A Brief History of PRFC
The words ‘Quis Nos Separabit!’ (who shall separate us!) embrace the attitude, aspirations and characteristics of our Club and its members. It was fitting, therefore, that Members at the Club AGM adopted this motto three years ago.
PRFC was formed in 1968 by a small group of enthusiasts who saw no reason to travel to Horsham or Worthing. At the forefront of this development were three locally respected members of the community, whose sons played rugby: Dr John Ford - PRFC’s President for 18 years, Alan Mason – Chairman, and Henry Fane – Vice Chairman.
Since that time, the Club has played at the Pulborough recreation ground and became fondly known for the unique slope of its pitch - which provided a modicum of shelter from the excesses of the Sou’Westerlies. That field of play will remain forever entrenched in the memories of Club members and it was with not merely a degree of sadness when we departed.
For many years the Club lacked premises and we were accommodated by The Swan – from which we obtained our symbol -, followed by the Five Bells, the Red Lion, the Black Horse and the Rising Sun public houses.
In 1981, building work commenced on the ‘Sports and Social Club’, situated alongside the Pulborough recreation ground, which became our home until April 2006. The shared clubhouse was never viewed as more than a temporary facility. It was always our desire to become the master of our own house. For this to succeed, it was necessary to raise sufficient funds and find an appropriately sized plot. The limited availability of land and the strict criteria applied to planning have combined to delay such an ambition for some 35 years. The culmination of the energies, efforts and endeavours of those throughout this period resulted in the successful acquisition of the site at Parham in June 2005.
Throughout our existence, we have experienced the fortitudes common to all small, voluntary and amateur associations. Our fortunes have been mixed and often difficult. Since the development of the League system, in 1987, we slowly climbed from the Third Division into the First, only to find ourselves twice demoted into the Second again. There have been notable triumphs, not least the several occasions we have won the Plate to the Sussex Cup. The most memorable, however, was in 2003 when, in a tightly contested fixture, PRFC narrowly beat Crowborough in the second half of extended play. No one, who was there, will ever forget the event or the effort expended by those who secured our victory.
The success of the Club has always depended upon those who provide their time in the interests of the Membership and out of their affection for the sport. This is as true on the field of play as it is in the clubhouse and the homestead, where much time and effort is invested.
In 1984, the late Clive Coulson and Jim North established the ‘Minis’. This proved a remarkable success at a time when mini-rugby was in its infancy both in Sussex and nationally. From a membership of 18 at inception, there were 90 players five years later. In 1987, our Minis won all they contested including the Mini rugby Festival at Worthing. PRFC’s prowess was and remains well known and respected throughout the County and further afield.
In 1993, in celebration of PRFC’s 25 years of existence, Ian Beer, President of the RFU stated: “North America, Scandinavia, France and Czechoslovakia are all recovering from the onslaught of your Senior team and the RFU wonders where your impact will be felt next.” The answer followed in the years ahead: Dublin, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, Atlanta, Glasgow, Ulster, Slovenia, Austria, Malmo, Copenhagen, California, Seattle, Vancouver, Holland and Bordeaux. Encompassed therein, PRFC played official fixtures against three national teams: Sweden in 1993, Slovenia and Austria, both in 1995. One year previously, the writer helped organise what was intended to be a Scots’ business XV fixture against the Irish Dail. The team was sponsored and flown to Dublin and back on 5th March 1994 and included Rupert ‘MacCleaver’, a farm hand who accompanied his employer, Ian ‘MacMarlow’, a Sterlingshire laird. Other dignitaries included James ‘McLarkin’, an SNP councillor for Sterlingshire, Chris ‘MacBrazier’, a whisky distiller, Ed ‘MacRydon’, a Galloway brewer and Jonathon ‘MacScrase’– a Sterlingshire crofter.
The club tour is, of course, one of the great events in the calendar. It is the perfect finish to the season. It cements friendships and encompasses song, sport, entertainment, comradery, new places, people, traditions and some extraordinary, even astonishing, scenes and occurrences. Truly remarkable events have occurred during each of our varied excursions.
No history of our Club is complete without reference to the enormous and distinguished list comprising our Vice Presidents. Longer than any in Sussex, it is the envy of every club and a reflection of the efforts of Henry Fane, John Thompson and especially our present Chairman, who have established it over the years.
Our new clubhouse has encapsulated our inimitable culture, it displays our distinctive memorabilia – which is generally unknown - and is a place where we may generate our own noise and reciprocate the hospitality of those who have entertained us in their premises for too long. Of those, we hold a special affection for our friends at Seaford RFC who still maintain the old traditions associated with the game – many of which are customarily played out in the clubhouse afterwards. The warmth of this relationship has generated its own trophy, ‘The Ashes’, presently in PRFC’s possession.
Those old traditions are vital ingredients in our heritage, history and existence. Comradery off the pitch instils comradery on it, while encouraging friendship, esprit de corps, unity and cohesion. It cements the bond of affection we share for PRFC and it is what sets us apart from Worthing and Horsham, our neighbouring clubs. It explains why, after playing at PRFC for 27 years, this writer intends to continue. Such is our niche and it guarantees our future success. The ability to perform off the pitch, after a game has been lost, is to display the true hallmark of the nobility of this unique sport – which entitles Members of PRFC to state: Quis Nos Separabit!
AJ Moffat – July 2006