Becoming a Minor County

Glamorgan’s first-ever game took place at the Arms Park in June 1889 when they met Warwickshire – at the time, the Welsh team were classed as a third-class county, differentiating them from the second-class teams who participated in the Minor County Championship and the first-class counties who played in the County Championship.

During the 1890s, Jack Brain – the captain of Glamorgan and the Manager of Brain’s Brewery – oversaw a campaign for the elevation of the Welsh county into the Minor County Championship. Educated at Clifton College and Oxford University, he forsook the opportunity to succeed WG Grace as captain of  Gloucestershire, and devoted his energies to the affairs of his family’s brewery and Glamorgan CCC. Jack took over the captaincy in 1891, before assuming the role of secretary in 1893 and overseeing Glamorgan’s elevation into the Minor County Championship in 1897. His business skill and acumen saw Jack enhance the playing resources of the Welsh county, with Jack also dipping into his own pocket to hire a couple of professionals, who besides turning out for the county, could help coach the emerging talent, and work as labourers in the Old Brewery during the winter months.

A cigarette card of the Welsh county’s captain. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

However, there was still a very relaxed outlook to the Club’s affairs, similar to the days of the South Wales CC, and there were times when Jack was appalled at what he described as “an air of apathy and indifference” shown by some of the amateurs. An example was the away contest with Wiltshire when two of the amateurs failed to turn up at Cardiff General to catch the train to Swindon!

Quite rightly, Jack felt that such a casual approach had no place in a team that had aspirations of playing at a higher level, and with this in mind, he persuaded the other officials to appoint a full-time professional. Fittingly, their choice as Glamorgan first-ever full-time professional was Billy Bancroft, the 24 year-old all-rounder from Swansea and a member of the family who had lived at the St. Helen’s ground and coached so many of the aspiring young players in the area. His appointment led to a dramatic rise in the club’s fortunes as they went through 1895 without defeat, and with other leading amateurs throwing in their lot with Glamorgan, the club duly went from strength to strength.

A signed cigarette card of the Welsh rugby international and Glamorgan cricketer. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

With healthier finances and stronger playing resources, Jack was instrumental in Glamorgan pressing for higher recognition by playing in the Minor County Championship.  The MCC endorsed their application, and the Welsh county were admitted into the competition for 1897. Jack’s team vindicated their promotion by finishing in second place in the competition in 1897, followed by fourth place and then third. But to Jack’s delight, the crowning moment came in 1900 when Glamorgan became joint Minor County champions, sharing the title with Durham and Northamptonshire with each team having recorded six victories.