Cornish Glory: The History of Redruth Rugby
The following is an extract from the 100th Anniversary Programme of Redruth RFC. Printed in 1975.
1. The Club’s Formation
(An article by the late Mr. Henry Grylls, who helped to found the Club)
THE REDRUTH Football Club was started in 1875. It was the first to be formed in West Cornwall, and, I think, with the single exception of Bodmin, in Cornwall. There had been one game played at Penzance, in January, 1874. This was a match got up by Mr. H. W. Hockin, then in practice as a solicitor in Truro, and still living there, and his cousin, the late Mr. Tom Hockin, of Phillack. The former collected his team from in or about Truro, Redruth and Falmouth, and the latter from Penzance and neighbourhood. I was at home from school for the Christmas holidays, and was asked to play to fill a vacancy occurring at the last moment. I remember there were very few spectators, but the game was not the less enjoyed by those who took part in it. Beyond the Captain, Mr. T. Hockin, and, I think Mr. Walter Borlase, of Penzance, I do not remember who was in the western team, but ours included Mr. Henry Hockin (captain), the late Mr. Thurstan Peter, Col. G. H. Chilcott, of Truro, the late Mr. R. N. Rogers, of Falmouth, an Mr. E. W. Wright, son of the then vicar of Stithians. All these helped in the organisation of the game later on, but Redruth started first. Mr. W. M. Willimott and myself were, I believe, mainly responsible for Redruth’s start. Mr. Willimott, who had not long left Marlborough, was at the time at the West Cornwall Bank (now Barclays Bank), and I had left Clifton at Christmas, 1874, and was articled to the late Mr. S. T. G. Downing. We were fresh from our school football experience and anxious to play again. Three or four others had seen football up country,” and one or two of them had played before coming to Cornwall. The bulk of those who joined had done nothing at it, and saw a football for the first time when we purchased the one with which we began. The Redruth Brewery Co., then belonging to Messrs. Strong and Neame allowed us the use, whenever we wanted it, for practice or matches, of the field below Brewery Leats-stone post in the middle and all. It was not an ideal ground, though the path above the field afforded an admirable grandstand. This was frequently packed with an excited crowd, and it occasionally happened that ordinarily sedate and sober individuals, in their enthusiasm, lost their footing on the path and tumbled or jumped to the field below. Sometimes, I believe, differences of opinion on the path resulted in immersion in the Leat, but I cannot swear to this, as I was in the field and had a view only of the front row.
It was not an easy matter to drill a lot of beginners who had had no opportunity of seeing other people play, into a respectable team, but everybody was very keen, and knowing nothing about it themselves, they took as gospel what was told them by those of us who were “professors”, and it was not very long before the hang of the thing was grasped and the rules and practice were mastered. Some of us went in for serious training, mainly by runs into the country after working hours. I remember on one occasion a squad of us started for such a run, and in Church Lane met old Mr. Freeman, the postman-I think at that time our only postman. He came back into the town and reported that he had met young Grylls and the football party running like mad in the dark with next to nothing on.
All this was fifty years ago. I can find no records beyond an old photograph taken sometime in 1876. If, as is certain, I have forgotten many of those who took part in our first efforts, I must be forgiven. Here are some of the earliest:
J.W. Everett, afterwards Captain of the Club.
R. H. Heath, then organist of the Parish Church.
Thurstan Peter, and Lewis Peter, his elder brother.
Martin Edwards, still with us, and still able to play a good game of a different character and with a somewhat smaller ball.
John Penberthy, afterwards Professor Penberthy, of the Royal Veterinary College.
Taylor, at the time clerk in the Cornish Bank.
H. Meadows, clerk in Mr. Downing’s office.
D. Hall, manager of the Gas Works.
E. Bonds, rate collector for Redruth.
Alfred Williams, boot and shoe dealer in Green Lane.
Christopher Williams, commonly called Kit, who married a Miss Harry.
C. Beringer, son of the jeweller (Beringer & Schwerer).
George Peters, brother of Miss Peters, of Penventon Terrace.
Richard Tregasis, brother of the Misses Tregaskis, of Fore Street.
Alfred Thomas, son of Mr. Thomas, jeweller, of West End.
James Smith, of Churchtown.
