By Phil Bailey.
In September 1957 the Welsh Ladies’ Touring Team embarked to the USA for a two-and-a-half-month tour of the United States, playing 24 matches in those ten weeks. Such tours really are now social histories and are no longer viable in modern day hockey and other sports for many reasons.
Prior to the tour Wales played in the annual Home International series and had some success in the March tournament. They lost 0-6 to England at Stanley Park, Blackpool; then drew 2-2 with Scotland at Margam Sports Ground and finally beat Ireland 3-2 at Colwyn Bay.
The Welsh touring side to the USA contained a number of the players who played in the above series but not all of the current internationals were able to tour or were selected. The touring side was:
· Enid Bufton [Captain]
· Annette Blair
· June Brown
· Sylvia Caldwell
· June Griffiths
· Aline Hatter
· Georgina Jones
· Jean Jones
· Rita Jones
· Sheila Llewellyn
· Ceri O’Donnell
· Jean Scandrett
· Eirianwen Thomas
· Elizabeth Yeo
· Rose May Watkins
The tour manager was the Welsh secretary Mrs Irene Roberts.
On Tuesday October 1st 1957 the squad arrived in New York, having travelled on the SS Queen Mary and were met by hostesses from the Long Island Association. From the dock the Welsh team travelled by private car to Malverne High School, NY State where they were entertained by the Long Island Hostess, Miss Betty Cermak.
Throughout the tour the Welsh Touring Team were guests of the host associations, boarding at local colleges and private houses as guests of the association. Travel between games and states was by Greyhound bus, train or private cars.
The tour was a spectacular success for the tourists, playing 24 matches and losing just one game during the whole tour. Results show that Wales scored 146 goals for with only 16 scored against them.
Travelling around the North East United States games were often played against state field hockey associations but, three were played against USA select National sides.
The first game took place at Adelphi College against Long Island FHA and Wales started the tour as they meant to go on, winning by 6-0 in front of 6,000 spectators. Reports indicate that two goals each came from Rita Jones, Georgina Jones and June Brown.
Easy wins continued in the next four games against Stuyvesant Team [4-1], New York FHA played at Hunter College in the Bronx [11-0] and the Boston FHA [6-0] with Wales already notching up 27 goals to one against.
The first real challenge of the tour came on 12 October at Wellesley College where the tourists played against the USA 1956 National Team. It was a close and hard-fought match that Wales edged, winning by 2-3.
Wales played a further nine games in the next four weeks, scoring a staggering 86 goals with only one against. In this period, they beat North Shore 17-0, Richmond 16-0 and University of Wisconsin 13-0.
By the time the Welsh Tourists arrived at Sanford Preparatory School, Delaware, confidence was high, and Wales would have been expected to beat the Delaware FHA ‘All Stars’ side. However, they trailed 2-0 at half time, lost right half Jean Scandrett to injury in the second half and could not pull back the deficit.
Constance Appleby, founder of American Field Hockey Association, gave the after-match dinner speech. Miss Appleby stated,
‘I’m so surprised …that I am almost speechless. I had a lovely speech prepared as usual like a mother chastising her little lambs who had lost again to an international team. Now I can’t use it’.
Miss Appleby praised the DFHA players saying,
‘You have finally learned how to use the four keys to good hockey – teamwork, precision, speed and strategy’.
The result was certainly a major success for Delaware, a real ‘giant killing’ occasion’ and the only set back on the tour for the Welsh, who were aiming to bring international hockey to a fledgling hockey nation.
The next game against the Philadelphia College X1 saw Wales bounce back to win 1-5. A further victory came against Philadelphia FHA, but this was a close affair with Wales winning the game 3-2 in the last 15 minutes after trailing by two goals to one. Nan Thomas and June Griffiths securing the win with goals in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Wales then went on to beat West Jersey and North Jersey before the team again took on a USA National side at Plainfields on 26 November 1957. Another tight game ensued, but the tourists again emerged victorious, winning 1-2.
The final part of the tour consisted of a tournament at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie NY State, against a sectional team, playing four games in four days at the end of a long and physically demanding tour. Again, Wales rose to the occasion and won all four of the games and the tournament, defeating the North East Section 2-3, the South East Section 1-3, Philadelphia Section 2-3 and finally a USA Select side 1-3, a great way to end the tour.
The team departed the USA by boat from New York on Friday December 6th 1957, although two of the party took alternative routes with Jean Jones flying to Canada on December 2nd and the manager, Irene Roberts flying back to England on the same day.
Each player had a detailed itinerary given to them for the tour. In all, the tourists visited the states of New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Virginia, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Indiana, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In producing this article, great thanks is given to Eirianwen ‘Nan’ Thomas: Wales 1954-1969 and GB international, who provided her copy of the itinerary and notes of the tour and matches.
Reminiscing 63 years later, Nan remembers that all the players who worked had to take absence without pay. The players paid their own return fares of £150, plus they were allowed £100 spending money. Compared to her teacher’s salary of £30 per month this was a huge undertaking. All accommodation, travel and lodgings in the USA were paid for by the USA FHA.
Nan remembers the size of the cars in the US, the distances they had to travel for each match, the enormous stores where they were able to shop in their free time and the huge welcome and hospitality given by all in the USA.
Some other memories were the colours of the ‘fall', a clambake they attended and the beautiful lobsters; the huge portions of food; Howard Johnson’s and its 57 varieties of ice cream, plus the tours of the big cities as part of the itinerary which included New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit and Washington.
Of particular fondness was the luxury travel on the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and meeting Miss Appleby.
Nan reflects that, in those days, the Welsh team was selected by a series of elimination matches and play offs at club, county and National level. Players had to be 18 years old to play for Wales and there were no other age group teams. Players often did not know each other prior to international matches as there was no practice or training – you turned up and played for your country.
Wales USA Tour 1957 Results:
03/10/1957 Long Island FHA 0-6
05/10/1957 Stuyvesant 1-4
09/10/1957 New York FHA 0-11
10/10/1957 Boston FYA 0-6
12/10/1957 US Team  2-3
16/10/1957 Hampshire FHA 0-5
21/10/1957 Detroit FHA 0-4
22/10/1957 North Shore, Chicago 0-17
26/10/1957 Univ. of Wisconsin 0-13
28/10/1957 Richmond FHA 0-16
02/11/1957 Blue Ridge 0-9
04/11/1957 Tide Water 1-5
06/11/1957 Washington FHA 0-9
09/11/1957 Baltimore FHA 0-7
13/11/1957 Delaware FHA All Stars 2-0
17/11/1957 Philadelphia Coll X1 1-5
19/11/1957 Philadelphia FHA 2-3
21/11/1957 West Jersey 0-3
24/11/1957 North Jersey 0-6
26/11/1957 USA Touring Team 1-2
28/11/1957 North East Section 2-3
29/11/1957 South East Section 1-3
30/11/1957 Philadelphia Section 2-3
01/12/1957 USA Select 1-3
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