Many of our younger members may not have heard of Chris Miller, who sadly died last month of dementure at the age of 74. Yet he was a critical force in raising the profile of Harbury RFC in his role of an outstanding player during his nine seasons with the Club between 1971 and 1980.
However, his arrival owes much to Bill Clarke (a former player, fixture secretary and treasurer between the late 1960’s and 1980’s). Bill had met Chris at London University, where they both studied Estate Management in the 1960’s. They became close friends and in 1970 Chris moved to Redditch Development Corporation where Bill was already working. Chris originally had plans to play local rugby at Pershore having played First Class Rugby at Broughton Park and Glamorgan Wanderers. However, Bill was persuasive and successfully managed Chris to join Harbury.
All the Club had that time was a lease on the playing fields in the village for a rugby pitch and an agreement to use the facility twice a week (Training on Wednesday and Match Days on Saturday). Only one side turned out, although the tide was beginning to change and when Chris arrived two teams had been formed. The Club had had a chequered evolution from its foundation in 1962 by Glen Hales as Whitnash RFC before finding a home in Harbury in the late 1960s. The Headquarters was at the Crown PH in the village, where it remained until 1979, before moving to its present home,
Chris was apparently a little reluctant to start playing but his first match away to Evesham 2s was a great success with an 83-0 victory and the number 8, Ian Winchester, scoring six tries* (still a Club record). The conversions and penalties were added by one Chris Miller. (It should be remembered that a try was then worth 4 points). During that season playing at stand off or centre Chris scored 36 tries and kicked 53 conversions and penalties that season with the 1stXV winning 24 matches from 34 fixtures. (* Ian Winch also scored 27 tries that season!).
The `Redditch Connection’ was formed and each week Chris Mercer, Mike Gentles, Alistair Grindley, and later John Dewar travelled across to make Harbury a potent side in South Warwickshire. This was added to by John Shurvinton, a former England U19 International and Northampton Saints player, who at the age of 38 was a very useful player coach. He complemented Miller very well and added to a strong back line.
Chris who was Club Captain for a couple of seasons was a hugely talented player not only in the back line but also as a flanker and number eight in the forwards. He would have thrived in league rugby, though these did not emerge until the late 1980’s.
Chris effectively retired at the start of the 1979-80 season when the Club moved to Middle Road. Sadly he was very rarely seen after that working as he did across the UK and Hon Kong. He leaves a wife Eileen and two daughters and to them we extend our deep sympathies.
At Harbury Rugby Football Club Chris Miller’s hugely significant contribution to the Club’s development is something that will never be forgotten. A very fine player and a great guy, he will be missed - a sad loss.
Updated 08:19 - 15 Oct 2018 by Darren Nicholls