DateLine: 30th December 2007
Billy Bancroft was both Glamorgan`s first professional player, and one of the leading sportsmen in Wales during the late Victorian and Edwardian era.
A cobbler by trade, Bancroft played rugby and cricket for his native Swansea, often alongside his father William, who had been a leading player with the early Glamorganshire club. Billy Bancroft won a total of 33 Welsh rugby caps, in consecutive internationals from 1890 until 1901, besides leading Wales on eleven occasions. He played chiefly at fullback, and his amazing kicking, in the era of heavy leather balls, was legendary, with Bancroft being able to drop or place kick a ball with unerring accuracy.
He made his debut as an eighteen year old in Glamorgan`s first ever match in 1889 against Warwickshire at Cardiff Arms Park, and he regularly won selection in the Glamorgan side for their subsequent friendlies. By the mid 1890s, the Welsh county were looking to appoint their first ever professional cricketer, and it was fitting that the committee opted for the multi-talented Bancroft.
Bancroft did not let the Glamorgan officials down as he developed one of the finest all-rounders in Minor County cricket, batting and bowling right handed, and also keeping wicket if Glamorgan were short of a specialist keeper. During his overall career for the Welsh county, Bancroft scored 8,250 runs, including seven centuries, and in 1903 he scored a career best 207 against Berkshire on his home ground at Swansea.
He also acted as groundsman at St.Helen`s for many years, living in a cottage at the Swansea ground, and his younger brother John also played for Glamorgan from 1908 until 1922. After retiring from county cricket in 1914, Billy Bancroft helped to coach many young players, including Gilbert Parkhouse, who went on to play Test cricket for England.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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