I believe these were all original members, and there must be many more. Edward Williams, draper; W. K. Wilton, Frank Woolf (the toughest forward I every knew), Pearse, who was tutor to some of the late Mr. Pearse Jenkin’s family at Trewirgie; Henry Michell, a brother of Mr. Richard Michell, of Treleigh Luke Smith, whose sons have done as good service to the Club in their generation as their father in his; Preston, Mr Downing’s managing clerk; Holloway son of Mr. R. H. Holloway, solicitor; Foster Williams, brother of Alfred Williams; Richards, son of Mr. Richards, tailor in Green Lane; and Charles Willoughby, of Churchtown. Frank Hichens, when home from school or hospital for the holidays, joined the Club a little later, and some of your readers will be able to add many more names. Several of those I have named in the above list or earlier have passed away, but some of the older members of the first team, notably Martin Edwards and W. M. Willimott, now living at Illogan, are still going strong. Mr. Willimott moved to Falmouth Bank a year or two after our start, and I was elected Captain, and continued in that office until, I believe, 1882, when I had to give up football under doctor’s orders. I have often thought that the diagnosis must have been at fault. Mr. Everett was then elected and carried on for several years. He was a very capable, if somewhat dramatic, half-back, and afforded a great deal of amusement to the crowd on the bank. I ought to explain that the half-back then was just as important a person as now, but his form and methods were different. The number of the team was 20-16 in the scrimmage, two half-backs and two whole-backs. Afterwards threequarter backs were introduced-the first step in the alteration of the game to its present form. Originally the forwards had the main part of the play. Those in the front rows stood their own height and their business was to overpower their opponents by sheer muscle and weight, keeping the ball in front of them, and hacking it through. The game was in some respects rougher than under modern rules and practice, but we rarely got any more serious damage than serrated shin bones and bruised ankles. It was not then good form to heel the ball out to those behind the scrimmage. The forward play was forward, not backward. The scrimmage broke up, of course-I have known them last ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and steam rising on a frosty day, as from a huge cauldron of hot water-but you tried to break them on the opposing side, and take the ball through. When a half-back got the ball he ran with it, dodging and shoving off his opponents and sticking to the ball. Whoever, forward or half-back, got going with the ball, stuck to it until he “died.” No tossing it about on the chance of a better man than yourself getting hold of it. The backs’ business, when the ball reached them, which it rarely did on the winning side, was to drop-kick it into touch as far ahead as possible. The punt was not recognised as good play when there was time for the drop, and, I think, it is a pity that the drop-kick, which could be very much more accurate, and carry the ball further, has been relegated to occasional use and the punt substituted. If a player got across his opponents’ line with the ball and was seized by one or more opponents before touching it down, he could be throttled, jumped upon or put to any other torture to make him give it up. This was aptly termed a maul in goal. Marvellous, it seems, looking back, that there was so little display of temper or bad feeling in those days, and I think it says a good deal for the sporting spirit that animated us all, that we very rarely had any serious evidence of anger. We had no referees. The Captains took command, and with rare exceptions, could be depended on to keep order and discipline. The only case I remember of deadlock, in consequence of disagreement between Captains, was in a match here with Bodmin, captained by Bernard Edyvean. He and I could not agree to a touch-down in goal, and the game was blocked for a time, but we ultimately decided it by a reference to those who were somewhat nearer the spot in question than ourselves. Our matches with Bodmin were always the fiercest we played, but we won more than we lost with them.
One word about our finances. We had no rent to pay. Thanks to the generosity and sportsmanship of the partners in the Brewery Co., and our only expenditure, as a club, was for goal posts and the setting them up, the marking of the goal and touch lines, and balls. Members provided their own kit, which, as will be seen from the old photograph to which I have referred before, was various in style, Everybody paid his own expenses, except in some cases, where a player could not manage, perhaps, a railway fare, when it was provided privately, by some other member of the team better able to stand the outlay. So that our balance sheet, if one was ever prepared, would show an expenditure for the year of something well within £5, and this was met by a small subscription, or if this proved insufficient, by extra contributions from two or three who could afford it. There was no gate money. I know that a gate is essential nowadays, worse luck. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the less the money element has to do with sport, the better. The Game is the game.
There was a Committee, and a Secretary, but they had very little to do, as the Captain arranged things, selected the team, and allotted the places in it. This was all very different from present-day arrangements, and I am not out to make any odious comparisons, but anyhow, we had a successful time, and won a great many more matches than we lost.
I am afraid what I have written about furnishes a very rambling and imperfect account of the start of the Redruth Football Club, but if it stimulates the memories of any of my own contemporaries who may read it, as the writing of it has recalled to me my old games and fellow-players, or if it is of interest to the present generation to compare old methods with new, it will have served some purpose.
