Down by the Riverside (page 3)
The result of the round one tie against Roath Road Wesleyans on February 24th 1900 isn't known but it can be assumed that Riverside lost and were unhappy about it. A fortnight later, at an association committee meeting at the Alexandra Hotel in Queen Street in Cardiff, the result was discussed and members resolved 'that Riverside be requested to provide definite statements as to their objections and that players objected to attend the next meeting if required.
It seems that Bart had complained about the eligibility of certain opposition players, but the protest came to nothing. Roath Road Wesleyans were awarded their semi-final tie when Mardy failed to turn up and then went on to beat Trelewis 4-3 to win the cup. Bart's fingers had been burnt by Riverside's baptism of fire. It was to be another three years before he re-entered the club in any competition run by the S.W.&M.F.A. although links with the governing body were maintained from a distance through annual subscriptions and affiliation fees.
Then as now, money was beginning to play a much bigger role in the running of football at all levels. Jack Sandiford, the S.W.&M.F.A.'s first chairman when it was formed in 1890 and still a leading member of the governing body, informed his colleagues that 'professionalism is not only rife in South Wales but rampant!. Meanwhile, Bart and the Riverside committee members were trudging around the touchline at Sophia Gardens with small collecting boxes.
Any donation was gratefully accepted and anything between 15s and £1 on a Saturday afternoon was considered a bonus. Normally, they were lucky to raise 10s (50p in modern-day money). The stooped but unbowed figure of the mustachioed secretary, with a crutch under each arm, became a permanent fixture at Riverside's home games. There were other calls on their spectators' generosity: the S.W.&M.F.A. had invited all clubs to make collections for the relatives of the 'Soldiers and Sailors of the Principality engaged in the Boer War in South Africa.
Bart was indefatigable. He was so committed to Riverside's survival and subsequent success that, when not working for a local printing firm, he would help run the club's headquarters, a disused stable in the back garden of 23 Mark Street in Riverside. Access was gained via a lane off Green Street, just fifty yards from Bart's new home in Coldstream Terrace.
When Cardiff City celebrated their first half-century, the editor of the club handbook recalled how the stable had been converted into Riverside's HQ: The old stalwarts tell of how the boys set to work fitting the place for a clubroom by pulling down the mangers, erecting partitions, the expenditure of much whitewash and the installation of water, gas and a full-sized billiards table - the latter on the monthly payment system - and not one single month did the committee default in their payments to the makers.
In 1910, when Cardiff City became a professional club, all twenty-six members of Riverside A.F.C. were made life members and given four half-sovereign shares each. One of them, Herbert Frew Jones, later recalled the early days of the amateur club:
In the old clubhouse, we had a billiard table and played cards, the boys buying 12 chips for a penny to play games like solo. Bart Wilson used to run a little shop so we could buy sweets. I well remember how the lane behind Green Street became very notorious but our headquarters were all right. I must say at once that it was always Bart who was the prime mover. Cardiff City would never have been Cardiff City if it had not been for Bart. He was a tremendous worker.
As well as running his shop, Bart also used to charge club members 2d a game to use the billiards table - the proceeds going towards buying equipment and kit for the team. The players only had to provide their boots. Like the club, 23 Mark Street, one of a row of terraced houses, is about to enter its second century. Not so the clubroom. It survived the German bombs, but was demolished after the Second World War when owners Les and Daisy Aplin decided that the derelict building was too dangerous for their children to play in.
After their first season of friendlies, Riverside entered the Cardiff and District League in 1900 as, after their Junior Medal Cup experience, Bart seemed to have opted for a period of consolidation. In typical footballing fashion, the club concentrated on the league but did not sever their connections with the S.W.&M.F.A.
According to Charles Axtell's records, a spate of letter-writing in the autumn of 1900 saw Bart first pay a 5s annual subscription on behalf of the Cardiff and District Junior League with which he was now involved. Three days later on October 20th, he applied for the league to be affiliated to the S.W.&M.F.A. and a month later, he was asked to submit a copy of the League's rules.
When Bart eventually complied with the request, the Association confirmed the Riverside affiliation in late December. The following season, Bart paid the C.D.J.L.'s annual subscriptions in September 1901. Then in December 1902, for the first time, he sent Riverside's annual subscriptions to Charles Axtell but still declined to enter any more competitions. At the end of the year, Riverside was one of a number of affiliated clubs in Cardiff - its registered address being recorded as 23 Mark Street.
After two seasons of Cardiff and District League football, Bart was getting restless. It was time to move onwards and hopefully upwards with the next rung on the ladder being the South Wales Amateur League - created in 1894 and containing sides such as Merthyr, Aberdare, Ton Pentre and Treharris. As part of their plan to improve the standard of their teams, Riverside amalgamated with their close rivals, Riverside Albions in 1902. They continued playing in the Cardiff and District League before, in season 1903-04, Bart decided it was time to dip their toes into the choppy waters of knockout football again.
In September 1903, he sent 10s to the S.W.&M.F.A to cover both Riverside's annual subscriptions and the entry fee for the Junior Cup.
The game turned out to be another hiccup on Riverside's controversial journey towards professionalism. They drew 0-0 with Roath but then lost what appears to have been a bad-tempered replay 5-1. At their January meeting, the Association decided to suspend one player from each side 'for conduct as reported by the referee.
In the next round, Roath were drawn against Bargoed Albions and the Association was so concerned about the possibility of bad behaviour that it resolved 'that Roath be cautioned as to any recurrence of their conduct in their last match. The team must not leave the field without permission of the referee.
Later that season, Riverside were hit by another occupational hazard - the unfulfilled fixture. When Llanbradach let them down, Bart complained and the S.W.&M.F.A. decided 'that the explanation by Llanbradach be accepted as satisfactory, as Llanbradach gives the assurance that they will, if possible, offer Riverside a date this season upon the same terms, and, failing that, will do so early next season.