NEWCASTLE (STAFFS) RUGBY UNION FOOTBALL CLUB
“Its inauguration, some history and probably my downfall”
P. S. (Pete) Smith
It’s difficult to know where to start but start I must. I have been pursued for several years by Keith Dale and Tony Marsh to produce in black and white the facts and events leading up to the foundation of Newcastle RUFC. Now in my dotage, and as there are few surviving of those who set the wheels in motion, I think it is time I picked up a pen and enlightened you all, come what may.
I trust you will appreciate I have no records to recite – what happened to the early minutes of meetings, I know not, but nevertheless my long distance is quite good and some events are as clear as yesterday. Having said that, however, I would not wish the following narrative to be looked upon as my autobiography: it certainly is not. In the absence of past records it may seem to be, but nevertheless, think what you may – here goes: -
Very few members of the club can turn their minds back to 1940 and some will say “what the hell has 1940 got to do with Newcastle Rugby Club’s inauguration which transpires in early November, 1947”. In my defence I would say – quite a lot in that myself and several other young men then aged 17 years or thereabouts left school as war was declared (September 1939) – too young to join H M Forces but feeling, rightly or wrongly, that manhood had arrived and ‘ere long the King would be relying on us to help “stem the grey masses”.
With such elated feelings, and having a shilling in my pocket one Saturday lunchtime, dressed in a Newcastle High School blazer and school tie, I went into the bar at the Castle Hotel in High Street. Beer was 5 old pence for half a pint and I ordered. Sitting on a stool close by, a big fellow (he was on pints) looked me up and down. “Ey our youth” said he “did’st goo to the High School?” Being disciplined and accustomed to the voice of authority I replied “Yes sir – I recently left”. “Good” said he “Has’t still got thee rugby boots?” “I think so”, said I “they are probably in the coal house at home”. “Well go get ‘em out then, they’st playing next Saturday – Police Station, Merrial Street, 1 p.m. prompt – an Army side at Alsager”.
The following Saturday, at the rendezvous in Merrial Street, the “big fellow” was there and I enquired courteously “Who am I playing for?”. “Well” he said “it dunna really matter, but if you must know it’s the home guard” – now known to most as ‘Dad’s Army’. I was not the only one trapped by the “big fellow” – the late Alf Pearson, a legend in Staffordshire Rugby before then and since.
Subsequently we played many matches, hastily arranged, with scratch sides, whilst the war went on and we did our stints at work, firewatching and as Home Guard volunteers guarding local factories and lookouts for the enemy paratroops then expected.
Once again you will ask what this had to do with Newcastle Rugby Club’s foundation some two years after cessation of hostilities. I will tell you that several “Home Guard” players, having completed some 5 years or so in the armed forces, and perhaps having played a few games in the forces, given the opportunity returned to ‘civvy street’ looking for a game of rugby.
The big fellow, Alf Pearson, was still in operation. He was the Shell Rep. for North Staffs and South Cheshire and owned a car, but what was most important, he had petrol coupons and thus mobility of wheels – all important particularly to ferry players to away fixtures.
So far so good, but it must be understood that just prior to the war there existed some three or four good rugby teams in the North Staffs area. I would mention Stoke RUFC, the O.P.S. (Old Public Schools) and the Dominoes. These clubs were temporarily disbanded on the outbreak of war as practically all members joined, or were conscripted into, the forces. Consequentially, those lucky enough to survive, many of whom had affection for the game, sort continuation of their rugby careers on their return.
It seems that Stoke, if my memory is correct, was the first and perhaps the only club in the locality to re-form and they had a sound base of experienced men behind them. I remember their Bill Fleet, Bill Woolridge, Jim Pearce, Henry Crowther, the renowned Alf Pearson, Gordon Castles, Gordon Hewitt, Eddy Thomas and his brother Ieuan (Yai) and many others formed the administration of Stoke RUFC and it was to Stoke that we returned or were “forcibly” recruited by Alf Pearson.
This resurrection took place during 1946 and was reasonably successful. The returning heroes played for one Stoke team or another, but it soon became apparent that despite the efforts of their committee, they were overwhelmed with numbers. The immense task of reinstating fixtures, arranging pitches, facilities and transport were formidable. Late cry offs of selected players and the substitution by others from teams down the line led to players, as late as 12 noon on Saturday, not being sure exactly whether they were home or away. I do not criticise the Stoke officials for this state of affairs, and any blame must be accepted by those responsible for last minute cry off.
