This is a long and wandering tale, one that is not finished yet.
In 1960 Club President George Proctor wrote “a history of the Club should be completed for record purposes and to bring to the notice of its members the achievements of the past and its proposals for the future. The gradual, but successful strides of the past have been an accumulated effort in which all members took part.” These words are as true today as they were in 1960 and as they were from the very start of rugby in Macclesfield.
From a ‘fighting start’ in 1874, via the fields of cricket, association football, and a pub car park MRUFC passed through Fallibroome in an earlier guise before finding their first real home at Tytherington. But this was not the end of change as the Club continued to move forward on all fronts. Although the next move was an enforced one.
The laying of the Silk Road through a significant chunk of ‘hallowed turf’ forced a return to Fallibroome roots. Now (in 2017) even the ‘new’ home, Priory Park, is subject of possible change with the possibility of a new clubhouse and artificial pitch.
Memories Are Made Of This
Over the years many club members have captured their memories on video, these memories form a part of the clubs Living History, a history of the club as it is and was remembered by people there rather than dusty unspeaking photos and newspaper articles.
In 2014 several of the club’s oldest members gathered to reminisce on their times at MRUFC during the 1950s and 1960s when the club played at the London Road ground and when for the first time members began to seriously consider the purchase of their own clubhouse and grounds at Tytherington.
The Course Of History
In the following video David Wilkinson charts the course of MRUFC from the introduction of rugby to Macclesfield in 1874 through to Priory Park in 2016.
The Timeline then gives more detailed descriptions of key events and personalities on this course.
- IT WAS FOOTBALL AS THEY KNEW IT.
In 1845, the first football laws were written by Rugby School pupils; in 1863 the Blackheath Club decided to leave the Football Association and in 1895 rugby had its own schism as union and league went their own ways.
Whilst all this change was happening in the game of football the Rugby version arrived in the North, and specifically Macclesfield, initially as played by infantry men of the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers who played their first match in Macclesfield in 1873.
- THE KICK OFF
In 1874 matches were arranged with Crewe, Congleton and Stockport consisting of 20 players a side. Only some years later were the Laws amended to make it todays 15 a side game. The first game to be played under the Rugby rules of football took place on the Boughley Lane Ground, on 14th January, 1874. Since Boughley Lane later became known as Bowfield Lane and eventually Victoria Road this first game probably took place on the ground currently occupied by the Macclesfield Cricket Club.
That first game saw a team under the command of H. Frogatt playing the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers (CRVs) Athletic Club. Local 'match rules' specifically stated that “hacking '' and “tripping '' were allowed. The next game was another 'local friendly' between the 8th CRV'S and Captain Brocklehurst's Troop of Yeomanry. The game was a long one, lasting from 3-15 to 5-30 p.m., hopefully not because of any on-field trouble.
- JWH THORP LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD
The 8th CRV. Athletic Club was successful in making the game very popular in Macclesfield. JWH Thorp was probably Macclesfields first 'rugby star'. Besides playing for Macclesfield, he often assisted the Manchester Club and played for the County. He was considered to be one of Cheshire's leading forwards. He had the distinction of playing in the first eight County games against Lancashire, and, in 1883, he became the second President of the Cheshire Rugby Union, a position that he held for over 20 years. In 1898 he was elected as President of the RFU and re-elected the following season. He was the first and to this date (2016) only Cheshire representative to be elected as President of the RFU, a unique honour. Today the following photo Thorp hangs in the Committee Room at Twickenham. The only Macclesfield player to be so recognised by HQ!
The Museum at Twickenham has also provided a scan of the opening page of minutes for the first meeting attended by JW Thorp.
- A TOWN IN UNION
In 1878 the first Macclesfield Rugby Club affiliated to the Rugy Football Union along with such clubs as Bowdon and Sale. Whilst there is no surviving internal register of RFU affiliated clubs from this period, Charles W Alcock’s ‘Football Annual’ of 1878 lists ‘Macclesfield’ as one of the clubs affiliated with the RFU at that time. The annual was written with the assistance of Mr Guillemard (then vice-president of the RFU) and is the RFU’s most reliable source of information for this time. Macclesfield Rugby Union Football Club isn’t listed in the annual until the 1929-30 edition and are then, as before, listed simply as ‘Macclesfield’.
