Have you ever had a look at the old black and white team photographs on the walls of the clubhouse and wondered what it was like to play for Seaford in the very early days? I know I have and that’s what started me trying to put together a history of the club. It is important for all members of the club, particularly newer or younger members to have an idea of how we have progressed since 1938. There are a lot of people who have been members of the club for a lot longer than me so if I’ve got anything wrong do please get in touch with me. I would like to thank Mike Parker and Jim Owlett for sending me archive material and sharing a few of their memories of the early days of the club.
Seaford Rugby Club was first formed in 1938. We played for one season before the onset of the Second World War caused the club to close. It wasn’t a bad start either: after losing the first match 40-0 the club finished with a record of thirteen wins, nine losses and one draw. Believe it or not, Seaford played in blue and white shirts and the pitch was at Kingsmead School.
It was in 1951 that the club re-formed, thanks largely to the efforts of Ron Beal. The club colours were changed to scarlet and the presence of some influential Welshmen got the team off to a good start. Home games were played at Newlands School and the players changed at The Seven Sisters. Not in the bar, not even inside but in the garages with the cold water for the ‘showers’ being supplied via a hosepipe from the garden tap. Few complained as facilities were fairly primitive all over Sussex in those days. It was either Crowborough or East Grinstead which simply had a tin bath outside the clubhouse for washing purposes.
For several years the team used various locations in Seaford but in or around 1956 it came to settle in The Bay Hotel. The home pitch was at Steyne Road, part of the Seaford College grounds, and its playing surface had an excellent reputation. There was only one team and there was often a struggle to get a full side out as the club relied on the availability of service personnel – like Colin Powney for example. By 1965 the club was able to field a Second XV but the plans to build what is now Seaford Head Lower School on the Steyne Road site meant that the hunt was on for a new home. There were plans, which got to quite an advanced stage, for the club to be sited in Bishopstone, close to the cutting, but the existence of a covenant forbidding the sale of alcohol scotched that idea. By the early seventies the club had settled at its present home in the Salts Recreation Ground and the new clubhouse was opened.
It wasn’t just the changing facilities that were rough and ready in those days either. Jim Owlett recalls a Seaford player being sent off for punching the referee in a particularly tough game against Lewes. That would produce a life ban these days. It is interesting to speculate on who did the sending off if the referee was out cold but maybe it wasn’t that hard a punch!
It was Colin Hill who got the first Easter tours off the ground. The very first tour was to Exmouth in 1967. A party of almost thirty made its way westwards but all three games were lost. The star of the tour though was ‘Nigel’, a shop dummy kitted out in full club kit and taken everywhere. The 1969 tour was again westwards, this time to Plymouth, where the team won two and lost one. 1971 saw the first tour to Weston-super-Mare and the two wins and a draw meant that this was the first unbeaten tour. It was clearly a popular place as the 1973 tour was also to Weston which consisted of thirty-seven players and supporters. I have heard several stories about this tour but I am always eager for more detail.
There are certain names that crop up again and again as the shakers and movers of Seaford Rugby Club in its early days: Colin Hill, Bert Goodman, Roger Hayes, Ron Beal and so forth. Without the efforts of these stalwarts we wouldn’t have a club at all. It has been great fun reading about the past and if I have got anything wrong or if you can add some detail, do get in touch. It might be nice to have a ‘chapter’ on the Welsh influences on the club. I await your comments.
London & SE Division » Sussex Spitfire 1
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