|William `Wally` Lewis by Alex Service |
A signing from Llanelli and possibly the first Saints capture from the Valleys of Wales, certainly in Rugby League terms, William made his debut against Widnes on 24th October 1896, an unusual game in that he played for a team which only had fourteen men! Despite this apparent handicap, the Saints went on to beat Widnes 14-0, with the new recruit scoring a try from the right centre position. William made his debut with another new man, Richard O’Hara from Cumbria. The St.Helens Newspaper wrote that: “Both men did good work in the first half and Lewis made several good dashes but was always well attended to and could not get through.”
His second match for the club was his last, against Runcorn at Knowsley Road the following week. Saints lost 3-7 to the Linnets and the local press intimated that Lewis would be dropped for the next match against Rochdale Hornets. That was it for the Welsh centre. Further details about him have since been provided. Family member Pauline Ferns can shed some light on her grandfather’s sporting and working life: “My grandfather was born in Llanelli in 1872 and played for Llanelli Rugby Club up until the end of the century, when he then left to find work in Manchester. However, an old family member has assured us that he continued to play rugby for St Helens while residing in Manchester [probably from 1897]. He died in that City in 1952”.
Many thanks to Pauline for that additional information.