Merthyr’s Boxers: Billy Eynon

The next boxer we are going to look at is Billy Eynon. Many thanks to Gareth Jones for his assistance and advice in writing this article.

Billy Eynon was born on 26 December 1893 in Treharris. As a teenager he was lured into fighting at the infamous fairground boxing booths at Georgetown. In his excellent book ‘The Boxers of Wales: Volume 2 – Merthyr, Aberdare and Pontypridd’, Gareth Jones relates the story of how he was tempted to fight at Jack Scarrott’s booth on the promise of winning five shillings. When he went to collect his winnings however, he was told by Scarrott that his cornermen (both of course employed by Scarrott) were both entitled to two shillings each, leaving the young Billy with just a shilling!

Eynon made such an impression however, that Scarrott offered him a week’s work at Brecon Fair. This was eventually extended to six-months, and provided Billy with invaluable experience.

Eynon’s first ‘legitimate’ fight took place on 31 January 1914 at the Drill Hall in Merthyr. The headline fight that night was between Eddie Morgan (see previous entry – and Tommy Phillips, which Morgan lost on points. The local crowd were appeased somewhat when Billy Eynon defeated Dick Jenkins in his debut match.

He was beginning to consolidate his reputation when the First World War broke out. Eynon joined the Royal Artillery, and despite being wounded in France, carried on boxing. He won the Army featherweight title in 1918 and met the Navy champion in Salonika before a crowd estimated at 200,000 people.

Western Mail – 19 May 1916

Following the war, Eynon, now boxing as a flyweight, appeared in his first fight against Kid Doyle at the Olympia Rink in Merthyr, a match which he won. The victory earned Eynon a rematch at the National Sporting Club in a fight which would be an elimination fight for the British title. Eynon lost the fight on points.

Soon after this, Billy Eynon changed weight-divisions to become a bantam-weight, and in 1920 challenged again for the British title. On 18 October he beat George Clark on points to earn a fight against the reigning British bantam-weight title holder Jim Higgins.

On 29 November 1920, Eynon faced Jim Higgins at the National Sporting Club. The fight would prove to be a controversial one. Eynon, hampered by weight difficulties was forced, on the day of the fight, to undertake vigorous exercises and have a Turkish bath to try to reduce his weight, whilst his opponent rested and prepared for the match. An exhausted Eynon took to the ring and although he acquitted himself well, the match went to Higgins on points. Many in the crowd, including the Prince of Wales, disagreed with the decision and vented their frustration by throwing gold sovereigns into the ring for Eynon. Although he lost the fight, Eynon himself said he made far more money that night than his opponent!

Billy Eynon carried on boxing for several years, but in 1927, he was forced to give up the sport due to a detached retina and the risk of blindness. In 1928 a boxing tournament was held in Merthyr to raise money to help for him.

Billy Eynon lived out the rest of his days in Merthyr and died in 1980.

Treason and Bloodshed in Merthyr

The article transcribed below appeared in The Glamorgan and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian 178 years ago today. Would you say that this is an objective and unbiased piece of journalism?

MERTHYR TYDVIL (sic) AND BRECON, Nov. 9, 1839. Treason and bloodshed have again been the order of the day. Birmingham could not satisfy the dupes of the Melbourne Government; and Newport has been added to the riotous list. It wanted only that the spark should have been applied to the train at Cyfarthfa; it wanted only one word at a meeting on Penrheolgerrig, and Merthyr also had been the scene of similar disgraceful occurrences.

The few Chartists we have, are chiefly to be found in the neighbourhood we have alluded to. They have latterly been more cautious as to their places of meeting. The wicked and traitorous individuals, who from the mere love of spouting, and the petty gratification of the cheers of an ill-educated, we might almost say a non-educated populace, inflamed their passions, and rendered them dissatisfied with their condition, are skulking lest they should be arrested by the arm of the civil power, and suffer the punishment their crimes so richly deserve. The conduct of the magistrates of the neighbourhood, during the week, has been beyond all praise. Every precaution which it was proper to take has been resorted to; and they have given their almost undivided attention to the preservation of the peace of this locality.

