To be named a British & Irish Lion is an honour that has few parallels in sport and, as Barry John remembers, a player not just represents himself but his community.
According to The British & Irish Lions miscellany, when John was called up for the 1968 Lions to South Africa, his home village of Cefneithin reacted as if they had all been invited on tour with him.
The fly-half would go on to be one of the most celebrated Lions of all time – the zenith of his career coming in 1971 as he helped guide the tourists to their only series success over New Zealand to date.
But he would never forget the stunning display of joy and camaraderie back home after the big announcement ahead of his first tour.
“By the time I got back to the local pub, the Dynevor Lodge, that Saturday night, I found the locals had collected £700 for me!,” said John. “Even a Mini car in those days only cost £820. You could buy a house for £3,000.
“They were so proud that one of their own was to represent the Lions and wanted to make sure that if I wanted a new shirt, food or to have some laundry done, I had the money for that. I was a teacher at the time and they knew I was broke – like most teachers were then.
“Dear old Millie, who ran the pub, put a huge bottle on the bar and wouldn’t even give anyone a drink until they had contributed. It was incredibly touching.
“By the time I was selected for the tour to New Zealand three years on, I was fully settled in Cardiff. But even then the villagers collected another £300 for me.
“It was almost as if they wouldn’t believe I had left the area for Cardiff. Oh, he’ll be back shortly, they were almost saying.”
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