William Morgan was a leading figure in cricket and politics in South Wales so it was very fitting that he became the first man to lead out a Glamorgan team at Lord’s as he captained the Welsh county in their inaugural away matches in 1889, against the MCC as well as Surrey Club and Ground at The Oval. He was also one of the instigators of the meeting at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff in July 1888 at which the Glamorgan County Cricket Club came into being, besides being a founding committee member, and organizing a trial match against his club Llwynypia during August 1888.
His family had played a prominent role in the evolving industrial and political landscape of the Rhondda Valley, with his home – Ty’n-y-Cymmer House near Pontypridd – being one of the first places where coal-mining had taken place in the Rhondda, with his late father Evan and step-father Josiah Lewis, overseeing industrial activities in the extensive grounds of the House.
Educated at Weston School and Downing College, he played in the Cambridge Freshman’s Match in 1882 but never subsequently appeared for the Light Blues. However, the following year he had his first taste of county cricket with Breconshire against Monmouthshire, and produced a man-of-match performance in the game at Crickhowell, opening the batting and bowling, besides claiming thirteen wickets to see his side to an innings victory. Morgan was also the scourge of Monmouthshire again in their match at Newport in 1887, claiming eleven wickets as Breconshire won by ten wickets.
During this time, William also played for Llwynypia – which his father had formed in 1878 – as well as the South Wales CC, the Welsh Wanderers, I Zingari and the MCC, often alongside other young members of the industrial bourgeoise of the area. Not surprisingly he soon became interested in local politics, and in 1889 William became a founder member of the Glamorgan County Council, formed under the Local Government Act of 1888, standing as a Liberal councilor for Treorchy and Treherbert.
The all-rounder’s greatest moments on the cricketing field also came at Lord’s where, in 1892 for Glamorgan against the MCC side, William opened the batting and the bowling, making 91 and 61, besides claiming thirteen wickets in the match which the Welsh county won by nine wickets. A fortnight later, he made his first-class debut in the match between the West of England against the East of England at the United Services ground in Portsmouth, appearing in the West side alongside several of his acquaintances in the Somerset side.
During the late 1890s, William moved from Tynewydd House in Porth to live at number 1 Park Street in Bath where he held several business interests and was a Director of the town’s Recreation Ground Company. Despite living in Somerset and playing for the Lansdown club, William continued to play in Minor County Championship games for Glamorgan during 1900 and 1901, with the latter year seeing William play his final game for the Welsh county, against Berkshire at Reading.
It is interesting to speculate why William, given his passion for cricket, had ceased his involvement on the Glamorgan committee during the mid-1890s and subsequently became more involved in matters relating to Somerset. The answer may lie with his political views and work as a Liberal councillor in the Rhondda. During the 1880s, William had played for the South Wales Cricket Club alongside John Price Jones, one of the most influential figures in the gentleman’s team as well as Cardiff CC, besides being a leading figure in Liberal politics in the coal metropolis.
John, who worked as an architect in Cardiff, had also been an advocate of creating a county cricket team to represent Glamorgan, and having proposed dissolving the South Wales CC at their 1886 AGM, he had been instrumental in convening the meeting at the Angel Hotel in July 1888 at which Glamorgan CCC came into being with John, quite fittingly, appointed as the Club’s inaugural Chairman. With another prominent Liberal at the helm of the Club, William was eager to play his part in the Club’s early development.
However, John died aged just 42, in January 1893 and following his premature death, a number of Conservatives filled key roles within the Club’s hierarchy, including Jack Brain, the manager of the Old Brewery, and a man who oversaw Glamorgan’s elevation into the Minor County Championship in 1897 and their bid to host a Test Match in 1905 at the Arms Park – a venue owned by the Marquess of Bute who besides being a fellow Tory also owned the Docks in Cardiff.
Despite their trading success, an anti-Bute lobby existed within South Wales, with alternative and cheaper facilities being created at Barry. Many entrepreneurs and Liberal supporters in the mining valleys aligned themselves with the Docks at Barry rather than at Cardiff and these political tensions with the Conservatives may explain why William took a step back from the Glamorgan committee in the mid-1890s.
His son Walter became a leading solicitor in the Pontypridd area as well as following in his father’s footsteps by becoming a successful Liberal councillor, and a champion of decent living conditions for the colliers and steel-workers in the town. To his, and his father’s disappointment, Walter also stood unsuccessfully on three occasions in Parliamentary elections in the Liberal interest.
He also played a leading role in the West of England for the MCC, helping to assemble a number of teams, including one at Bath in 1901 against a team representing the Netherlands, with William persuading the Brain brothers, Jack and Sam, to turn out against the Dutchmen. Indeed, his final match of note came when, aged 53, William played for the MCC against Monmouthshire at Rodney Parade, Newport in July 1905. Despite having retired from playing, he maintained his interest in cricket by serving on the Somerset committee and helped to oversee the county’s matches at the Recreation Ground in Bath.
Born – Llantrisant, September 1862.
Died – Porthleven, 22 October 1914.
Batting and Fielding Record
Minor County Championship – 21 v Wiltshire at Swindon, 1901 and 5/64 v Berkshire at Reading, 1901. Minor County Friendlies – 91 and 7/79 v MCC at Lord’s, 1892.