ardiff Harlequins Rugby Football Club owes its existence – in part, at least – to a very early example of student power. Despite the fact that rugby has always been the National Game of Wales, for many years Cardiff High School (one of the country’s leading schools) played football. As a result of unrelenting pressure from the students, the school authorities agreed to adopt rugby as the main winter sport in 1921. At the end of the 1921/22 season, the first-ever Old Boys team took the field in a fixture with the school first XV. Such was the success of the match that it was decided to form an official Old Boys club, which then played a full programme of fixtures for two seasons. However, the loss of its playing fields led to this first club folding.
The switch to rugby at Cardiff High proved to be very fortuitous for the game in Wales as, very quickly, the school began to produce a crop of outstanding players. Three Old Boys – John Roberts (1927-29), Bill Roberts (1929) and Harry Bowcott (1929-33) went on to play for Wales whilst the school developed into a highly productive nursery for the famous Cardiff Club.
With the school playing with such distinction during the 1920′s, fresh attempts were regularly made in this period to revive the Old Boys club. A new ground was eventually found in 1928, and so in April of that year, the club was officially reformed. It is unlikely that any rugby club has had such a prestigious start to life, as the club’s first ever fixture was played on the Cardiff Arms Park against Cardiff RFC. With the exception of the war years, the club can proudly boast of a continuous record of over 85 years of rugby football.
In 1962, a long-standing ambition was achieved when the Old Boys became one of the few clubs in Wales to own its own ground outright. With assistance from the Welsh Rugby Union, the Old Boys acquired the freehold of an eight-acre site originally owned by the Melingriffith Tinplate Company. Known then as the Elyn Ground, it had been home to the Melingriffith Sports Club which had disbanded following the closure of the tinplate works in 1957. The ground was renamed in honour of George Clifford Diamond, who had been headmaster at the High School from 1934 to 1966. Fittingly, he kicked off the celebratory match between the Old Boys and Cardiff RFC.
For many years, membership of the club was restricted to old boys of the school and despite this, the club was always able to compete well with teams throughout Wales. However, it was decided to open membership to all-comers in 1966.
During the 1970s, to accommodate the growing playing membership, Cardiff High School Old Boys RFC took a long lease from Cardiff Council on the former Forest Farm land which adjoins the northern boundary of the Diamond Ground, allowing the creation of a third pitch.
With the advent of the first official leagues in Wales in the early 1990′s, the late Vernon Pugh QC, an old boys player and coach of distinction (who also became the first independent chairman of the International Rugby Board) led the re-branding of the club to Cardiff Harlequins RFC.
The club enjoyed a period of outstanding success, finishing third in National Division 4 and reaching the last 8 of the Welsh Cup in two successive seasons. Afterwards, the club entered into a period of decline, the lowest point being a two and a half year stretch without a league victory. However, the win came in the 2000-2001 season and the following year brought promotion. More recently, the 2011-12 season culminated in Cardiff Harlequins being crowned SWALEC League Division 4 East Champions, gaining promotion to Division 3 South East in the process.
Many former players have gone on to play for senior clubs such as Cardiff, Newport, Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Several have played for Wales, including Cecil Davies (1931), W E N Davies (1939), Sid Judd (1953-1955) and Merion Roberts (1960-1963). Centre Roberts, later to captain Cardiff, was unique in that he gained a Wales trial while still with the Old Boys. He went on to make his Wales debut against South Africa in 1960 and played in the Barbarians side that beat the tourists 6-0 at the Arms Park.
Brian Skirrow, Billy Thorn, Tony Pender, Chris Jenkins and Mike Baker were among those to win younger age caps for Wales with Russ Jenkins taking almost every job from skipper to coach and president, while David Parry-Jones often led the side and became a renowned commentator, journalist and author. Tony Pender played against the 1963 All Blacks and Paul Copus scored a brilliant try against the 1957 Wallabies, while the late Alan Barter had a magnificent Varsity Match for the Light Blues.