Club Characters

Club Characters

Presidents of Southport Rugby Club

The records show that the club in its various guises is now on its eighteenth President in its 140 year plus history which include at least one Lord, two with roads named after, three Sirs, four Doctors, and five Mayors with a father and son, a husband and wife, and one who served twice for good measure.

A new Presidents Gallery has been created in the main bar with portraits of the illustrious figureheads as ever keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings below.

1872 – 73

Samuel Henry Swire (1839 – 1905)

Born in Ashton-under-Lyne he was a keen cricketer and in January 1864 he was a founder member of Lancashire County Cricket Club, and its first secretary, playing in the clubs first ever match against Birkenhead Park at Warrington on 15th and 16th June the same year, and the initial first-class game against Middlesex at Old Trafford on 20th to 22nd June the following year.

In 1872-73 Samuel Swire, Esq., JP was also Mayor of Southport, although the 1881 census shows him to be resident at Portland House, Ashton-under-Lyne. He was a Colliery Proprietor, a director of the Wigan Coal & Iron Co.Ltd., and a director of J.Bayley & Sons Ltd. a Cotton Spinners in Bolton.

He continued as secretary of Lancashire CCC until his death in Southport.

Matlock Road in Birkdale was formerly called Swire Road after him, but for some reason the name was changed.

1879 – 80

The Lord Skelmersdale (1837 – 1898)

Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, 1st Earl of Lathom, known as The Lord Skelmersdale between 1853 and 1880, was a politician. He was a member of every Conservative administration between 1866 and 1898, and notably served three times as Lord Chamberlain of the Household under Lord Salisbury. Having succeeded his grandfather as Baron Skelmersdale in 1853, he was created Earl of Lathom in 1880. In 1892 he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

The Lord Skelmersdale was also President of the Southport branch of the Lifeboat Association. The lifeboat always featured prominently in the processions and pageantry which the Victorians loved so much, one such occasion being the re-opening of the Victoria Baths (where the club changed in later years) when his Lordship was noted in the evening for his great gallantry when, ‘to make himself agreeable, (he) not only danced with everyone, but every one twice over, as gentlemen were scarce.

1906-12 and 1914-15

Dr (later Sir) George Pilkington (1848 - 1916)

Born George Augustus Coombe on 27th October 1848 in Upwell, Cambridgeshire, he was the son of R. G. Coombe a surgeon. Educated privately and trained for medicine at Guy's Hospital, London he became MRCS Eng and LSA in 1870 practising medicine in Southport from 1870 to 1884 when he was House Surgeon to Southport Infirmary, Medical Officer of the North Meols District, Ormskirk Union, Surgeon to the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, and Medical Officer to the Southport Convalescent Hospital and the Southport Infirmary.

In 1872 he was one of the driving force behind the formation of the Southport FC, the rugby club.

On marriage to Mary Elizabeth Pilkington, daughter of James Pilkington, former MP for Blackburn in 1876 Dr. Coombe changed his name to Pilkington on the death of his brother-in-law.

Dr. Pilkington was Mayor of Southport from 1884 to 1885. In 1885, he was elected Member of Parliament for Southport but lost the seat in 1886. He was a councillor and Alderman on Lancashire County Council, Deputy Lieutenant, J.P. and Honorary Colonel of the 3rd Liverpool Volunteer Regiment.

On 9th December 1886 as local secretary to the Lifeboat Association he rushed from a ball at the town hall to try and join the crew of the Eliza Fernley but he arrived too late to go to the assistance of the Mexico in what turned out to Britain’s worst ever lifeboat disaster.

Despite losing his seat to Lord Curzon in 1886 by 3723 votes to 3262, he was knighted in 1893, before regaining the seat against Mr Cb Balfour in 1899 by 5635 to 5052. He then lost it the following year.

In 1904 – 05 he was President of Southport & Birkdale Cricket Club, followed by the rugby club on two occasions, and at some stage also Southport Golf Club (now Hesketh), a colonel of the local Volunteer Battalion and a member of the Southport Caledonian Curling Club at the Glaciarum on Lord Street which claimed to be Great Britain’s first year-round indoor ice rink before it went bust.

