The Welsh Cygnets (Part Two): Put to the Test, September 1927.

The Welsh Cygnets. Photo Credit – Museum of Welsh Cricket

With opening games under their belts against clubs and other teams in south and north Wales the Cygnets moved on to their first major challenge. The team photograph, above, was taken before the two-day match played at Llandudno on 7 and 8 September 1927 against the New Zealand tourists.

For a side in its first season, it was quite a feather in their cap to secure a fixture against the touring team who were involved in matches that summer against all of the leading counties. As to how this was achieved, the answer lies with the three men at the centre of the front row, GE Rowland, NVH Riches and HD Swan. We met Gwilym Evans Rowland and Norman Riches in the first article in this series. However, it was the third member of this group, H D Swan, sitting on the right of the trio, who was the key figure in the Cygnets securing an invitation to Llandudno.

Henry Swan of Essex and MCC was a member of the MCC committee and heavily involved in the arranging and running of the many tours undertaken by MCC sides each year.  Known widely as Swannie, HD Swan had led the MCC tours of north Wales in 1926 and 1927 captaining teams that included NVH Riches and G E Rowland’s son Cyril. It was, therefore, an astute move by Rowland and Riches to invite Swannie to be Vice President of the Cygnets. While limiting their matches in the first year to Wales, the Cygnets had ambitions to play much further afield. With this in mind, it is difficult to think of anyone who was better placed than HD Swan to help a club build up its fixture list.

Swan was also well known to the New Zealanders. He had been manager of the MCC team that toured New Zealand in 1922-23. He had, therefore, been a natural choice to draw up the itinerary for the visit by New Zealand in 1927. A match against Wales at Llandudno had been included in the initial fixture list with Rowland agreeing to provide £500 to meet the tourists’ expenses. The Cygnets, however, were a late addition to the tour itinerary. Although the club, in November 1926, was still in the planning stage, Swan’s role in steering the tour agenda, allied with Rowland’s financial backing and Riches’ ability to guarantee quality opposition, secured a game with the tourists for the fledgling Cygnets. With the addition of a further game, between North and South Wales, the three matches were billed as Llandudno’s first “cricket festival”.

An examination of the Cygnets’ team that day reveals that it contained seven of the eleven who had played in the club’s opening match at Panteg. There were, however, significant reinforcements with Riches captaining the side and the addition of the Hon. C N Bruce of Middlesex and the MCC. The side also contained  a clutch of promising youngsters including Maurice Turnbull and four young cricketers from north Wales, Albert Mallalieu, Samuel Jagger and G E Rowland’s sons Cyril and William Rowland.

The rain affected game ended in a draw but there were a number of very creditable performances and, in particular, by the younger players.  A 22-year old Cyril Walters provided the top score for the Cygnets with 76 not out. His innings included a stand of 51 in 35 minutes with the 21-year old Maurice Turnbull.  The plaudits, however, went to Samuel Jagger, the 23-year old Cambridge Blue. Jagger, who had made his debut for Worcestershire aged 18, bowled 29 overs in the first innings and took five New Zealand wickets for 59 runs.

After the week was done and dusted and New Zealand had moved on to Scarborough, stock was taken. Although there was praise for the performances on the field, the crowds had been disappointing. GE Rowland was left once again to dig deep into his pocket to meet the costs. In many respects, though, the week had been a success as part of the wider plans and ambitions to promote cricket in Wales and establish Llandudno as a major cricket venue. New Zealand were added to the list of high profile sides including MCC, Lancashire and the South Africans that had played in north Wales since Rowland had been appointed President of the North Wales Cricket Association in 1924. Furthermore, plans were already in hand to extend this with a visit by the West Indies in 1928.

As to the Cygnets, the season was hailed as a great success at the club’s annual general meeting held at the Midland Grand Hotel, London on 13 December and work was already in progress for an extended fixture list in 1928. The new, all-amateur club had met its first test and had proved that it was a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the field.

Tony Peters

Museum Volunteer

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