Thomas? A terrific name for a sportsman – or woman

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You could be excused for thinking that we don't have an awful lot of imagination in Wales – an idea that is quickly dismissed when you think about the creative exploits of our poets, painters and musicians. But it's a sentiment that keeps getting thrown back at us whenever anyone considers our choice of surnames.

Jones, of course, is a common enough name in Wales. So, too, are Morgan, Price and Phillips. And then, of course, we come to the inevitable one, that of Thomas.

There have been some famous and hugely influential people who have sported and delighted in the name Thomas over the years.

RS and Dylan

The two poets, RS and Dylan, are known by virtually everyone and certainly don't need highlighting here. Suffice to say that they were surely two of the greatest writers working in the 20th century – and, of course, for those who are unaware, it is the centenary of the birth of RS Thomas in 2013 and for Dylan the year after.

But which other characters of note have been called Thomas? There are so many of them that it would take a whole book to cover every man or woman of note. So let's confine our survey to the area of sport, a subject close to the heart of most Welsh people.

Clem Thomas

You could do a lot worse than start with Clem Thomas, the Swansea and Wales flanker who went on to play for the 1955 Lions in South Africa. He was the man who put in a famous cross kick that was gathered by Ken Jones and resulted in the try that beat the 1953 All Blacks, the last time Wales defeated New Zealand.

Alfie and Delme

More modern rugby players with the name Thomas include the two Welsh captains, Gareth - or "Alfie" as he is universally known - and Delme.

In particular, Delme Thomas was one of the greatest second row forwards ever to play for his country, and for the British Lions, despite being relatively small for the modern game. He was captain of the Welsh side in the 1970s when Wales were famously "cheated" out of a victory by Delme's opposite number throwing himself out of the lineout to gain a last minute penalty.

"Alfie", of course, was the first Welsh player to win 100 international caps. He led the Welsh team to its first Grand Slam for many years and while not exactly starting a third golden era, it was a welcome reversal of fortunes for the national team.

JBG Thomas

JBG Thomas was not a rugby player but he was probably the best rugby writer ever to cover the game – even if he was accused of a degree of bias towards Wales and Welsh clubs, Cardiff in particular. Chief rugby correspondent of the Western Mail for nearly 40 years, his books about the touring British Lions helped establish a love of rugby in many an adolescent's heart.

Gwyn Thomas

A little-known sporting name these days is that of Gwyn Thomas. He may have achieved only a handful of caps but he was the man who led Wales to the first win at Twickenham. That was in 1933 – two years earlier Thomas had played almost the whole of the match against Scotland with a broken collar bone. They don't make them like that any more!

Eddie Thomas

Eddie Thomas is perhaps best remembered as the long-time manager of World Champions Howard Winstone and Ken Buchanan. However, he was also a boxer in his own right, becoming British and Empire (and European) welterweight champion in 1949. A larger than life character, Eddie Thomas was Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil in 1994 and in the year 2,000 had a statue unveiled in his honour in the town.

Parry Thomas

Parry Thomas was, along with Malcolm Campbell, the best known racing driver of his generation. Born in Wrexham in 1885, he was obsessed with cars and speed. In April 1926 he broke the World Land Speed Record on Pendine Sands, averaging a speed of 171 mph.

When Malcolm Campbell took this record off him, Parry Thomas determined to regain his crown. On 4 March 1927, during an attempt on the record – again at Pendine - the steering chain of Babs, Thomas' car, broke and virtually decapitated him. Thomas was killed instantly, the car crashed and a legend was born – they buried Babs in an unknown spot on the sands. The car was eventually unearthed and now goes on regular exhibition at the local museum.

Vicki Thomas

Vicki Thomas is probably Wales' greatest amateur golfer – of either sex. She has been Welsh Ladies Champion on eight occasions and played in every Curtis Cup encounter with the Americans between 1982 and 1992. Still playing, she is now a regular member of the Welsh Senior Ladies team and continues to win championships such as the Irish Senior Womens Open.

There are many, many more sportsmen and women of note who bear the distinguished name of Thomas. Space prohibits their inclusion but it does not diminish their achievements – Thomas, a terrific name for a sportsman or woman.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by Noreen

    on 15 Aug 2012 07:45

    I have played golf with Vicki Thomas many times. I think you're right, she has to be the best Welsh amateur golfer of all time. And she's still playing at the top level.

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