Club History

So how did it come into existence ? An often asked question and many incorrect myths have abounded down the years, so it has been something of a joy to piece together the following, hopefully definitive account with particular thanks to Derek Fletcher and Ernie Parker for their assistance.

In late 1961, Elsie Fisher, Warden of the Park Centre put a notice in the local press about a meeting to form a rugby club in Burgess Hill. This had come about after a conversation she had with Derek Fletcher, who at the time was playing at another local club which shall remain nameless.

'Fletch' enlisted the help of John Willis, at the time a Swimming Instructor, who 'volunteered' the Weightlifting Club to play !!

Approximately 20 people attended the first meeting and a committee was elected and BHRFC was founded.

There is some conjecture over the exact date when the first game was played, but it is widely held to be towards the end of the 1961—2 season, probably February 1962. It was away to Hove Yeoman (third team) and was played on the Nevill Playing Fields in Hove. In those days, a try was only worth three points, with the conversion worth another one.

BHRFC were victorious on their first outing, with the score believed to be 28—0. The weight, power and raw physicality of the pack were instrumental in providing ample possession. Centre Geoff Curtis (then P E Master at Oakmeeds) bagged three tries himself, having already played for London Welsh in the morning !!

As well as Fletcher, Willis, Parker and Curtis other members of that first XV included Rodney Debenham, brothers Andy & Paul Fisher, Roger Brown, Robbie York, Peter Shorland and Chris Cann.

The first few matches the club played were in a set of shirts donated by Geoff Curtis which were blue and white hoops. However, at the first Annual General Meeting at the end of that season the proposal was put forward that the club's colours should be 'black and black all over'. Therefore, when the first set of black shirts were purchased each member contributed an extra three shillings per shirt to have a black collar. Hence the 'All Blacks' title was coined, perhaps also in deference to our southern hemisphere cousins……

The first full season was to be 1962—3, and the first home pitch was on Fairfield Recreation Ground with changing 'facilities' at the Park Centre. These were the sinks and a Tin Bath in the boys toilets !!

An interesting and not widely known fact about that pitch was that it was, apparently, 100 yards long on one side, but only 90 yards on the other side !!

Socialising after matches was in an upstairs room at the Kings Head public house. However, that only lasted until a rowdy celebration after one match caused beer to flow down through the floor thereby blowing all the fuses in the pub. After that the Potters Arms and then The Junction Inn became the after match haunts of the club, until a proper clubhouse was opened in 1970 at the club's present HQ, Southway Recreation Ground, Poveys Close.

That first full season saw the fledgling BHRFC lose just three matches all to Sussex University !!

Another 'highlight' of those early years was the visit of Gloucester Civil Service to Burgess Hill on tour. Their particular claim to fame? The consumption of 53 gallons (424 pints) of ale !!

The club's lowest ebb probably came during its first five years or so of existence, when a number of players stopped playing for various reasons. However, Team Secretary at the time, Adrian Goodman, hit on the ingenious idea of getting banned footballers to play rugby to fill in the holes and ensure fixtures were fulfilled and that the club stayed afloat.

Obviously the passing of 40 years has seen a number of changes for Rugby Union as a sport, as well as for Burgess Hill RFC as a club.

Where next?

Chairman CHAIRMAN 1962 - 1968G.M. Gilbert 1968 -1975S.T. Brooks 1975 - 1981B.Pearce 1981 - 1982W.Wit


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