As a baby weighing in at 15 pounds on 6th August 1934, as Billy Boston says, he was a ‘whopper’. Growing up in Wales at 17 he was a rugby playing in the first team for the Cardiff International Athletic Club.
Sadly, Billy’s dreams of a senior Welsh cap would never be realised, nor were his union ambitions at club level fulfilled. Although he played several games for Neath and Pontypridd, he craved the attention of his home city’s prestigious club.
“I was disappointed that Cardiff never showed any interest in me and I think that was because of my colour,” Boston says. “They certainly wouldn’t let me into their clubhouse after I turned professional. I don’t think I would ever have been picked for Wales at union.”
Robert Gate also believes an undercurrent of racial prejudice in the Wales of the early 1950s robbed the union game of a potential icon.
“Bearing in mind Billy’s proven qualities, it is hard to believe that he would never have won a Welsh cap, or indeed a shed full of them,” he writes. “That may, however, be just wishful thinking. The unpalatable fact remains that Wales, unlike England, did not cap any black player until the 1980s. After Billy other black players who forewent the opportunity of trying to win Welsh caps included Johnny Freeman, Colin Dixon, Frank Wilson, Mike Elliott and Clive Sullivan. It is surely stretching credulity to its limits to suggest that none of those were good enough to warrant capping.”
Union’s loss was league’s gain. In August 1953, Billy signed for Wigan. Such was the frenzy of excitement up north about the youngster from Wales, more than 8,000 spectators turned up to watch his reserve team debut. His dazzling progress ensured he was swiftly capped for Great Britain against France and selected for their Australia tour while still a teenager.
The Welsh sporting legend who is too often forgotten in the land of his birth Wales Online 25th October 2017
Boston’s rugby team, Wigan Athletic named of their stands after Boston at their DW Stadium in Robin Park, near Wifgan.
Martin Offiah, Alex Murphy, Dorren Ashton (widow of Eric), Bev Risman (son of Gus Risman) and Billy Boston (left to right) pose with the statue
Image at start of blog: Billy Boston sculpted by Steve Winterburn located at Believe Square, Wigan, Lancashire and unveiled on 3rd September 2016