Northampton Casuals RFC

Northampton Casuals RFC

Some Musings & Memories by "Old Whacker'

With a bit of History attached!

Northampton Casuals Rugby Football Club founded 1922

When William Webb Ellis picked up the ball at Rugby School in 1823 I am sure that he had not the faintest idea that his actions that day would leave such a legacy or create such a distinctive and truly English Game that would spread to the four quarters of the Globe immortalising both Rugby School & Rugby Town.

Pupils on leaving Rugby School naturally dispersed across the face of England Scotland and Wales and by the turn of the 20th Century every large town and many smaller towns boasted at least one local Rugby Football Club.

For example, Northampton "Saints' were formed in 1880 and records prove their name is actually "Northampton Football Club' as they preceded Northampton Town "Cobblers' Association Football Club. "The Saints' originated from humble beginnings as "Northampton Saint James Rugby Football Club' when Reverend Samuel Wigg Curate of St James Church formed a rugby team from local lads with the intention of keeping the high spirited youth of the area off the streets and provide them with a form of discipline.

By the early 1900's there were several local Clubs formed, each playing regular matches against each other such as the Unity RFC - Long Buckby RFC - Olney RFC - Kingsthorpe RFC etc. some of these clubs are no longer in existence.

In a similar fashion to the "Saints' ~ The team that were later to be renamed The Casuals RFC was started by a group of young men who were members of a bible class, which congregated at St Paul's Church Rooms Kingsthorpe in the early 1920's. They called themselves "St Paul's Rugby Football Club' and their original strip was white jerseys with blue knickers', the first new Rugby Ball the team ever owned was donated by the Vicar of St Paul's who saw in this group, the makings of fine young men such as J. Searle - Tom Jefferies - Arthur Wilson Senior. These young men knew very little about the game, but were only too keen to watch the Saints and interpret the game for themselves.

At the start of the 1922 season, minutes of a meeting held at the "Foresters Arms' record that the 17 Club members who were in attendance voted in favour of the name of the Club being changed to "Casuals Rugby Football Club' with a change in strip of a Black shirt with Amber circlet and Blue knickers. In truth Casuals RFC was formed by a group of young men generally from the Kingsthorpe area who were out of work - on the dole, with nothing much to occupy their time apart from kicking an old Rugby Ball which had been salvaged from a dust bin and repaired sufficiently well to be used to kick about on the parks of Northampton.

So this was the formation and birth of the Casuals RFC ~ But unknown to the committee, about the same time in 1922 another Casuals RFC was formed in Nottingham and in order to differentiate the two clubs their names were changed to become - Northampton Casuals RFC and Nottingham Casuals RFC both clubs have steadily progressed & now play at similar league levels.

There are of course, so many happy memories associated with the old days of the Club - such as new player's initiation - this happened unexpectedly to the new boy - or man, as we walked back to our H.Q. The Cock Hotel from the pitch at Kingsthorpe Recreation Ground often carrying either the posts - flags -balls etc. - In the late 1940's early1950's there used to be an operational but quite ornamental cast iron Horse Trough sited on the main Kingsthorpe Road, and in the winter it was invariable iced over - the initiation of course was to physically dunk the new boy in the horse trough to welcome him as a member of the club, he had then to walk the rest of the way to the Cock Hotel before he could strip & bath. Actions such as this built a tremendous camaraderie within the players. I just wonder what "Elf & Safety' would say about that practice now?

Our Changing Rooms at the Cock Hotel consisted of the large room at the back of the Hotel and our bathing facilities were large tin baths in the Gents toilets - not the most hygienic of facilities but luxurious to some clubs. This arrangement proved O.K. for most of the time, but there were naturally occasions when other activities were going on at the Cock Hotel.

I recall one such Saturday afternoon when Ration Books were being issued for the Kingsthorpe Area. The two XV's had played their game and players were in the baths when a couple of local elderly ladies happened to look inside the Gents Toilets and viewed about 12 to 15 well rounded fit young & completely nude male bodies : The first Old girl turned to the other and in real Northampton dialect said,

"Good God Ethel l "avent seen so much tripe & onions since before rationing!! And promptly said to one red cheeked young player "Any chance of me getting some "off Coupon' mi duck"? They went on their way chuckling to each other - I think that perhaps we had made two old girls relive some happy memories?

Northampton Casuals RFC have continued to build on the firm foundations laid by those founding fathers some 88 years ago, and in so doing have generated a very strong Northampton Club with Clubhouse & Grounds the envy of many a Community Club throughout the world.

They have been very fortunate and benefited for all these years from strong membership and far seeing Trustees & General Committees who have given freely of their time to improve the fortunes of the club. And, what a super job these volunteers have done and thankfully continue to do!

