Rest in peace, lovely gentleman Mel Thomas

Mel ThomasMerlins Bridge AFC and Haverfordwest Cricket Club lost one of their best supporters last week as former player Mel Thomas sadly passed away at the age of 89 – but he was also held in high regard across the county as a real gentleman of sport despite being quite vociferous in his earlier watching  days on the touchline or the boundary!
Mel was the youngest of ten children and a talented all-round sportsman in his own right, having helped to re-form The Wizards and played cricket for Rosemarket, Murex, Thomarians, Hook and Haverfordwest but his sporting achievements first came to light when he was a pupil at the old Milford Central School under the guidance of teachers Viv Lewis and John King.

A real talent in school – and interesting sport in the RAF

The Central team was so good it was entered in the English Schools Cup and beat the likes of Swansea, Ebbw Vale, Barry and Cardiff before bowing out – and he also went for three Welsh Schoolboy trials as a full back at Tonypandy, Barry and Aberdare but sadly missed selection in a team that included Phil Woosnam and Terry Medwin, who became very famous players.
Work stopped him playing for a while but when he joined the RAF and whilst stationed in Reading he played against the likes of Broadmoor Hospital, who understandably played all their matches at home - and when he was moved to the Suez Canal area he also played cricket on heavily rolled sand!

Memorable football with ‘The Vikings’ and Haverfordwest County

When he returned to civilian life Mel played for a season with the factory team Murex and was then persuaded to join Hakin United, a team he had supported on ‘The Cocklebank’ as a youngster.
In 1957 he was part of the Hakin team that reached the West Wales Cup Final and took on top Swansea side Dilwyn Amateurs in front of a 3,000+ crowd at Marble Hall – and Mel conceded a penalty in the first minute of the match – but 17 year old keeper Colin Picton saved the shot  and Mel enjoyed the rest of the match alongside legendary names like Billy Jewels, Grenville Myhill and, Tommy Wood and Raymond Knight, as The Vikings won 6-1.
But then Mel married his beloved wife Jean and moved to Haverfordwest, where he joined Haverfordwest County and played in one Welsh League match, a 3-1 defeat at home to Llanelli, as well as playing regularly for their Pembrokeshire League team that included Ivor Carty, Don Evans, Bob Berry and Gus Ellis.

Helped restart ‘The Wizards’

When Merlins Bridge were restarted in 1960 he joined Selwyn Dawes, Wilfred Kelly and Les Hastings in raising funds so they could play on the Welfare Ground behind where Mel and Jean lived in St Issells Avenue.
He watched them grow into a very strong side before he finally retired at 38 but a measure of the sportsmanship that existed then was the fact that when some ladies came to watch Carew play it was so cold that Jean invited them to watch from their bedroom window!
Jean and her sister Ann, who married his pal Les Hastings, used to wash the kit in the bath, and all four later went regularly to watch Mel and Jean’s son Paul play in goal, and also as a top all-rounder for Haverfordwest Cricket Club.

Scored an unbeaten century – but ‘The Town’ still lost!

Mel also played cricket in school, then opened the batting for Murex, Rosemarket, the Thomarians and Hook – but it was for Haverfordwest that he scored his only century after being dropped first ball against Whitland and went on to reach 114 not out in a game The Town still lost!
He played until he was 56 and then took up golf, where he dropped his handicap to 14 and played regularly for The Rabbits’ team before deciding he enjoyed watching his son Paul play cricket along with Ann and Mel, plus Paul’s wife Alison (who is secretary of Haverfordwest CC) and daughters Natalie (who is an expert scorer with The Town) and Hannah.

And finally . . .

Mel had that wonderful knack of making you feel uplifted after talking to him and on a personal note I can say that I will miss our chats around the boundary at The Racecourse and it is sad that another genuine character he left our sporting sphere.
But he will long be remembered by all who knew him in sport because of his love of football and cricket – and as a family man with his charming wife Jean - and the large crowd which attended his funeral in very wet conditions paid tribute to that fact!