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Obituary: Wynne Jones

Bristol Bears regret to announce the death at the age of 89 of Wynne Jones. Wynne, a speedy winger or centre who could also play at outside half, was a regular member of the Bristol side during the late 1950s. He later served a full decade as the club’s Honorary General Secretary.

Tom Wynne Jones was a native of Tonypandy. He attended the Grammar School there, played for Rhondda Schools and was a reserve for Welsh Secondary Schools. He played for local clubs Penygraig and Ystrad Rhondda, and then continued his education at Sheffield University. While he was there, he toured with the Universities Athletic Union side.  He spent the next part of his rugby career at Cardiff, where he enjoyed playing with Welsh international greats such as Bleddyn Williams. Wynne made five appearances for Cardiff’s first team and was a regular member of the Athletic, winning his Cardiff Athletic cap at the end of the 1952-53 season. Thereafter, he did his national service in the RAF. He was stationed at RAF Henlow, and during this time he played for Bedford and for the RAF representative side.

At the end of his time in the RAF, Wynne trained as a teacher at the Monmouthshire Training College in Caerleon. While he was there he played for both Pontypool and Abertillery. He then came to Bristol to begin a long teaching career in the city. He played seven times for Bristol’s first team in the 1956-57 season, making his debut against Gloucester at the end of September, and he was awarded his Bristol United cap. His first team cap was awarded a season later, at the end of John Blake’s first season as Bristol captain. This was Wynne’s most prolific season as a Bristol player; he scored 15 tries in 25 matches and revelled in the revolutionary Bristol Fashion rugby being played by the club. One of the highlights of this season was a 16-9 win at Swansea in which Wynne scored a hat trick of tries. At this time in the game’s history, it was the winger, rather than the hooker, who threw the ball in at lineouts, and Wynne often did extra training with lineout jumpers Bert Macdonald and Derek Neate, practising special strategies which often led to tries.

Wynne was appointed as Bristol United captain for the 1958-59 season, although he still turned out for the first team, as well as being a regular in the Gloucestershire side. In the late 1950s Bristol played occasional unofficial floodlit fixtures at Ashton Gate, and one such match was against Tony O’Reilly’s XV on October 28th 1958. Bristol were unbeaten at the time, but with one minute left of a thrilling encounter they trailed their illustrious opponents 25-21. Winger Mike Ellery launched a final desperate attack from well inside his own half, and a rapid bout of passing concluded with Wynne crossing for a try under the posts. This left goalkicking forward Gordon Cripps with the task of landing the conversion, which he duly did to give Bristol a one point victory. Wynne treasured very happy memories of playing in this game.

The 1958-59 season saw the opening of Bristol’s clubhouse, and the official opening of the new premises was celebrated with a special game in April against Rex Willis’s International XV. One of the visitors, outside half Carwyn James, failed to make it to the match, and Wynne stood in for him at the last minute, playing against his team mates. Bristol United had an outstanding record in 1958-59 under Wynne’s captaincy, losing just four times. Wynne was United captain again the following season, his last as a Bristol player. He made his final first team appearance in Bristol’s inaugural fixture with Metropolitan Police in April 1960, and he was awarded his club blazer at the season’s end. In total he played in 53 first team games, scoring 28 tries, with a further 68 games for the United in which he scored 24 tries and a drop goal. He saw out the remainder of his playing days with Cleve, captaining them in the 1964-65 season. His house was conveniently just along the road from the old Cleve ground in Downend.

Wynne made his County Championship debut for Gloucestershire against Cornwall in the 1956-57 season. In all, he played 13 games for the county, including six in the 1958-59 season. This was a long season for Gloucestershire in which they had win a play-off to top the South West group before going on to win a semi-final replay against Durham. This took Gloucestershire to their first county final since 1949, and Wynne was part of an all-Bristol threequarter line which took on Warwickshire at the Memorial Ground. Warwickshire were the outstanding county side at the time, winning seven titles out of eight between 1958 and 1965, but Gloucestershire battled hard before going down 14-9.

Wynne devoted many years of service to Cleve; he was a passionate supporter of youth rugby, and ran the club’s prestigious Youth Sevens for many years. He was also a great supporter of the Bristol Combination and a trustee of the Lockleaze Combination Ground. He joined the Bristol committee in 1985, and he was appointed Honorary General Secretary two years later, the appointment coinciding with the club’s Centenary season. From then until the publication ceased in 1994-95, Wynne was responsible for editing the club’s excellent and informative Annual Report. He was made an Honorary Vice President in 1993, and with the arrival of professionalism in rugby union, he retired from his secretarial duties, after which Bristol appointed a paid company secretary.

Wynne was a frequent attender at Bristol’s home matches for many years and a regular face at former player reunions. He took great pleasure in recent years in sitting in the Dolman Stand at Ashton Gate, looking down on the scene of what was perhaps his happiest game many years earlier. He will be greatly missed by his many rugby friends, and all at Bristol Bears send their sincere sympathy to Wynne’s family at this very sad time. Wynne’s funeral will be held at Westerleigh Crematorium at 2pm on Tuesday October 12th.


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