From the Albies to the Wizards, some of Welsh sport’s oldest nicknames explained
The Albies, the Ducks, the Wizards, the Black Army, the Old Gold, the Otters and the Silkmen.
These are just a few of the hundreds of nicknames attached to Welsh rugby and football clubs which tell a cultural, historical and sometimes bizarre story.
Now, Carmarthen-born author Richard Huws of Bont-goch, Ceredigion, has written a book looking into around 250 club monikers.
Mr Huws, who worked for almost 40 years at the National Library of Wales, retiring in 2008, said: “Nicknames have been part of football and rugby culture from Victorian times, but no-one has yet attempted a proper study of them.”
Swansea City fan Mr Huws added: “They are sometimes just associated with a club colour but they often tell fascinating stories.”
One of his personal favourites is the Ducks, the nickname of Rhondda rugby outfit Wattstown RFC.
Mr Huws said: “Wattstown became known as the Ducks, I was informed by one of the club officials, after a match against a local rival got a bit out of hand some years ago.
“Fighting broke out on the pitch apparently and as the ground was near a river the punch-up even carried on in the water.
“After the fight was over, one local wag said ‘the Wattstown boys took to the water like ducks’ and the name stuck.”
Evans & Williams FC of the Carmarthenshire League originated in the late 1950s after some of the workers from the local Evans & Williams Wagon Works decided to form a football team.
They were supported by owner Albie Evans, hence the clubnickname The Albies.
The origin of Cardiff City’s nickname, The Bluebirds, is not as simple as some may think, said Mr Huws.
He said: “A lot of people believe it’s to do with the club having played in blue for many years.
“But there is a connection with a classic children’s play, The Blue Bird, written by the Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck in 1909. “
In the play, the bird, a symbol of happiness, is pursued by children who want to imprison it in a cage and the play’s theme urges people “not to try to hoard happiness for themselves”.
Mr Huws said: “This play had come to the New Theatre in Cardiff in 1911.
“It received good reviews during its six-night run and a week after the production had left town, Maeterlinck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his symbolist plays including The Blue Bird.”
Fans are said to have started calling the Cardiff players, resplendent in blue, the Bluebirds and the nickname was born.
Llantrisant RFC’s “Black Army” nickname goes back to 1346, when the Lord of Glamorgan formed a legion of Welsh warriors to assist Edward III in the French War.
In Llantrisant, an army of strong-armed archers was raised from the local community.
They sailed to France to fight for the King’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales – The Black Prince.
During the Battle of Crecy, the Llantrisant archers reportedly displayed so much skill and bravery they became known as “The Black Army of Llantrisant”.
Flint Town Utd became the silkmen after three textile factories were established in the North Wales town, while Narberth RFC’s Otters name comes from a local lady who helped establish the club being married to the master of the local otter hunt.
“Carmarthen Town FC, my hometown club, became the Old Gold as one of the men who set up the club was a big fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers who played in an old gold strip,” said Mr Huws.
But the origins of “Swansea Jacks” are more uncertain, he says.
He said: “It is widely thought the very brave dog named Swansea Jack who rescued people from drowning inSwansea Docks in the 1930s was behind the name.
“But in my research I first came across the term Swansea Jack in 1847. It was an alias used by a man from Swansea accused of murdering a man from Cardiff.
“There was also use of the term Swansea Jack a little bit later because copper miners apparently used something called a Jack Tin in which to old their lunch.
“Other miners apparently would call these men Swansea Jacks.
“However, Swansea Jack the dog certainly gave a lot of publicity to the name and could well have been involved in its eventual use as a nickname for men from Swansea.”
Aberavon RFC’s well-known Wizards name reportedly dates back to the 1920s, when a local sports writer called them “the Wizards of the West” as their team, with the likes of Johnny Ring and Bob Randall, was so good.
* The Football and Rugby Team Nicknames of Wales by Richard E Huws, £7.95, will be available from the Welsh Books Council next week or direct from Paul Watkins Publishing, Lincolnshire.