JUBILEE AND ONWARDS
During the Great War 1914-19 rugby football at Club level virtually ceased to exist, and like almost every Club, Skipton cancelled all playing activities. A total of 57 members, many of them players, joined the Armed Forces, 18 of them made the supreme sacrifice. Those who returned were faced with the task of picking up the threads of Club life. During five years of inactivity, the ground and stand facilities at Sandylands had fallen into disrepair, and the costs of renovation was estimated at £350, no small sum for an amateur club, but undaunted the members set about the task, running socials and dances to raise the money.
During this period, the Club was fortunate in having an energetic Secretary in Charles Horne, who had taken on the post in 1915. When he returned from the Forces he set himself to the task of re building the Club, ably supported by Billy Greenwood who was now President of the Yorkshire R.F.U. Charlie continued in the post of Secretary until 1939 and was held in such high esteem by Officials and members, that in recognition of his services he was presented by the Club, with a suitably inscribed oak bureau.
Due to the tremendous cost in life and limb of the War most rugby clubs throughout the country could only field one team in the 1919-20 Season, and Skipton was no exception, however the Grammar School Old Boys, were able to take on the second team fixtures list, and the following season, they became the Skipton Club's 'A' team when it was formed in December 1920.
The Club had an almost full fixture list in that first season after the War, and there was an encouraging attendance at the first match played on 19 September against Otley which was kicked off by the Club President, Sir Mathew Wilson. The Club gradually built up again during the next four seasons, as the sport throughout the Country began to pick up again. At Easter 1923 a Skipton "Veterans" team, met the Grammar School XV. The veterans team included C. Tosney (Former International Trialist and Yorkshire Cap) A. M. Mcintosh (Former County player and Headmaster of Ermysted's Grammar School,) Sir J. Donald Horsfall, President of the Skipton Club and many others.The match provided a popular feature at Sandylands, and attracted a substantial crowd.
Changing and bathing was still done at the Midland Hotel, but there was talk of building a new grandstand incorporating these facilities underneath. In 1923 the decision was reached,"to erect a wooden grandstand on stone foundations with steel supports". The erection, costs together with other improvements including moving the existing grandstand to the east side of the field, was estimated at £750. The stand would accommodate 500 spectators, and have changing and bathing facilities for two teams underneath with a central exit tunnel on to the field. A grandstand committee had been elected, and it was hoped to secure 100 subscribers at £5 each, towards the cost.
The stand was designed by Edgar Willans, son of one of the committee, and was erected during the summer of 1923 by the firms of T. T. Chapman and R. Duckett both of whom were former players.
It was officially opened by the Club President Sir J. Donald Horsfall at the first home match of that season. The cost of erection had exceeded the original estimate by £150, costing in all, almost £1,000. The Club could now boast some of the finest facilities in Yorkshire, changing accommodation was luxurious compared to the past, the dressing rooms being heated by a coke stove, and lit by oil lamps, and the central exit tunnel was popular amongst players and spectators alike. County Championship matches continued to be played at Sandylands, and a further nine members of the Club represented Yorkshire between 1919 and 1939.
Up to 1923 the Skipton Club had the pick of rugby players over a wide area to the North and West of the town where the closest clubs were quite somedistance, however, things were to change in that year, the Upper Wharfedale Club being formed at Threshfield and the North Ribblesdale Club at Settle. The Colne and Nelson Club just over the border into Lancashire was also formed around the same period, and it was not long before these Clubs began to appear on the Skipton fixture list. All these matches today are "Local Derby" matches, and a strong sense of rivalry still exists.
Skipton Club had now been in existence for 50 years, quite an achievement as there were very few clubs in the whole of the Country who could boast this. As fitting tribute to the Club, the annual Yorkshire-Lancashire fixture for the 1924-25 Season, also the Jubilee fixture between the teams, was held at Sandylands in November. Approximately 4,000 spectators packed the grandstands and railings round the field, the total gate receipts for the day being £180 of which the Skipton Club retained 10%. During the previous summer, new drainage had been put in to cure the notorious wet patch in front of the grandstand, and a new heating system had been installed in the changing rooms to provide hot water for bathing. During the previous season, since the completion of the stand and changing rooms, water was heated in a tar boiler at the back of the stand, and carried into the baths in buckets.
