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2011- the 90th anniversary of Glamorgan CCC as a first-class county


2011 is the 90th anniversary of Glamorgan CCC in first-class cricket, and had it not been for financial hardship in the early 20th century, we might have been celebrating the centenary of the Club in first-class cricket in 2011.


IIndeed, Glamorgan enjoyed great success as a Minor County, with the Welsh county winning the Western Group in 1907, 1908 and 1909, and in each year progressing to the final of the Minor County Championship only to lose to Lancashire 2nd XI, Staffordshire and Wiltshire. The Club had also come within one vote in 1905 of se- curing a Test Match, so it was not all gloom and despondency within the Glamorgan committee in 1909 after the third defeat in the Minor County final as it was proof that Glamorgan were still amongst the best Minor Counties, and had every reason to hold lofty aspirations about bidding for first-class status.


Ever since the visit of the Australians to Cardiff in 1905, the Glamorgan officials had been planning their cam- paign for first-class status, and in the Edwardian period a number of high-profile matches against touring teams and other exhibition games were staged at the Arms Park promoting both the playing resources and facilities in South Wales and the credentials of the Club. Indeed, there was a great mood of optimism within the commit- tee room, as other English counties had been elevated to first-class status, including Worcestershire in 1899 and Northamptonshire in 1905, and the Glamorgan officials duly contacted the authorities at Lord`s to see what Glamorgan could do in order to join the first-class ranks.


The response from the MCC was that in order to become a first-class county, they would have to secure eight home and eight away fixtures with existing first-class teams, and during the winter of 1909/10, a fund-raising campaign began, headed by the Earl of Plymouth, the county’s President who issued a circular appealing for financial support so that the Club could give guarantees to the existing first-class counties and secure a place in the County Championship.


During 1910 friendly matches were staged with two first-class teams – Worcestershire and Somerset – but the downswing in the local economy and the start of a trade slump dealt a massive blow to the energetic Glamorgan officials, and they had to put on hold their ambitious plan.


Thoughts of joining the County Championship resurfaced in 1919 as life slowly got back to normal after the Great War. With the local economy booming, there was a feel-good factor in South Wales in these immediate post-war years. Sport was on the up with the Football League having been expanded to include teams from Aberdare, Cardiff, Merthyr, Newport and Swansea, and with Glamorgan still doing well in the Minor County Championship, there was excited chatter across Wales about their bid for first-class status.


Fortunately, the Club’s finances were in a much healthier state as a result of pledges of support from the local business community, with Sir Sidney Byass giving the club a £1,000 loan over a ten-year period. Off the field, the Club secretary Tom Whittington also approached other county officials to secure sufficient fixtures to support their application for first-class status in 1921. Somerset quickly agreed, followed by Gloucestershire, Worcester- shire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Lancashire, although in a couple of cases Whittington was forced to agree that the Welsh county would guarantee a sum of £200 towards the fixture. The enthusiastic secretary duly reported back to the committee in November 1920 that he had secured the support of seven first- class counties. Jubilant at the news, the committee told him to “obtain the eighth at any cost whatsoever.”


As it turned out strong persuasion was not needed, as both Sussex and Hampshire readily agreed to Whitting- ton’s approach, and early in 1921 the news that everyone had been waiting for came through, as the M.C.C. endorsed Glamorgan`s application. It proved to be a fairytale start for Glamorgan as a first-class county, as under the captaincy of Norman Riches – their stalwart batsman from their Minor County days – they defeated a full-strength Sussex side in their inaugural County Championship match at Cardiff Arms Park in May 1921.


Sussex included several notable players including Maurice Tate, batsmen Ted Bowley, England all-rounder Vallance Jupp and the Gilligan brothers – Arthur and Alfred - but despite these big names, the Glamorgan side, with a collection of talented amateurs and well-travelled professionals, won the game by 24 runs. Many of the crowd surged onto the field to congratulate Riches and his team. The two teams then gathered on the balcony of the Cardiff pavilion, and both captain`s made impromptu speeches, with Arthur Gilligan graciously congratu- lating the Welsh side, saying how they “had given us a magnificent game, and we do not mind being beaten in the slightest. We have been down until today, but today we might have won. We did not – Glamorgan did, and I congratulate them very much.”


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