By Bob Jenner
The merry month of May, not usually for rugby players and followers, the season has, or is just ending, the pitches are bare and empty and there is just the Annual General Meeting to look forward to. That’s the norm but over the years it has also been a month of significant events in the history of Macclesfield rugby.
In its current guise as Macclesfield RUFC, rugby playing commenced with a New Years day fixture in 1927 against Davenport (who themselves have now become Stockport RUFC) on the Trinity Wesleyan FC ground on Congleton Road; Davenport ran out 17-0 winners. That first game (and defeat) was followed by intensive practice and development so that when the inaugural season finished on May 6th1927 they managed to keep Davenport close, losing 8-9. The AGM was duly held in the YMCA Rooms on Mill Street on the 9th May 1927. At this meeting the Rules of the club were formulated and accepted. Contrary to popular myth the Club’s first ever President, elected at that meeting, was not Peter Harper but Major Debenham and WJ Siggins was elected as the Club’s first ever Captain. So successfully had rugby taken off, and club membership increased to such proportions, that the meeting agreed to turn out a second team (the A XV) and just as importantly to seek a regular ground.
We have just recognised VE Day (8th May) a date which is doubly notable for Macclesfield RUFC as it was on May 8th 1946 that a group of former officials and playing members of the Club, including a number of local dignitaries such as: W.E. Whiston, G.P. Siggins, and A.A. Arnold, met to discuss the prospects of reviving the Club after the Second World War. From the photograph of the pre-War team six players were to be involved in the rebirth of MRUFC a quite remarkable demonstration of durability and luck. For the record they were Robinson, Arnold, Proctor, Wood, Siggins and Bull. Despite losing a quarter of playing members to hostilities and many more to prosaic ageing the meeting agreed that the prospects were considered favourable and assumed the duties of a self-appointed committee, under the Chairmanship of W.E. Whiston, with A.A. Arnold as Honorary Secretary. The financial position, for obvious reasons, was not healthy. The overdraft which had been built up in the purchase of the pre-war Clubhouse had to be cleared, and additional monies to be found to repair the Clubhouse, which had suffered extensive damage from vandalism and storms over the 6 years of War.
The inaugural season at Fallibroome (the second time!) drew to a close on 14th May 1981 with a cup win that is today as rare as hen’s-teeth. This trophy win was the Upton Priory Junior School lifting the ICI Junior Sevens Cup. Upton Priory won the final against a battling and under-rated St Albans 14-4 and received the trophy from former first team captain (and recent poet!) John Robinson. That Upton Priory team of budding starlets included a younger (and much smaller) Andrew McLean who would play for the first team in years to come and give such magnificent voluntary service in recent club house developments. At this time the credentials of the Club’s young sportsmen were confirmed when Colt and future 1stteam star Neil Smedley was called up to Old Trafford for trials with Lancashire CCC.
In fact as a sign of the times May has become a significant month to celebrate wins, promotions and relegations. In 1976 the Macclesfield Colts team lifted the Cheshire Colts Shield for the first time. In doing so they won the first silverware of any description since the successful sevens team of the 1930s. Many wins followed notably 1982 when the first team won the Cheshire Plate for the first time. In May 1993 the first team won their first ever League crown winning the North West 1 Courage League. In May 1995 they improved on this record winning both Cheshire Cup and promotion from North 2. But success was not the domain of senior teams as in May 2001 the then Under 11s won the Cheshire Youth Cup. In May 2015 the Club suffered the full range of joy and despair the 2nd XV won the Premier League/Conference A and the 3rd XV won Division 2 (S) to gain promotion to Division 1 whilst the 1st XV were relegated from National Division 1.
May 2002 was notable for success at a more personal level, following the first team winning the Cheshire Cup for the third time and losing to Gosport in the semi-final of RFU Intermediate Cup six members of the 1st Team were selected to play for Cheshire, eventually becoming losing finalists in that year’s County Championship at Twickenham. The following May the club exceeded even this record winning the Cup for the fourth time and providing eight players to Cheshire. When May 2012 came round it was more a matter of who Macclesfield chose to represent Cheshire. The Cheshire team to play Yorkshire in the first game of the County Championship contained no less than 12 Blues players. The Cheshire squad that day was: O’Regan (Blues), Moorhouse (Blues), Elliot Brierley (Rotherham), Davenport (Blues), Stobart (Blues), Eaton (Blues), Mulchrone (Blues); Woods (Blues), Moss (Blues), Kent (Blues), Ralph (Stockport), Marwick (Stockport, Capt.), Keep (Sale FC), Parkinson (Blues), Attlee (Sale FC). Replacements: Mantell (Blues), Cruse (Stockport), Owen (Blues), Higginson (Lymm), McKibben (Northwich), Townsend (Burnage), Barlow (Stockport). As Jon Keep was a former Blues player and Elliot Brierley, Dave Marwick, Chris Townsend, Barlow and Tom Cruse would soon play for the Blues the Club’s total representation was 18 out of 22!
Rugby history for Macclesfield in the month of May 2020 will be a blank page, but there’s always next year.