2. The Club’s Development (1890-1914)
By R J. Prater
The preceding article from the pen of our esteemed townsman, the late Mr. Henry Grylls, tells about Rugby as played locally 75 years ago. In this brief account the writer will endeavour to deal with the later history of the Club, with a few remarks concerning the men who helped to build up its reputation. Up to 1888 the honours of the game as far as the County was concerned were shared by Hayle and Redruth. The former, whosecolours were yellow, were a good side for several years, and included T. E. Hocken (the Cambridge Rowing Blue), the brothers Mudge, Eustice and several others who became County players. The closing down of the large engineering works brought to an end Rugby in that town, and left Redruth the premier side of the County. Our most prominent players of that period were Frank Woolf (whose playing career lasted 29 years), A. Suter Grylls (one of the best forwards the County has produced), Walter D. Smith, Tom Smith, Will Rowe, Charlie Pearce (a rare defender) and Willie Blewett. In 1892, J. Longdon, the famous Swansea threequarter, took up a scholastic appointment in the town, and throwing in his lot with Redruth, revolutionised the style of play then in vogue. Previously the intermediate line comprised three men, but Longdon introduced the four threequarter formation, which was invented five years earlier by F. E. Hancock (one of the famous Wiveliscombe brothers), while Captain of the Cardiff club. Longdon was a threequarter of outstanding ability, and his coaching made the Redruth side a formidable combination. He it was who developed Jack Viant, and that player in turn brought out J. H. Thomas (one of the most popular players to don a red jersey). Other notable players of the period were Willie Smith (another product of the famous family of footballers),Jack Hicks (a sound back), Harry Phillips (a robust centre), Trevenan Peters, Harry Carvolth (a speedy wing, who could do the 100 yards in even time without turning a hair) and Nick James. The latter (a big, fast, brainy forward) came into the side when he was 17, and represented his County the same year, and it is safe to say that if the Rugby authorities had shown the same attention to Cornwall at that period that they did ten years later, James and Suter Grylls, too, would have won their International caps. Round about this period the Club possessed a rare good half-back in W, Paull, who had a long partnership with Jack Hodge, and was first choice for County games for over ten years. We werealso well served in threequarters. for in addition to Viant and Thomas, who were the mainstay of the side for nearly ten years, other threequarters of note were Fred Danieil, Fred Tamblyn, Arthur Teague and Sam Hosking (the noted cricketer), while we were splendidly served at back, first by Jack Eathorne and then by his younger brother, Dick. The latter was a great back-one of the best the Club has produced. Indeed, such was his excellent all-round form, that John Jackett did not come into the side until the Redruth man left for South Africa. The year 1899 was a notable one, in as much as it saw the introduction of the first team of those incomparable half-backs, A. Thomas and J. Davey. Their brilliant form soon caught the eye of the authorities, and they were drafted into the County side at a very tender age, and kept their places against all-comers until their departure for Africa in 1902. Their fame had preceded them on the Rand, and they soon figured in representative games. The Mines’ team for whom they played became the premier side of the Transvaal, and Davey not only had the great honour of captaining the Transvaal in the Currie Cup Tournament, but was under consideration for a place in the Springbok side, chosen for an English tour. His residential qualifications did not stand the test, however, and he was passed over. Returning home in 1907, he captained the Redruth side, played for the County and secured International honours. Thomas was not so fortunate, for after a season in the Transvaal he met with an injury while playing which necessitated his permanent retirement from the game. When Davey resumed his connection with local football, he found that a new star had arisen in Bert Solomon, who was already being talked about as the best centre seen out since Arthur Gould’s time. Little wonder was it that Cornwall secured the County Championship with men of the calibre of Davey, Solomon, Barrie Bennetts, John Jackett and Tommy Wedge in the side. They not only placed Cornwall on the pinnacle of fame, but they also represented their country. In 1904, the team was assisted by W. M. Grylls (son of Mr. Henry Grylls), who was Captain of Haileybury School for some years, and also obtained his colours at Sandhurst. A big, fast, stylish forward, he was soon in demand by his County, and also obtained his International cap against Ireland. He was prevented from remaining in first-class football for any length of time in consequence of his military duties, and his removal to India brought his football career to a close. The year following Davey’s return to this country saw the introduction to the side of Frank Smith, who for several years was Cornwall’s premier back, and was regarded as a candidate for International honours, which, however, he failed to obtain. Barney Solomon, the Brothers Rich (Harry, William and Nicholas), Howard Gray and Bernard Smith were also outstanding players. W. Rich, the best of three capable members of that family, was Cornwall’s first choice forward for several seasons and in 1912 represented the South against the North in the International trial matches. The Athletic News, in a summary of the game, predicted that Rich would obtain his cap after another season’s experience, but, alas! before another twelve months came round he met with an accident whilst at work which put him permanently out of the game. There were other notable players who represented Redruth and County for long periods preceding the war, including Tom Lidgey, Tom Roskrow, F. Trevarthen, R. Davey, Chummy Lawry, Fred Daniell, Freethy Oates and Dick Jackett.
3. From end of First World War to Golden Jubilee of Club (1919 – 1925)
(Written in 1925 by J. F. Richards)
The history of the Redruth Club during the post-war period did not prove so illustrious as that before that time. For this there were several reasons. The period of war took a big slice out of the playing life of a Rugby footballer, with the result that most of the old playing members of the Club in 1914 had gone into retirement when the war was over. And then the Redruth Club had its share of casualties with the result that some of our most promising youngsters were laid low. Amongst those players who gave their all for their country, one cannot forget James Solomon and Percy Lidgey, two very promising threequarters, and Joe Trethowan, who was developing into a fine scrum worker. All this had its effect on the playing strength of the Club when it was resuscitated in 1919. During the latter part of the war the Rugby flag was kept flying in the town by the East Pool Club, who used the Recreation Ground and fielded a team from the mines. By this means they sustained the interest of the public in the game, and the thanks of the Redruth Rugby Club were due to the East Pool officials, as when the next playing season started their team formed the nucleus upon which the Redruth team was built.
