Children boxing in Tiger Bay
Children boxing in Tiger Bay

New project celebrates Wales’ forgotten sporting icons

(Image credit: Tiger Bay and the World)

Tiger Bay and the World is searching for new stories to add to its archive collection

A TIGER Bay heritage organisation has unveiled a new project which it hopes will revive the history of Wales’ forgotten sporting icons.

Tiger Bay and the World is looking through its collection at Glamorgan Archives and searching for people with connections to diverse Welsh sporting history to come forward so their stories can be added to the collection.

“We have a lot of icons who were not celebrated, particularly female athletes and the LGBTQ+ community, so we are looking into our collection so we can give them their flowers today,” said Jessica Dunrod, community engagement officer for Tiger Bay and the World.

The scope of the Forgotten Sporting Icons project spans Wales but many of the sporting icons remembered grew up in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay docklands, including rugby league star Billy Boston, and boxers Pat Thomas and Joe Erskine.

Joe Erskine, Tiger Bay boxing legend Credit: Tiger Bay and the World

“Our train lines entered at the docks and they went all the way through the Rhondda valleys! So we are looking to celebrate not just Cardiff Bay sporting heroes but then those forgotten heroes from across Wales in general,” said Ms Dunrod, who is also Wales’ first black children’s book author.

“If you are from Merthyr or if you are from North Wales then you are a part of our history and it’s a long time coming that some of these people get the recognition that they deserve.”

Ms Dunrod has a personal connection to Tiger Bay’s sporting history through her father, Charlie Dunrod, who grew up in Tiger Bay.

“My dad was a former Welsh champion in boxing so I am looking forward to seeing his picture come up. He was trained by the father of one of our trustees.”

Many of the 150 volunteers at Tiger Bay and the World also have a personal connection to the Tiger Bay area.

Sabri Ali, a volunteer and spoken word artist who grew up in Cardiff Bay, said: “I am working on my family tree at the moment. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

Other volunteers, such as Carmen Hjermstad, a masters student from Canada studying at Cardiff University, are interested in working in the heritage sector in the future.

“I saw a post go up for volunteers — I really like that it is something grassroots.”

The project is also looking to commemorate the cultural history of sport in Wales, and how it shaped communities.

“Boxing wasn’t just a sport. In the boxing booths [in Tiger Bay] you could go and make your weekend’s money. You have a few fights and that is going to pay for your drinking or your food for the next week.

Boxing wasn’t just a sport… it was a way of life

Jessica Dunrod, Tiger Bay and the World

“So it was a way of life and a way to earn a wage outside your conventional work. And if they had no work at all that might have been their only way to access funds. So we are looking at not only our forgotten icons but also how sport shaped our people,” said Ms Dunrod.

Jessica’s first book, about Billy Boston, is due out in March. It tells the story of the former rugby league star who was denied a place on the Wales national team was much later honoured in the Codebreakers Statue installed in Cardiff Bay in 2023.

Children boxing with the Rainbow Club in Tiger Bay Credit: Tiger Bay and the World

Tiger Bay and the World is also committed to recording contemporary Welsh sporting culture. It recently worked on collecting oral histories from football fans about their experiences watching Cardiff City games.

It collaborates with Cardiff Story Museum to train its volunteers in conducting oral history interviews, and also hosts archive training at Glamorgan Archives.

Tiger Bay and the World also hosts in-person events and searches on social media in the hopes of identifying unidentified subjects in its collection.

  • The Forgotten Sporting Icons project is funded by the National Lottery Art and Heritage fund.