It was this state of affairs that set the stage for Newcastle’s formation, and that of Trentham and Longton, though I fail to remember whether Newcastle preceded Trentham – I think it did, but I may be wrong.
In the event, following a meeting of the Stoke Committee around October 1947, the nucleus of Newcastle based players was approached with a view to forming a Newcastle Club. These players were mainly ex-Newcastle High School, a few ex-Wolstanton Grammar School pupils, with a sprinkling of others. We were instructed by Stoke, and I quote – “Hold a meeting of players, appoint your own President, Vice-President and committee, seek your own ground if possible and meanwhile we (Stoke) will endeavour to provide a temporary pitch”.
Furthermore it was understood that in the event of the proposed Newcastle Club acquiring a player of above average quality, then Stoke Selection Committee would have the right to select them to play for Stoke, but notice of about 6 days must be given to Newcastle. In other words, Stoke would have to make their request no later than Monday prior to the forthcoming Saturday fixture. The interpretation was that Newcastle (and Trentham and Longton) would hence become satellite feeding clubs for Stoke, and hopefully, in due course, become the undisputed premier club in North Staffordshire, and possibly the entire county, thereby enhancing its fixture list and its chances of promotion to higher echelons – a very worthy aspiration!
Thus in the first week of November 1947 the inaugural meeting of Newcastle was held in a room at the Guildhall where the hiring fee for that evening was ten shillings. A pub meeting room was not considered due to the obvious distractions and, believe it or not, we were all thirsty men. The beer was then much stronger than now and the Guildhall, of course, had no bar.
Some 20 individuals attended, the new club was inaugurated under the name Newcastle (Staffs) Rugby Union Football Club, a title which has existed since, and the following officials were appointed for the launch: -
Chairman: John C Fairbrother, Senior.
Secretary: L Roger Heath.
Treasurer: Peter S Smith.
Fixture Secretary: David N Heath.
Captain: H Clive Rogers.
A proposal that Major Tom Simpson MC, JP, should be honoured with the first Presidency was passed subject to him being first approached and his acceptance. The gentleman accepted shortly after. Tom was a leading figure in North Staffordshire and Chairman of the Directors of Simpsons (Potters) Ltd of Cobridge. He was, in earlier days, an all round sportsman but, while showing considerable interest in rugby, had never played the game himself. His son Bob, now residing in the south, was one of our initial players and in a beer race could sink a pint of beer faster than ever seen before or since, and I’ll bet money on that.
John C Fairbrother, our first Chairman, was an excellent character. His son, also John C Fairbrother, was a rugby player, a reliable forward and featured in our first team for a year or two, until his career took him elsewhere.
Roger Heath and his brother David were one hundred percent rugby, particularly the latter.
Myself, for my sins, was a bank clerk, and hence I was thought a suitable, reliable and trustworthy person to handle the Club’s funds, for what they were then – ZERO.
The Captain, Clive Rogers, ex para-trooper with 6th Airborne, ex-Newcastle High School first XV, was a hard rugby player, well known in the area (for one reason or another) and by a quirk of fate, has survived and is still around to this day – strangely enough I am too!
You now have a picture, I hope, of the original set-up, and may God forgive us all! Will all our followers, to date, forgive us also?
The problems now started – no money in the till, no pitch, no jerseys, no fixtures – so where do we go from here?
Well, Stoke arranged a temporary pitch at Hanford adjoining the River Trent. A few fixtures were arranged - Denstone College, Cotton College, Stoke 2nds or 3rds and a few more 2nds and 3rds from here, there and everywhere. But what about the jerseys? Thereby hangs a tale and I must not be too explicit or otherwise jeopardise my Bank pension. We costed a set of 16 jerseys (one in reserve) from Moulds Sports of Hanley. It was £26 and in the absence of any cash, Stoke chipped in with the finance. Bert Moulds, the proprietor of the Hanley shop, a customer of the Bank for which I worked, ordered the shirts but pointed out that such garments were subject to production of clothing coupons – 2 per shirt. “That’s OK, Mr Moulds” said I in the firm belief that our members, their wives and offspring would rally round and produce a few coupons each from their meagre allocation – but how wrong was I! The lads couldn’t raise a coupon; their mothers and sisters hung on to their allocation for the new type of ladies’ hosiery called nylons. A great pity since I had promised Bert Moulds production of 32 clothing coupons when I called to collect the order. I am pleased to record that at the time of collection the necessary number of coupons was produced – much to Bert Mould’s surprise – and due in no small measure to the fact that Banks controlled the collection of these coupons from retailers and subsequent lodgement with the Board of Trade.
