The Early Years (1872-1918)
Club Chronology 4 of 7

4. The Early Years (1872-1918)


1872/73 - Southport played Birkenhead Park at Birkenhead (Lower Park), a drawn game, no score, teams twenty-a-side. In the Southport team were Chamberlain an Fletcher, backs; M. Smith, three quarter-back C.A. Schofield and Hunter, half-backs; R.W. Smith (capt.), Hood, Stephenson, J. Schofield, G. Schofield, Gregory, Price, Thompson, Steele, Jones, Nicholson, McCalloch and three others.

1873/74 – The club’s second season fixture list is published in the Southport Visiter. The match at home to Birkenhead Park was lost by one goal to nil, but Southport were victors in the return match by the same score.

1875/76 – Southport beat Birkenhead Park at home.

1876/77 - The method of scoring was amended and results were now decided by a majority of goals and tries and in some games by a complicated system including "minors' which appear to be like near misses such as touch in goal, dead balls and missed drop goals. Scoring by points then became the norm, a try one point, conversion 2 points and a dropped goal 3 points. Southport must have had a strong team as at Southport they beat Birkenhead Park by one goal five tries to nil. Southport team that day was W.A. Gordon, P.Hunter, backs; F. Hermon, H. Boult, three-quarters; H.A. Dixon, R.B. Hartley, half-backs; C. Bromilow, Fletcher, Thomas, Thompson, Welsby, Bateson, and Barrow.

1877/8 – Southport win their first ever match against New Brighton by four tries, the scorers being H.A. Dixon (3) and A. Hartley (1). forward G. Schofield is the first Southport player to be selected for the Lancashire county side and plays against Yorkshire at Whalley Range on 20th January. He also played in the North v South International Trial at Manchester. Scofield played in several Lancashire County matches and appeared in the Southport team photograph in his County jersey. Apparently the club began to fade through a lack of recruits tio fill the place of older members. The Southport Olympic Rugby Club had by this time worked themselves up into a good position and where playing such clubs as we now have in the Rugby League.

1878/9 – The club’s second player to play for Lancashire was G Nicholson on 3rd December. W A Gordon of Southport was also believed to be the Lancashire County full back during this period. This season saw the first defeat to another Merseyside club losing to Liverpool by one goal to nil.

1879/80 – The ‘List of Matches’ records the club’s colours as blue, white and red, and the ground as Roe Lane. Blackburn away listed as the first match on 11th October, following an unnamed opening game at home on 4th October. Other matches against Bolton (a team), Rochdale, Preston Rovers, Fairfield, Breightmet, Waterloo (a team), St Helens, Bootle Wasps, Broughton Park and Walton.


1881/82 – After some heavy defeats, the last one recorded at Wavertree on 15th October, Southport Football Club switched to association football. Most of the rugby players made the switch to the round ball game and at some stage the rugby club joined with Southport Olympic and Southport Wasps to assume the Olympic name playing at a ground at the corner of Scarisbrick New Road and Ash Street backing onto Southbank Road. The records show Southport Olympic drew with Liverpool Old Boys. The team was: Wright (back), Howard, Ball, Clegg (threequarters) Rimmer and Barrow (halves), Hazlehurst, Parks, Perry, Jones, Rimmer, Johnson, Lloyd, Wright, and Slack (forwards). The team included some ‘real’ Southport names eg. Rimmer, Ball, Howard, Wright. The Lancashire County Rugby Football Union was formed at a meeting held at The Albion Hotel, Manchester on 22nd December 1881, but Southport was not represented.

1882/83 – On 3rd February 1883 Southport Olympic lost to Sale at Scarisbrick New Road by 1 goal 5 tries at the Scarisbrick New Road ground; on 3rd March the Olympic first XV played St Helens Recreation at home and the second XV played Fairfield, Liverpool. The Oympic team was: Tunstall, back; Sellars, Freeman and Walmsley, three-quarters; Pasquill and Connard, half-backs; Neville, Brewer, Ellis, Slack, Thompson, Coventry, Hankinson, and Platt, forwards. There still appeared to be a lot of rugby activity in the area at this time: Birkdale RFC came to prominence, eventually acquiring pitches at Victoria Park where Southport was to move to in a few years time. On 10th March Formby played Southport Hornets at Freshfield, and on 15th March the Hornets played Birkdale Free Wanderers. Between 1891 and 1893 Olympic enjoyed their best seasons with a strong three-quarter line, composed of Rev. Williams (minister at Christ Church), W. Ball (three yards man in 100 yards handicap), Nathan Howard (master at Trinity school) and a very good half-back in W. Rimmer. The decline of the Club started when Mr. Williams went to church one Sunday morning with a black eye. Canon Clarke ended Mr. Williams football days, and Howard had to go out of town owing to his work

1883/84 – According to the Visiter 800 people turn up to watch Southport Olympic play Pagefield, and 400 to watch the second team play Bury.

1884/85 – 1000 people turned up at Waterloo to watch the match against Southport.

1885 - Southport (later Hesketh) Golf Club formed. Edward Fleetwood Hesketh, a vice president of the rugby club was the golf club’s first president.

1885/86 – On 13th March in the first round of the West Lancashire Cup opponents Aspull bring 300 spectators. Referees with whistles were first seen in addition to the umpires who eventually became linesmen and carried sticks (flags). Later, non-playing umpires were introduced.