Among the old players who again donned the jersey under the captaincy of Tom Roskrow were S. J. Thomas, Bernard Smith, Harry Ham, W. Beard and Jack Richards. A very enthusiastic band of youngsters joined with the above members and the season 1919-20 brought out some very good players. Amongst the most prominent of these were Fred Pappin, threequarter, and Tommy Harris, forward. The former, however, soon left for America and so did not get a chance to obtain the honours for which he was undoubtedly destined. Tommy Harris, after a very successful time as an amateur, during which he obtained County honours, was eventually lured to the Northern Union by the Rochdale Club. With them he proved a model forward and has done magnificently, obtaining his International cap. He is still going strong and bids fair to add more caps to his already long list. Amongst other lads of more than average ability, who were produced during the post war period, were Jim West, a grand forward, who came to the forefront in season 1 920-21, but after a short stay migrated to South Africa, where he is now showing splendid form for the Wanderers Team in the Transvaal. Edward Jon. Kistle was another lad who showed great promise as scrumhalf, but left the country before his abilities were fully developed. Although all these good players left the Club after rather short playing periods, owing to the great wave of unemployment which swept over Redruth, there were several others who did their best to keep the good name of Redruth to the fore through these years.
Since the war, Redruth have always been able to field a good pack of forwards, but the backs have not been up to the same standard, and it has been an uphill struggle to endeavour to provide open and attractive football. However, it looks as if the efforts of the Club in this direction are to be rewarded, as today we have certainly an exceedingly good back division which always does its best to provide good entertainment with bright bits of clever Rugby.
4. The Club reaches its Zenith (1925-1939)
Following the celebration of the 50th Jubilee of the Club’s formation, the Redruth Club quickly regained its former prestige.
For this there were several reasons.. The local Junior Clubs, Redruth Highway, Lanner and North Country, had supplied some excellent young footballers, notably Harold Curnow, Jack Pappin, Tom Semmens, Wilfred Johns and Percy Rogers, to the Redruth Club, and as these players matured they rendered yeoman and talented service to the Redruth Club. Then, too, Roy Jennings, who had been to Taunton School, where he had learned his Rugby, returned home and he soon showed that he was a player of out-of-the-ordinary ability. Starting to play for Redruth as a wing forward at about eighteen, he soon took over the centre-threequarter position, and for the next fifteen years he was one of the finest and about the best-known player in the West of England. He and Harold Curnow proved themselves most powerful centres, strong in attack and defence.
Redruth were also fortunate in having a young wing, Len Roberts, who, with a good turn of speed and wonderful swerve, soon proved himself one of the finest wings in the West Country. He also represented his County on many occasions and took part in one International Trial. Jack Andrew also proved himself a most capable scrum-half.
About 1925 the local Elementary Schools began to play Rugby and some talented youngsters were produced, many of whom later gained high honours and who, year by year, provided replacements to the Town Club.
Six local boys obtained Schoolboy International honours-Fred Bone, D. Scoble, B. Wood, Frank Roberts, Douglas Roberts and Jack Hick-and of these Fred Bone, andFrank Roberts in particular, have had most distinguished careers. Fred proved himself a most capable scrum-half, who played several seasons for Redruth, represented his County, played for Cornwall and Devon against the New Zealanders, but then went North to join the Halifax Northern Union Club. Frank Roberts played over a dozen times for Cornwall, and is the proud possessor of a Civil Service International Blazer and had the honour of captaining the side.
Douglas Roberts played for Redruth, has had a County game, and is at present Captain of the Falmouth Club. Jack Hick, the youngest of four brothers (Raymond, Dennis, Preston and Jack, all of whom played for Redruth), was one of the youngest players ever to don a County jersey. His removal to the Dutch West Indies cut short his football career.
But some other young footballers who did not gain Schoolboy International honours did remarkably well as seniors, notably Fred Rule, who proved himself the best fly-half Redruth had produced since J. Davey, and who, when everything seemed set for International honours, joined Halifax N.U. Club, where Fred Bone joined him later.
Gordon Robins, surely one of the finest wing forwards of his generation, and especially good as an attacking player in clever handling movements in conjunction with his scrum and fly halves.
Frank Partridge, who as wing and later as full-back, has rendered and is still rendering distinguished service to the Club and to Cornwall. He has delighted spectators with his sure handling, elusive side-step and fine kicking.
W.A. Phillips, who quickly developed into a first-rate forward, and has since rendered such magnificent service to his Club and County. The Second World War came, and the lapse of six years spoilt his chance of gaining an International cap.
During this period, too, some other fine players joined the Club, notably Gerald Moorhead, a most brilliant scrum-half, who struck up a brilliant partnership with Fred Rule reminiscent of the Thomas and Davey partnership in earlier days. Harry Faviell came to Cornwall from London, joined the Redruth Club, and with his great speed proved a prolific try scorer, and the Jennings and Faviell wing was a great scoring combination. Jennings, in particular, year after year score over 1 00 points a season (in one season over 200), and Faviell has the wonderful Club record of 63 tries for Redruth in one season. H. L. Williams and Dai Jones, from Wales, came to the Redruth Grammar School and rendered fine service to the Club and both represented Cornwall. It was during this decade that Fred Pappin returned from America and again donned the red jersey as a full-back, and gained County honours. Some fine footballers joined Redruth from the Albany Club, notably Les Semmens, who soon became the County hooker, and he has never since been dropped, and he has also had the honour of representing the Barbarians and had an International Trial.