We beg to direct their special attention to the beer-houses in the upper part of Merthyr, and in the neighbourhood of George Town and the Cyfarthfa works. There is where they will now find all the mischief concocted. It is matter of notoriety that these houses are kept open till one, two, and three o’clock in the morning. Surely this fact alone proves the necessity of having an effective police force; and, with all due deference to certain lovers of darkness, well- lighted streets also. But even more important than these would be the establishment of regimental barracks within four or five miles of Merthyr.

The idea is horrible, that the respectable tradesmen of a large town should be exposed, as they now are, to the brute force of a mob, led on by one or two traitors, who ought long since to have been made examples of at the bar of their county and that it might be several hours before a sufficient military force could be obtained. If the inhabitants are true to themselves, they will not rest till they have remedied this state of things.

A military depot between this place and Newbridge, would by its presence do more than thousands of special constables, towards keeping the misguided rabble within bounds. To this should be added a prison within the precincts of the town. At present if a prisoner has to be remanded, he is sent off to a public-house, with very fair chances of escape or rescue, because the place called the lock-up house is too beastly to turn a pig into.

We shall not lose sight of this subject; and in the mean time we would remind the inhabitants of Merthyr that a meeting of the parishioners is called for Tuesday next, to consider some propositions respecting a police or constabulary force and we trust that every tradesman will be present, determined to support any reasonable proposition remembering that a moderate expenditure now may be true economy in the end.

If anyone has anything they would like to contribute to the blog about the Chartists in Merthyr, please get in touch.

Elisabeth Parry – in memoriam

by Carl Llewellyn

On Thursday 27 July 2017, Elisabeth Parry passed away peacefully at her home in Wanborough, Surrey. She was 96 years old.

Elisabeth Parry

Mhari Elisabeth Forbes Parry was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 9 September 1921, the great-granddaughter of Dr Joseph Parry. Educated privately at Eversley School, she passed the Oxford Board School Certificate with six credits in 1937, as well as the Associated Board Advanced Grade Piano and Intermediate Grade Singing. Elisabeth was offered a place at Oxford to study French and German in 1939, but refused this on the outbreak of war to join the Red Cross as an Ambulance driver.

She continued to study singing privately in London with Mark Raphael and the World famous tenor Dino Borgioli. She became a soloist with the Red Cross Staff Band and the Royal Army Medical Corps between 1940-1945, and toured extensively with them in Britain and the Middle East. Broadcasting frequently at home and abroad, she became a ‘Forces Sweetheart’ in 1944. She also gave many recitals for the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts, later the Arts Council, and sang in many concerts and oratorios.

Following the end of the war, she set up and ran the Wigmore Hall Lunch Hour Concerts in London from 1947-1949, and in 1947 joined the English Opera Group, making her operatic debut at Glyndebourne as Lucia in Benjamin Britten’s ‘Rape of Lucretia’. Awarded an Italian Government Scholarship to study at the Accadamia Chigiana in Siena with Giorgio Favaretto in 1951, she continued to study there and in Rome. She gave two recitals in Genoa and broadcast from France, Switzerland, and Belgium.

She went on to start the Opera Players, together with Phyllis Thorold, in 1950, and sang in hundreds of performances with them, and was Managing Director of the Company (now the London Opera Players) until 2001.

Elisabeth Parry, being one of the principal trustees of Parry Trust Fund, presented the residue of the Parry Trust capital into the capable hands of the Welsh National Opera Company. In February 2009 the WNO’s new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was funded partially by money from the Parry Trust, and enabled a rising baritone, David Soar, to make his debut as a principal in the role of Figaro. An annual bursary in the name of the Parry family was finally set up in 2010 to help gifted young singers.

As well as her musical activities Elisabeth took up climbing and colour photography in 1960, and gave illustrated travel talks all over the British Isles. Elisabeth was a Member of the Alpine Club, Association of British Members of the Swiss Alpine Club and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She has translated a Rossini Opera, which has been broadcast and televised, and contributed articles to ‘She’, ‘Sphere’ and ‘Tatler’ magazines, as well as a number of mountaineering publications.

