George BootsJohn George Boots was born on 02 July 1874 at Aberbeeg, Monmouthshire and was one of the eleven children of David and Harriett Boots who hailed from Lyneham in Oxfordshire. George was educated at Aberbeeg school and in 1890 played alongside his bothers Ernest and Joseph for Aberbeeg RFC as a centre-threequarter.
Boots signed for Newport and joined during the 1994-95 season but had to come up through the thirds and seconds before making his home debut for the first XV in October 1895. Amazingly George's last appearance for the firsts was against Pill Harriers in April 1922, 26 years and 181 day's later at the age of 47 years and 309 days a record for the club that is unlikely to be broken. Boots had moved from the back line to the forwards early in his Newport career and journalist W. J. T. Collins described him thus "As a great wing forward, from first to last he had in mind the advantage of the team, not his own reputation. At a time when wing forward play was regarded with suspicion he deliberately ran the risk of being marked down as a winger.. He generally played on the skirt of the scrum, but always watched the scrum, and he was always quickly away. He always looked for where the opposing attack could be broken, and his clever footwork and his deadly tackling were often of notable value to his side".
Boots was vice captain of the firsts for five years before he succeeded George Llewellyn-Lloyd as captain in 1903-1904. Unfortunately Pneumonia, severe Pleurisy and an injured ankle meant his role as captain was but a brief one.
In his first season of regular first team rugby at Newport, Boots was selected for Wales and played in the next six seasons, sixteen matches in all.
When war broke out in 1914 George took Newport fifteen's all over Monmouthshire to raise money for the Belgian Refugees Fund. In 1915-16 he played for Cross Keys who won the the Western Valleys Challenge Cup, and in 1918-19 he captained Pill Harriers to an invincible season in charity matches.
The total appearances in all games played by George Boots in his incredible 27 year career which, started at Aberbeeg and spanned Newport thirds, seconds and firsts, Cross Keys, Pill Harriers, London Welsh, Blackheath, Monmouthshire League, Monmouthshire, Wales and the numerous Newport fifteen's he captained in charity matches all over Wales and the West Country may never be known.
Off the field George played cricket for Newport seconds, and for several years acted as umpire for Newport firsts. While he was also on the list of second-class umpires for the M.C.C. For many years he was on the committee of the Monmouthshire County Cricket Club, and also acted as scorer for them.
During the Great War his work in helping the wounded who were treated at Newport's Hospitals endeared him to the hearts of Newport people, although he was in great demand from his insurance business George devoted every hour possible in aiding the troops, arranging concert parties and welfare funds.
George personally used his own money and time to take parties to the newly opened (1915) Third Western General Hospital at Wooloston House, Brynglas and the Barracks Hospital. He also took concert parties all over Monmouthshire to raise money for the wounded. Post war he carried on doing the same to raise money for war widows and their families.
George was a staunch Liberal and was elected to the town council in 1922 and represented the Victoria ward, he was also chairman of the Newport lodge of the loyal order of Moose.
George had married Louisa Sheppherd in June 1897, and passed away at the age of 54 at the Royal Gwent Hospital on 30 December 1928 following an operation to cure a serious illness.
George's great friend W. J. T. Collins of the South Wales Argus wrote the following obituary - "So another of the company of great footballers, and this close and dear friend, has played his last game and left the field".
George Boots was one of the finest forwards who represented Newport and Wales. But he was more than that - he was a fine citizen with a great sense of social service, a good fiend and a real philanthropist. "For we reckon the love of mankind, not by money value of a man's benefactors, but by the quality and spirit of service". And George Boots might have said "Write me as one who loves his fellow men".
Within the limits of his means and opportunities he was generous in gifts and services, he loved to do things for people. And he especially loved to do them for the weakest and most helpless. Into the lives of poor children, to the blind, crippled, the wounded and the inmates of the poor-law institutions and mental Hospitals, he helped to bring music and humour. He had a wise head, a kind heart, a persuasive way which enlisted help for his beneficent schemes, and he gave readily of his own time and ability in the organisation of entertainment's and transport to the entertainers.
He was a good friend and a wise councillor to young footballers, and to others also. He was a man of fine ideals - sane, balanced, tolerant, clear-seeing; and his capacity for public affairs, already proved, would have been of growing value to the county borough, had not his early death cut short his career as a town councillor. Near and far he was known, respected and admired for his varied qualities, gifts and attainments; and his death will be widely mourned,
An enormous gathering of mourners paid their last respects to George Boots, the cortege left his home at Lynmouth House, Chepstow Road, to the service in St. Mary's Baptist Church. Such were the numbers, St. Mary's was unable to hold the attendance, and the majority had to stand outside the church while the service was being read. Many former Newport players attended the service and hundreds represented his business and charity organisations.
George BootsGeorge's finest performance for Wales came in the 1903 defeat of Ireland.
Wales Appearances (16)
Ireland - 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903.
England - 1898, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904.
Scotland - 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903.
Scored - 1 try
Points - 3
Debut - Guys & St. Thomas Hospital (Home) 28.10.1895
Last Game - Pill Harriers (Home) 27.04.1922
First Try - Moseley (Home) 16.10.1897
Last Try - Tredegar (Away) 21.04. 1913
Captain - 1903-04
Appearances - 365
Tries - 53
Conversions - 22
Points - 203
250th Appearance - South Africa (Home) 27.10.1906
Following Newport's 3-3 draw with Cardiff at the Arms Park on Saturday 02 March 1912, the Cardiff Club threw a Jubilee Dinner at the Queens Hall, Cardiff in honour of George Boots 50th game against the blue and blacks. Cardiff captain Louis Dyke toasted George's honour, and the Cardiff committee and club drank to his health. Later a check of the records found that in fact it was only his 48th appearance against their old rivals. The game was to be George's last game against them for the first team.
George BootsGeorge Boots was inducted into the Newport RFC Hall of Fame on 03 March 2017.
References on George Boots - Rugby Recollections (1948) by J W T Collins