Thus we played – for two or three games at Hanford and meanwhile negotiated with Newcastle Corporation for a pitch of our own. The Chairman of the Parks & Cemeteries Committee at Newcastle, a fine character – Harold Rhodes – and his Chief Superintendent, P.W.C. Davies (Phil) were sympathetic and with perhaps a little reluctance allocated a pitch at the newly constructed Roe Lane Sports Ground. We could also use the “Clubhouse”, changing rooms and shower facilities – any port in a storm. The pitch was very small, probably too small to conform to Rugby Union standards, but far worse, the gradient was about 1 in 3, or so we thought when playing the second half uphill.
Moreover, all the best, full size pitches at Roe Lane were already allocated on a twelve month basis to soccer clubs. We considered this unfair in that only two Sports Clubs in Newcastle were authorised at the time to wear the Borough’s official Coat of Arms on its stationary – viz: the Swimming Club (or Water Polo Club) and Newcastle RUFC. Consequently, another meeting was held in the Guildhall attended by Alderman Rhodes and Parky Davies. There were four officials from the club and for around 40 minutes we argued our case for a better pitch at Roe Lane, but seemed to be making no impact and the soccer teams appeared to have priority. “The reorganisation of pitches to accommodate Rugby was, they said “an almost impossible task and would disrupt the letting arrangements already in place”. The meeting seemed abortive and was about to terminate when I casually asked Alderman Rhodes for the names of Soccer Clubs occupying prime pitches at Roe Lane. “Parky” Davies immediately provided the list of soccer tenants and, believe it or not, there was not one Newcastle team among them; practically all were Stoke-on-Trent based. There were red faces, mumblings and a promise that from the start of the next season we could be allocated the prime pitch fronting the Clubhouse.
However, as time went by, it was realised the changing and bathing facilities were completely inadequate for our purpose. Cold water, little catering, except perhaps a cup of tea, and already we were using the facilities of Beeston Vaults (now the Wine Vaults) in Newcastle for our post-playing activities. There, our hosts, George and Mollie Hood, set out their ’Market Room’ at the rear from say 4.30 pm in the winter, with some 30 pints of beer ready for our Saturday arrival, despite the rigid licencing hours then existing.
Meanwhile, as this was going on, David Heath, Fixture Secretary, was desperately writing or telephoning Clubs throughout the Midlands to obtain fixtures and improve those few already obtained. He was persistent and successful in that a reasonably strong fixture list became apparent after twelve or eighteen months.
Clive Rogers, as Captain, had a strong side, winning many matches and for my part, as Treasurer, I was busy organising raffles and draws, collecting in match subscriptions and arranging a series of Saturday night hops at the Municipal Hall or the Drill Hall where a profit of £25/30 on each occasion was deemed highly successful – names of prospective Vice Presidents at £2 per annum subscriptions were thrust at me, and gentlemen were approached, invariably agreeing to accept this grand honour and producing the wherewithal.
From the outset weekly selection meetings were held on Monday nights, initially in the Castle Hotel and later at the Victoria, May Bank. We were well received at the latter establishment, bringing in extra trade, particularly on our “Prize Draw” evenings. The proprietor allocated a small rear room for our selection meetings, but we spilled over into the lounge bar immediately our business was completed, spending the rest of the night drinking and flogging draw tickets or whatever to the landlord’s clientele.
The Stoke Club phoned in from time to time requesting our star wing threequarter – Freddie Bissell, or Clive Rogers, Bill Griffiths, or whoever. Our team then had to be rearranged, but we were obliged to conform to the original arrangement and suffered in silence this dilution of our team’s capabilities. Needless to say, some of those released players reported they did not receive a warm welcome from their fellow players at Stoke, but they accepted the position we were in and continued to play for Stoke as and when required. Needless to say, as the years went by, the arrangement fizzled out but I don’t think this unduly affected the Stoke Club who benefitted in no small way from the efforts of one George Lamb, then a master at Newcastle High School, who held Stoke in high esteem and diverted any reasonable young player from his flock to Stoke. George had been a very good rugby player in his day and in fact was an ex-Stoke player.
But enough of this – let us turn for a short while to that first season – 1947-48, - scratch fixtures and preferably away, as we had no worthwhile pitch. I remember an early fixture against St. Josephs College, Trent Vale in that first year and the Evening Sentinel photographer, a Mr Warrilow, had been invited to photograph our team. The match was played in driving snow and the conditions were such that the photograph was taken in the portico at the school – under cover. That photograph, our first, is on show – with many others taken since – in the present Clubhouse.
