On the 12th March 1877 the Macclesfield Cricket and Football Clubs celebrated their amalgamation at a supper at the Pack Horse Hotel, Jordangate. Events were presided over by Captain Stanicliffe, and J. W. H. Thorp claimed that there was “extended local support in his efforts to promote athletic sports”. What has this to do with Macclesfield Rugby well two things actually; firstly at that time Rugby was a form of Football and rugby in Macclesfield was played by Macclesfield Football Club at Boughey Lane, later renamed Victoria Road i.e. the Cricket Club. But perhaps equally notable was the presence of JWH Thorp, a member of the Macclesfield Football Club, who became the first and only Cheshire representative to be elected President of the RFU. Thorp’s photo hangs today in the Committee Rooms at HQ. Does that make Thorp the most “famous” of Macclesfield’s distinguished list of players?
As the Second World War had such an impact on Macclesfield rugby it is not unusual to find one of “our fallen” on the list of casualties during March. In this instance it was Flying Officer Navigator, Norman Brocklehurst, of the 161stSquadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Norman was born in 1922 the son of butchers Norman and Florence Brocklehurst. Norman was brought up over the butcher’s shop business in Chestergate. Norman attended King’s School, and played cricket for Macclesfield and Maxonians and Rugby for Macclesfield. So the link between Rugby and Cricket clubs was still well in evidence. After joining the R.A.F. in 1942 he was posted to Coastal Command, and for a time saw service at Gibraltar. He was killed during a training exercise near Arlesey, Bedfordshire, on the 28thMarch 1944, he was aged 22 years. Norman is buried in Macclesfield Cemetery and commemorated on the Park Green War Memorial, Macclesfield.
After the war, the first full season 1946-7, saw the reformed Macclesfield Rugby Union Football Club get off to a real flyer. Sadly the early season success was interrupted by the ‘Big Freeze’ which ceased all activities until late in March 1947. To celebrate a recommencement of activities MRUFC put on an “exhibition” game featuring two teams of selected players (many from senior clubs and with representative honours). This was played at the Fallibroome grounds. Although we cannot be certain it is likely that this game was played on the area next to the Alderley Road. The game was nominally between Macclesfield and Winnington Park. Despite a gritty forward performance featuring Macclesfield’s own Proctor, Winnington Park ran out winners on the day.
In March 1964, the first team beat Leek to register their 14th win on the trot, the club was abuzz with talk of a best-ever-season but more so with the brace of tries by young prop John Taylor. The first of these was reported as “40 yards out, charged like a bull elephant heading for a mud bath before using a side-step and dummy to go over unchallenged”. I imagine his sons – David and Iain – and grandsons Tommy and Chris would be proud to be half as belligerent as this.
Some years ago there was much grumbling about cliques that form in the hierarchy of selection; not supporting the club, not enabling players to play up the sides and so forth. The grumbling has been in evidence since the time that the club put out more than two teams on a weekend. In season 1960-1 it came to a head when a particularly successful Extra A XV felt it necessary to challenge the senior side to a competitive match. In March 1968, Clubman reported that “the rank and file Tankard (the name adopted by the Extra A XV) player….to be superior to his second team counterpart”. Strong words and a challenge was inevitably made and accepted. Clubman went on the report “the Tankards are either a talented outfit with a splendid cavalier attitude to the game or for the most part a bunch of loud mouth non-entities.” Strong words indeed and the game scheduled for 15th March thankfully it never took place!
Finally and to complete the Cricket Club – Rugby Club link, in March 1967 on a Sunday following defeat to West Park the first team were tested again by a strong Saxons side that included the Cheshire (and Macclesfield) half backs of Alan McInnes and Pete Holland. Actually Alan had already moved to Sale by this time. Following this game McInnes and Holland played for Cheshire against Durham, this was to be Alan’s last game as a Union player. Immediately after the game the news broke that McInnes was leaving Sale to play professional league for Salford.