Bill Carne pays tribute to two sporting greats who have passed away

JJ Williams and Bill Carne


The late Welsh rugby legend ‘JJ’ visited Haverfordwest


There was an air of sadness in Welsh Rugby and far beyond at the news that the legendary JJ Williams had passed away last week and we at were lucky to meet up with him when he came to Marley Davies’s Victoria Book Shop in Haverfordwest to sign copies of his book, entitled ‘JJ – The Life and Times of a Rugby Legend’

Known to all as ‘JJ’

He was born Jonathan James Williams but nicknamed ‘JJ’ to differentiate him from the equally renowned full back in the same Welsh team, John Peter Rhys Williams, who was known as ‘JPR’!
They were both part of that famous Welsh team of the 1970s that played amazing rugby and topped the podium in the Northern Hemisphere and they played alongside other ‘greats’ like JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, Steve Feneck, Gareth Edwards and Barry John, plus Delme Thomas, Mervyn Davies and the Pontypool front row amongst the forwards.
JJ’s speed earned him five tries for the British Lions in only seven tests, with four wins and a draw as a result, plus 12 tries for Wales in 31 full internationals, alongside 16 tries in as many games of non-test statues in as many Welsh games.
Throw in the fact that he was a regular Barbarian, scored many tries for Bridgend and then Llanelli, was a sprinter of international standard in the 100 metres, was twice close to being banned by the WRU in a quest for professional rugby – and it certainly was a book that was ideal as a Christmas present for anyone who loved the oval ball game.

A pleasure to meet and chat with him

His popularity was shown by the large number of people, of both sexes and across the age range, who patiently queued for a book and every one was treated with typical charm and interest about whop the book was for.
Prior to the signing I joined him and Marley for the smashing cup of coffee and biscuits supplied to all book signees and we were both impressed by how modest and unassuming he was but what strong views he held about all things relating to Welsh Rugby – and chatted to us for a while until the message came up that he had a long queue waiting for him.
I count myself very lucky to have met such a giant of our game and would simply mourn his passing and send pass our condolences to his family and close friends.

Bill Carne and Nobby Stiles


Very small of stature but Nobby belied his size to become a giant in his football life

When Nobby Stiles visited Pembrokeshire for the first time to speak as guest of honour at a Haverfordwest County Annual Dinner at the old Queen’s Function Centre I was lucky to be asked to be MC and question master.
I had arranged to meet Nobby at The Mariners’ Hotel, where he had rested after the long drive down from Manchester, all on his own,  and although I knew from televised matches that he was on the small side I was totally dumbfounded when this tiny fellow approached me with big glasses that made him look a bit owlish and an even bigger grin.
He outstretched a firm right hand and when I tried telling him how thrilled I was to meet him he would have none of it, asking me about my job and telling me how he was looking forward to the evening but not the long drive back home that night!

A naturally funny speaker – and the audience loved him!

The event was organised by former senior policeman John Daniels, who had heard Nobby speak at a dinner with Carmarthen Town and asked him to come to Haverfordwest County, where John was involved at the time, and he had readily agreed.
There had been a slight hiccup because Nobby had taken ill and his wife phoned John to say her husband was determined to fulfil the obligation and the dinner was held back for a short while.
When we got to the venue a standing ovation seemed to make him smile again and he was brilliant in talking to everyone who wanted to chat to him during the function – and there were plenty of those.
His speech included moving and humorous memories of being one of only two English players to have a winner’s medal in the World and European Cups (alongside Bobby Charlton), plus two league champions’ medals and 28 caps.
I had asked him about the question and answer session and whether any topics were off limits but his answer was typical:

“Let them ask me about anything they want and I’ll answer – but sometimes they might not like what I tell them!”
But everyone loved his talking about very moving times, the good and the bad – and I will never forget that moment when I met Nobby Stiles, one of the genuine characters of British Sport; only 5 feet 6 inches tall but a veritable giant of football before he sadly passed away last week at the age of 78.