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This project is inspired by Derek Thompson whose contribution to WRFC has been so devoted for so long. Thank you Derek.
Having now finished my personal story I am aware of two over riding factors. The one is how being a club member is not a solo role. Everything in a club is team based done with and for others. The other is the size of the club for it is a club of many teams some rugby, some administration, some premises and pitches. The rugby community is a sporting and social structure which sets the highest standards of sporting behaviour. The wider rugby culture with the opposition teams adds to the special connections that make this sport so attractive and even addictive. The History of WRFC is therefore a story of Club Statistics and Personal Stories.
I came to WRFC at Bevere in Autumn 1964 and met the Club Captain Jeremy Richardson and our meeting was featured in the Worcester News - an 18 year old fresh from school and the England Public Schools XV the previous season and now a would be law student meeting an experienced mature fit and fast Club and County player. It was the beginning of a relationship with WRFC which continues.
Over 50 years a WRFC member- Player, Editor, Secretary, President.
I played regularly for the 1st Team at Bevere, including the most successful winning team in the mid 1960s. The regular press reports in Worcester News told the story. It was strange to be ‘the baby of the team’ in the Green Un profile of the 1st XV.
I edited ‘Over The Bar’ (PDF 1.1Mb) in the late 60s with secretarial assistance from Bink Shrimpton and in one editorial berated WCCC for their conduct on the Basil D’Oliveira affair when they refused to endorse his selection for South Africa. This article was mentioned in the Worcester News and earned rebuke from a senior member for bringing politics into sport!
A car crash, a few days after my County trial at aged 20 put a stop to my rugby career. They say another car was on the wrong side of the road. Awaking from unconscious in Worcester Hospital, there was Bill Mercer at the end of my bed. Bless him for such care and loyalty.
Law exams took over and then a journey to Asia.
On my return some five years later, I became Honorary Secretary at Sixways for a couple of years in the mid 70s, between Brian Howells and Bill Best.
As President, I was honoured to follow Derek Thompson (who had already then done 30 years service and now has done another 30 years service) as Club President in the 90s and then to handover to Tony Halford. We had a memorable Festival Week.
During my Presidential year, I created a Committee, we called “Rugby 2000” energised by Roger Jones, to prepare for the future which promoted the Training Shed project and which brought Cecil Duckworth into the Club with extraordinary results.
This Shed project was inspired by the MEB Floodlight Tournament Marquee provided by Roger Murray and a significant factor in the profile and profits of the Sixways season.
The Duckworth factor is a mind bending investment measured in many millions. Worcester never ever had had such generosity and the Duckworth story in his book is worth reading.
WRFC as the Wanderers and the Warriors Trading Company developed their own relationship. My role was supporting their formal documented joint venture. My involvement was also in the Arledge Enquiry into the PRL convened by the RFU at the instigation of Warriors whilst promotion was being thwarted in suspicious circumstances. RFU concluded that one could not contemplate owners of such professional commercial clubs acting other than with the utmost probity, despite evidence to the contrary.
I sat with Cecil on his Board in the early years as he appointed Les Cusworth and Geoff Cooke and Brian Brain. I stayed in touch until in more recent times they agreed to vary their agreement and the new premises for Wanderers opened in 2017.
Now my relationship is merely the observer status yet with one final push to support this History Project and hope that many others will be encouraged to share their family stories.
The abiding theme of my journey with WRFC has been the people with whom I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing that journey some of whom have sadly died and many are so very much older than when we first met and yet some others represent the future of WRFC and its onward evolution in new premises.
I very much miss contemporaries including Bill Mercer, Neville South, Tom Bader, Roger Phillips, James Coomber, John Lumby, Richard Kimberley, Ray Doherty (who knew the words to all the rugby songs), Les Smith, Bill Best, Richard Sutcliffe, Terry Price and Biddy Bidwell all devotees to WRFC and John Jeavons Fellows of Stourbridge RFC and a big rugby friend of WRFC. This long list of good pals is solemn and I apologise for unintended omissions.
Until Pete Richardson revealed some of his assiduous researches on the history of WRFC, for this project, I did not realise how my own family had been involved at the early years at Worcester. The Worcestershire Chronicle for Saturday 19 September 1891 reported on “The Rugby Game to be Revived in Worcester.” Those present included my great uncles Arthur Hobbs and Richard Foley Hobbs.
