WELSH HARMONIES

I defy anyone not to get misty eyed listening to the Welsh sing their national anthem before a rugby Test in Cardiff.

I haven’t had the privilege of being there on such an occasion, but in October, 1982 I was fortunate enough to experience Welsh voices, at their stirring best.

Before I began my coverage of the Kangaroo rugby league tour of Britain, for the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ newspaper, I spent two nights in Llanelli, South Wales.

I happened to mention rugby league to people at the hotel where I was staying, and they told me former dual rugby international, John Warlow ran a British Legion (licensed) club at Burry Port, just to the west of Llanelli.

Warlow had played one rugby union Test for Wales – against Ireland in Dublin in 1962  – before switching codes and signing with St Helens rugby league club. He went on to play six league Tests for Great Britain, between 1964 and ’71 – four against France and two against New Zealand. He toured Australia and New Zealand with the 1968 British World Cup squad, and played against Queensland at Lang Park. He also played three league Tests for Wales.

The Burry Port British Legion club boasted a number of pictures of rugby league teams, which seemed out of place in rugby union made Wales.

John greeted me warmly, and even asked about the prospects of getting a coaching job in Australia.

That night, he met me in Llanelli and took me to a pub, where, after hours, the regulars formed a choir and sang to their hearts content, over a pint or two.

John had to clear my presence with the publican, and the leader of the singers, because they don’t like strangers hanging around, when there is a ‘lock-in’.

I got the green light, despite my rugby league background. For the next couple of hours my ‘Brains Bitter’ (Welsh Ale) was weakened further by my tears, as I listened to these men sing with such passion, and harmony.

Thanks John Warlow, for a truly memorable night.

(John Warlow’s last Test appearance for Britain came in the 1971 home series against the Kiwis, when his fellow front rower was David Jeanes from Wakefield Trinity and the hooker, Tony Karalius from St Helens. John Warlow has been inducted into the St Helens Hall of Fame).

Photo: John Warlow (second from left) before playing for Wales against France in a league Test in Perpignan in 1970.

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