James Alfred Bevan
became the first captain of
on 19th February 1881. The Welsh team selected was not fully
. In fact, as well as the Australian Bevan, they comprised four Englishmen and
was born on 15th April 1858 at St. Kilda in
. The son of James Bevan and Elizabeth Fly, who tragically died on the SS London
in 1866 when he was seven years old. The
bound, SS London sank in the
Bay of Biscay
on 11th January, 1866. It was a tragic disaster. The passengers were told by
the captain some time before the ship sank that there was no hope for them and
there were distressing scenes. The ship carried 270 passengers and there were
only 19 survivors. An account of the last days of the Rev. Daniel Draper who
died on the ship exists in the book "Understanding Our Christian Heritage
Volume II" and says in part
day after they sailed the wind increased in violence. There was a very heavy
sea. The following day (Monday) some of the passengers became very anxious. The
wind was blowing with great violence. Monday night was a night of distress. Many
of the passengers read their Bibles together and engaged in prayer. On Tuesday
the large vessel was tossed about like a cork, and whole seas dashed over her.
The lifeboat was torn away by the winds and the waves. The masts were broken and
the ship dismantled. It seemed as though the raging elements were venting their
fury upon what was a noble work of man."
the whole of Tuesday night some of the passengers read the Bible in turns."
on Wednesday morning the captain tried to run back to
. The storm increased in fury. The sea ran mountains high. Both lifeboats were
swept away. During Wednesday night one disaster after another overtook the
. The engine-room was flooded with water. The vessel was now so damaged that it
seemed impossible to keep out the sea. Various expedients were tried. Passengers
and crew worked incessantly at the pumps. Still the water in the engine-room
rose higher. The fires were put out. The engines ceased to work. In the midst of
all these appalling disasters the noble-hearted Captain Martin remained
perfectly calm and collected, never forsaking the post of duty. All that
skillful seamanship could do had been done. He now ordered the maintop-sail to
be set; but the wind tore it to shreds. "You may now say your prayers,
boys," said he."
morning came. The gale was as fierce as ever. The vessel rolled helplessly in
the sea. A tremendous body of water stove in four windows of the upper or poop
cabin. The passengers and crew had worked nobly at the pumps, but the vessel was
now half-full of water. The remaining boats were got ready. The starboard
pinnance was lowered, but was almost immediately swamped and sunk. Captain
Martin went down into the saloon. "Ladies," said he, "there is no
hope for us, I am afraid; nothing short of a miracle can save us." Said Mr.
Draper, very calmly, "Let us pray." The vessel was now settling
ship had 50 tons of coals on deck, which washed about and stopped the supper
holes; she was also overloaded with 1,200 tons of iron.
the most fateful decision the captain of the SS London made was on the 10th
January he decided to head back to
. This only made the ship pass through the centre of the storm again and she
didn't stand a chance.
his parents death Bevan went to live with his uncle in Grosmont, Monmouthshire
and was educated at
. He gained rugby blues in 1877 and 1880 and played for
in the 1878-1879 season.
XV with James Bevan. Back Row (L-R): C.M. Kennedy, P.H. Clifford, P.T. Wrigley,
C.E. Jeffcock, J.A. Bevan. Middle Row: C.H. Coates, H.R. Clayton, S.R. James,
W.L. Agnew, C. Gurdon. Front: G.S. Albright, R.T. Finch, D.Q. Steel, H.H.
Browell. This Varsity match was played at The Oval, Kennington,
on 12th December
1877 Varsity rugby match was won by
by two tries to nil. They would loose only one match all season against a
United Hospitals side that included six internationals.
had ten new players in their team.
did not play in the 1878 or 1879 varsity matches.
1880 Varsity match was played on 10th December. It was the first time
the match had been played on
’s Field. Previously it had taken place at The Oval. The match was a draw with
one try a piece. In all three varsity rugby matches were played at
’s Field. After then the varsity match was moved to Rectory Field when
Blackheath had to move ground.