Sir George resided at Belle Vue, Lord Street West, close to Victoria Park the then home of the rugby club which later became a hotel before being demolished and the site redeveloped as Beechfield Gardens. He died on 28 January 1916.

Pilkington Road close to the site of the old hospital off Scarisbrick New Road is named after him.


CJB Marriott

This could well have been the CJB Marriott who played for Blackheath, Cambridge University & England, and on 15th July 1911 celebrated his 50th birthday whilst the incumbent secretary of the Rugby Football Union.

Charles Marriot was secretary from 1907 to 1924 characterised by a strong alliance with the most important RFU politician of the time - William Cail, treasurer from 1894 onwards. That they joint retirement signified the end of an RFU era that began with England homeless and without a championship since 1893 and ended with five Grand Slams in seven seasons and Twickenham grown to a capacity of more than 60,000.

Marriott was the second paid RFU secretary, succeeding after the short and ill-starred term of office of Percy Coles. His playing career would have merited a footnote in rugby history even if he had never held an administrative role. He was a native of Suffolk, but his path towards rugby was set when he was sent to Blackheath Preparatory School, whose former pupils formed perhaps the most important recruitment stream for Blackheath, the dominant club side of English rugby's early days. Going up to Cambridge in 1880 at his suggestion the university adopted a more sophisticated combined forward game. It was not sufficient to bring them success against Oxford, which was ahead of them in adopting a game that combined forwards and backs and also had perhaps the most brilliant crop of players in their history.

But at a time when the universities were immensely important to the development of the game, Marriott's role as an intermediary was vital. And as well as adopting Marriott's ideas, the university awarded him three blues and the captaincy in 1883. He also led the campaign to get rugby admitted as a full blue sport. In his final year he was picked for England, playing all three matches in their second Triple Crown season. He played seven times in all, leading England twice in 1886 when incumbent Temple Gurdon was unavailable, but was discarded after the only defeat among them - England's first ever loss to Ireland in 1877.

He enjoyed a varied life. He was the only England player ever to describe himself simply as a 'landowner', but there were also periods in teaching and - during the First World War - as one of the oldest junior officers in the British army.

While in office at Twickenham he set up the Rugby Football Annual, which reigned as the game's most important reference work until the Second World War, and after leaving he worked in the city. He retired at length to his native Suffolk, where he died in 1936.

The Cambridge alumni register also records him as having 'travelled frequently with dipsomaniacs'. Whether this was charity work, or a donnish joke about the habits of players on rugby tours, is sadly unclear. One suspects that with Marriott either was equally possible.

Whether this is the same CJB Marriott as recorded in the history of the club is conjecture as there is nothing that relates him to Southport nor to having been a Reverend as noted in some quarters, although there may have been a link through his position at the RFU. If not, it's still a good yarn, but if further evidence comes to light this will be reviewed.


Sir James Wallace Paton

Sir James was a J.P. and Mayor of Southport 1908-09.

His three sons George, Stanley, and Walter played for the club, Walter being the oldest living member of the club at 78 in the centenary year.

On New Years Day 1909 he kicked off unusual Northern (Rugby) League match between Australian touring team and Widnes to raise money for Southport FC at Ash Lane and afterwards entertained both teams to dinner at The Prince of Wales.

He was a prominent member of the Southport Caledonian Society. The Society holds an Annual Golf Competition and Dinner when the Sir James Paton Challenge Cup and Replica is presented to the member with the best score. The 2009 competition was played at Hesketh Golf Club.


Dr Arthur Wier Limont

An outstanding personality of the club Alderman Dr A W Limont J.P. was President for 25 years and continued as Vice-President and Hon. Life Member.

Dr Limont appears to have originated from Scotland and to have been associated with Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the late 19th century.

In moving to Southport he made his mark on the town and was Mayor in 1913-14. On September 19th 1914 he addressed the crowd at Southport FC after game against Liverpool Reserves appealing for recruits for the forces.