The Club was to be called the Worcester Rugby Football Club and J. Walker was elected Captain. Others present included W.G. Bennett and W.A. Higgins and three Webb family R and Maurice and W.H. all of whom maybe related to current family members of their name still active in Worcester.
By the following year at a meeting 16 September 1892 one John Stallard was presiding at the AGM and his law firm family continues its presence in the City. R. Stallard and T.G Stallard had been present at the AGM held 1 October 1872 at the beginning of the second season thus establishing some families with long links to WRFC.
The WRFC Families is a theme which resonates with me as I remember from my earliest involvement the influence and efforts for WRFC which were dedicated by such names as Burnham, Clapton, Everton, Poole, Roberts, Shrimpton, Wilkes where the wives were an integral support for the club their husbands and sons enjoyed.
As the years have unfolded so too has the commitment of another generation of families, including Arr, Bader, Cumming, Halford, Harling, James, Jay, Lloyd, Phillips, Powell, Radford, Robins, Thompson, Widdowson, Wootton and many others.
The Rugby Family is made up of many families playing rugby and each brings that special link of friendship of commitment to the common cause of the sport we all relish for its challenges on and off the pitch. Without our rugby experiences our own lives would have missed many adventures and shared stories with our travelling companions.
Those who dedicate their time to the administration of the Club and County and national representation deserve our appreciation and respect and include Colin Major, and friends from other clubs such as Charles Hemming, Ian Beer, John Wilesmith and Peter Grace.
I hope to be able to share more stories of my playing memories in the 1960s including our special mid week fixture against Coventry Nighthawks with Duckham on the pitch and me marking Barton with all of us playing at a level we had not previously experienced.
Perhaps I should recount the fearsome fateful occasion when on Tour to Brixham our own Mick Meadows decided to swim the harbour back to the hotel. Despite warnings of the foul oily waters and the darkness with mooring ropes he could not be persuaded to return to the bus. We never expected to see him again but happily we did and still do.
We would start at The White Hart in Sidbury where the coach took us to the away games; Card playing ‘schools’ on the back seat; Trips to Wales and Risca and Blaenavon and whatever the rugby they won the singing; The coach being stopped by the Police at Inkberrow on the return journey from Stratford when their Stag’s head mascot was mysteriously found on the back seat as all of our players were in the front row.
More recently the news is of the special relationship of Ray Wadley, father of Tony, and uncle of one of our most decorated players Lou. Ray had bought the fields at Bevere. He offered them to WRFC for a rugby pitch and there WRFC played for many seasons. Those fields were then sold and the proceeds bought Sixways. Now Sixways has been sold and WRFC is at Westons. Without the Wadley factor the future of WRFC would have been very different and this generosity requires remembering in some suitable manner.
The 1976 Visit of the Japanese Rugby International Tour Party to Sixways and the gifts from Lea & Perrins nearly caused a diplomatic incident. How abusive and obscene is the “ 2 fl.oz” on an English language bottle to a Japanese reader? We gave them a Dutch language version.
How to remember the Duckworth Benefice whereby the Club and Grounds and Teams were transformed as the Worcester name in rugby became an international success story?
Warriors remains a team born of WRFC and followed with all locals aware of the special status of our City being just one of twelve locations in England with a professional commercial Premier League Rugby Team.
I am privileged that the room from which the families of the Warriors players watch the matches is called The Hallmark Suite. This room was part of the Training Shed complex designed by Ian McConaghy which was financed with Lottery with the closest pivotal involvement of Colin Major and Duckworth funds and opened by Jack Rowell with completion management by members Roger Murray and Michael Robins.
That room will be knocked down one day or the name changed. The Club Honours Board will fade and names become indistinct and the symbols of my having been will vanish.
Yet for my memory of having been part of such a proud selfless dedicated community of sporting heroes focused on rugby interests in my hometown of Worcester and sharing in their personal goodwill, it has been an awesome delight to have been welcomed amidst such worthy people.
I trust you too have the same memories from this game of sporting endeavour of the highest ideals. Thank you for sharing my time with yours. I look forward to reading your stories.
Have your own story to tell?
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