established the first rugby team back in 1882 - 1883, when David Watkins (a descendant from Neath) helped to foster the game during difficult times. It was through his determination that Ferndale RFC became affiliated to the Welsh Football Union in 1891 (as it was called then). In 1894 they played in the newly formed Glamorgan league with the Monmouthshire league being formed a year later. It was not until the end of the first decade of the twentieth century (1909) that Ferndale began to make its name amongst some of the well-known sides in the southern part of the principality. Names like Neath RFC, Bath Rugby, Llanelli RFC, Pontypridd RFC, Cross Keys RFC, Merthyr, Treorchy, Glamorgan Police, Tredegar and Bridgewater graced the sloping playing field at the Darran Lake Grounds. It was not unusual to see crowds in excess of 3,000 for the regular rugger enthusiasts to be entertained at half time by the highly successful Ferndale Prize Band, whose home (Ferndale Band and Musical Institute Club) was officially opened in May 1899. It's also worth mentioning that the famous Ferndale Horse Shows attracted five figure crowds during the four decades of its existence. It was during these eventful times that Ferndale RFC (the "Scarlet Bulldogs") won two senior cups by beating Cilfynydd at Ynysybwl in 1910 and Treorchy four-nil to win the Glamorgan League Cup in 1912.
With the advent of the Great War, rugby was soon to lose its momentum locally as many of the returning troops became more familiar with the oval ball with soccer gaining in popularity. By 1921 due to the lack of finances, which had been enhanced by the mining disputes and the dangerous playing surface on the Darran Park, Rhondda Fach's premier side folded. It was left to the Ferndale Bell Boys, the Elmonians and Blaenllechau to keep the rugby flag flying locally up until 1940, where the Second World War finally put a halt to competitive senior rugby in Ferndale and Blaenllechau.
The rebirth - after several conversations with Gomer Clement in 1981 (my grandfather) it was time to research the former heydays of our rugby past, during the latter part of 1988. Further dialog with Ainsley Evans and my brother Gerwyn over a pint at the Ferndale Labour Club fuelled additional interest, and with more and more facts becoming available to other members of the club there was only one thing in mind. A committee was also formed during January 1989 after holding meetings behind closed doors at the Salisbury Hotel.
After carefully nurturing the plan over six months the club was accepted as a probationary member of the Rhondda & East Glamorgan District Union. It was then decided, after permission from the Salisbury Hotel, to use the cellar as a base with many long hours spent cleaning and redecorating the redundant cellar bar by our new membership.
On September 2nd 1989 the first game was played against Fleur De Lys on our home ground at Blaenllechau Park, in front of several hundred people. Maerdy Junior RFC, members from Ferndale Male Voice, Cor Meibion Morlais, along with Maerdy Colliery and Tylorstown Silver Band provided the pre match entertainment. With the sharp shrill of the first whistle, Tom Bevan at the sprightly age of 91 and a former committeeman of Ferndale RFC in 1920 kicked the game off. A majority of our players had never played competitive rugby before and with the huge crowd watching it was inevitable that most of them were petrified. They say there's no holding an old dog back and that was certainly the case in Jeff Isaac, who not only became the clubs first captain but scored the first try, which he then superbly converted to draw our first game six-all.
Looking to the future - a lot has happened since 1989 after serving a three-year probationary period under the Rhondda & East Glamorgan District Union, who celebrated their centenary during 2006. We have worked very hard in producing two senior sides; a youth, under 14's & 16's over the years, but still need too do much more. Our superb rugby facilities at Greenwood Park, which were opened in September 1991, were not presented to us on a plate - far from it - an incredible amount of work by local people over a number of years campaigning for better recreational facilities took a great effort before they eventually came to the fore. The pavilion includes four separate changing rooms, two separate changing rooms for referee's, a tea room and ladies and gents toilet facilities along with a cricket field for Ferndale's Christchurch Cricket Club, who were formed in 1924.
Today we have a large floodlight area behind the rugby posts for training purposes, with the underground cables and bases already in place for the playing lights and future plans for a covered seated stand.
The former Salisbury Hotel (a three story building & basement with a large car park) was finally purchased as our own clubhouse in May 1994, after initially running it for a while, which was in desperate need for internal and external repairs along with the refurbishment that totally drained all the funds, which had been raised in those primary years - not bad when you consider we started out in 1989 with no money to our name. The substantial amount of hard work and money spent on our clubhouse has helped to contribute to the sporting and social scene for the inhabitants of Ferndale & district - which can amount to over three hundred voluntary hours per week. Our future projections for both Greenwood Park and the large clubhouse involve ambitious schemes, (the new Sir Stanley Baker lounge was opened Xmas 2005) benefiting the community even more for the present and forthcoming generations - when money becomes available.
After progressing through the R.E.G.D. leagues it was felt that the club was now in a position - with their facilities - to push forwards and obtain probationary status from the Welsh Rugby Union. After being vetted by the Welsh Districts and the WRU, the club was finally accepted as a provisional member at the start of the 2001 / 02 season. This meant that Welsh Rugby Union league games were played at Ferndale for the first time in eighty years and by April 2004, full WRU status was granted.
We have always worked diligently in forging close links with our governing bodies, our local council, councillors and the community in general, and as a family club we hope to continue by being good rugby ambassadors for the town, Rhondda & East Glamorgan, Mid District and Wales both on and off the field wherever we travel.
We feel very proud of our achievements to date and would welcome further support - as would Ferndale Boys Club, Ferndale Boxing Club, Christchurch Cricket Club and our successful Ferndale Bowls team, who have achieved great success over the past seasons. It's time the local inhabitants supported local sport in greater numbers and help rekindle the community spirit that once existed in all our towns and villages.
It's hard to describe the massive voluntary effort required to run any organisation, but Ferndale Rugby Football Club like many others deserve the admiration for all their endeavours in bringing WRU status back to the former Glynrhedynog (Ferndale's original name) and the little city on the hill - Blaenllechau.
The "Sir Stanley Baker Lounge"
Ferndale is also the proud hometown of legendary actor Sir Stanley Baker, honouring him with a loving tribute in the form of the new "Sir Stanley Baker". Officially opened by his widow, Lady Ellen Baker, on Friday 24 November 2006, the day's events featured a presentation to Sir Stanley's sons and family members, and a fitting and moving tribute to the man himself via speeches and tales from celebrities and various local people who knew him best. The afternoon also featured a Radio Wales tribute to Sir Stanley, hosted by Owen Money and recorded live in Ferndale RFC itself. The Sir Stanley Baker Lounge features many pictures and memorabilia from his successful career, including a beautifully made wall plaque commemorating the official opening in both English and Welsh, and is a fitting tribute to Ferndale's most famous son.
Rhondda Cynon Taff