He was also Chairman of the Southport Town Planning Committee post First world War which recognised a responsibility to provide sound cheap housing for the working classes and returning soldiers. In 1921 ‘homes fit for heroes’ were built in Limont Road in Ainsdale, the road being named after him.

Dr. Limont represented the club on the Lancashire Committee, and to him was largely due the strong position and fixture list of the club at this time. However, he was apparently vehemently opposed to the club having a licenced bar which was soon rectified when his long term of office was over!

Following the death of Dr Limont in summer 1952 on 29th October the secretary of the RFU F D Prentice wrote to the club stating that there was no objection to a Cup being presented by his son Alderman Dr W Limont to be competed for each year by a place kicking competition among Club members. Apparently the younger Dr Limont cited that his father was “always concerned with the low standard of place kicking” which in his opinion had “recently sunk to an all time low”.

Regrettably the Cup, or the Limont Bowl as it was referred to has only been competed for intermittently over the years, the last recorded winner being Mike Halsall in the 1969-70 season but the competition is to be resurrected in the 2012-13 season.


Paul Carter

Mr Carter was an Alderman, and was Captain of Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club in 1933 when it hosted the Ryder Cup.

He was a referee as the Centenary brochure noted that in November 1906 he refereed a game between Southport and Waterloo.

He was proprietor of the infamous Birkdale Steam Laundry in Birkdale, aka Whiteleys. The laundry was bought in 1893 by brothers John and Thomas Whiteley from Halifax, although Thomas was a teacher working in Kenilworth. Older residents of Southport may recall a horse drawn van collecting and delivering laundry in pre-launderette days. Likewise a story of a patient who escaped from Greaves Hall in Banks who made his way to Whiteleys and had his wicked way with two of the female workers before running off. The headline in the local paper the day after apparently read “Nut Screws Washers and Bolts”. The old laundry site is situated off Bedford Road and is now occupied by Dickenson Court, a sheltered housing complex.

The open space at the junction of Hartley Road and Blundell Drive now known as Hartley Green was previously referred to Carter Piece in recognition of it being bequeathed by Alderman Carter.


Sir Herbert Barber

Sir Herbert was the patriarch of a famous Southport political dynasty. He was Mayor of Southport 1936-37, leader of the Council for many years and knighted for services to the Conservative Party in 1953.

He was President of Southport & Birkdale Cricket Club 1938 – 40, and a Trophy awarded at the judges discretion at the Southport Flower Show is named after him.

In the brochure produced in 1972 by the club to celebrate it’s 100th anniversary Sir Herbert wrote:

The centenary of the Southport Rugby Union Club is an epoch event. In fact I have been connected with the club for over half that time and have seen a great deal of progress.

I even remember those days when the club played in Victoria Park and the players had to change at the corporation baths and run along the promenade in all kinds of weather.

When the club moved to Hillside the membership increased and today, of course, we have four teams playing each week sometimes five.

We are the oldest club in the district and whether we win or lose we provide a healthy outdoor recreation for hundreds of youths who will benefit from the team work in which they take part.

Throughout this year we hope to provide many amenities, and I hope this progressive policy will supported by the public of Southport and district.”


Dr William Limont

Dr Limont JP followed the footsteps of his father Dr AW Limont (President 1924-49). He was also President of the Rotary Club of Southport 1982-83.

His successor as president Jack Glassberg recalled in the 1972 Centenary brochure that he once turned up to watch the Third A’s and because they were short of a centre he ended up playing wearing the shoes he’d come in on a wet slippery surface. To add insult to injury the few spectators soon disappeared for a half-time cup of tea.

He practised in the Norwood Surgery which celebrating 100 years in business in 2007. Since being founded in 1907 at 12 Wennington Road, the surgery has witnessed the introduction of the NHS, treated thousands of patients from around the town and moved to a new location. Now based at Norwood Avenue, the Practice became a partnership 50 years ago when Dr Limont was joined by Dr Philip Harrison.


