NARBERTH and District Probus Club welcomed one of its own members as guest speaker when it met for its monthly meeting at the Plas Hyfryd Hotel, Narberth recently, Roger Penn. 

Roger was born in Whitland and was educated in the local schools before pursuing a 34 year career in banking. He played rugby for Whitland and Chepstow until an injury at Cleve, Bristol led him onto a role as a referee where he completed 18 years of service – 12 as a Welsh Rugby Listed Referee. 

Early during his retirement in 2012, Roger fulfilled a lifetime ambition by visiting New Zealand, from top to bottom, gathering essential materials for a book. After a wealth of rich rugby conversations with many famous All Blacks including Colin Meades, Brian Lachore and others, in 2013 he wrote the book ‘Three Feathers and a Silver Fern’ in which he graphically describes memorable encounters and incidents of the many All Blacks tours against Wales and Welsh Teams. During the writing of this book he met Welsh icon, JPR Williams and they became lifelong friends as can be seen by JPR’s foreword to Roger’s book. Sadly JPR, one of the greatest players for Wales, recently passed away. 

Roger’s friendship with JPR opened the doors to meeting other great sporting heroes such as Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Chico Hopkins and many others. Roger recalled the infamous incident when the All Blacks were playing Bridgend in 1978 when JPR found himself on the wrong side of a ruck and was viciously stamped upon the face by All Black prop John Ashworth. The injury to JPR’s face required 30 stiches, inserted by JPR’s father, and in spite of losing two pints of blood JPR returned to the field heavily bandaged. Such was the courage of this great player. Under current rules this would have resulted in a red card and indeed, maybe, litigation for gross bodily harm. Not for JPR who has never received an apology from Ashworth or the All Blacks. New Zealand won 17 -6.

Because of first hand information, Roger was able to expand upon many famous incidents, including Andy Haden’s blatant cheating at the lineout against Wales in 1978. Haden and Frank Oliver fell out of the lineout pretending to be pushed. The referee was conned and awarded a penalty to the All Blacks who were losing 12 – 10 at the time. Brian McKechnie kicked the goal thereby winning the game for the All Blacks in the dying minute.

Roger is author of five major titles. His first book, ’Beyond the Call of Duty’, was a biography of his late father the much missed Dr Roger Penn, a man admired and loved by his patients and friends in Whitland and. beyond. This was followed by ‘Dolycwrt’, a history of events in his father’s practice.

Peter Spacey thanked Roger for his excellent talk which was very much enjoyed by the club members present.