- THE PHOENIX RISES AGAIN
There is little information to tell us why organised Rugby went out of existence in Macclesfield around the end of the nineteenth century but it was probably allied to the growing popularity of the Association form of football. But you can't keep a good dog down and early in 1926, W. J. Siggins started the movement that would result in Macclesfield RUFC constituted in its current form. Siggins played Association Football for the Y.M.C.A. Where he was one of the few members with any previous experience of Rugby football. Nevertheless his enthusiasm and efforts generated sufficient interest in the “oval ball '' game that a meeting was held in the Majestic Cafe, Mill street, to consider the possibility of raising a side. This was Macclesfield's equivalent to the infamous George Hotel meeting (at which the Northern Union split from the RFU and initiated Rugby League) if less significant in the development of rugby globally. The main contributors were ; W. J. Siggins, R. L. Rogers, W. E. Whiston and F. Hermann. F. Hermann undertook the duties of Honorary Secretary during the formation period, and it was due to these pioneers and others, including H. O. Kemp, H. Bennett, W. Geeson, J. H. Wilson, D.Moorhouse, E. P. Hanrahan, G. Rowson, F. Arnold, C. Arnold, A Butler and E. H Leah, that the Club came into being and was, founded in 1926, under the Presidency of Major A. M G Debenham MC, a prominent Lancashire forward who lived at Bollington.
Such was the organising ability of W. E. Whiston, that in a short time practices were commenced on the Trinity Wesleyan FC ground, off Congleton Road. And practice was needed for many involved had only a rudimentary knowledge of the game. So it was not unusual for these enthusiastic members to practise Rugby on the Saturday morning and play Soccer in the afternoon. The location of the Trinity Wesleyan Ground was close to the current playing fields opposite the Rising Sun pub.
- THERE IS ONLY ONE MRUFC
The purpose of all the practice was to fulfill a number of fixtures in the new year, 1927. Macclesfield RUFC started their second life with a game against Davenport on 1 January 1927 with W J Siggins as captain. The game took place at Grange Road, Davenport, with a 10-45 a m. kick-off. Many years later Davenport were to become Stockport Rugby Club and counted amongst their stalwarts Keith Bentley, son of Charles Bentley a stalwart servant of MRUFC as both player and committee man and eventually President.
A copy of the article introducing MRUFC in its first year, hangs in the Clubhouse (see below), the original appeared in the Macclesfield Courier 1st January 1927.
The report of the game, a 63-0 reverse!, notes that it was attended by a number of “Macclesfield enthusiasts” presumably walking off the New Year celebrations. But more importantly that raw inexperience was no match for practiced opposition despite game efforts from Siggins at full back and Arnold and Winder at half back.
- THE FIRST ANNUAL MEETING
The first Annual Meeting, at which the rules of the Club were formulated, was held on 9th May, 1927, at the Y.M.C A., with the President in the chair supported by the Rev. W S. Coad, Dr. Proudfoot and Dr. A. C. Gillies when, for the ensuing year, Rev. W. S. Coad, F. Hermann, E H Leah, J A Lees, W. J. Siggins and W.E.Whiston were elected to the Executive Committee.
Interestingly an Extraordinary General Meting (EGM) was called after the second AGM, a copy of the notice hangs in the clubhouse, see below.
We have no background to this meeting but the two items were formalization of the Rules and responsibilities of the Committee and significantly a call for increased player subscriptions and a levy on unpaid subscriptions. Were players always dilatory about paying their subscriptions, has the Club always struggled to make ends meet, probably!
- COCK OF THE NORTH
So successful was the inaugural season of MRUFC that they needed more space and facilities so moved to their new ground and headquarters, the Cock Inn, Henbury. That season the playing record for the 1st XV was played 26, Won 22, Lost 3, Drawn 1. Points for 346, points against 95.
