A MID Wales footballer earning full international honours for their country today would be a collector’s item – but two Builth boys born in the same year ended up roaring for the Dragons in the late 19th century.

Walter Evans and Edmund Howell were both born in what was to become a spa town in the year 1867, with forward Howell going on to enjoy a prolific, if short-lived, international career. He scored three goals in three caps between 1888-91. Evans, a versatile defender renowned for his tough tackling, also earned three caps – all coming in defeats against England in the British Home Championship from 1890-92.

Howell, the son of Builth solicitor Marmaduke Howell, was one of the early mainstays of the Builth club and the first player from the town to ever be selected to play for Wales. The local paper described him as ‘one of the finest forwards in the district’. Howell was a captain in the South Wales Borderers and took part in the South Africa War of 1900-02, a conflict in which his brother Herbert also served. By 1911 he was living in Oswestry with his young wife and daughter and working as a law clerk. There is some mystery about his subsequent life after 1914. It appears that he returned to South Africa in the early 1920s. By 1940 he was also using the name Edmund Gwynne White and was diamond prospecting in the Transvaal region.

Evans was the son of a butcher and a Builth boy through and through.

In his early days he excelled at rugby, cricket and football. The FAW player assessment of 1891 described Evans as ‘a very good back, tackles unflinchingly and a safe kick – done himself credit’. After starting at Bootle, with whom he made his Wales bow in 1890, he joined Aston Villa that summer and played 61 games over three seasons, which included an FA Cup final appearance. Villa were favourites but lost the 1892 final 3-0 to Midlands rivals West Brom.

Evans duly returned to his hometown in 1893 and continued to turn out for the club until his death in 1897. Upon returning home he became landlord at the Lamb Inn, which still runs today. The public house became the headquarters and changing rooms of the football club. Evans caught a chill while attending a funeral and died within days.