Is it little wonder, therefore, with this wealth of talent, the “ Reds “ went from strength to strength, and season after season the Club records compared favourably with that of England’s best clubs.
As for example
P W D L For Agst.
1930-31 42 34 2 6 739 177
1931-32 41 32 1 8 530 210
1932-33 45 38 1 6 696 158
1933-34 40 28 4 8 618 219
1934-35 40 36 2 2 718 123
1935-36 40 37 0 3 864
In inter-Cornish Club games in 1935-36, Redruth’s record was Played 17, Won 17, Points For 447, Against 27. And the talent available was such that Redruth had seventeen players who represented Cornwall available for their side-G. Robbins, H. L. Williams, H. L. Faviell, D. E. Smith, H. Curnow, Frank Rule, W. A. Phillips, F. Gregory, F. Hichens, P. Rogers, Len Roberts, Roy Jennings, Les Semmens, Ken Williams, Frank Roberts and D. T. Jones. During this period, too, Redruth made history by being the first Cornish side to visit London, when on November 21st, 1931, the “ Reds” played St. Bart’s Hospital, Winchmore Hill, losing by 18 points to 19 points after a brilliant game.
From 1930 onwards, well-known English and Welsh sides started visiting Cornwall, and in addition to London Hospital sides, Cardiff, Coventry, Bristol, Bath, Swansea, Llanelli and Neath have all visited Redruth, and on March 23rd, 1934, Oxford University paid a visit to Redruth and in a most thrilling game ended in a one point win for the” Reds.” In the late thirties, Cliff Howard rendered fine service as a centre and F. S. Thompson proved himself an outstanding wing. Then came the War and the cessation of the Club’s activities.
5. The War Years (1939-1945)
by Ernie Loze.
WHEN I was asked to write a brief history of the Rugby war years, I soon discovered, after glancing over a few team photographs, that some thirty years have passed. It was in some of these photographs that I was prompted to trace a number of avenues of enquiries, and I trust that the survey will be as interesting as the Rugby that was played. This Rugby side was formed by Mr. Albert’ James, through the 9th Battalion Co., under the leadership of Major S. L. Mitchell (of the Home Guard Unit), and permission was granted by the Trustees of the Redruth Rugby Club, where the matches were played. Albert James had previously played for Redruth as a stand-off-half, and rendered a great service as a player and committee man. An average of 28 matches were arranged per season, namely, with the opposition from Service teams from the R.A.F., The Army and Royal Navy, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Regiments, Commando XVs and often the Combined Services, School of Mines, and later the Camborne H.G. side, composed of many well-known Camborne players. Well-known Rugby Union players who often performed in the 9th Battalion side were Les Semmons, Frank Roberts, Tony Bidgood, Eric Pearce, W.Knuckey, W. Williams, J. Angove, Jack Rule, Ginger Brush, F. Bray, J. Runnalls and Vic Roberts (then employed at the County Hall, Truro) and Ken Williams (present Hon. Secretary). We also had the assistance of D. Hardwick and Captain Green both of Scotland, two very big forwards, and often Captain B. H. Lock, of Exeter and Devon, often playing in the centre along with Dug Smith or Frank Bray. I regret the omission of many names that should be included, but special mention must be made of little Horace Chapman-a “ Pocket Hercules “-as a scrum-half his performances will long be remembered, and his skill was exploited when the team was reformed in 1 945-46. Some of the 9th Battalion team photographs can be seen in the Club House for closer scrutiny. Among some of the memorable games, one can remember the visit of the Australian Air Force XV, whose captain was F./O. G. H. Beverley, a former Australian Rugby League star, played on Good Friday, 1944. I can clearly remember the metallic Wallabies’s they wore on their jerseys, and I believe I was fortunate enough to procure one of these souvenirs. It resulted in a narrow win for the 9th Battalion side and played before an excellent gate. The Referee was Mr. Bill Rogers, of Camborne. Many of the big holiday fixtures attracted good crowds, and the proceeds were very often donated to the Red Cross and other war-time charities. The proceeds of two matches were donated to the R. A. Gerrard Memorial Fund, a former England-Somerset and Bath centre-threequarter, who was killed in the last war.
Footnote: Mr. James was also a well-known Snooker player; an authority on the game, and was the only Englishman ever to referee the All England Championship Snooker Final at Edinburgh in 1972.