- OUR FUTURE PAST
Success followed success and a further move was required, this time to a farmers field off Alderley Road, Fallibroome! So 50 years before Priory Park was envisaged MRUFC became the local sports facility for the first time.
- A NEW GROUND – AGAIN
The Fallibroome Ground was taken. It was a step in the right direction as it offered some degree of permanency, that was be an important factor in retaining fixtures, and for the future of the club. No time was lost in erecting a hut for changing, and this was followed by an extension providing baths and heating apparatus.
Sir C. D. Macara, Bt., was appointed captain. There were changes of officials. K. Maclean call took over the Honorary Secretary position from H. O. Kemp, who had given valuable service for the previous four years. Harold Siggins replaced G. Howe, the Honorary Treasurer, who had carried out those duties from the club's inception. G. P. Higgins and J. H. Wood jointly took over the position of Team Secretary from W. E. Whiston, who had carried out that arduous duty as well as that of Hon. Fixture Secretary from the beginning.
Sadly the financial position of the Club was not good, due to the expense incurred in the purchase and erection of the new Clubhouse. Funds were raised though the popular annual dance and other efforts, but it was to take a considerable time to attain the figure required to meet the cost. A story not too unfamiliar today! Towards the end of the season the Club had one of their best victories, when they defeated a strong Waterloo “A '' team by 15 points to nil, a game in which Jack Hill played one of the best games of his career at full-back, and one in which Vic Bull excelled in goal- kicking. Vic Bull, after seven years' service, was the only member of the original team left playing and for several years many a breathless forward must have blessed him for his long-kicks to touch.
- YOU WIN NOTHING WITH A YOUNG SIDE
The lst XV was a remarkably young side, the average age being about 21. The staff of the King's School were strongly represented in J. S. Heap, W. S. Logan, S. R. Jones, the recognised “hooker '' for years, M. L. Harvey, a scrum-half who had the ability to throw the long pass accurately; and from the School XV : G. A. Frith, the ex-lst XV captain, and R. C. Fox, a 15 stone, 10 .5 sec. forward, who eventually became one of the best forwards in Cheshire. Ian Proctor was the greatest find, who was at Leeds University after a distinguished Rugger career at Ley's School.
It was during it “the J. H. Wood era'' that the Club entered the Crewe Seven-a-side Tournament, organised by the Crewe and Nantwich Club for three consecutive seasons. This feat was commemorated on a cigarette card produced by Ardath Tobacco. In the first year 12 clubs from five counties took part, including Chester, Wrexham, Bowdon, Stoke-on-Trent and Old Birkonians. Much to the surprise of the Club they defeated the crack Stoke-on- Trent team in the final after eliminating Winnington Park in the semi-final. The Stoke side consisted of six county players and an Oxford Blue.
The following year Macclesfield repeated their previous success and became the first side to win the tournament in successive years. In these two games it was R. C. Fox and I. R. Proctor who did nearly all the scoring. In the third encounter, in 1937-1938 season, hopes of ran high of being able to perform the “hat trick”, but such hopes were quickly deluded in the first round when the Club were in the lead and taking it “easy” against Wrexham who proceeded to score a snap try in the last minute of the game. Those who took part in these .' games were :J. Hill, J. H. Wood, N. Williams, R. C, Fox, I. R. Proctor, R. J. Sutton, L. N. Corbishley, F. W. Ledgar, P. Growths, D. Eccleston, V. Bull, G. Stephens.
A. A. Arnold, another member of the King's School staff, joined the Club and probably not since the days of W. J. Siggins had Macclesfield had such a versatile player. Full-back, three-quarter and forward were all within his scope.
- FROM THE ASHES
After the Second World War the Club restarted regular fixtures under prompting and leadership of President T Turnbull and Chairman of W E Whiston.
- ON THE MOVE, AGAIN!
Post war years were difficult for many reasons, for MRUFC one difficulty was the loss of Fallibroome as a playing facility. Thankfully Kings School stepped in and provided temporary accommodation and facilities which ceased when the Club opened its new ground and clubhouse on London Road on 9 September 1950.