The Club's Jubilee Dinner was held at the Devonshire Hotel, on Friday 17 April, 1925 being well attended by players and officials, past and present. The Club's assets were reported by the Secretary Charles Home, as the grandstand at £1,068 on which £250 was still owed, playing gear, and the Silver Football Trophy,but the most valuable asset of all was the support which the people of Skipton have given, and still give the Club .
The following year, the debt had risen to £305, but gradually over the next few years it began to decrease, and the Club was once more on a sound footing. The playing record during the period between the wars varied, but from 1930 onwards improved right up to 1939. Seven a side competitions were organised by the Club, usually on the Saturday following the last match of the Season from 1929 until 1935, and proved popular amongst local Clubs.
The Clubs at Threshfield and Settle after the usual starting problems of the early years began to improve, but the West Craven Club formed at Barnoldswick in 1930 was not so fortunate. By 1935 the Club was cancelling fixtures due to shortage of players, and the Club never re-formed in the 1935-36 Season.
The Skipton Club had moderate success in the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, reaching the Semi Final on two occasions in 1927 and 1937, and on both occasions were well supported by Skiptonions.
Journeys to away matches were usually made by bus, the Club booking a private bus to take the team and spectators. Some rugby fields are easy to find, others present difficulties even after several visits. One such ground which has presented difficulties to the Skipton Club is that of the Halifax Vandals Club at Warley, Halifax. The story goes that during the mid thirties the team got lost (again), and after churning round back streets for what seemed an eternity, the coach stopped and the Captain, got off and approached an elderly gentleman sat on a wall. The old chap regarded him closely as he approached and then said, "Ah know what tha' going to ask. Ah telled thee where it was last year" - coincidence! The Captain on
this occasion was Edgar Leach, who held the position for three seasons from 1933 to 1936, and it is said he was one of the best, if not the best Captain the Club has ever had. After his playing days were over, Edgar continued his connection with the Club, subsequently holding the positions of Chairman from 1950-53, President 1964-66, Membership Secretary the following Season, and turning his hand to sorting out fixtures during difficult periods.
A name very closely associated with the Skipton Club and with rugby football in general during this period is that of Walls. Four brothers played for the Skipton Club in the years immediately following the War, all sons of Benjamin C. Walls, who later presented a trophy known as the "Walls Cup" to be competed for annually by the local schools. R. M. Walls the youngest represented Yorkshire Schoolboys and B. E. Walls, the eldest, played for Yorkshire as a forward on five occasions in 1922. He went on to represent the Craven District on the Yorkshire R.F.U. for many years and was also a member of the Yorkshire Committee, being its president in 1948-49. He became president of the Skipton Club in 1955, passing away whilst holding this office. His death was a great loss to the Club, and in honour of his services to rugby in general, and the Skipton Club in particular, a commemorative plaque was erected in the Clubhouse.
During his life, he was the instigator of a popular annual evening fixture between a B. E. Walls XV, and a Skipton Presidents XV, and over the years, many players have been honoured and proud to play in these matches. After his death, the games were continued until recent years, known as the Earle Walls Memorial game, between a representative XV selected by the Craven District Representative, and a Skipton President's XV.
Two other names which must be mentioned during this period are H. P. Crabtree, who played for the Skipton Club up to 1929, when he left the area and moved South. He went on to play for Eastern Counties, and was an England Trialist in 1934. He also played for the Barbarians team in 1934 and 1935. His sport, however, was cricket, for services to which he was awarded an M.B.E. The other name is that of A. (Bunt) Horner, who represented Yorkshire on 30 occasions between 1932 and 1937, a fine front row forward.
Once again in 1939 War seriously interrupted rugby at Club level throughout Great Britain. All the playing members of the Skipton Club joined the Forces during the summer of 1939, and the Club's fixtures for the coming season were cancelled. Fortunately the Club had three members with "home" postings, in Bob Boothman, Rayner Garbutt and Doctor James Robertson, and these three were able to keep it going during the next six years, arranging matches during the Season. Players on home leave at weekends could always be assured of a game of rugby on Saturday afternoon, whether it be against another Club, or against some locally based service unit. Many players travelled quite some distance to don the cardinal jersey, one player's travelling schedule being so close to kick off time that he used to change in the toilet on the train as it neared Skipton.