Williams, Thomas

Williams, Thomas

Born in 1860, Thomas Williams played club rugby for Cardiff and Pontypridd and international rugby for Wales. A solicitor by profession, Williams would later become a national selector for the Welsh Rugby Union. Williams was also responsible for suggesting the singing of 'Hen Wlad fy Nhadau' in a match in 1905, the first time a National Anthem was sung before a sporting event.

Williams had a career in most levels of Welsh rugby union. He first came to note as a player, representing Cardiff and appeared for them in the Welsh Cup final win over Llanelli in 1881. In 1882, Williams switched to Pontypridd, and it was during his time with Pontypridd that he was selected for his one and only Welsh international cap. Wales had only played one international prior to 1882, a humiliating defeat to England at Blackheath. Williams was brought into a much changed pack to face Ireland, the first meeting between the two countries in a rugby union match.

After his playing career had ended, Williams became heavily involved in the Welsh Rugby Union, the governing body of rugby in Wales. Williams had a background suited to the running and administration of sporting organisations, being one of the founders of Llwynypia RFC in 1891. Then at a lower level he became Secretary of the "Rhondda, Ferndale and Aberdare league", later to become the Glamorgan League. He took up a position as an administrator for the Mid-District area within the WRU, a role he would occupy from 1899 to 1910, before being made a life vice president. Williams was made a national selector in 1901, a role he held until 1908, and was seen as the most influential Welsh selectors of the day.

When Wales hosted the first touring New Zealand team in 1905, Williams was at the centre of the selection of the Welsh team that would become the only team to beat the All Blacks during their tour. One of William's most notable ideas was not through his match selection, but his suggestion that the Welsh team respond to the New Zealand Haka by singing 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau'. This idea was supported by the Western Mail, which suggested that the Welsh supporters could join in the chorus. On the day, after observing the Haka, Teddy Morgan led the Welsh team in singing the national anthem, which was quickly picked up by the crowd. It was the first time a National Anthem had been sung before a sporting event. Later in his career, Williams became one of the Welsh representatives for the International Rugby Board, the sports international governing body.

As well as being one of Wales' top sporting administrators, Williams was also a rugby union referee. He adjudicated at a single international match, the 1904 encounter between England and Ireland in the Home Nations Championship, played at the Rectory Field in Blackheath. He also refereed at least three Barbarian matches during the invitational clubs tours of South Wales.

Thomas Williams died on 4th February 1913.

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