I will always maintain that the strength of any club is not the team that turns out on any Saturday who's strength can vary from season to season or even match to match ~ but the quality of the Committees and Executives who ensure that the Club is being managed in a correct & proper manner ~ The Honest & True Volunteers.

Perhaps the most notable step in the progress of the Club was witnessed on July 21st 1961 ~ the day the majority of the Club first saw Rushmills House. It was in a sorry state with gardens overgrown, once perfect tennis courts potted with weeds. Inside looked little better, dust dirt and grime everywhere - but - to those with open eyes, what a potential it presented. After many meetings the overwhelming feeling was, that despite it's run down appearance, "With dedication and hard work we could make it our Home'.

From that 21st July 1961 the Club Spirit became alive with endeavour and a happy willingness to take part in whatever activity was needed to acquire this property, collecting jumble then raising cash from jumble sales, what fun we all had.

The Club was also strongly supported from East Midlands R.U and the Rugby Union who were extremely interested in our project the grandeur of which had not been experienced before by a "Junior Rugby Club'.

I personally think they wanted to see how successfully we managed our assets.

Gentlemen such as Peter Palmer, East Midlands Representative to the RFU. ~ Jack Searle, East Midlands R.U. Secretary. And that wonderful benefactor to Rugby Football, Lord Wakefield of Kendal RFU, who commented when the RFU loan was announced, that he was only too pleased to "Give the old boat a shove after so much hard work had been put in by the members of the Casuals" This RFU loan when combined with our own fund raising efforts, enabled us to commit to purchase.

Once we had signed all the documents, the signal was given to all the working parties to start on their designated projects with so many Club members and friends working so hard both inside and out, to decorate - clear the undergrowth and prepare for the official opening of the new Casuals RFC headquarters at Rushmills.

This memorable event took place on October 9th 1962 when we received Cyril Gadney MBE President of the Rugby Union who ceremoniously "turned the key in the lock' to open the Rushmills House as "The Future Home of Northampton Casuals RFC.'

Even back then, the importance of the youth in Rugby was being realised and the honour of handing the key to Cyril Gadney was entrusted to Neil Haynes who was at that time Captain of our Colts XV.

Since that time the genuine awareness to Rugby Clubs throughout the country of the importance of running and supporting the Mini & Junior / youth players is appreciated by most forward thinking Rugby Clubs and with the co operation and backing of the Rugby Football Union, Mini & Junior / Youth infrastructure has now become more organised with these young players now forming the nursery from which future Club members emerge.

It is with the greatest respect I thank & congratulate all those Club Members and parents who do so much for the future of our Club and indeed Rugby in general by their activities in the management of Mini Junior / Youth activities.

I know its hard work but at the same time it is great fun. May I ask you all, please continue to offer your services to help keep these splendid young players at the Casuals.

Whenever I visit Rushmills, memories flood back to those early days in the purchasing process for Rushmills House, - the heartaches - the worries over finance - the worries over asking each Trustee to stand surety for the Club (severally & conjointly), asking the Trustees to commit themselves to re-mortgage their own property should things go wrong (a major commitment in those days) and something, quite correctly some were not prepared to do.

But now, as I stand and look out on the superb pitches, the quality of the Clubhouse - then at the general outlook and overview. I must admit I am filled with utter pride and heartily congratulate the successive Trustees and Committees who have never let the Club down - have nursed, maintained and steadily improved the standard in every respect of my "mother club' Northampton Casuals RFC.

They have fully justified the judgement, commitment & investment made by the Casuals Trustees in 1962 to the club and Rugby Football in Northampton.

Now it is time to start planning for the future by identifying the prime objectives for the Club:-

Asking Questions - such as:

Have we in place a C.D.P. Club Development Plan to indicate where we should be next year & years to come.

Where do we want to sit and be sustainable in the league structure?

What do we need to do to achieve this?

What structural & ground investment is needed in the Club and how do we propose to achieve this?

Player strength, what & who is available to improve and sustaining our playing standards?

Have we the coaching infrastructure to take new players and coach them in the skills required to be capable of playing in the higher leagues?

Have we analysed our player & Volunteer recruitment process, what is required to recruit new players of the right calibre?

How can we recruit more players?

Once having identified the Clubs objectives, may I suggest you discuss these with both the East Midlands Rugby Union and RFU / RDO's they are all in post to offer guidance & help.

However, in all our thoughts about the Club, my plea to you all is:-

"You must Play to Win'

~ BUT ~

Always bear in mind that the game of Rugby Football at Community level is all about enjoyment.!!

I address that comment equally to players and match officials (referees) & spectators ~ please all of you ~ please continue to enjoy your Rugby Football and the wonderful hospitality - ever present - at The Northampton Casuals RFC

Derek Watkins

Club Member since 1946

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