P.Moloney - Captain 1959/60 and 1962/63
SOME MEMORIES OF SEFTON R.U.F.C. by Peter Moloney.
Memories of people and events recalled from more than half a century ago are necessarily blurred and confused, but some remain vivid. Here are a few to add to the fond litanies of all the other nostalgic Seftonians.
I first played for Sefton in the late '40s when my brothers and I were home on holiday from school. In those post-war years the club was re-building, literally, on the reconstituted ex-army anti-aircraft battery site, and by recruiting new players. Some of the new recruits were army personnel from the Deysbrook barracks, at the rear of the club grounds. Some were still schoolboys, while many were teachers, continuing the pre-war tradition in the club which had no direct school affiliation, it was never an 'Old Boys' club but had many teachers on the playing and administrative and coaching staff.
Over the following decades, recruitment was boosted from undergraduates at Liverpool University, including me, and trainee teachers, such as those from Hopwood Hall teacher training college in Middleton, Manchester, including two of my brothers, Michael and Tony. Included among the Hopwood players were some of the DeLa Salle Brothers who were on the teaching staff. This occasionally had unexpected consequences, as on one of the occasions when Dixie Raynor was sent off. When the referee joined the players in the bar, half-an-hour after the game, he was confronted by a very irate Dixie proudly sporting a 'borrowed' dog-collar and clerical stock under his unruly beard. Dixie greeted the ref with a torrent of very unclerical Saxon expletives, followed by gales of laughter and drinks-all-round.
In the early fifties I was elected Captain, but my captaincy was sporadic because I was also playing for the University. I suspect that I was tolerated so that Sefton could claim to have had the only tee-total captain in the whole of Rugby Union. Only with hindsight have I come to learn just how much time and organisation went into the club from stalwart members of the Committee, especially Chairmen and Secretaries. Legendary figures like Barney Wall and Jack Moore, and Crocky Croxford seldom got the thanks they deserved. As Barney once said at a players' meeting: "We are the back-bone of the club. You are a little lower down!"
These founder-rejuvenators of the club were gradually reinforced and eventually replaced by player-committee-men and ex-players like Jim Alexander and Tom Daley.
Outstanding memories of those years include Easter tours, one of which, in Ireland, was a joint tour with Liverpool University. My favourite story from that tour is of the 'Bridge Card School' which
operated in hotels, on coaches and trains, and even in clubhouses as the bridge fanatics honed their skills. The climax came, so the story goes, when some players went to confession in a Dublin Church on Good Friday. One of the bridge school was Bernard Wright, superb full-back of New Brighton fame, the end of whose confession dialogue was overheard as follows: Priest: "Three Hail Mary's." Bernard: "Four no trumps." Like most good rugby stories, it may be apocryphal, but Bernard has often heard me tell the tale since at his legal gatherings, so far without protest or denial. My fondest Easter-Tour memory is of one to the South of England, which included a stopover in London. In those days, Lyons Corner House advertised: 'As much as you can eat for a pounds.' This, of course, amounted to a direct challenge to any self-respecting rugby club in strict training. I still have pangs as I recall laughing helplessly into the tear-stained face of the Manager as he begged me, after an hour or so: "Please, ask them all to go away."
There were Moloney brothers in the first fifteen throughout the fifties and into the sixties. There were also Moloney sisters and girlfriends on the 'refreshment staff' for home games. I don't think that the five brothers ever appeared in the first team together, but three of us certainly did. I played in the three-quarters alongside Tony and Michael until Tony went off to Canada. Terry played occasionally with
Michael and Brendan while I was away at University, or being a Trappist novice at Nunraw in Scotland, or doing an extended National Service with the Parachute Regiment in Cyprus, Egypt and Jordan. (A propos the newspaper piece 'The Monk in the Red Beret' a caricaturist of the time portrayed it as per the attached portrait. The reality was as per the 'On Active Service' photo) As a regular first-team scrum-half, I enjoyed the back-up of Michael at full-back and the protection of Brendan at prop-forward all during the late fifties and early sixties. After my rugby days ended, I mixed a media career with teaching. My newspaper articles often featured nostalgic stories of Sefton RUFC, as did my three semi-autobiographical books: 'A Plea for Mersey' published by Gallery Press in 1966, Football Mad, also published by Gallery Press, in 1968,and Tales You Win, published by Countywise Press in 2001.