Worthy of mention is the first Annual Dinner. For some reason, known to a few survivors, we were unable to book a venue in Newcastle at fairly short notice (NB – the reputation of Rugby Clubs in full cry was not as it should have been). However, a suitable hostelry was eventually unearthed, but meant a coach trip to Market Drayton where, in the upstairs room at the Corbett Arms, our first Annual Dinner was held, attended by some 30/40 players and supporters.
Throughout this first season and for many seasons thereafter we benefitted from the efforts of Alf Pearson, Eddie Thomas, his brother Ieuan, and Henry Crowther, all officials of Stoke who, between them, acted as overseers and gave us the benefit of sound advice from their accumulated experience. I cannot speak too highly of the efforts they put into the game, but sad to relate, Alf Pearson and Henry Crowther passed on some years ago, while Eddy Thomas became Chairman of Stoke, later President, and is still around. In fact for a short period Eddy was Chairman of Newcastle (period 1949 – 1951).
The next 3 or 4 seasons progressed well and during this period an Annual Dinner Dance was set up, the first two at Trentham Gardens main ballroom attended by some 300/400 people. Anyone appearing on the invitation lists of the North Staffs Hunt, Round Table, Rotary, Beagles – you name it – were invited. It was all very pucker, dinner jacket and long dresses for the ladies – quite an expensive event at £2.2s.0d per ticket. We later moved to the North Stafford Hotel and while not in such grand numbers, the events proved successful. Very many could ill afford to attend, but one way or another they did and I have an odd photograph or two to prove it.
On the playing side however, as our fixture list improved and we had set up a 2nd team with a surplus of players for a possible 3rd team, we felt some embarrassment. We had no home of our own, just a Corporation owned pitch on an annual rental basis, inadequate bathing facilities and no on-site catering. After each home match, after changing, we repaired to the “Beeston Vaults” in Newcastle for a snack and the necessary lubrication.
Many of our opponents, though not all, had by this time their own Clubhouse, some good, some bloody well awful, and this caused some embarrassment and frustration to us. We again approached Newcastle Council asking whether they had any land within the Borough suitable for Rugby and the eventual erection of a Clubhouse and changing facilities. Again, Alderman Rhodes and “Parky” Davies, having met with the council, came forward with several different sites – the year 1953. A small committee, four I think, including myself, David Heath, Taffy Evans and possibly “young” Keith Dale, did the rounds with two council officials. The possible sites were short-listed to two, viz:
• An area of land in Clayton Road, 100 yds or so past Abbots Way and close to a large residence, “St Margaret’s”
• An area of infill land, on the east side of Lilleshall Road, Clayton, part already in the occupation of Hartshill & Newcastle Cricket Club. This land adjoined the Lyme Brook, and hitherto had been floodland, frozen in the winter and an ideal venue for ice skaters. The Corporation, in their wisdom, had built up the land and created, over the years, the Lyme Valley Sports Complex, as we now know it.
Lilleshall Road was the best bet and we accepted this alternative. A lease was drawn up by the Council’s legal department, vetted by our Solicitor and duly signed by both sides. The lease granted us occupancy for 25 years at an annual rental of £40 with an option to renew at the same rental for a further 20 years. Inflation was practically negligible at that time (1954) but as our years of tenancy went by and galloping inflation set in, the value of this lease became apparent.
Over a period we had problems with subsidence as infill material beneath the turf settled or rotted and several ‘top ups’ were necessary to keep a flat playing surface. From time to time a workforce of members toured the pitch picking up cinder and stones that had worked through the surface from beneath. We wanted no excuses for high tackling.
The pitch and its rugby posts was soon set up, marked out by Keith Dale using his architectural expertise and his various instruments. We now had a pitch, but no in-house facilities. Was it Keith Dale again who knew the Manager of the Bakery then situated on the opposite side of the Lyme Brook? I cannot remember for certain, but the kindly baker offered facilities in a rear room at the Bakery with hot water available. A few tin baths were purchased and installed at the Bakery and this facility was used certainly during the initial season at Lilleshall Road.
Turn now to the proposed new Clubhouse and the meagre finances then at our disposal. After much research we unearthed a firm in Hull which was prepared to erect on our prepared foundations a wooden hutted building (dimensions forgotten) but of sufficient size to accommodate a team bath, two changing rooms, toilets (male & female) and a reasonable area for bar, tables, seating, etc.
