The Walsh family of Fishguard are 'Seagulls' through and through

Walsh family


There can be few families in Pembrokeshire Sport who are more involved in their town or village’s sport than Meinir, Paul, Natalie and Gavin Walsh, who have all played rugby for Fishguard & Goodwick RFC – and served Whitland RFC in a variety of ways too.

Matriarch Min is such a busy ‘Seagull’ – and now club president!

Meinir, who is known to all as ‘Min’ is very much the matriarch of the family with a key role at Fishguard and Goodwick, who are known to all as ‘The Seagulls’, because prior to the pandemic she was the team manager at their headquarters on The Moors in Goodwick.

And at the recent club annual general meeting there was a real surprise for Mrs Walsh when she was elected as president of Fishguard RFC in recognition of all her work – and the first woman to achieve that honour!

It meant that she was not only very busy on match days in making sure that everything went smoothly in terms of kit etc but she was also the club contact with visiting teams and referees, did the first aid during matches, took on the unofficial role of fixture secretary – and anything else that needed doing to help the players play their best for the club.

She would laughingly describe Paul as ‘a very good assistant’ and there is no doubt that the husband and wife have formed an excellent partnership over many years as he has supported her involvement in sport, especially with regard to hockey and rugby.

Played hockey – and then switched to coaching rugby juniors

“I started out with Fishguard ladies in hockey,” Min told us, “playing in defence as Paul’s sister Angela Harries played up front and later Natalie joined us in midfield – but when Nat and our son Gavin stated played rugby at under nine level I joined Paul as a coach alongside real characters in Chris Mitchell, Johnny Bach Williams and Robin Jones.

“Then two years later I did my level two coaching course, again maintaining my close rugby links with Paul as he also took part at Haverfordwest, with Ian Ace, Steve Joseph and Jonathan Dodd as the tutors.

Gavin Walsh in scrum

Started playing rugby herself

“It was around this time that I joined Haverfordwest Ladies’ rugby team, starting out at No 8 and gradually moving through the pack until I settled at prop alongside the likes of Natalie Bowen and Lucy Peach as Nigel Hancock and Mr Walsh did the coaching.

“Sadly, the team disbanded after a couple of seasons because of players getting pregnant or moving away with work and I played hockey again, with Paul being press-ganged into being coach for a season when we had no-one else.

“But then we managed to establish a rugby team in Fishguard, with Natalie and Sara Davies (now team manager with The Scarlets’ men’s team) allowed to play senior rugby at 16 alongside my niece Christina Cooke.

“We were delighted to win our division but then numbers dwindled and we were unable to continue so the few of us that were left joined Whitland Ladies, where we received a brilliant welcome from their manager Sue Davies, who is the backbone of ladies rugby at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn as well as doing sterling administration work for the fellers.”

Playing alongside Nat until injury brought about an abrupt halt

“I actually played alongside Nat for Whitland also on a few occasions with Llanelli after Ken Davies, who did some great fitness work with the latter, roped me in after I attended some fitness sessions.

“But then my playing days were brought to an abrupt halt after I had volunteered to play outside half in a Whitland match because we found ourselves short of a No 10 – and within five minutes I had damaged my cruciate ligaments – but because we had no replacements I limped through the rest of the match, which in hindsight was a bit of an error,” admitted Min with typical understatement!”

Paul plays as a Seagull for many years . . .

Paul spent over 25 years in HM Customs and Excise before becoming the owner of a shellfish boat off Fishguard, with Min helping out in the summer when her work as a teacher at Ysgol Bro Gwaun allows.
He played in the centre or on the wing for Fishguard and Goodwick for many years, telling us it was because, “my teacher, the late Wayne Harries, must have spotted my sheer pace early on that made up for my lack of inches height-wise.”

Be that as it may, ‘Walshie’ made his senior debut for The Seagulls at 17 and finally retired at 33 when he smashed his knee and shoulder.

Paul, Min and Natalie with Sue Davies

. . . And as a Kamikaze footballer before representing HM Customs in the oval ball game!

But prior to that he had done a bit of smashing himself after setting out as a nipper playing football at full back for Fishguard Sports youth team.

“I must admit I was a bit of a kamikaze defender who had a few red cards for flying in to tackles, which I thought was a bit harsh, but made even worse when I discovered that I had to pay the hefty fines myself!”
But football’s loss was rugby’s gain and as well as playing regularly for The Seagulls he was also selected to play for The Welsh and UK Customs’ Officers XVs that respectively played against their English and French counterparts.

“At one time we had John Ryan, who went on to coach the Welsh national team, and had others playing for us from top clubs like Newport and Cardiff as we took on the Army, the Navy and some top-class teams.”

Natalie and Gavin Walsh

Natalie has shown total commitment to her rugby

If we had to nominate someone for an award for commitment to playing in ladies rugby then Natalie Walsh would win it hands down because she started out playing alongside a lot of boys at six years of age and is still going really strongly in women’s rugby now, over 25 years later.

In that time she has pursued her dream and represented Wales, although she should have had a heap more caps than she has, and been a beacon light for any girls just starting out in the oval ball game.

“I was down playing rugby at Fishguard by the age of six,” she told us, “and my brother Gavin started the same sort of time – and we played for The Seagulls and Pembrokeshire until I was 13, the age where girls were forbidden from playing in teams with boys.”

