Around the Touchline Feature - Mike Ridley

Mike (middle) enjoying an England v Wales chash with friends on the terraces at Twickenham


Mike Ridley outside the Quins clubhouseQuins’ stalwart Mike loves following Wales but had a nightmare trip on his latest visit to the ‘Emerald Isle’ 

Mike Ridley inside the Quins clubhouseMike Ridley is a very hard behind-the-scenes worker at Bierspool as a great supporter of Pembroke Dock Harlequins RFC - and his other passion in the sport is following Wales in rugby, which he started as a boy and in the last 50 years has missed just a handful of games at home, and in the Six Nations Championships, home and away, most of them with another long-time friend in Jerry O’Sullivan, who is sadly unable to travel so far these days.
As usual, he was recently over in Ireland to watch Wales lose and won’t remember the action that took place at the Aviva Stadium as much as he will about trying to get back afterwards, which would have tested a saint after a few nice days in the ‘Emerald Isle’ where he also looked up old rugby friends made during some of his many visits there.
Mike travelled across on the Stena Line from Fishguard on the 2pm ferry to Rosslare on Thursday; an uneventful trip on a flat-calm sea, with the boat arriving bang-on time.

On the terraces going back a back a bit


A quiet trip over on the ferry – and nice to catch up with old Irish friends

“I went with my pal Jeff Mansell and that evening we stayed in Wexford and had a few pints as usual with our Irish friends there at the ‘The Sky on the Ground’ pub - and the following day we took a guided tour around Croke Park, the home of Irish Hurling, and learned a great deal about the history of a sport which the Irish are passionate about.
“One of the treats was to visit the changing rooms and we saw the shirt worn by George O’Connell, a local sporting hero I once met on one of my visits to watch the rugby.
“On Saturday we had a quiet start in Dublin with my rugby friends from Inchicore, where we were staying the night - and then watched the match, which wasn’t the best I have seen, with them.

Enjoying the international match day atmosphere

Calm turns to chaos as the bad weather struck

“We got back to Inchicore and were in bed by about 2am, anticipating a quiet trip home - but when we got hope on Sunday morning the weather was dreadful - so bad that we weren’t the least surprised when the ferry was cancelled.”
But as they waited in the port it was announced that Stena were sending around their ferry destined for Holyhead in Anglesey to collect them - and after a four-hour wait twiddling their thumbs, they boarded the ferry and eventually reached Anglesey with a train trip south as the next part of their adventure!
“I didn’t realise when we boarded the train south at 4.20am  that there were 32 stations between Holyhead and Cardiff,” admitted Mike - and we still had to negotiate Swansea and Carmarthen before even reaching Whitland and then crawling back to Fishguard at 12.20pm lunchtime on Monday, almost eight hours after we set out; and I was in bed within five minutes of reaching home in Haverfordwest.”
Undeterred by his catalogue of travel complications, Mike says he will still be back in action next season at home - and in two years he will be back In Ireland hoping for a Wales’ win - and a quieter time on ferry and train!
Talk to Mike about the first time he ever watched Wales and he can remember it as if it were yesterday, although it was as far back as 1963.
“I was 10 years old and my grandfather took me to the old stadium to watch Wales lose 14-6 to Ireland. We sat in the South Stand and I was sitting next to Welsh outside half David Watkins’ mother!”
“A year later I watched Wales draw 11-all with France and Keith Bradshaw scored all Wales’ points with a try (worth four points in those days the conversion and two penalties – and in 1966 I watched Wales lose to Australia  as Barry John had his first cap.
“I thought I must be a bad influence but in 1967 I was lucky to see the ‘Keith Jarrett’ match  as the 19-year-old marked his debut for Wales with 19 points in a 34-21 victory. I was sitting right behind the posts when he scored his fantastic try and he was given the conversion after it hit the very top of the upright and bounced straight up in the air.”
It is fair to say that Mike was well and truly hooked and in the intervening years he has set up his amazing record of loyalty, both home and away, in the Six Nations Championship (and when it was Five Nations!) as follows:
England (Since 1971)
France (Since 1975)
Ireland (Since 1973)
Scotland (Since 1972)
Italy (every game since they joined the competition!)
Then there’s the home games against Southern Hemisphere countries like Australia (1966), New Zealand (1967), South Africa (1970), plus Argentina,  Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Japan.
So keen is Mike to watch his beloved Wales that when they were due to play away to France and Italy, he and his pal Jerry O’Sullican actually stayed in the two countries for the whole week in between – now that’s what we at call real dedication!
The only games he missed came during Covid and Mike readily admits that not going to matches almost drove him mad – and he did think about trying to blag his way in but luckily saw sense otherwise his name could have been hitting the national headlines.
Chat to Mike Ridley for a while and he can regale you with stories of his experiences at the games, the characters on the pitch and events off it. If you bump into him after a game at Bierspool, where he works so hard as an unsung hero for Pembroke Dock then do sit down for a chat over a pint – and we promise you will enjoy it because he is a walking encyclopaedia with regard to Welsh Rugby matches played over the past 60 years.