By Bob Jenner
Sadly for the rugby brotherhood June is a barren time, at least at club level. In more normal times the playing highs and lows have been and gone, the next season which inevitably is going to be even more successful (or perhaps not) as the season passed, is just too far away, beyond the sun and surf to generate any excitement for now. All of which is a long winded way of saying that this month’s review of Macclesfield Rugby Club in Junes of the past will be shorter than normal.
Sadly, on the 2nd June 1940 the Club lost one of their pre-war stars, George Stephens. Flight Lieutenant Stephens was killed in action and has no known resting place. George had featured in the young pre-war Macclesfield team and played for the RAF.
Not surprisingly George is commemorated in two places: the Runnymede Memorial (usually referred to as the Air Forces Memorial) and on the Gawsworth War Memorial. This Gawsworth connection runs more deeply for the Club. George was born and brought up in Gawsworth where his father was the Vicar and occupied the Vicarage. On Reverend Stephens, in 1945 the Reverend and his wife moved to Leamington Spa but before leaving oversaw the installation in the church at Gawsworth of a stained glass window in honour and memory of their son.
The inscription reads:
To the Glory of God and in memory of
Flt Lieut George Herbert Stephens. RAF
Who lost his life June 2nd 1940
One of the few to whom the many owe so much
But the story does not end there; in 2016 when the Club re-instated its Memorial Board a suitable man of the cloth was sought to provide the Blessing. The resident of the Gawsworth Vicarage was approached and this story was retold, he had no hesitation in carrying out the Blessing and all he asked in return was that he be invited more frequently to the Rugby Club. So now Bishop Willie Pwaisiho (now retired) is the Clubs Pastor and a much welcome occasional guest.
I was reminded of the tenuous links of the Club and June by a text from a former President of the Club (and dignitary, in his own mind at least). “I once wore a Macclesfield blazer in a pub in Devon about 40 years ago. Sat across the other side of the room was a couple; the very attractive lady wore a halter top dress to the approval of many onlookers. Suddenly her partner stood up, looked me straight in the eye, and shouted out: “well who do you play for mate?” From memory that was June.” Boom Boom as Basil was wont to say.
So, to close but maintain the opening theme of commemoration I would like to ask for volunteers to assist in a project for 2021. In 2020 the Club were going to formally recognise VE Day with a presentation in the Club’s entrance and in the Clubhouse itself. Sadly the COVID-19 crisis put paid to that and the opportunity to pay homage to MRUFCs own ‘fallen’. I am proposing to ‘remember’ the MRUFC ‘fallen’ in 2021 (the formal cessation of all hostilities was actually signed 31st December 1946 so 2021 will be the 75th anniversary of the actual end of war itself) by placing a wreath at each of their last resting places or place of commemoration. The wreath will be simply inscribed << name >> lives in the memory of Macclesfield RUFC, and of preference be placed personally. If you are interested in getting involved with this project please get in touch via the Club. The number of commemorations is thirteen but some are commemorated in two places (such as George Stephens, above). The list of sites to be visited range from Macclesfield, through Gawsworth, Bollington, Hale, Runneymede, Portsmouth, Lee-on-Solent, Anglesey, Picady, Northern France, Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and Singapore….although many of the very distant places are replicated in the UK. Are you visiting near one of the resting places? Do you have friends or relatives who live near one of the resting places? Would you like to buy one of the wreaths? Please let me know. On that sombre note I’ll conclude the reminiscences for June.