Jack Glassberg (1933 – 2001)

Originating from a north Manchester family Jacks paternal grandfather Eli was reputed to be one of the earliest owners of a Rolls Royce in the whole Cheetham area.

In the centenary brochure Jack recalls his first game for Southport as a 16 year-old youth in the autumn of 1949, long black shorts, short cropped haircuts, and swapping positions being the order of the day. In Jacks eyes as long as a player had two arms and legs and could breathe he was expected to fill any position in emergencies,

Twenty three years later he said all he could remember were the emergencies including the time the coach driver whose athletic career had in the main been confined to pulling on the handbrake was pressed into service at tight-head prop.
He was still plying his trade as fourth team skipper, and would continue to play for another fifteen years.

In that time he saw a lot of changes not least of all on the training front. In the early ‘50s it consisted of endless running around the field; forwards were expected to do a minimum of six laps, backs four. One player apparently regularly turned out for the Third C’s had a perfect solution to fitness problems: he simply used to stop the game with a complaint of feeling unwell. This generally took the form of a bad knee or awkward sprain in a vital part and Jack reckoned that, allowing for the variety of different ailments he could complain about in one match he was a biological curiosity!

Jack must have seen it all in playing for Southport for an incredible 38 years before hanging his boots up at the age of 55. His brother Eric had also played for the club.
Jack passed away in 2001 and is buried in the Southport Jewish Cemetery.


Joseph Hackney

According to an advert in the Centenary brochure Joe appears to have been the proverbial “Man from the Pru” being listed as the District Manager of the Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd. at 138C Lord Street, Southport.

He was chairman of the Colts Committee in 1972.


Stuart Wilson

Stuart returned from having been a prisoner of war in World War Two to playing as a First XV hooker or wing forward, as well as taking on a variety of Committee Roles off the field.

1951/52 – Social Committee
1952/53 – Selection Committee
1953/55 – Social Committee
1955/67 – Selection Committee
1967/68 – Hon. Ass. Secretary, Ground Committee
1968/74 – Hon. Secretary
1976/77 – Finance Committee, Selection Committee
1979/83 – Ground Committee

Stuarts work was recognised by the Club in 1957/58 when he was elected Vice-President, in 1974/75 when he became Hon. Life Member and in 1987 to 1990 when he was Club President.

In April 1992 Stuart, along with then President Keith Shorrock, future President Alan Havard, and immediate past Chairman John Winn unveiled boards commemorating past Captains and Presidents in the clubhouse.

Stuart was married to Enid (nee Brook) who in 1970/71 along with ‘canteen colleague’ Peggy Wainwright were elected the first lady vice-presidents of the club.


Keith Shorrock

Keith is married to immediate past-President Ann and continues to offer tremendous support to the club as one of its “elder statesmen”.

Educated at KGV he joined the RAF in 1951 and as a Flight Lieutenant in the 1950s literally saw the world before returning to his home town. Keith served in Egypt and Cypress, before doing a round-the-world trip via Australia, Christmas Island and USA. Other exotic places like Nairobi, Gold Coast, Fiji and Honolulu have also been on his itinerary.

A keen sailor Keith has crewed in the RAF sailing championships and when based at the recently closed RAF Lyneham he ran the sailing club.

In April 1992 Keith, along with future president Alan Havard, past president Stuart Wilson and immediate past chairman John Winn unveiled the boards commemorating past captains and presidents.


Robin Porter

Robin served as a player and on the club committee, notably as honorary treasurer, before being elected club president in 1994.

He made his First team debut in 1964 against a strong Orrell First team under the captaincy of Neil Pidduck. In a feature in the Southport Champion to celebrate ‘a magnificent 125 years’ of the club Robin commented that the Southport team in the early 60s was one of the best and it was not until the early 80s that its record was beaten.

Between those years however, some of the individual players provide the strongest memories. Paul Booth who played first team over four decades from the 50s to the 80s, and another skipper Brian Roberts who always played his best games without his contact lenses were stalwarts in the 70s.

