HEROES IN BLACK AND AMBER
Ninety one years after his death Arthur Gould can still lay claim to be the greatest sporting figure produced by the city of Newport. In the early history of rugby union he was the pre-eminent player in a golden era for Wales and for the greatest club side in the world, Newport. The sadness is that Newport Rugby Football Club is no longer a force in rugby union, now replaced by an infinitely inferior brand and that Newport as a city has all but forgotten him. When the planners named the new footbridge and the adjoining walkway near Rodney Parade they came up with the uninspiring Usk Footbridge and the godforsaken Dragon Way. Arthur Gould deserves better recognition, the City Council and Rugby Club should be doing what they can to erect a statue or monument in his name. Preferably, any statue should look across to the rugby ground, so that Gould can keep a watchful eye on goings on at Rodney Parade!
Arthur Joseph Gould was born on October 10th 1864 in Newport and was educated in his native town. His height was 5ft.10in, and his weight 11st. 6lb. His father, Joseph, had moved to Newport from Oxford to work in the brass foundry business, and was himself an ardent sportsman playing for the local cricket team. From a young age Gould was known to all as 'Monk', taken from his childhood nickname 'Monkey' because of his youthful passion for climbing trees.
His five brothers were all notable rugby players and athletes. Gould's brother Bob was a forward who captained Newport during the 1886–87 season and played 11 times for Wales, once as captain versus Scotland in 1887. A younger brother, Bert, was a centre who played three times for Wales including in the same Welsh team as Gould that won the Triple Crown for the first time in 1893. His other brothers were Harry,Gus and Wyatt, and all three played rugby for Newport. Wyatt captained Newport in 1905–06 and Harry was present in the first season 1875–76. There was at least one of the six brothers in the Newport team for the club's first 29 seasons and Wyatt played until 1907. Wyatt also represented Great Britain in the 400m hurdles in the 1908 Summer Olympics at White City, London.
As a lad Arthur played for the Newport 3rds but
he was so talented that he was promoted to the premier team at the age
of 16 in 1882, never having played for Newport United (the Black and
Ambers' late and lamented second team).
Arthur Gould first played for
An article on Rugby Relics online recently considered what sort of game was rugby when the young Arthur Gould first played? "Only four years before, in 1878, Blackheath had introduced wheeling and passing among the forwards. The previous practice had been for forwards to push and maul each other for minutes on end. In fact, many clubs were still playing in this fashion in the mid-80s. It was only in the preceding few months before Gould's debut that backs were actually beginning to pass to one another - they ran and played as individuals normally. The majority of goals was the deciding factor in matches - so there was an inordinate number of drop goal attempts and tries were not given very much emphasis. But tackling was fierce and raking and kicking of opponents was an integral part of play!"
His position was that of centre three-quarter,
though he did play at full back one season for Newport, and one season
for Wales. 1885/6 saw
His first international game was played at Swansea in 1885 against England, and his first captaincy of the Welsh team dated from 1889. In 1890 he spent eighteen months in the West Indies on business but returned to the Newport team for the invincible season 1891/2 (see photo below). In 1892/3 he scored 37 tries for Newport and dropped 4 goals and scored two tries for Wales.
A superb all round player and even-time sprinter
with swerve, Arthur Gould could side-step and kick with either foot. He
never ceased to practise to develop his fitness and skills. He was
considered the outstanding player of his time. His popularity in Newport
and in Wales was high. On the occasion of his 25th appearance for Wales
a song was written in his honour.
In 1896 he decided to retire, he was
comfortably over 30 but was persuaded to return. He made his 27th
William John Townsend Collins (Dromio) , one of the greatest of rugby journalists wrote in the South Wales Argus "as Arthur Gould is as pre-eminent in football as WG Grace is in cricket, the footballing enthusiasts of Wales might recognise his services to the game ... by some national testimonial."
Sadly his playing career ended in controversy when his supporters offered him the deeds of his house at Thornbury, Clytha Park with the blessing of the Welsh Football Union. The other unions objected. In the opinion of the International Rugby Board, this action contravened the rules governing professionalism in the sport. It was less than two years after the formation of Rugby League and the other countries declared the testimonial an act of professionalism. After a long and bitter row, Wales withdrew from international fixtures in the spring of 1897, eventually returning to play England at Blackheath the following season. In order to settle the matter Gould retired from rugby but continued as a referee and as an international selector.
For many years thereafter he worked as an agent for another Newport institution, Phillips's Brewery. He died on 2nd Jan 1919 at the age of 54. Taken ill at work and rushed home. Died of internal haemorrhage. His funeral was reported as biggest ever seen in Wales – until 30yrs later when David Lloyd George died. He is now buried at St Woolos Cemetery.
1891/92 NEWPORT RFC - INVINCIBLES
P 32 W29 D3 L0 Points For 615 Against 30
(matches v Cardiff - 0-0, 28-3, 14-0, 29-0) Captain Tom Graham (centre-screen), Gould seated to the left of him in photo