- WHAT? ON THE MOVE, AGAIN!
Late in the 50s accomodation once again became an issue as farm land became a premium. Ever looking forward the Committee guided its members towards a new home which for the first time ever would be fully owned by MRUFC. The new grounds and clubhouse at Tytherington were opened by the President of Cheshire and the Mayor of Macclesfield on 7 September 1961.
- FIRST, FOR FIRSTS
The first club team (teams) to play at Tytherington were the second and third teams of the day. The first team had to wait until later in the month before he team, captained by John Taylor, conspired to lose 10-3 to Bury. And on the last day of the first month Don Innes celebrated scoring the first try to be scored by the first XV at Tytherington this during a 9-5 win over Old Aldwinians.
- FOURTH FOR THE FIRST TIMELINE
In a season of firsts the 14th October saw another first when for the first time ever the club fielded a fourth team. This team started extremely well and recorded two wins before losing at Davenport at the end of the month.
- LIGHTING UP AT TRAINING
At this time smoking was very much a feature of social habits particularly after the rigors of a physical training session. In October 1961 the club gave a new meaning to ‘lighting up’ when the installed floodlights to facilitate dark night training. Sadly, in keeping with the clubs tradition of being always just one penny short of a full purse those that trained were asked to pay towards the cost of turning on the lights. Amateur days indeed and may be there was a double benefit if players had less to spend on cigarettes as well as getting fit!
- SAXONS REPELLED
On Sunday 25th February a Macclesfield Invitation side played Saxons, a team of well known players from senior clubs in the North West. The Saxons won 11-3. The Macclesfield team included a number of schoolboys some of whom would feature for the club in later years. They were; Little (who was a North of England U19 trialist), Joyce, Croxall, and Welch. The game was played in snowy conditions and featured a strong forward performance from the Macclesfield pack who were a stone a man lighter than their opposite numbers whilst Alan McInnes provided a constant threat.
- SEVENTH HEAVEN
As April arrived so did another tradition of that time, the sevens season. On the 7th April 2 teams entered the prestigious Stoke sevens. They contained a heavy Kings School presence. The 'A' seven progressed to the quarterfinals before being beaten by Stoke A (the eventual winners). Later in the month this was followed by the Manchester sevens. From the qualifying competition Macclesfield emerged as qualifiers following wins over De La Salle and Tyldsley. In the finals with Barker, McInnes and Miller beginning to make their presence felt and Holland proving an adept linkman Macclesfield beat Warrington and New Brighton, eventually to lose to Wigan in the quarter finals. The season concluded with a sevens tournament at Tytherington in which 6 teams were present. The team containing Barker, McInnes, Holland duly secured the trophy.
- GIVE ME THE MINI AND I'LL GIVE YOU THE PLAYER
Well not quite the manifestation of this infamous Jesuit motto (actually phrased after the Greek philosopher Aristotle) but when the Mini/Junior Section was formed under chairmanship of George Lewis who could have foreseen the extent of Sunday morning activities at the Club and the serious impact that these players have had on the Clubs fortunes.
- RAMPANT COLTS CONQUER CHESHIRE
The Cheshire Colts Shield was won by MRUFC for the first time, the first silver ware won by the Club at any level since the successful Sevens teams of the 30's.
- FALLIBROOME WHEREFORE ART THOU?
Finally? Well possibly. Fifty years after moving to Fallibroome for the first time MRUFC moved there again and the newly named Priory Park was opened on the same land although not the same pitch on 14 September 1980.
- SILVER COLLECTION BEGINS
The 1st XV are Cheshire Plate Winners
- COLTS BEATEN BY A SOCCER SCORELINE!
In April of the 1983-4 season the Colts team made another visit to the final of the Colts Shield. This time to play a fancied Birkenhead Park team who had the rare privelege of playing a final on their own turf! Sadly in an extremely tight affair the Blues returned home on the wrong side of a 4-3 scoreline!