Flasher Evans even managed to get the team to train on Sunday mornings and narrowly lost to Liverpool in the Lancashire Cup”.

Finance director in the family firm Porters Horicultural Ltd, commonly known as Porters Fuchsias , Southport Old Road Formby, Robin originally started out as a Merchant Seaman. After gaining a BSc in Business Studies, he became a maths teacher, before joining the family firm.

Over the years the firm has been a match sponsor and advertiser in the programme, and apart from rugby Robin is a keen golfer and, aptly as far as the business is concerned, gardener.


Dr Alan Havard

Alan hails from Milford Haven where he was introduced to rugby at Haverfordwest Grammar School. He joined Llangwym RFC playing for the club first team. In 1958 he attended Imperial College, London where while studying for his physics degree, he captained the college rugby team. After leaving London he moved to Scunthorpe, captained the town team, and was also chosen for the Lincolnshire County XV. He joined Southport RUFC in 1969 and was first choice hooker.

He was Club Captain from 1970 to 1972 and in the centenary year he played in every match and was awarded Club Colours and Clubman of the Year. He was also very active off the field organising a draw for the Clubhouse extension.

The same year Alan was instrumental in setting up the first Minis section, also coaching the youngsters himself before becoming Club Treasurer from 1972 to 1974 during which time he developed the sponsorship programme, obtained grants for new kitchen, Colts equipment and funding for refereeing and coaching courses. The job description in his own words: 'Anything the Chairman wants me to do!

He started refereeing whilst abroad and on his return joined the Liverpool Society and was its Secretary for five years before becoming Club President in 2002 until 2009. His seven year tenure saw £40000 raised internally and externally for a new roof, boiler and floodlights, his financial nous being put to continued good use as he resumed as Club Treasurer in 2009.

In his playing days Alan was often the subject of the ‘Overheard in the changing room’ snippets as reported in the Southport Visiter:

- “Whenever I come to watch you play there’s always lots of scoring” was a remark passed by Alan Havard’s wife, following Monday’s heavy defeat.

- First team players Havard and Hackney, seeing the wretched conditions on Monday night, quietly slipped away to “train” at a local pub. Unfortunately, when they arrived they found the Selection Committee chairman had beaten them to it.

- Q.- Is Alan Havard coning to the ground tonight?
A. – “No, he letchering in Wales” (courtesy of Mrs Havard).

- Alan Havard’s observation on this week’s Third XV back row: “The good, the bad and the ugly”.

- Best pass of the week came from skipper Alan Havard on Wednesday when, after nursing his new baby daughter for an hour, he slipped her to his wife narrowly avoiding a wetting.

In April 1992 Alan, along with then president Keith Shorrock, past president Stuart Wilson and then immediate past chairman John Winn unveiled the boards commemorating past captains and presidents.


Ann Shorrock

Ann became the club first lady president following in the footsteps of husband Keith fifteen years previously.

She took great pleasure in welcoming all players, families, coaches, sponsors and supporters to Southport RFC. Anne promoted a sense of community rugby, aiming to develop players of all ages, sexes and backgrounds in a fun and safe environment, motivating supporting and encouraged each other to play in the true spirit of the game.

Ann built a ‘Family, Fun & Friendship environment’ for all players and members and thanked every volunteer for their work they do for the club and encouraging all members and parents to become part of it by assisting and helping out throughout the year to ensure Southport RFC has a bright and successful future.


Graham Ellis

Ex Quintin RFC (Chiswick), St Edwards RUFC (Liverpool)full back turned second row Graham was a lot slower than he looked! Brought up in Stockport Graham had learned the game at Bramhall Grammar School and Davenport Felons.

To his regret (despite occasion to do so) he never played for Southport but after a few years away from the game he got involved at Waterloo Road via the parental route before coming club historian and PR.

He is immensely proud of the clubs heritage allied to new blood coming through the junior set up, and in particular the exciting brand of fast running rugby in a setting to grace any club at this level in the country.