6. The Second Post-War Period (1945-50)
The Redruth Club lost by death in the Great War, Jack Maynard, who, just prior to the War, was proving himself a keen and skilful scrum-half; Eddie Bawden, a thrustful centre; Len Goldsworthy. a promising full-back; and H. J. Martin, who had played at wing and back for Redruth. Aubrey Craze, too, died soon after his return from war service. Some of the older players did not resume playing after the War, but compared Redruth were fortunate to have such stalwarts as W. A. Phillips, Les Semmens, Frank Partridge and Tony Bidgood as a nucleus for a team. Bidgood, who had played pre-war, and for The Home Guard, proved himself a great player, and has been for years the best front-row forward in the West of England. However, team building was necessary, and it has not yet been possible to field sides comparable with those which represented Redruth before the War. Redruth has, however, been able to field most useful XVs at first stronger forward than rear of the scrum. Redruth were fortunate in 1947 in securing the services of Dr. Keith Scott, who returned home from London, where he had made a name for himself whilst playing at St. Mary’s Hospital, and had gained International honours. He has rendered conspicuous service to the Club, and all Redruth supporters were delighted when he received further International caps whilst playing for Redruth, and the honour of being the Captain of the English side. Among other players who assisted at the re-starting’ of the Club were RY Horace Chapman, Douglas Smith, Wilfred Pappin, J. C. Runnalls, D. Roberts, found W. Chapman and F. Bray. Later, Gordon Robins and J. O’Shea returned from war service and rendered further fine service to the Club, and J. McSwiney, who came to the neighbourhood, also played well. In recent seasons Redruth have been fortunate in having the services of Thurstan Thomas, who has shown fine form as scrum-half, and who should have a brilliant football career; John Gribble, who, with his fine turn of speed, is proving a fine fly-half, strong in attack and defence; Ivor Andrews, a fast forward; Len Semmens, a good hooker; and Bert Solomon, son of an illustrious father, who has the physique and actions of his father and is already an adept at “ selling the dummy,” as his father was before him. It is to be hoped that the high promise already shown will be continued and that he will be as successful as his father was in his generation. But the success achieved in the post-war years has been largely due to the fine team spirit imbued in the players by Phillips, Patrridge and Bidgood, whose value to the Redruth Club cannot be over-estimated. During this period the Redruth Club lost two of its Chairmen, who had, as players and Committeemen, rendered inestimable service to the Club- Ernest E. Pearce and William Rich-both of whom were wise administrators and great sportsmen. Their mantle has now fallen on Mr. J. F. Richards, who as a player rendered great service to the Club and County and is now serving Club and County on the administrative side. Redruth are now enjoying their best season since the War, and it is hoped wise counsels and fine team spirit will continue and that the very high prestige of the Club will be continued generation by generation.
7. The Success Story Continues (1950-1975)
by Ken Williams
Following the completion of the Club’s first 75 years of Rugby football, the Reds” opened the last quarter of Their centenary with some highly successful seasons in the early fifties. Such fine players as Frank Partridge, Bill Phillips, Thurston Thomas and John Gribble continued to make their presence felt, and Bill Bishop (the present Chairman of the Cornwall Selectors) made his debut in the Redruth jersey in 1950. Another great Cornishman in “Bonzo” Johns also appeared on the scene, and he was afterwards to become an International Trialist, Reserve for England, and honoured by the Barbarians, finally ending his career as a great tight forward with the all-time record of having played 88 times for Cornwall.
During the early fifties, National Service calls became a problem with which most clubs had to contend, and it was on his return from such duties that another Redruth forward, in Tony Bidgood, proceeded to make a name for himself, for after getting a Navy cap, he played 54 games for Cornwall. The season of 1953/54 was highlighted by the arrival of Harold Stevens, who had previously played for St. Ives, and was already an established County player. Stevens, who was teaching at Trewirgie School, proved to be one of the best players behind the scrum since the days of Roy Jennings, and eventually played 60 times for Cornwall, got an International Trial and was also honoured by the Barbarians. This dedicated player was the key figure behind the scrum, amongst such very good players as Fred Bray, Paddy Bradley and Bernard Nankivell. Forward play, too, was very much in the ascendancy, and the young John Phillips, Derek Lawrence, Harry Baker, Keith Eddy and Alan Mitchell were also instrumental in getting the” Reds “almost back to the top of Cornish Rugby once again. This honour, however, was not long delayed, for although Bill Phillips, who had undoubtedly been one of the Club’s greatest forwards, retired at the end of the 1953/54 season, the following seasons of 1954/55 and 1955/56 saw the “Reds” at the pinnacle of success in Cornish Rugby.
At about this time the social side of the game began to demand rather more of the attention of club administrators and committees than hitherto, with many clubs having their own premises complete with the usual facilities for entertaining opponents and friends in the way known to the Rugger fraternity. The Redruth Club decided to embark on a building scheme which would provide new changing rooms, a treatment room for injuries and a club room, complete with bar, etc., and it is as this is being written some 18 years later that the Club has decided to extend the club room into the very fine premises that we now have.
Colts’ Rugby, too, became a highly important feature of the Club’s organisation, and in 1956 our landlords very kindly allowed us the use of the field adjoining the Recreation Ground for Colts Rugby. With the aid of a loan from the Rugby Football Union, this field was eventually levelled in 1971 and, thanks to a grant from the Sports Council, assisted by other grants from the Cornwall County Council and Camborne-Redruth U.D.C., separate dressing room accommodation was erected for the use of the Colts in 1972, thus, with two first-class playing pitches and excellent dressing room facilities, few clubs could boast of superior playing conditions.