1886/87 – 2000 people came to Aspull to watch the first round tie against Southport. Rugby Union introduced a proper scoring system; three for a goal, one for a try.

1887/88 – In February, the club’s familiar red, black and amber colours are first mentioned in the press in a game with New Brighton.

1888/89 – Fixture list axed. The club suffered as the county went soccer mad and recruitswere scarce. Several members went to play for Wigan.


1890/91 – Again no rugby. Due to professionalism the club has difficulty in arranging matches against purely amateur teams. The club reorganises itself at the Mornington Ground in Scarisbrick Road and becomes affiliated to the Lancashire RFU. These were difficult days for the game as a whole in Lancashire and issues included difficulties about insurance payments made, questions about movement of players from club to club, complaints about financial losses due to non-fulfilment of fixtures, and frivolous requests for permission to pay 1891 Southport appear in a list of members of the Lancashire County Football Club: Aspull, Askam, Barrow-n-Furness, Blackley Rangers, Blackley, Boothstown, Rangers, Broughton, Broughton Rangers, Bury, Broughton Park, Crompton, Failsworth, Free Wanderers, Leigh, Liverpool, Liverpool Old Boys, Lancaster, Manchester, Manchester Rangers, Morecambe, Mossley, Oldham, Owen's College, Pendleton,Radcliffe, Rochdale Hornets, Rochdale St Clements, Salford, Stalybridge, St Helens, St Helens Recreation, South East Lancashire (Rugby Union), Southport, Swinton, Tottington, Tuebrook, Tyldesley, Ulverston, Walkden, Warrington, Werneth, West Lancashire (Rugby Union),Widnes, Wigan.

1891/92 – A couple of lean seasons in spite of C M Sawyer (another real Southport name) playing for Southport, having been capped twice by England whilst playing for Broughton in 1880 v Scotland and 1881 v Ireland. He resided in Birkdale for a great many years and was Hon Treasurer of Birkdale Golf Club which had been formed in 1889. This was long before it became Royal (1951) and when it was located in the Bedford Park area utilising The Portland Hotel as its club house before moving to its current location at Birkdale Hills in 1897.

1892/93 – Southport played 21 matches winning only eight and losing 13 with only 16 points for and 219 against. The best result was the 5-2 victory over Waterloo. It was the season the Visitor referred to ‘modern scoring values’ which meant a try was worth two points, a penalty three, a goal four and a goal from a try five points.

1893/99 – No rugby. The storm over professionalism arrived in the form of demand for payment for broken time and it shook the county to the foundations and many clubs (see list in 1890/91 above) who Southport had regularly played resigned from the Rugby Union, and joined the Northern Union which later became known as the Rugby League. Southport Olympic’s fixture list is badly hit.


1899/1900 – Things pick up as Birkdale RFC acquire pitches at Victoria Park and put rugby in the town back on the map. On January 23rd Birkdale played Owens College ‘A’, and on 24th February Mr Rickersby’s XV.

1901/02 – The general depression in northern rugby was referred to in the Visitor 14th September when it was pointed out that ‘The new management was still loyal to the rugby union’.

1902/03 – There was a revival of Southport Olympic but no fixtures played.

1903/06 – No fixtures.

1906/07 – Southport Olympic completely reformed at Victoria Park and rejoin the Lancashire RFU. Players would walk to the Victoria Baths to wash after the match. The new secretary was T A Saul, with former MP Sir George Pilkington as president. Vernon Rowley played for Lancashire and the referee of the November match against Waterloo was Paul Carter, later president of the club (1949-59). The club acquired its first press officer (not Gordon Jackson….yet!) who wrote regular reports for the Visitor under the ‘Wanderer’ pen name (perhaps it was Gordon?). This was George V Gibbs, a Gloucestershire full back in the 1890s and father of Charles Gibbs, who became chairman of the club in 1919.

1907/8 – After Christmas Southport win 10 matches in a row scoring 178 points and conceding only 27.

1907/10 – Dan Jackson, the Cumberland County player was Southport captain. He also captained Cumberland against Northumberland on 16th December 1909, and was Deputy Town Clerk of Southport, later Town Clerk of Hastings.


1911/12 – Possibly the worst season in the clubs history. No win until March, 38 points scored against 293 conceded.

1912/13 – On 22nd April a proposal first raised in 1909 to drop the Olympic name in favour of Southport Rugby Union Football Club was finally carried at the general meeting. J T Walker was the next member of the Southport side to get into the Lancashire side and he played several matches for the County and was for years one of the mainstays of the club.

1913/14 – The change of name does some good as the side has 17 victories and scores 376 points, including 51-0 and 58-0 victories against Kersal and Port Sunlight (then known as Cosmopolitan) respectively. The club president for this season was Reverend C J B Marriott the captain W Hodgson a former member of the Southport Police Force.

1914/18 – When war was declared in September 1914, an extraordinary meeting of the club cancelled all fixtures. It recommended all members ‘join some military organisation’. Fourteen club members lose their lives in the war including the 1914 captain J E Grimshaw, who was killed on 18th September 1915 in the Gallipoli campaign whilst serving with The Lancashire Fusiliers. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial for the missing.

H Dalzell
J E Grimshaw
J Livingstone
G L Lovell
H M Morriss
A R Penny
G Pollard W B Saul
A C Sawyer
W S Standring
S S Walker
T C Walker
J V White
E Wood

During the war Southport player Walter Paton captains a side in the Seventh Brigade of the King’s Regiment, Liverpool.