The MRUFC squad that day contained a number of players who would eventually represent the Club at 1st XV as well as the Senior County side. feature prominently in the clubs future success on and off the field. As well as the Gray brothers; John and Howard there were two offspring of MRUFC ‘royalty’. David Miller’s son, Chris – a winger with less of the fleet footed talents of his father but with the same nose for the try line; and John Taylor’s son Ian, destined to become the oldest player to represent the first team player at the Club.
- MACCLESFIELD PLAYERS RECOGNISED
The Cheshire ‘B’ XV that played Lancashire on the 11th December 1984 contained three representatives from the Blues. David Taylor was hooking, with Club and 1st XV captain Martin Ainsley playing at openside and a young Steve Henshall on the bench.
Meanwhile the Cheshire Schools Under 18s had Mike Hall playing at full back. Mike was a rare specimen in the sense that he was at Fallibroome, not one of the well recognised rugby schools of Cheshire or even Macclesfield. Mike would later go on to play with distinction for the Blues 1st XV.
- COLTS WIN BY A RUGBY SCORELINE
One year after suffering the narrowest of defeats at the hands of Birkenhead Park the Blues Colts returned to the final of the Cheshire Shield to beat Winnington Park in another tense encounter, 13-12.
On this occasion the Colts were happy to have ‘home advantage’ which combined with an experienced team, many had suffered in the previous years defeat.
- A BROKEN PLATE
Sadly on their return to the Cheshire Plate final the 1st XV suffered another narrow defeat to near neighbours Sandbach, 11-9.
Creeping competitiveness of club fixtures had been restricted to Merit Tables and more latterly Cup and Shield competitions. Now the first Rugby Union League was introduced on a trial basis in the North West and MRUFC were one of the pioneers in the newly designated Girobank North West League.
- COLTS RETURN TO THE FOLD
Almost 10 years to the day the Colts returned to Cheshire Shield final and came away with the trophy.
- THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
For the first time in its history MRUFC finally became Cheshire Cup winners. But success was not limited to the top of the Club as the Under 17s won Cheshire Youth Cup.
- TAKE COURAGE
The 1st XV win the North West I Courage League.
- FILL THE PLATE
The 1st XV win the Cheshire Plate.
- CUP OVER RUNNETH
Now the 1st XV were experiencing one of its most successful playing periods ever winning the North 2 League and the Cheshire Cup, this for the second time.
- SUCCESS BREEDS EXPANSION
Playing success, increased club membership and a bugeoning Mini/Junior section enabled the Club to expand its facilties and with kind sponsorship from Co-op Bank the Co-operative Bank Lounge and new changing rooms were opened.
- SMALL SUCCESS
The Under 11s win the Cheshire Youth Cup competition.
- THIRD TIME
1st XV win Cheshire Cup for the third time and lose away to Gosport in semi-final of Intermediate Cup. As testimony to the success of this team six members of 1st Team were selected for the Cheshire County side which were losing finalists in that years County Championship at Twickenham.
MRUFC celebrates125 years of affiliation to the Rugby Union.
- MACCLESFIELD GOES GLOBAL
Well not quite global, more national as the first team played 22, Won 17, Lost 5 scoring 645 points and conceding354 on their way to winning the Cheshire Cup for fourth time and gaining promotion to National 3 North after second place play-off.
Eight (8) MRUFC players represented Cheshire in the County Championship.
- HEADY HEIGHTS
Played their first game at National level as a Member of National 3 North.
The 2nd & 3rd XVs win their respective Divisions in the Fairclough Homes NW Intermediate League.
- MACCLESFIELD THIS IS HOUSTON
Actually it was the arrival at the Club of the outcome of space research in the form of Astro-turf. The latest addition to the Clubs playing facilities, the Astro-turf pitch was formally opened.
- THE DARK LINED SILVER CLOUD
The 1st XV finished a largely successful season in National 3 North, coming 2nd in the league to lose the promotion play-off game at Redruth, and losing in the final of the Cheshire Cup.