Keith Dale’s drawings proved the viability of the venture, and the price at £400, while far in excess of our resources, seemed light. The late John Salt offered to lend £300 and we would repay him as and when. At this stage we were faced with a major problem – if we erected on level ground, the building would be far too close to the pitch for safety. In any case, the foundations had to be installed above the drainage system and this would necessitate evacuation into the bankside falling away from Lilleshall Road. This would enable a gravity feed into the drains from baths, Toilets, etc.
There was no alternative and digging commenced. It was winter 1954/55 and foul weather. From a membership of perhaps 50/60 the response for manual labour was not all it should have been, but foundations were prepared and concrete footings installed using a nucleus of some twelve members including Keith Dale, Terry Quinn, Harry Kennedy, John Pointon, Geoff Adams and other worthy members.
Now to ensure floor level was above the drains, a brick built frame had to be installed, about 4 feet high at the front overlooking the pitch, while the sides tapered back towards the rear bank in a wedge shape. The wedge shaped box thus formed had to be packed with hard core, but it was considered that the weight and pressure of such packing would cause collapse of the 4 foot front wall. Gordon Johnson arranged the loan of metal shuttering from his firm, then FHM, and this was installed about one foot inside the front wall and packed with concrete to form a further front wall – what a job!
We were then ready for the hard core and loads of the material were deposited by lorry on the bankside above the foundations. It was impossible to shovel it in and the entire lot had to be thrown in by hand, mostly at night in snow and rain, you name it, and by the light of car headlamps drawn up on the car park. This operation was done mainly at night and the filling went on for a long time. As the weather improved, in the early spring of 1955, we were ready for the concrete floor and delivery of ‘ready-mixed’ had to be in daytime. Because the Rugby season had not finished it had to be Sundays, so that necessary volunteers from members would be available, we hoped, to form a workforce.
Bartholomews ready-mixed first load arrived about 9.30 a.m. on the first Sunday. Alas, due to the height of the front retaining wall, it was impossible to disgorge its contents directly onto the hard core surface and the concrete was duly deposited on the car park, from whence it had to be barrowed and shovelled, then tamped, to produce the required level surface. On each of two Sundays we worked into the late afternoon and those of us married suffered the inevitable consequences on arrival home.
A Mr Dennis Hawthorne resides at number 24 Lilleshall Road, and I seek this opportunity of thanking him for his cooperation, and that of his late wife “Em”, who made cups of tea, supplied water and put up with a tremendous amount of inconvenience throughout. Dennis was invaluable in our early days, accepting deliveries from Bass at his garage in Clayton Road, repairing bursts in our water system and, come what may, Dennis fixed it. We have a lot to thank him for – long live Dennis.
In due course when the foundations were completed, the “hut” was duly delivered from Hull and was professionally erected. We now had cover overhead and for months thereafter under the guidance of one Walter Capper, every night and weekend a few of us set about the interior – nailing in “noggin” to receive the interior wall lining and packing into the recess vermiculite to insulate the walls against heat loss, but more particularly to protect neighbours from the raucous Rugby songs which they may not have appreciated.
NB. Walter Capper died some 10 years ago. He was the son-in-law of George Lamb who took over the tenancy of the Beeston Vaults, Newcastle from George Hood, and later moved to the Sneyd Arms at Keele where his publican’s career finished. Walter was a skilled carpenter/joiner and installed the first bar which we had removed from the old “Globe Hotel” then due for demolition. Many other items, bar mirrors, wall seating etc. etc. also left the Globe destined for Lilleshall Road and subsequent installation into the Clubhouse.
Work was now proceeding on the interior of the Clubhouse with very little paid labour. Nevertheless the purchase of necessary materials and the consequent influx of bills became a nightmare. It was vital to set up some regular money-raising scheme to fund our financial responsibilities and to repay John Salt his £300 loan, money lent to purchase the hut.
At this time “bob-a-nob” football sweeps had been set up in North Staffordshire and prize money allocated to those whose three allocated numbers produced the highest aggregate numbers of goals in the published football results each week. The most outstanding sweep was at Burton-on-Trent where their Rugby Club combined with the Rowing Club formed “The Rugoar Guild” and ’ere long were netting some £400/500 per week – a very considerable income at that time.
Using Burton’s literature as a guide, I set up Newcastle’s sweep and didn’t really appreciate what I had let myself in for. For starters, the enterprise had to be registered with Customs & Excise and as the Clubhouse would not be ready for occupation for several weeks, nor would it be permanently occupied seven days a week when finished, I had to designate the dining room of my Westlands house as the registered office of the football sweep.
