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Neath RFC

It is with deep regret that Neath RFC must announce the passing of a true legend C.C. (Courtenay) Meredith at the age of 97- he was Neath and Wales’ oldest surviving British Lion.

Courtenay Meredith was the last of three outstanding figures – Rees Stephens and Roy John being the others – to grace the Club during the 1950’s when they won every individual honour available to them, carried the name of Neath and the Welsh All Blacks to every corner of the rugby world … and did so with absolute distinction.

For the benefit of younger supporters and some of the decision-makers in the modern Game, Courtenay Meredith was one of the truly “world class” players who has worn the famous all black jersey of Neath RFC.

Courtenay was a product of Neath Grammar School and, after national service in the R.A.F. and study at Cardiff University, he joined Neath in 1949 from local club Crynant originally appearing in the back row.

However, he soon made the transition to the front row where he rapidly became a force as a mobile presence in the loose and a truly fearsome scrummager in the outstanding Neath pack of the time.

As the Neath forwards rampaged around Wales and across the border, he quickly earned the attention of the Welsh selectors and made his debut for Wales against Scotland in 1953 when he joined fellow Neath forwards Rees Stephens and Roy John for a 12-nil win at Murrayfield.

Later that year, the trio were in the Wales eight in the famous 13-8 victory over New Zealand at Cardiff – Wales, of course, have never beaten New Zealand since.

Courtenay was the best tight head prop in the home countries and, with a try against Ireland under his belt, he was selected for the British Lions tour to South Africa in 1955 where his reputation became world-wide.

He was the cornerstone of the Lions’ pack and formed an all-Welsh test front row with Bryn Meredith and W.O. (Billy) Williams – a feat repeated by Neath’s Adam Jones alongside Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins in 2009.

Courtenay’s international career continued until his 14th cap in the Scotland game of 1957. He carried on playing for Neath RFC, captained the Club in 1957/58 and advanced his club appearances to 250 – it would surely have been many more had it not been for international duties, trials and other calls for very many other invitational sides including the Barbarians.

Although primarily a tight head prop, he could operate with equal facility on the loose head and so accomplished a scrummager was he that on occasions he would sometimes “chase” props across to the other side of the scrum when they swapped sides to try to escape his powerful grip.

Contemporaries used to say that often the demise of those poor opponents would then be marked by Courtenay solemnly and ritually informing his pack-leader “Stephens, this bugger’s had it. They’d better fetch another one !”

This happened not once but on several occasions – as confirmed by former Neath and Wales prop Ron Waldron who was a willing pupil of Courtenay’s and who described him as “a terror in training” … but what a mentor !

Elected captain of Neath in 1957/58, at the end of the season both Courtenay and Roy John bowed out after a final Neath game against Penarth on April 30, 1958, Neath winning 25-15 when he fittingly signed off with a try. That last appearance of two of their Lions was the end of an era for Neath as Stephens alone carried on.

Neath RFC’s sympathy goes to Courtenay’s family and friends – perhaps his rugby days were a long time ago but, in Neath RFC, Courtenay Meredith was, is and will always remain a true legend.