Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Once upon a time long ago

Once upon a time long ago, two boys born in the same city in the same year grew up as neighbours - one at number four Angelina Street in the old Tiger Bay area of Cardiff, the other at number seven.
They made it together into the same Cardiff schoolboy rugby team of the late 1940s and then they went their separate ways.
The boy at number four - the late Joe Erskine - became heavyweight champion of Britain and the Empire, a stylist whose ring career included victories over three world title contenders - Willie Pastrano, Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo.
And what became of the boy at number seven Angelina Street? Well, how long have you got because we are talking about the greatest try-scorer in rugby history - union and league - 571 touchdowns in 562 matches.
His name is Billy Boston.
His mother, Nellie, was Cardiff-Irish, his father, John all five feet four inches of him, was a merchant seaman from Sierra Leone. They had 11 children and Billy came smack in the middle.
My father talks about Joe Erskine and Billy Boston all the time. When Ben was little and we were back in Cardiff I used to take him down to the Cardiff Central Youth Club with his cousins to do free running. When I was wandering around there once I came across an old wooden board showing captains (or something similar) from back in the 40s and 50s. It showed J Browne and W Boston in successive years. I took a photo but I have mislaid it over the years.

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