A Mr. Sampson, Customs Officer in Newcastle, made it clear that the books of the competition should be bang up to date at all times and available for his inspection 24 hours a day, in my dining room. He did call round on odd occasions, but fortunately during civilised times.
When under way, our sweep netted some £50/60 per week having paid a percentage to Customs & Excise under conditions laid down in the Betting & Gaming Act. This kept us going for a considerable time and the bulk of members cooperated well by collecting a shilling per week on a regular basis from friends, family and colleagues. Every Monday morning, before 9 a.m., the results sheet had to be in the hands of Joe Brooks, our printer in Hanley. I was due in my place of work at 9 a.m. and on that evening the printed results were collected from Brooks, sorted into batches and ready for distribution to our agents/members on Monday night.
As a cashier at the Hanley Bank, from then on I ran two tills, the Bank’s and the Rugby till. Almost every regular customer paid one way or another, their weekly shilling and at closing time, then 3 p.m., the Rugby till was the first to be balanced.
Each Sunday at my home, after perusal of the football results, winners had to be sorted out and hopefully, if goals were abundant there would only be a few. Harry Kennedy frequently helped me, particularly if there were many winners. Their cash prizes were placed in individual wage packets, sometimes over a hundred, and their names listed on the ‘Results Sheet’ ready for the Monday morning visit to the printers. If I was unable to contact a few members on Monday Evening, it was essential within two days that I visited their home to deliver the results sheets and any prize monies for their punters. This went on for years, and an early divorce from my wife seemed imminent. She was already burdened from time to time with laundering shirts until Keith Dale took over that responsibility, thankfully.
Interior furbishing of the Clubhouse continued. John Pointon, who had joined the club along with Harry Kennedy, around 1949/50, along with Terry Quinn (1951), Malcolm Duncan, Keith Dale and myself and the aforementioned Walter Capper, spent practically every night of the week on this work. However, in season, on a Friday night, Harry and myself marked out the pitch ready for Saturday’s home game, usually in the dark and in all weathers, using a paint brush, a torch and a bucket of liquid lime. My back suffers to this day, but alas, old Harry is not around to complain.
Such was the pattern of life in those early days, and bear in mind few were fortunate enough to own a car. Kennedy and I used pedal cycles, Terry Quinn had a small firm’s car, while John Pointon, then a bachelor, could afford his own.
Thus, by the start of 1955/56 season we were set up, in a primitive way, to play and entertain visiting sides. I should mention a meeting of the committee just prior to opening of the bar when the principle item on the agenda was to decide which beer we should install. After a prolonged and fierce argument, Bass won the day. The firkin barrels when delivered were set up in the small room installed at the rear of the Clubhouse and after venting and inserting soft pegs, within a few days hard pegs were installed and taps driven in by mallet – ready to serve, good beer, too cold in an icy winter and too warm in summer, but strong and potent. Walter Capper put us on the right lines and taught us the craft of the cellar-man.
A character, Bill Hall, who died about 1967, himself a member of the Cricket Club next door and their official scorer, lived in Lilleshall Road. He spent a lot of time at our club, frequently ran the line, and did his stint of bar duty “cellar work” – a great character to boot.
Following the 1955 start line, the club progressed well, its fixtures improved, more playing members joined, and subsequent improvements and extensions were made “in-house” by ensuing Committees and enthusiasts.
My narrative covers roughly the first 8 to 10 years of the Club’s existence and there will be several others, perhaps far more qualified than I, to write a sequel bringing events up to the 1990’s. Some will say I have outlined events in too much detail and perhaps I have. Others will accuse me of writing my memoirs (Def: a collection of reminiscences about a period, series of events, etc. written from personal experience or special sources). The definition proves this is so, but in the absence of written records, minutes, etc. I have no alternative but to record from memory.
There are very many names I have omitted, but without intent – members who were part and parcel of the early chapters of the Club’s history and who in one way or another rendered valuable assistance whether playing, collecting money in fund raising events, concreting, knocking in nails etc. etc. You will see many of these pioneers in the early photographs on display in the Clubhouse. Whether they were ex-HM Forces, National Servicemen, or whatever, the club should feel indebted to them for past services and hopefully if I’m still around and manage to evade the clutches of the “Grim Reaper”, in early November 1997 I hope those in authority will organise some extraordinary event, a dinner or what have you, to celebrate 50 years and to remember the pioneers, many of whom, regrettably, have since died.
Long live Newcastle Rugby Club.
PETER S SMITH – JANUARY 1995