In 2011 she published her memoirs in a book entitled ‘Thirty Men and a Girl’.

Elisabeth’s association with Merthyr Tydfil began after Cyfarthfa High School won the Prince of Wales Trust Award in 1977.  Preparations were made between the Merthyr Tydfil Council and the Prince of Wales Trust to mark the occasion by officially opening No 4 Chapel Row, Georgetown as the Dr Joseph Parry Cottage museum. The event took place on Friday 22 September 1978 when the Cottage was opened in the presence of the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Mrs Mary John, and special guest Elisabeth Parry. Dr Joseph Parry’s grand-daughter Barbara Parry was originally invited to open the cottage but was unable to attend, so Elisabeth was invited in her place. The Dowlais Male choir was in attendance and sang Joseph Parry’s most famous composition, “Myfanwy”.

On 28 July 2002, to mark the centenary of the death of Dr Joseph Parry, an open air concert was arranged at Cyfarthfa Park. The guest soloists were Timothy Richards (Tenor), Rebecca Evans (Soprano), and Jason Howard (Baritone); accompanied by two male voice choirs, Dowlais and Pendyrus, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Wales, under the baton of Alwyn Humphreys MBE, conductor of Morriston Orpheus Choir. Again Elisabeth Parry, accompanied by her niece Rosemary Skipper, was invited to be a special guest at her great grandfather’s commemorative concert, and was later invited to the Mayor’s parlour by the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Alan Davies.

Dr Joseph Parry

Elisabeth Parry is last family link with Dr Joseph Parry, and it’s good to know she was proud of her family’s association with Merthyr’s musical heritage. Elisabeth kept up her ties with Merthyr to the end of her life, through the friendship that was forged between her and Mansell & Dwynwen Richards, and Carl Llewellyn.

If you would like to read more, Merthyr Historian Volume 16 is dedicated to articles about Joseph Parry and his family.

Elisabeth Parry     1921-2017

Merthyr’s Boxers: Cuthbert Taylor

Cuthbert Taylor was born in John Street, Georgetown on 11 December 1909 to an English father of Caribbean heritage and a Welsh mother. After winning Amateur Boxing Association’s flyweight title in 1928, he was selected to represent Britain in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He became the first black boxer to compete for Great Britain, and only the 3rd black British Olympian (after Harry Edward and Jack London). He defeated Juan José Trillo of Argentina, but he was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the flyweight class after losing his fight to the potential silver medallist Armand Apell.

On returning to Wales he turned professional fighting Manchester’s Jackie Brown at Merthyr Tydfil on 29 December 1928. The contest ended in a draw, which was followed by his first professional win, over Lud Abella and a loss to Phineas John. By May 1929 Taylor was invited to fight at the National Sporting Club in London, losing by points in a 15 round match against Bert Kirby.

Cuthbert Taylor
Cuthbert Taylor

On 29 July 1929, Taylor had moved up a weight division, and challenged Dan Dando for the Welsh Bantamweight Championship, defeating Dando on points. His reign was short lived when he lost the title just over a month later to Phineas John. Taylor challenged twice more for the Welsh Bantamweight belt, failing on both occasions, both against Stanley Jehu, first for the vacant title in 1930 and then an unsuccessful challenge in 1931. Although having been Welsh bantamweight champion, and being recognised as one of the best in Britain in his weight category, Taylor was denied a chance to fight for the British title due to a rule that prohibited non-white fighters from challenging for the championship.

Cuthbert Taylor and Francois Machtens in 1932

Cuthbert Taylor retired from boxing in 1944, but made a brief, unsuccessful comeback in 1947.

In a distinguished career, Taylor faced four world champions, including the great Freddie Miller who beat the Welshman on points after a 12-round battle in Liverpool. In total Taylor fought 247 professional bouts, with 151 wins, 69 losses and 22 draws. In all his fights he was knocked out only once, by Tommy Hyams at Selhurst Park in 1932. None of Taylor’s fights were conducted outside Britain. Including amateur fights he recorded over 250 victories.

In his later life, Taylor was a fan of Howard Winstone and he offered the youngster valuable advice. Cuthbert Taylor died on 15 November 1977.