In a period of 100 years there is almost certain to be some outstanding events, and in the’ playing sense the 1930’s was certainly a golden era, but the season of 1956/57 could most assuredly be regarded as one of the “Reds” best ever, losing six games only out of a total of 51 played. Under the leadership of Harold Stevens, this team played some magnificent Rugby, which included the biggest ever win at Camborne. Such stalwart forwards as Raymond Peters, Paddy McGovan and Ken Abrahams had now made their mark in Cornish Rugby, and both McGovan and Abrahams along with the illustrious
Bonzo” Johns were later in 1961 all to be recognised by the England selectors when an International Trial was held at Penzance. The season was also noteworthy for the fact that the brothers Nigel and Richard Sharp made their debuts in the red jersey, but more will be heard of them in the years ahead. The period from 1954 to 1 960 was a highly successful one, with the Club being unofficial Cornish Champions for four seasons, and it was really in 1960 that Richard Sharp became the sensation of the Rugby world with an absolutely brilliant display against Wales at Twickenham in his first International match.
No reference to this period would be complete without some words of praise for such splendid scrum-halves as Des Rogers and Roy Harris, Ken James at stand-off and the powerful running at wing-threequarter of Gordon Osborne.
By this time, of course, television had made its impact not only on the social life of the country, but very considerably on amateur sport, and Redruth, who, incidentally, had always been well supported, began to feel the effect of comparatively sparse attendances at home matches. Later it became rather more evident, as indeed it is today, that the decline in gates” could not be attributed solely to television, but with rapidly improving standards of living bringing the motor car to so many homes, people began to find other interests. This Club, in an effort to counter this decline in interest, made many strenuous efforts to get some form of competitive Rugby introduced in Cornwall, but it was not until the season 1967/68 that the Cornwall Rugby Union introduced it’s official competition, and then on a knock-out basis only.
Colts Rugby continued to flourish and Redruth have every reason to be very grateful to Frank Bray, a former wing-threequarter, who was a tower of strength with these youngsters for several seasons, followed later by Jack Dale, who was equally untiring in his efforts on behalf of the Colts.
Although the early years of the last decade was not a period of great distinction, in the team sense, individually the club was very much to the fore, with ‘Bonzo” Johns and Ken Abrahams both being reserves for England and playing for the Barbarians on their Easter tour of South Wales. Richard Sharp, on coming down from Oxford, had gone into the teaching profession, and had now gained all the honours possible by being selected for the British Lions Tour in South Africa.
During this period the “Reds” were fortunate to have the assistance of Derek Prout, of Launceston, who whilst a student at Cornwall Technical College, joined the Club and soon showed his worth as a fast and powerful wing-threequarter. Following a course at Loughborough College, Prout returned to a teaching appointment at the Technical College, but later moved to Northampton, where he gained his England cap in 1968.
It is interesting to recall, too, that in the season 1962/63 John Mills and John Harvey, both present-day stalwarts, received their under 15 caps for the England Schools. By way of contrast, Geoffrey Williams made frequent appearances in the red jersey in the early sixties, but he later turned his attention to sailing and was eventually the winner of the Observer 1968 Single Handed Transatlantic Yacht Race from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island.
The season of 1963/64 saw the retirement of Ken Abrahams and Ray Peters, and this was followed by Paddy McGovan joining the Metropolitan Police. Fernley Furse, who has also been a very fine loose forward, also retired rather prematurely through injury, and the side was seriously weakened for some time by the loss of such splendid players at one time. Despite a relative lack of success, individual achievement was seldom lacking, and Trevor Wherry, at Scrum-half, who captained the team in the season 1966/67, did not miss a game for two seasons, during which time he played 94 consecutive matches. Cornwall’s excellent progress in the County Championship in 1966/67 brought about a general desire for the use of the Redruth ground for these on the important events, and the Semi-Final was played here, to be followed a couple of years later by the Quarter Final, Semi-Final and that never-to-be-forgotten Final with Lancashire, in March, 1968, when 22,000 spectators filled the ground. This was a memorable occasion in many ways, not least by reason of the decision to demolish the old Dressing Rooms, which had stood in the north-east corner of the ground for a great number of years. This was considered necessary in order to extend the standing accommodation to its utmost strenuous limit, but it had been a fine old structure, which excited some nostalgic memories for many old players. The season of 1967/68 was a notable one for Cornish Rugby, for, as stated earlier, the Cornwall Rugby Union gave its blessing for a Knock-Out Competition to be held for the senior clubs, and in view of the efforts which it had made to further this event, it was perhaps rather fitting that Redruth should have the honour of being one of the two teams in the Final, which was played at Falmouth against Penryn. Although the “Reds” lost a very good game, the competition had stimulated great interest and its future seemed assured. A well-known Cornwall player in Ray George joined the Club at this time, and proved to be a great asset and ,indeed, captained the Club for three seasons up to and including that of 1971/72. Another highly attractive player in Mike Sweeney had also joined the Club, and it would probably be safe to say that few players possessed more individual flair and talent for the game than this former Cambornian. Sweeney was a remarkably fine kicker and his evasive running and acceleration evoked a lot of admiration. He was to become, too, a consistently high points scorer and, indeed, in the season of 1969/70 this Technical remarkable little player amassed a personal tally of 282 points. In the season I powerful of 1966/67, John Phillips also scored the handsome total of 186 points, Prout was all the more remarkable, for after being forced to give up the game with a moved to serious illness in his younger days, he had come back to the scene and was a very big help to the Club in many ways. In the late sixties, coaching became very popular, and most clubs had by this time given a lot of consideration to its necessity or otherwise, indeed, what had always been regarded as a great amateur game was now being approached in a very professional manner, as was evidenced by the display of the Lancashire team under John Burgess. The season 1 969/70 marked the official retirement of “Bonzo” after 20 years of wonderful service to the club, but fortunately he has turned his attention to the administrative side of the game and became a very keen Team Secretary, and has often found himself putting on the red jersey again in time of emergency. Retirements are not always permanent, and as this is being written, “Bonzo“ continues to hit the headlines by turning out in an emergency and scored the one and only try to bring about a Redruth victory at Devonport against the Services.
