In August 1995, following the World Cup in South Africa, the IRB announced that rugby was open (professionalism was now allowed) and in September 1995, after talks with Sir John Hall, the Chairman of Newcastle United F.C., Newcastle Gosforth effectively became part of his ‘Sporting Club’ dream and Wasps & England fly-half, Rob Andrew became Director of Rugby. A further name change to Newcastle Rugby Club (later Newcastle Falcons) and during that first season it was deemed that Professional and Amateur rugby could not co-exist and the junior (adult) players at Newcastle Gosforth were given notice to quit.
While most members were disappointed and angry with this decision, 2 individuals, in particular, decided to do something about it. Neil Jamieson had recently retired from playing having spent his whole career at Gosforth. A lock forward, he played mainly in the junior sides, captaining the 2nd XV for a number of years. Jonathan Lill started his rugby life in the back row before converting to prop and had represented all the club’s sides from First XV downwards. Still playing, Jonny was not happy to look for another club and, along with Neil, campaigned to have the decision to banish the junior sides overturned. When this failed, they decided on the next best option – form a ‘new’ club!
In 1996, GOSFORTH RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB was founded. Mirroring the events of 119 years earlier, there was a new rugby club playing in green and white hoops. Newcastle Gosforth had literally split in two. A professional club called Newcastle and an amateur club called Gosforth.
In addition to generous sponsorship, finance was sought by offering Founder Membership to those willing to commit £250. The response was overwhelming and a plaque listing 70 Founder Members is displayed in the clubhouse.
Another member of the Smith clan, Simon – son of Johnnie – became the first Chairman with Trevor Hogg as Secretary and Jonathan Storey as Treasurer. Neil Jamieson & Jonathan Lill, the leading protagonists and ‘founders’ of the club joined the committee along with Ian Elvin and Guy Taylor representing the University of Northumbria, who allowed the new club the use of facilities at its Bullocksteads Sports Ground – directly behind Kingston Park – and persuaded students to join to augment the players who had migrated from Newcastle Gosforth. On the playing side, Colin White became the first Chairman of Rugby with Tommy Cleghorn as Coach and Tony Mullarkey as Captain. Graeme Jamieson was mainly responsible for the first year’s fixtures, Tony Elliott became 1st XV Manager with Dave Weaver 2nd XV Manager and Membership Secretary and Ged Allison as 3rd XV Manager, with Christian Short now of Brive and ex-Northampton Saints and Connacht starting his adult rugby in the green and white as a schoolboy.
Gosforth joined the league structure (at the bottom) in Durham & Northumberland Division 4 (level 13) and won the league at the first attempt and achieved a ‘double’ by also winning the Northumberland Senior Shield. Further league championships were won in 1997/98 (D&N 3), 1999/2000 (D&N 2) and 2000/01 (D&N 2), the latter at level 8 after reorganisation of the leagues in 2000. The club struggled in D&N 1 and was relegated in 2003 but regained its place with promotion in 2005/06.
In 2003 125 years of rugby at Gosforth was celebrated and the club took the lead by holding a number of events to mark the occasion. The final event – a 125 Dinner at the Newcastle Civic Centre followed the tradition of the 70th and centenary dinners by hosting players both current and past, wives and friends of Gosforth. We were delighted to have Alan Black and Rob Andrew as our main speakers. In 2007 Gosforth also celebrated its first 10 years in its new format by holding a Dinner Dance at the Holiday Inn.
In 2012-13, Gosforth are playing in Durham & Northumberland Division 1. Just as in 1996, it is an amateur side, with CASC status, based upon the traditional values of rugby union. The aim of the club is to continue to provide rugby at all levels with a strong social backing to bind club members together and to again be recognised as a force in North East rugby – on and off the field.
The 2007/08 season marked a new chapter in the history of Gosforth RFC. Whilst we had an enjoyable 11 years at Bullocksteads, we were able to move to a new ground that has given us the basis to expand rugby-wise and commercially. Dave Thompson, the major shareholder of the Newcastle Falcons, invited Gosforth to be the main player at Druid Park after he took a 25 year lease on the former Blue Star FC ground at the Wheatsheaf in Woolsington beside Newcastle Airport by sub-leasing it to us. Under the guidance of Honorary Life Members Chairman Neil Jamieson, President Mal Stokoe and Past President and Past Chairman John Short who have all had many years of association with Gosforth, these were exciting times for members old and new.
The club travelled to British Columbia in 2010 continuing its tradition of touring which has always been a feature of Gosforth’s history. The “old” Gosforth ventured to Cognac in France, three times to the New York and Boston areas of the USA and also to Canada, Portugal and Italy while the “new” Gosforth have ventured to the west of Ireland, Prague, Amsterdam and Cyprus.
Unfortunately after 7 years of broken promises at Druid Park, Gosforth Rugby Football Club once again found themselves homeless as in August 2014 we were giving notice to leave but thanks to Northumbria University we were once again back playing at Bullockstead Sports Ground for the 2014/15 season. The Following season after a tremendous amount of hard work behind the scenes during the BiG campaign (Back in Gosforth). Gosforth RFC finally secured a new home at Broadway West Playing Fields and after a lot of work renovating the old clubhouse the club have finally planted roots just around the corner where it all began in 1877.
Forth to the Field