The second team meanwhile celebrated becoming joint Winners of Premier Division of NW Leagues and the 3rd team won promotion from Division 2 of NW League after finishing second.
- TWO CUPS AND A PLAY OFF
While the 1st XV were winning the Cheshire Cup, again, the 2nd XV reached final of their Cup, the Halbro Cup, and the Under 17s (Junior Colts) reached their divisional play offs.
- ITS OURS AND IT STAYS HERE
The Cheshire Cup is retained.
- THE CUP IS DROPPED
Finally the 1st XV lose in the Cheshire Cup, this year its runners-up only.
- IT OURS AGAIN
A strong challenge from the 1st XV saw them eventually missout on a play off finishing 3rd in National 3 North but they did regain the Cheshire Cup. The second team continued their domination of their rugby sphere albeit with a small weakening, finishing 2nd in Bateman BMW Premier League and once again winning the the Halbro Cup. Whilst the 3rd team won promotion to Miller Homes Division 1.
The Club provided the venue for the inaugural Manchester 7s some recognition of the Club's status in the Manchester area.
- ALL THAT GLISTENS IS SILVER
The 1st XV win National Division 2 North to gain promotion to National Division 1 and visit Twickenham to beat Barking in the final of the National Division 2 Champions Cup.
Not to be outdone the 2nd XV won a League and Cup double, champions of the Bateman BMW Premier Division and winners of the Raging Bull Cup.
- EXTREME HEIGHT CAUSES A NOSE BLEED
The 1st XV play their first ever game at National Division 1, the third tier of English rugby thereby officially entering the list as one of the top 50 clubs in England.
- WORDS FAIL BUT NOT THESE TEAMS
In their first ever season at National 1 the first team finish 4th having challenged for another promotion for much of the season. But the second team were not to be outdone winning the Bateman BMW Premier League / Conference and retaining the Raging Bull Cup
Spectators and members attending the first National League 1 match of the season against Wharfedale, were greeted by the sight of technology imposing itself on Priory Park. A new electronic scoreboard was unveiled and dedicated to the memory of Peter Jones, a former player and President of the Club. A doubly fitting tribute as operation of its manual predecessor scoreboard was a regular duty of the Jones family during Peter’s Presidency. Over the years this task was regularly undertaken by the younger Jones’, in the form of various grandsons until they developed their rugby skills to follow Grandad, Peter and Dad, Richard onto the field to carry on the family rugby tradition. Thereafter that task was invariably willingly carried out Peter’s wife Dot.
- CONSOLIDATING WINNERS
Maintaining their form of the previous season the 1st XV finished 6th in National Division 1.
But the 4th team were the team of the year gaining promotion to Division 4 South by winning Division 5 South and winning the Raging Bull Plate along the way.
- LEAD US O NEW EXECUTIVE
New Executive Committee formed at the AGM. The new Executive came into being in response to another of the perennial crisis of finance and management that the Club has seen over the 90 years or so of its presence as MRUFC.
- WAKING FROM A DREAM
An administrative 'cock up' caused a points deduction and led eventually to losing National Division 1 status as the 1st XV were relegated to National Division 2 North. The second team provided some small relief by wining the Premier Division/Conference A. The Under 16s brought some hope for the future by winning the Cheshire Cup.
- RUBBER BALL COMES BOUNCING BACK
In the most dramatic of circumstances the first team capped a highly successful season by winning National Division 2 North at the first attempt and gaining promotion back to National Division 1. Their success was one of many this season. The 2nd XV won the LBS Cup, the U19s (Senior Colts) won the Cheshire Plate, the U15s the Cheshire Cup and the U7s/8s/9s & 10s all won their respective Cheshire Festivals.
- TOP OF THE PILE!
MRUFC play in National Division 1!
- THE HIGHS AND LOWS
The joy of the 2nd XV winning the Premier League/Conf. A and the 3rd XV winning Division 2 (S) to gain promotion to Division 1 is more than offset by the despair of the 1st XV being relegated from National Division 1 to National Division 2(N).