Our History

It is no coincidence that Aberavon Green Stars RFC and the Celtic Football Club were formed in the same season of 1887-1888.

Forty years previously, the first of the great Irish Famines led to the mass emigration of poverty stricken Irish Catholics to North America and the Western seaboard of Britain – Liverpool, Glasgow and the port towns of industrial South Wales.

In these early days the main objective of these poor and destitute people, mainly of Gaelic speaking peasant stock, was simply survival. Later as their lot improved and having established church and school, their thoughts turned to sport and this was the genesis of such clubs as the Celtic FC in Glasgow, Everton FC in Liverpool and Aberavon Green Stars.

To quote Archbishop Michael Mc Grath speaking in 1952 to mark the Centenary of the formation of the parish of St. Josephs: “…. and they fled from a neighbouring island tortured by social misrule, famine and plague and they settled in Aberavon.”

In a 1958 club publication, the local historian Will Rees speculated that the club was formed in 1897 in a small shop in Charlotte Street owned by Mrs. Donovan whose son was a great rugby enthusiast. But to quote the official history of the Welsh Rugby Union “Fields of Praise” published in 1984: “while the Irish community near Aberavon Beach formed the nucleus of St. Joseph’s RFC, formed in 1887, later to become the renowned Aberavon Green Stars RFC.” In fact the original name was Aberavon Green Stars RFC and it was not changed to St. Josephs RFC until season 1908-09. Some of the earliest games were played against other local church teams such as St. Mary’s and St. Theodore’s but these proved difficult to maintain during the religious revival of 1904/05 which led to the suspension of activities of many church teams. Fortunately it did not affect the Green Stars who experienced an ongoing “religious revival” courtesy of their early mentors Fr. James Moore, the first club president, and Canon Phillip Kelly who had just arrived from County Offaly.

The history of the club has always been linked inextricably to St. Joseph’s church and school and in Canon Kelly’s time the club and parish thrived as he oversaw the opening of the mixed school in1915, St. Joseph’s Hall in 1928 and the new St. Joseph’s church in 1931 replacing the original church opened in 1862. These events reflect the growth of the Catholic population of Aberavon from 20 in 1846, 200 in 1850, 1200 in 1900 and almost tripling to 3,300 by 1925.

After the formation of a local league, fixtures were extended to Port Talbot Juniors, Aberavon Excels, Aberavon All Whites and further afield with the Catholic teams in Cardiff – St. Joseph’s, St. Paul’s, St. Davis’s and St. Peter’s. Home games were played on improvised pitches near Dunraven St. and Ysguthan Rd. (See Will Rees` 1958 Publication.)

The legendary Christmas morning fixtures between the Saints and Taibach RFC did not start until the resumption of activities after World War I. (See J.McCarthy’s 1962 Publication.)

The club was restarted in 1946 under the name of Port Talbot CYMS RFC with the first full season, in 1947-48,when they were unbeaten until well into January following a welcome win 8-3 against old rivals Taibach RFC in the first postwar Christmas morning fixture. (See G.Price’s 1962 Publication.)

The name of Aberavon Green Stars RFC was re-adopted in 1953 at a special meeting in the RAOB club in Water Street,convened by chairman Eddie Lewis and secretary Ken Johnson. This was prompted by a difference of opinion with the parish priest Canon Quilligan regarding the allocation of funds to other CYMS sporting activities but with almost all the funds being raised by the rugby section. As a result it was agreed to move forward as an independent rugby organisation.

The meeting also decided to largely retain the previous constitution which unfortunately was to prove a major stumbling block when the first application for membership of the WRU was made in 1963. Such was the disappointment of the rejection of what seemed a cast iron application, that a letter was drafted to the Irish Rugby Union seeking membership on the same basis as the WRU membership of London Welsh RFC – but it was never sent.

There was to be a further major change in the club administration in 1957/58 when a new committee was elected at the Port Talbot Hotel which would go on to build the new clubhouse in 1962 and oversee the invincible period of 1962/65. (See BWD in 1962 Publication.)

The three invincible seasons commencing 1962-63 was a truly remarkable achievement and the team then went on to create a record in world rugby by being the first to achieve 100 consecutive games without defeat.

Written by Bernard Donovan and Gemma O’Callaghan