“Never meet your idols, they’ll only disappoint”… is a well worn phrase, well let me tell you, when I met the great “Gerald of Wales” my hero worshiping increased to a degree that could be measured on the Richter scale.
I was on a flight from Cardiff to Dublin, for the 1988 triple crown decider, between Ireland and Wales. We shook hands and had a chat, where he revealed his friendliness, modesty, and unassuming nature.
Maybe it was due to the gin and tonic I bought him, but I don’t think so.
For those of you unlucky enough not have been around in the 1970’s, Gerald Davies, or “Reames” as he was known by his team mates, was a winger, actually he was “the” winger.
At 5ft 9ins and 11st 7lbs, he would not have the physical attributes to become a “ball boy” in today’s modern game.
To cut a long story short he played 46 times for Wales, and 5 times for the British Lions
I was born in the West Wales village of Kidwelly, and Gerald was born in Llansaint, a stone’s throw away.
Locals would look up to the misty green hills of Llansaint, to see where Gerald was born, with a reverence only otherwise seen on the faces of pilgrims arriving at Santiago de compostela.
Always looking immaculate, both on and off the field, in the scarlet jersey of Wales he had his trade mark turned up collar, and with his neat moustache he looked like a Dickensian “well to do”
Tries, great tries, too many to mention. I’ve lost count of the number times he squeezed in at the “Taff end” at the old Arms Park. The touch in goal flag uprooting like an Exocet missile every time he launched himself into the corner
It was like “groundhog day” Delme palms, Edwards to John (I can hear BIll McLaren as I write !!) Bergiers, Arthur Lewis, Gerald Davies… what a try !
The one performance that sticks in my mind, is for the British Lions against Hawkes Bay in 1971, the great man scored four tries that day. The black and white TV footage of one try, looks like a keystone cops silent movie, with defenders throwing themselves in all directions as Gerald side steps, shimmies, swerves to score untouched in the corner.
Gerald retired from international rugby in 1988, and has served rugby, and Wales, in various roles with the respect of everyone associated with the game, his integrity shines like a beacon, even in the cut throat world of modern day professional sport.
He also wrote wonderful poetic, evocative articles for The Times newspaper.
The poem “How fast was Gerald Davies Dad ?” written by the immortal bard, Max Boyce, produced a tribute that cannot be matched.
With apologies to Max, for paraphrasing,
Basically, Gerald Davies can turn his bedroom light off, and be in bed before it’s dark, thats how fast my son !