My schooldays with that other king of Welsh rugby, the great Keith Jarrett

Jarrett prepares to add to his 19 points against England on his debut

By ROGER WATKINS (Ex Monmouth School 8th XV)

The Barry John obits highlight the goldfish bowl adulation the King received including, it is famously said, a woman curtseying to him outside the Spar in Llanvihangel-ystern-Llewern or wherever. The pressure led to his retirement from the game at the ridiculously early age of 27 after just 25 caps.

I am familiar with this sort of hero worship, of course: I went to school with another Welsh legend, Keith Jarrett. I recall watching him as a first-former running rings around the opposition in a house match. All the more remarkable because the opposing side included Tony Jorden, a future Cambridge double blue who played full back for England (as well as taking more than 100 County Championship wickets for Essex).

Jarrett, of course, was most famous for his debut match for Wales on April 11, 1967 when he was 18 and had just left Monmouth School. He scored 19 points in the rout of England, including a spectacular try having run the length of the Arms Park.

Later, much later, after the post-match celebrations, he went to the bus station only to realise that his last bus to Newport had gone. He found out from a driver just finishing his shift that the next one wasn’t until next morning.

‘Hang on,’ said the driver. ‘Aren’t you Keith Jarrett who has just beaten England single-handed? I’ll get one of the buses and drive you home myself.’ They were just clambering aboard when an inspector demanded to know what was occurring (they really do say that down there). 

He quickly approved when he realised who the Very Important Passenger was. ‘You’d better take a double-decker,’ he advised. ‘Mr Jarrett may want to pop upstairs for a smoke.’

PS: I only met  Barry John once: at an Express drinkathon organised by David Emery, LOTP. Naturally, I mentioned my nebulous link with Jarrett and recalled his fantastic performance (John wasn’t playing: David Watkins was fly half that day). The King soaked up my enthusiastic hiraeth and responded, rather peevishly, I thought: ‘There were other people playing that day, you know.’ Disappointing.

8 February 2024