10 February 2021 / Club News

Obituary: James Nicholas President Maesteg Harlequins RFC

There are occasions when some things are very hard to write. This is one of those occasions.

There comes a time in everyone’s lives when God takes away more than he gives. Maesteg Quins are going through this period, with a recent line of fine club stalwarts being taken away from us. The latest being Club President, Jimmy ‘Nic’ Nicholas.

Hailing from Margam Street, Cymer, a deeply ingrained community spirit went a step further when at fifteen years old, Jim dived into a swollen river Afan to save an eight-years old child; who had fallen into the river from twenty feet and had been knocked unconscious.

Jim first played rugby for the village while in his late teens. At the age of twenty-one he captained the club. It is widely recognised that Jimmy kept Cymer RFC together for a few seasons, arranging fixtures and marking the field. His father was the other committeeman. His mother the chief cook and kit washer.

Despite the efforts of Jimmy and the family Nicholas, Cymer’s rugby players eventually reached the end of their rugby shelf-lives. When the club disbanded, thankfully Jim joined the Quins and left an indelible mark. Captaining the club for two seasons.

In the late 1960s, early 1970s Maesteg Quins were experiencing a player drain. During a period where our club operated from various hostelries and considered ‘a pub side’, without a single doubt Jim saved the Quins from ignominy - even extinction.

Undeterred Jimmy ‘Nic’ utilised his mysterious powers of persuasion and mustered together a group of players, who have remained loyal the Quins ever since. He really did possess a unique skill; he never nagged, he planted seeds then suddenly people come around to his way of thinking. His presentation of a sense of fun and post-match frolics, Queen of Hearts stayaways and nights at the Prince of Wales followed by a wobbling drift down to the Four Sevens, being the main selling points… oh and a game of rugby!

With his playing days over, Jimmy coached Maesteg Youth. He knew there was a strong pool of talent waiting to be tapped in the Afan valley. He extracted it. Once again, Jimmy visited pubs and homes to canvass and encourage young men from both Afan and Llynfi valleys to take up the game; until work commitments brought this to an end.

Jim travelled the globe, project managing large building developments. Yet wherever he was in the world, communications would always be made asking about results. Coming from Wales and a leading rugby town at that time, perhaps the most renown being a phone call from the Zimbabwean Rugby Union, following up Jimmy’s credentials.

On his return, those who had never seen but always heard about Jimmy ‘Nic’ met him for the first time. Jimmy came back at just the right time to see the Quins begin their climb up the leagues. By the turn of the millennium and into the noughties with each league title garnered, Jimmy grew taller. With his retirement in full-swing, the position of club President became available and he came forward.

New members were always soon acquainted with Jimmy ‘Nic’ via his convivial chats and if you were from the Afan valley! With Gestapo-like interrogation, he would find some link to your family. The Welsh version of Alex Hayley.

Just like his Cymer RFC side of the sixties, the league climbing Quins were reaching their zenith. Although rebuilding, the club crashed and burned with two relegation seasons, but Jimmy remained steadfast.

Always one to want to improve things, anything electrical he gleaned from somewhere.

It is somewhat fitting for Jimmy to have been President when the club went on an upward trajectory: going on a forty-five matches unbeaten run, won four league titles, a Glamorgan County Silver Ball, played at the Millennium Stadium and above all else, having saved the club from extinction he witnessed little Maesteg Harlequins RFC become one of Wales’ top thirty teams. All as a completely amateur club.

If that is hard to top, Jimmy often pointed he had witnessed and been part of playing the second teams of our local rivals, to overtaking the historically superior Maesteg RFC. Seen his Quins play Pontypool and Llanelli as equals, beat former Merit Table clubs Newbridge twice, Cross Keys and then, if it couldn’t get any better “the Boys” turned over Neath at the Gnoll! On the team’s return he was sitting in the bar with a grin wider than South Parade.

Whether home or away he’d ask: “How was it?” Shorthand for: “What was the game like?” He’d stare into nowhere but listen intently to match events and when it came to it’s conclusion there were two responses. If the Quins won a little chuckle and, “Bloody marvellous.” If a loss, “Ah but they’re doing this mun,” as he rubbed his thumb against index finger to indicate cash inducements.

The usual ritual took place in January 2020, the last time the Quins played when beating Glamorgan Wanderers. It was to be Jimmy’s last match-day experience, at least it was an incredible winning one. Again, his delight at hearing how another Merit Table giant was toppled was tangible.

Ill health and degenerative eyesight prevented Jim from venturing even to South Parade, but not the club which he visited several times weekly. Always drinking, laughing and storytelling. Everyone who played alongside Jimmy have all been reminded of the time he side-stepped four opponents, handed-off another; chipped and outstripped a wing to regather the ball then to pass inside to you to claim your hat-trick!

Befitting of the man, Jimmy’s final act as President of Maesteg Harlequins RFC was to do something for others. He sponsored the purchase of kitbags for all the Mini Quins. The children posted their beaming smiles on-line. Jimmy’s joy in spreading joy was equally as bright.

Jimmy’s life was spent doing nothing but good. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes or Poirot to work out from his contemporaries to the younger element of the club and everyone in between, thought the world of the man. The numerous stories about Jimmy ‘Nic’ will be put on ice for now. However, they will all be regaled when we meet up again. Sadly, with one very important man missing.

We thought about you yesterday and days before that too,
We thought about you again today, but that is nothing new.

But now our feelings are different, you were with us - now your gone,
We all have memories of Jimmy ‘Nic’, but new ones - there’ll be none.

Tears and sadness will seize us, they will for quite a while,

Until with chinking glasses, we’ll think of you and smile.

Your memory is our keepsake, from which we’ll never part,

God has you in His keeping now, we have you in our heart.

God bless Jim. The pleasure has been all ours. Bendith Duw.

Mae cariad Iesu’n drech na hwy.

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