For a good example of journalistic Seftoniana see the piece on the requiem mass for Jim Alexander which celebrated all aspects of his life, including his family, career and long service to Sefton R.U.F.C. as player, coach, selector, chairman, etc, etc.
Football Mad is actually a jaundiced rugby player's analysis of the quirks, liturgies and general incunabula associated with Association Football. To get a flavour of the text, complete the following sentence: "If God had intended man to play with a round ball.. "
A frequently re-hashed story from Plea for Mersey is a true account of the most perilous moment in Dixie Raynor's long engagement to be married. With many week-end players, home games posed no great problems, but away matches put severe strain on the relationships of engaged or newly-wed couples. Dixie was renowned for stopping the return coach at any one of a series of hostelries and calling for 'hush' as he rang his fiancÃ©e to explain why he was unfortunately 'held-up' and therefore would not be able to keep their date for that evening. On the day in question, the chosen pub was half-way between Wigan and Liverpool on the East-Lancs Road. The lounge-bar was eventually shushed into silence as Dixie made his phone-call. Surpassing himself in imagination and pathos he moaned gently: "I'm terribly sorry, dear, but I won't be able to make it tonight. In fact I've broken my leg and am ringing you from Wigan Infirmary." At that dramatic moment the bar door swung open and Dixie's fellow prop staggered in with a tray of pint glasses and a loud shout of "What are you having, Dixie?" With a mournful cry, Dixie groaned: "Gas, I think Doctor." And hung up.
In Tales You Win there are vestigial traces to be found of both the club and the code. Since my brothers and I sired only girls, the line, if not the line-out, has ceased to grace the West Derby turf. As the following extract shows, our youngest daughter did actually play rugby at Oxford. She claims she "got a Black-and-Blue".
BEYOND THE PONY-TAIL.
When our girls were away at university, I used to send each of them a weekly letter. They responded with a phone-call to their mother, who would pass on to me the 'edited high-lights' for the following week's epistle.
The letters always contained an old family joke, like: "De disgustibus non est disputandum"; followed by some pastoral guidance, such as: "I have always believed that Saint Paul's advice that 'It is better to marry than to burn with passion' is roughly equivalent to advising someone nervous in the handling of dynamite to get a job in a quarry"; and then an encouraging pious platitude or two, like: "A wise old Novice Master, discussing the calibre of postulants once confided: 'Don't send me fellows who've never been knocked down; send me fellows who know how to keep getting up again." Then would come some personal flattery, in the manner of W.S. Gilbert's famous dictum: "You've no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself ... and how little I deserve it." The letters would end with a litany of endearments, warnings and family or neighbourhood gossip.
Of those hundreds of letters, the only ones they still remember are the ones they got the week that I put the letters in the wrong envelopes. They were all up at Oxford at the time, though in four different colleges, and they presumed that I sent the same letter to each of them, copied four times. Consequently, that was the week when 'Chacun a sa Chacune' joined the family cracker-joke repertoire alongside 'Quatorze the Fifteenth.' Of their many telephone calls, their Mummy now only remembers one. She had never really understood rugby football, and certainly had no idea that University Women's Rugby was quite so popular. So, she dropped the phone and went numb with shock when our youngest confided that she had decided to "become a hooker". I had to become a 'prop' with the help of her God-father, Les Scott, one of the club's best ever wing-forwards.
The Sorto-Biography also records my last appearance in the red-and-white hoops of Sefton.
When we stopped playing rugby, my brothers all started playing golf, which I resisted so effectively that to this day I don't even know the elementary rules, such as how many bats you are allowed to carry in your case.
My antipathy dates from the occasion of the very first invitation to a family golf day which I declined in order to play one last game of rugby. I was well past my scrum-by date and should have known better, but it was an evening game at Birkenhead Park, over on the other side of the Mersey and several regulars were not available.