University XV of 1880. Back Row (L-R): R.M. Yetts, J.G. Tait, A.R. Don Wauchope,
E. Rice, S. Pater, J.A. Bevan, E. Storey, W.M. MacLeod. Front Row: E.S. Chapman,
H.G. Fuller, J.T. Steele, C.P. Wilson, P.T. Wrigley, H.Y.L. Smith, A.S. Taylor.
almost won the 1880 varsity match for
with a dropped goal, but the umpires disallowed it after a dispute and the
match was drawn, each side scoring 1 try. This varsity match was played at
’s Field on 14th December 1880. 2 months later Bevan would lead out
on the same pitch.
listed as playing for
when selected as captain of
. He only actually ever played once for them in the 1880-81 season. He had been
selected to captain a side in a Wales Trial match at
in December 1880 with R.L.Knight of Oxford University as the other captain. The
match never took place and further attempts to stage this match were again
disrupted by bad weather. What didn't help was that the RFU insisted that the
match be played on 19th February 1881. This was the same day that
were playing Llanelli at Neath in a semi-final cup-tie thus depriving
of several players. Eventually the main force behind the Welsh side, Richard
Mullock, selected the side himself.
Bevan was not
the first choice captain. C. P. Lewis was originally asked but turned it down as
he did not consider the team truly represented
on 19th February 1881 at Blackheath was the first international between the
countries. A game more noted for the chaotic organisation of the Welsh side than
anything else. It was
first international. Organised before the Welsh RFU was set up. The players had
never played together before. One player, Major Richard Summers was selected for
on his performances a couple of years earlier for his school,
, in matches against
. No formal invitations to play were sent out to the Welsh XV. Two of those
expected to appear didn't turn up so bystanders, University undergraduates with
tenuous Welsh links but who had traveled to London to see the match, had to be
roped in to play for Wales. It also didn't help that the changing rooms were a
local pub (The Princess of Wales which remains to this day). Both teams had to
walk the half a mile across the common to play. Rumour has it that the Welsh
team needed some Dutch courage before the match so had been drinking heavily.
The game was a farce. The Welsh were hopelessly outplayed and under modern
scoring values lost 82-0. Harry Vassall scored a hat-trick on this his debut for
. It is recorded that that the England captain Lennard Stokes threw a colossal
pass to Hunt, giving him an easy try, but the umpires ordered it back, their
decision that a long pass was not football.
(L-R): W.D.Phillips (
), G.Harding (
), R.Mullock (
), F.Purdon (
), G.Darbishire (
), E.Treharne (Ponypridd), R.G.D.Williams (Abercamlais). Sitting: T.A.Rees (
and Llandovery), E.Peake (
and Chepstow), J.A.Bevan (Captain) (
and Grosmont), B.E.Girling (
), B.B.Mann (
). On Ground: L.Watkins (
and Llandaff), C.H.Newman (
), E.J.Lewis (
and Llandovery), R.H.B Summers (Haverfordwest).
first Welsh team of 1881 that lost heavily to
at Blackheath with ex Clifton RFC player James Bevan captaining Wales. 10 of
these players, including Bevan, never played for
again. Richard Summers played in that match and said of their outfit: "We
played in ordinary, light walking boots with a bar of leather across the sole to
help us swerve.
were fitted high at the neck with serge blue knickers fastened below the knee
with four or five buttons. We changed at the Princess of Wales public house
the dinner following the match the
captain, Leonard Stokes, said “I’ve seen enough to know that you Welshmen
will be hard to beat in a few years’ time when you get together”.
heavy defeat the back stabbing started. The average age of this side was 23, 10
of these players, including Bevan, never played for
again. A month after the match the WRFU was founded at the Castle Hotel, Neath
on 12th March 1881.
