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Monday, 19 March 2012

The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation

The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation

Bill O’Keefe and Emyr Young, The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation (Talybont: Y Lolfa, 2012).
119 pages, paperback, £9.95.

For Welsh rugby fans of a certain age, the Arms Park holds a special place in their (sporting) hearts and every one of them has a favourite match when, stood on the terraces or sat in the stands, they sang songs and cheered on their favourite team. In the words of the Valleys troubadour, Max Boyce, there was Cwm Rhondda, Delilah, and a croaking Calon Lân. For fans of Pontypridd, like me, there was Olé, Olé, Olé as well. As a ten-year old, along with thousands of other Ponty folk, I sang it as loud as could be in the old stadium as the team’s captain, Nigel Benzani, lifted the SWALEC Cup and sealed that day in the annals of the town.

The authors of this new book, The Arms Park: Heart of a Rugby Nation, know all about the power of that stadium and its memories. For over 130 years, the Arms Park (and its successors) has been the focal point of Welsh sporting life. From its humble origins as a cricket pitch to the great Millennium Stadium that stands there today, the story is one of triumph, despairing defeat, and the making of legends. Bill O’Keefe and Emyr Young have gathered together fascinating photographs that not only chart the ground but the city that surrounds it. Their tale brings to life the people as well as the place and they show that the Arms Park was never just about rugby.

Over six chapters, they chart the history of the ground and the teams that have played on it. With comment on recent developments in professional rugby as well as thoughts of how we got there, this is a valuable contribution to sports history and deserves to be widely read and considered. Yet, the most important part of this highly-readable and engaging book comes at the very end. It is a plea for something more than memories to mark the history of the Arms Park; a plea for a national rugby museum for Wales to stand alongside the other national sporting museums in England, Scotland and Ireland. It is a plea that, along with their fine book, this reviewer wholeheartedly endorses!

Daryl Leeworthy, Royal Commission, March 2012.

Coflein - Discovering Our Past Online
Coflein is the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW), the national collection of information about the historic environment of Wales
One of many images to be found on Coflein, view other photographs of the Arms Park.
Digital copy of a black and white, oblique aerial photograph of Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff. The photograph shows a view from the West following the completion of the North Stand. On the right hand side of the photograph it is possible to see Empire House, a telephone exchange, under construction on the site of the Temperance Town which was demolished by the Cardiff Corporation in 1937.
Aerofilms, (Crown Copyright).

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