"You can stand around at full-back." the Captain assured me, "and stroll about, enjoying the evening air. "
Half-way through the second half, the opposition hooker launched a towering 'Garryowen'. I watched it carefully and shouted loud and clear: "Yours!" but nobody took any notice and they all hit me.
I woke up several days later, back on the Liverpool side of the river, in bed in a side-ward of a neurological section of Walton Hospital.
As I regained consciousness, a doctor started flashing a torch in my eyes and asking daft questions about how many fingers he had and what was the date and did I remember getting into the hot bath after the game last Wednesday?
I didn't. In fact I remembered nothing after the up-and-under. With them up and me under.
Eventually. the doctor gestured behind him, and said: "Your wife is very worried." Sitting in the far comer of the room was my wife, looking very worried indeed.
I smiled at her re-assuringly and she put down her magazine and approached my bed. Bending low over me, her eyes moist and her brow furrowed, she murmured very slowly and deliberately, the encouraging words: "Where the hell's the car?"
On another page I tell the tale of my traumatic experience as Guest Speaker at a Sportsmen's Dinner at Wigan Rugby League Club.
WE LEAVE NO TURN UNSTONED.
One evening, some years ago, I arrived at the home of Wigan Rugby League Football Club to speak at a Sportsmen's Dinner.
Northern hospitality is legendary, or as they say in Wigan 'Without peer', but I was somewhat taken aback to find that I was listed on the menu as: 'Number Three Turn'. I sought clarification from the Social Secretary who was, as they as thereabouts: 'Sat set sittin thur suppin'. He was already showing signs of becoming as mellow as a newt, but oozed kindliness and brown mixed from every pore. In response to his cheery vernacular greeting: "What's todo, feckler?", I hesitantly voiced my concern over the post-prandial billing. "Oh, Aye, Reet," he explained with exaggerated and pained patience: "Number wun turn is a one-legged tap-dancer doing 'Knee-up Mother Brown' ... But not fur long! ... Number two turn is a dyslexic karaoke singer doing 'A you're a butterfly, B you're a custard pie ...' until he falls down drunk and chokes on 'is own Vimto. Number three turn ist speaker ... thee and number four turn ist comedian, Wandering Walter".
This proved to be a merely proximate forecast of the subsequent proceedings, but does give a fairly accurate rough guide to the relaxed zeitgeist of Wigan RLFC when letting their scrum-caps down.
The event was wondrously un-politically-correct, so I told my favourite Question of Sport, viz:
Q. When did a Black Boxer after winning a world title urinate in the centre of the ring?
A. Crufts - 1979
Wandering Waiter Horam's concluding spot was a lengthy analysis, in authentic Lancashire dialect, of his working life as an employee of Leyland Motors/British Leyland/Leyland Daf, ending with his account of an interview with Sir Michael Edwards, who boasted that: "Last year three of our apprentices broke a world record and built a Mini in nineteen minutes twenty-three seconds." To which Walter's laconic reply was: "Ay. An I bloody getten it!"
My final public acknowledgement of my debt to the club came when I was invited to be Guest Speaker at a 'Sportsman of the Year' Presentation Dinner in London. Chief Guest of Honour was the retiring English, and British Lions, Captain Bill Beaumont. The Chairmen and Captains of most of the Southern clubs and some of the Northern ones were in the audience. The top table guests had large ornate place-cards in front of them, announcing their clubs and positions. Mine read simply: SEFTON RUFC. This caused some wry amusement and I was subjected to much ribald banter until Bill got up to make his acceptance speech, which began: "The first serious game of rugby I played was for Fylde seconds, on the wing, against the Vale of Lune. My final game was a Lancashire cup game, on a Sunday against Merseyside Police at SEFTON. " The club thereafter got the praise which it deserves. And not just from me!
I never thought I would get another chance to record personal and family thanks to the club and all those who help to keep it going, but I am delighted to be given this chance to 'say my piece' by Geoff Daley, who followed in his father's footsteps as a loyal Seftonian on and off the field, and is now relishing the task of being archivist and historian.
Ad multos annos, or as generations of learned-teacher-players would say: "Quemadmodo tunc, hunc, nunc," or "Howsabout that, then, now."