This past decade had certainly not been one of the most successful in the Club’s history, but in the early seventies there were positive indications of a greater willingness to run the ball, and this was demonstrated in the most impressive way by young players like Doug Yelland, Max Aitken and John Harvey, who began to play some Rugby of a high quality, which for a short time compared favourably with any Redruth team in memory. Unfortunately, some of the young players at this time decided that life in the Antipodes might offer some more favourable reward than at home. Consequently, Max Aitken, Tim Penna and Trevor Tonkin emigrated to Australia, but the last two have since returned home.
The commencement of the present decade also coincided with the extension of the playing pitch to maximum length and width, and the Club was the recipient of a new set of steel goal posts of quite imposing height.
As was mentioned earlier, coaching had at the beginning of this decade become almost a necessity in all grades of the game and the Club were fortunate in this respect to have the assistance of Andy Morgan. This former Oxford Blue and London~Welsh wing-threequarter had taken up an appointment at Truro and joined the Club with the intention of becoming a playing member, but unfortunately a knee injury sustained sometime previously really prevented him from showing his full capability and consequently he rendered excellent service to the Club as their coach.
Derek Collins had been a stalwart second-row forward with the Club for some years and it was very gratifying to everyone when in his season of captaincy, 1972/73, he should play for Cornwall in two championship matches. Another Redruth forward to establish a big reputation for himself as a prop is Terry Pryor, the present Captain, who since 1969 has played nearly 30 times for Cornwall. With the advent of Laurie Spear, a second-row forward of considerable county experience, the “Reds” pack began to assume a more formidable aspect. The backs, too, began to play some quite scintillating Rugby, and in the season 1972/73 John Harvey, playing at centre-threequarter, scored 34 tries, and the team’s general desire to run the ball was shown by their total score of 140 tries in that season. In 1970, the Roy Jennings’ Cup was presented to the Club by Mrs. Bartecki, a sister of the former Redruth star, and it was decided that this should be presented at the end of the season to the particular player chosen by the club,selectors. The winners to date are Michael Downing (1971), Derek Collins (1972) and Roger Pryor (1973).
In the last year or so the Club found themselves with a surfeit of players for the usual two fifteens, and it was decided in 1973 to run a third fifteen, to be known as the Extra A. The strength of this team varies considerably by reason of the availability of players or the lack of it, but those who play appear to enjoy themselves, which is probably all that matters.
The movement of highly promising young players to other parts of the country has also affected Redruth, particularly when one recalls the rich promise of such as Richard Pearson and Stephen Tiddy, the latter having earned a lot of praise with the Metropolitan Police XV. Another member of the Tiddy family in Philip, who has n equally high potential, hopes to go up to Loughborough College, but it is thought that he will still be frequently seen in the red jersey.
Although the run-up to the Club’s centenary season was not quite as successful as had been hoped, the final record was not without some merit, in that only a few teams in Devon and Cornwall could claim to have won more matches. County honours continued to come the Club’s way and both John Harvey and Trevor Tonkin made their debuts in Championship Rugby. Together with Terry Pryor and Laurie Spear, they made a more than useful contribution to Cornwall’s efforts. Terry Pryor, the Club Captain, was awarded the Roy Jennings’ Cup for being the Club’s most consistent player of the season.
The Reserves had a good season, scoring some 836 points in the process, and the Extra “A” had great fun at times. They, too, were very much on the scoring trail and amassed a total of 725 points in 26 matches. The outstanding success story was really that of the Colts, who, under the enthusiastic coaching of Terry Pryor, won the Cornwall Colts K.O. Competition Cup and then proceeded to add the Colts “Sevens” Trophy to its achievements. To add to its records, the Colts in one game scored over 100 points, which is a Redruth Club record, but this was a splendid young team, which must augur well for Redruth Rugby in the future. It is interesting, too, to recall that although Falmouth had the distinction of being the Cornish Champions, in two matches out of three played they were defeated by Redruth; indeed the “Reds” generally had the better of the argument against the other Cornish clubs, but rather fell down in those games with teams from outside the county.