In 2005, myself and Dave Nickolson, along with a fine body of coach's & supporters, arranged to take what was then the UCFC U15's on Tour to The Netherlands. One of our accompanying parents, Chris Prince, had recently carried out research on all the names on our memorial plaque. One of those names was Leonard Cowper and Chris suggested that we could detour past the cemetery where Cowper was buried and lay a wreath.
On the day of the tour we met at the club house at silly o'clock in the morning to begin our journey by coach. The team, who were by now fast becoming seasoned tourists, were alight with excitement (a complete handful!). The trip down to Dover and across the water did nothing to stem their 'excitement'.
However, when we arrived at the cemetery in France the boys walked through the arch and something very moving happened. The boys were absolutely shocked at what they were seeing. Row after row of head stones with the names and ages of fallen soldiers. Soldiers that were actually not much older then they were. Cowper's grave was found and Chris Prince read a moving piece that he had prepared from information he had gleamed from his research. Our Captain, Eddy Nickolson, then laid a wreath on behalf of his team and also that of the whole Club.
Returning to the coach and continuing our journey both Dave and I could not help but notice the immense effect this visit had made on our boys. They truly had begun to understand what they had, and what others had given for them.
It was decided, on that tour, this moment can not be forgotten. We decided that the Leonard Cowper award should be created to not only remind the Boys of their fortunate position in life but also to allow us to pay our respects to those great names on our plaque that were not only very brave men but also Club members. Part of a letter written to Cowper's parents from his commanding officer said "that Cowper had a smile and a word for every body." To us this typified a great Club person.
We formed ourselves into a small committee that each year would select from the most senior youth team a player to present this award to. This player may not be the best player on the field but would certainly be a player that possessed those great qualities we believe not only represents the ethics of Rugby but also that of a true Club person.
We now have the Leonard Cowper Board which proudly displays the names of those players who have been recipients of this award. This board has the following extract from the aforementioned letter:
2nd Lieutenant Leonard Harris Cowper 20th Tyneside & Scottish who died of his wounds on November 7th 1916 aged 19. His fellow officers & men remember him. He had a smile and a word for everybody.
The committee consits of:
We believe that this award is the highest award that can be bestowed on an Upper Clapton FC Youth Player. We, as a committee, have commissioned a tie and individually numbered badge sporting the design of our Club badge and a Poppy to signify those players. These are awarded on Remembrance Sunday after we have laid a wreath and observed a 2 minutes silence.
Over the years this ceremony has become a land mark in the Youth & Mini calender and attracts an ever larger audience year on year. I think this shows that the Club also support our original views first confirmed on that Tour.
I am also proud to say that subsequent tours to Europe have included a visit to Trois Arbes Cemetary, Steenwerck, Nord France and long may that tradition continue.
Previous holders of this prestigious award are - 2006 - Gary Heed, 2007 - Tom Ferrridge; 2008 - Lewis Tillett; 2009 - Andrew Green and now in 2010 Matt Gale's name can be added to that list.