London newspapers were naturally quite scathing at England’s ridiculously
easy victory and collectively gave their readers the impression that Wales
were lucky to get nil.
started almost straight away. An anonymous letter to the Western Mail wanted to
know who had been responsible.
from the Western Mail on 28th February 1881.
reply from Sam Clarke, the honorary secretary of the South Wales Football Union
distanced himself and the union from any involvement in the team selection or
beg to inform your correspondent that the team which represented Wales was not
elected by the committee of the South Wales Football Union; neither had they
anything to do with it. As your correspondent assumes, Mr. Mullock was one of
the committee who selected the Welsh team and will, no doubt, be pleased to give
any information required.
Mullock did not rely.
everyone expected Mullock to be held responsible and excluded from any
involvement from a Welsh International side he took control of the situation and
organised a Welsh Rugby Football Union.
RFU was not impressed by the course of events and the following season they
refused to arrange a fixture. However they did sanction a North of England side
on 14th January 1882.
went home to
and there is no record of him playing rugby again. Whilst working for Sibly
& Dickinson, solicitors
, he met Annie Woodall at Great Dinham Farm in Monmouthshire on the occasion of
a shooting party. The Woodall family was apparently very religious and James was
told that, if he wanted to marry Annie, he would have to give up smoking,
drinking and hunting. This he did, to the extent that he became very involved in
the church, gave up his legal studies and went to theological college in
, living in Hampstead. Annie apart, the catalyst for his conversion was an
evangelist meeting in
held by a William Clarke, who was also a well known athlete. Bevan would later
name one of his sons William Clarke. Bevan and Annie had eleven children in all,
and of their seven sons six entered the church.
spent most of his life as Vicar at St. George's, The Park, Great
from 1899-1936. The church was declared redundant in 1971, there were plans to
Tarmac the site as a car park, but the borough council ploughed money into
reviving the building when it became an arts centre, and the fine eighteenth
century pulpit was moved to St Nicholas's church. It is now known as
Bevan and his family in August 1907 at their home in Great Yarmouth. (L-R) Back
Row: William Clarke, Dorothea, John, Edith, Eric. Seated: Hubert, Annie Susan
(Winifred on knee), James Alfred, Ernest Guy. On the ground: Kenneth, Geoff.
retired in 1936 and went to live with his son, Ernest Guy Bevan's, house at
41 Forest Road East
. His wife died the following year.
was resident at
’s Vicarage, Leytonstone in 1938, where he died on 3rd February of prostate
cancer. Coincidentally his son,
William Clarke Bevan died the day before on February 2nd 1938.
the day the newspapers announced his death
at Murrayfield. They lost 8-6 to a penalty awarded to
2 minutes from time in front of 60,000 people. A minutes silence wasn't taken.
Bevan's place in Welsh Rugby history had been completeley forgotten about.
Memorial Service was held on the 8th February 1938 at St.Paul's at 1pm and the
funeral took place at Hampstead Cemetry at 2.15pm.
's church was pulled down a number of years ago and its parish was amalgamated
with the neigbouring parish of St Catherines. A new building was erected, which
is known as the "Cornerstone".
's Church, Leytonstone in 1952. Image courtesy of
(London Borough of Walthan Forest). Next door is
for Boys where the actor Derek Jacobi was a pupil.
is buried in Grave No.79 Section K12 at Hampstead Cemetery along with his
daughter Grace Elizabeth Bevan (died 26th November 1890), his wife Annie Susan
Bevan (died 20th July 1937), and his daughter Dorethea Mary Bevan (died 12th
the grave of James Alfred Bevan
Rugby Unions of Wales and
celebrated the 100th year of Test rugby between the countries with the
establishment of the “James Bevan Trophy”. To be played for each time the
two sides meet, the James Bevan Trophy played for the first time in the
Bundaberg Rum Rugby Series in
met the Qantas Wallabies at Telstra Stadium, Sydney, on May 26th 2007 and at
’s Suncorp Stadium on June 2nd 2007.