Ode to Arthur ‘Monkey’ Gould

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Arthur Joseph ‘Monkey’ Gould was arguably the first great Welsh rugby player. As captain he led Wales to her first Home Nations Championship victory and Triple Crown in 1893. In 1949 WJT Collins, in his book ‘Rugby Recollections’, described his fellow Newport man thus:

In the early ‘Nineties (1890s) I thought Arthur Gould the greatest Rugby player I had ever seen. To-day after sixty years of football criticism I think of him still as the greatest player of all time. As a footballer he had all the gifts, and they had been deployed by thought and constant practice. Some boys when they begin to play Rugby football find that they dodge, swerve, and side-step naturally- it is not a question of thought, it is an animal instinct. Arthur Gould was one of them. He dodged or swerved away from a tackler instinctively ; but before he had gone far he had learned to study the capacity of his fellow players and the defensive power of his opponents, knew what he was doing, why he did it, and how it was done.

He was in first-class football from 1882 till 1899 ; he first played for Wales against England in 1885, and his last game was against England- at Newport in 1897- twenty-seven matches, at that time a record.

More than fifty years ago I wrote : “To us he seems to be on the football field what Sir Lancelot was in the tournament in the old days of the Round Table when King Arthur’s knights were-

‘A glorious company, the flower of men,

To serve as model for the mighty world,

And be the fair beginning of a time.’

Dash and unselfishness, cleverness and coolness, judgement and resource, combined with peculiar grace, make him the observed of all observers, and one might well imagine the question asked of Lancelot when he tilted at Camelot-

‘…Lo!

What is he? I do not mean the force alone-

The grace and versatility of the man.'”

That was the hero-worship of a young lover of the game. I have watched with a critical eye practically all the great centres from 1889 till the present time, and now that I am old I repeat : “When every deduction is made, Arthur Gould stands alone.”

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