History 1 of 2

1. History 1

Towards the end of the 1968 rugby season, a few men who happened to use the fine Vigo Inn, were sitting around discussing the philosophical questions prevalent in the world of then. This was usually about how to ''combat the degenerating effects of too much ale'', as Mike Anderson said. Someone suggested that rugby was the ideal sport, lots of exercise, followed by lots of foaming beverages. As there were a few ex-players, whose local happened to be the Vigo, the idea was mooted to start their own rugby club. Gradually through various meetings (about one actually, fuelled by bravado, braggadocio and the aforementioned foaming beverages, this idea began to take shape. The Vigo Rugby Football Club was formed and a Committee was duly elected. Lillian Ashwell, the much revered landlady of the Vigo Inn, was also elected Lady President, quite possibly the first Lady President of a rugby club in England. It was an honour that always seemed to fill her with puzzlement and wonder, but an honour she bore stoically through the years. Of course, there was a secondary reason for this, as Lillian had a field at the back of the pub, which in a drunken haze probably resembled a rugby pitch - check it out, it's still there. Anyway, being a country pub, there was a farmer willing to mow the field, and some lining equipment was found from somewhere. There are two stories about the posts - one that some old disused telegraph poles were liberated, and the other that some tall, straightish, trees were discovered to have some obscure tree disease and were cut down to save the rest of the trees in the wood. Whatever, we had a field, lines, posts. Changing rooms were the next question. An old disused chicken hut was used temporarily if the weather was bad; a free standing tap in the corner of the field sluiced off most of the mud. Most people lived locally, so the opposition were transported back to players houses for a shower, cup of tea, sometimes a fry up if the wives were feeling particularly loving and then back to the Vigo for a sing song and more brews. If the weather was particularly good then the Public Bar was filled with men in various states of undress, which became a bit of tourist stop on the A227.

Trevor Burningham and Mike Anderson were two of the guiding lights of those early days, and their sheer enthusiasm and personal magnetism attracted players, opposition and coaches. Many other characters emerged from these humble beginnings and helped to create quite a unique rugby club. The unadulterated Coarse Rugby aspect of the Club also helped to attract players and opposition alike. Rosslyn Park once sent two different teams on respective Saturdays , because no-one believed the stories coming back from the original teams exploits. This included quite raucous games of the unique daddlums, singing and general tomfoolery and jolly japes.

Gradually, the realisation that we were outgrowing our premises and trying the patience of the long suffering Lillian Ashwell forced the club to look for other premises. Fairseat was the next port of call, with the Village Hall acting as changing rooms and a five man, L-shaped bath constructed in a back room. The pitch was reached after a mile walk through the beautiful Kent countryside, and some game were interrupted by the local hunt chasing some poor fox.

This , of course, was unsatisfactory , as amazingly the playing strength grew and we were sorely in need of new premises. Leybourne grange was the next port of call. the Hospital had a sports ground and changing facilities, which were gratefully accepted. This was an away match each week for the players as they met at the Vigo, drove to Leybourne, played and changed, went to the Rose and Crown at Offham for tea, and then back to the Vigo for singing and drinking.

About this time, Aylesford Rugby Club closed and we were fortunate to get an influx of their players, which helped to move the club ever onwards. Culverstone then became the new home as the Club tried to return closer to their roots. this was also to see the birth of one of the single most important aspects of Vigo R.F.C. - mini-rugby. driven by the excellent David Wells, the mini-rugby section grew mightily and was to provide us with so many fine players, culminating with the quite superb Colts side coached by Martin Cox, who fielded several County players. The mini-rugby has been an important part of the Rugby Club and is still thriving today under the enthusiastic leadership of Helen Merchant and her small but committed band of helpers.

All this time the future expansion of the club was never forgotten. The possibility of having our own land and premises was a dream that David Wells, John Roberts, Henry Boddington and Jock Spiers spent many hours (and many bottles of malt whisky) pondering. Let me pass you to David Wells for his words - ''we had the good fortune, once again , of finding a benefactor in the person of Desmond wood, who introduced us to Dame Frances Clode, whose family had left land in trust at Harvel for the purpose of recreation.This land, adjacent to Desmond's home at swanswood, was being grazed at the time by Bryn Jones sheep. My first appreciation of the field was clouded by the large dip where I envisaged the pitch would be. and the diagonal footpath across the centre. But on site meetings with planning officers and Council members and discussions with helpful supporters of recreation cleared the way for us to negotiate the lease on our present ground. The Clarke family then set to, under Peter Jones' chairmanship, to erect the present clubhouse as we see it today.''

Club members joined in willingly to clear the field of stones, helped to build the clubhouse and decorate it. Those with building skills, those without, wives and children demonstrated the commitment and good fun that has been as hallmark of the Club since its earliest days. And the Club is still going, through lean days to today's relative prosperity.

And it will continue to grow without doubt.