After that, finding a settled female side was hard to come by and she played with Milford haven, Pembroke, Cardigan, Lampeter, Llanelli Wanderers and even Bridgend in the search for regular rugby, and also represented West Wales under 16s under the coaching of Alan Phillips and Kenny Davies.

By 17 though, she had done enough to catch the eyes of the Wales under 19s selectors but all the training took place in Cardiff and we’d have to be there by 8am on a Saturday morning so Mam and dad would take her, which was tough for them.

The target was selection was a tour to Canada but somehow Natalie missed out after playing really well – and a lesser person than Nat might have given up there and then at the injustice of it all.

But her commitment was finally rewarded with an under 19 cap against England, toured Scotland with the Welsh Students’ squad when she was at Pembrokeshire College – and cemented a regular place in the West Wales senior squad as she made a move to play for Whitland, where she has played ever since.

“It was amazingly physical in those days and I would often end up black and blue after weekends but as more players joined us we really featured in the Welsh set up by winning back to back division one titles and coming second in the Welsh Premier to the mighty Swansea, even beating them in one mighty clash.

“There have inevitably been disappointments, like when we missed out on a coveted place in the Welsh Women’s Cup Final as we conceded a last-ditch try against Pontyclun Falcons and although we gained semi-final revenge the next season we lost heavily to Swansea as nothing went our way.”

There was consolation in 2017/18 when The Borderettes won the Welsh Plate Final against Seven Sisters and have since voluntarily dropped back down to division one so that they can develop some of the talented teenagers coming through.
Nat has also been a regular with the Scarlets for several seasons and is now used to playing at top venues like Parc y Scarlets, Cardiff Arms Park and St Helens – and has also become well-known on the sevens’ circuit after playing for Carmarthen Flamingoes and then joining Ponty Butchers a few years ago and enjoying memorable trips to Dubai with them.

Nearer home Nat was heavily involved in a superb fund-raising event to raise money to help team mate Mair Griffiths, who was diagnosed with lymphoma, and then do the same when Laura Setaro, the wife of coach Nico, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There was a terrific spirit engendered and their targets were smashed, which naturally delighted Nat, who has no intention of not being involved at Parc Llwyn Ty Gwyn in the future, because it is a family club – and like the strong links that she enjoys with the rest of the Walsh family, mean everything to this dynamic rugby lady!

Gavin followed the rest of the Walsh clan

Gavin became the fourth member of this close-knit family to play for The Seagulls as he followed older sister Natalie into their junior age-group squads, as well as playing at every age for Pembrokeshire, and often playing up a year so that he played alongside his big sister and Jonathan ‘Fox’ Davies.

But when Fishguard & Goodwick were unable to field a team in the later years of the junior set-up he joined Whitland and became a regular in a strong Borderers’ Youth squad that was coached by the late Roy Newton, Ian Ace and Richard ‘Stag’ Jones which won their league twice in three seasons with players of the calibre of Dan Newton, Scott Williams, Alex Pickersgill, Dafydd Evans, Rhys Thomas and Carl Smith.

“At county youth level I was in the team which won the Welsh Cup and for my first three seasons of senior rugby I stayed with Whitland and was part of a strong front row that had Marc Jones, Romeo Colella, Richard Smith and Alan ‘Tank’ Davies involved.

Natalie Walsh

Great characters at The Moors – and Welsh Colleges’ ups and downs

“Then I went back to The Moors to play for The Seagulls and I am still there now at 32 as one of the more senior players coached by Nathan and Steve Jenkins, plus Simon James, and captained the team for two seasons.

“There are some real characters in the squad alongside some talented young players but whether I go back when the time comes remains to be seen. But I have lost two stone recently because Lauren Bell, my girlfriend, was a top runner and she has had me out on the road with her!”

Ask Gavin about highlights and he would be sure to mention his time playing for the Welsh Colleges and his pride in receiving his Welsh jersey after beating their English counterparts by 42-38.

“We had played a warm-up match against The Saracens, with current England captain Owen Farrell in the centre – and they absolutely smashed us by 60. It was pretty demoralising but we showed our determination by bouncing back to beat England in an away match for the first time in ages!”

Paul and Min  Walsh

Coaching successes for Min and Paul

Going back to the senior members of the family for a while, Min switched back to coaching at Whitland after her injury and who else but her hubbie should join her again as they coached a very keen set of young players as they came second in their debut season and then achieved promotion the Welsh Premier Division.

Not content with that effort, they duly came second to the mighty Swansea Women’s team the following campaign and lost only one match – against Swansea.

“It was then we decided to retire at the top because I was also busy coaching the Pembrokeshire Under 18s and we actually won the Welsh Cup for our age group and to be honest it demanded a lot of commitment so Paul and I decided it would be nice just to watch our kids play for a while.”

Back in action – and loving it!

But as so often happens, both missed being involved after a while and so Min became the team manager for Fishguard & Goodwick First XV and Paul agreed he would help in any way he could.

“They are a terrific, very funny set of boys who show me total respect as a family-orientated club and although it is again providing me with plenty of work I always have Paul to lean on.

“I have been very lucky to have had a great time with two clubs and everyone with Whitland was wonderful but Fishguard and Goodwick will always be our family club because we are all Seagulls through and through!”

Paul Walsh fishing