By David Wilkinson
There are several rugby family dynasties at Macclesfield Rugby Club: The Harpers, Joneses, Olivers Davies; but one covers three generations and all the way to the England team. The Taylor Rugby Dynasty, starts with Great Grandfather, John, who back-in-the-day had a colourful reputation at Macclesfield and the surrounding clubs as: ‘The Enforcer’. A reputation earned, according to his teammates, through being the dirtiest player by far. In one particular game, he had roughed-up his opposite number so much so, that the player’s mother ran onto the pitch brandishing her walking stick. John started playing in the backs before moving to the second-row and finishing in the front row, where no doubt he could revel in the ‘dark-arts’. He started playing back in the fifties at The Moss, London Road, where his wife Wendy remembers many a lock-in party. In 1961 John, then 1stXV Captain, designed the new clubhouse at Tytherington, which would serve the Club well, before the move to Priory Park in 1980. Rugby then for John was nothing like it is today, all games were friendly’s, sort of, and the social activity was as important as the games. With age he moved down the teams to the thirds and recalls: “We were short for an away game at Winnington Park and I managed to persuade a young King’s student called Steve Smith to play for us, it would be his first senior game of rugby”. Smithy still considers himself a Macc Lad and Macclesfield as being his first Club.
At Tytherington, sons David and Iain joined the fray, although David had to start Mini-Rugby with Wilmslow. Iain started playing with George Lewis’s Mini Section in the early 70s. David recalls: “We grew up at Tythy, we were there all the while, bottles of Coke and crisps and finishing pints, when no one was looking”. After playing for King’s School and Macclesfield Colts, David took over from Bob Jenner as Hooker in the 1stXV before joining Sale at Heywood Road, where he would play for another 9 years. With a season back at Macc in 1981 when he broke his right leg. He was selected for North of England but never got to play after breaking his left leg playing against Pontypool. After his last game for Sale, against Blackheath, (breaking his wrist) he rejoined Macclesfield in 1991 aged 31, playing for the first team for another 14 years, his last game away at Kendal aged 45. David remembers the time as being very progressive for the Club: “They were good years the Club was doing well, progressing through the leagues and winning silverware which took us into the prestigious Pilkington Cup. I got picked along with Matt Harding and Richard Usher to tour South Africa with the Anti Assassins, playing the 5 top South African sides. Hogging the Hooker limelight meant that brother Iain would have to play elsewhere for first team rugby, inevitably there would come a time when they would have to face-off against each other; which happened in the final of the Cheshire Cup, Iain then playing for Winnington Park. There was considerable interest in the encounter with the press covering the story with a humours face-off photo. On the day of the match David’s wife Caroline remembers Iain’s wife worrying about the match, saying that she wasn’t bothered about how David would play against his younger brother Iain, but that she was worried how the other Macc players would treat Iain, as a Winnington Park player; Caroline replied: “You should be worried about David!” The outcome is not talked about in the family, but Macclesfield were the winners (It should be noted that Rob Oliver, another Macc player, was playing against Macc that day; Rob escaped early on with a pulled ham-string). David, Iain, Jack, Tommy and Christian actually all played in a match together, for Peter Harper’s retirement; David was not happy after the match as he had not played for 4 years and had to play the full 80 minutes.
Iain’s rugby journey had started with his brother in the Mini and Junior Section, King’s School, Cheshire U16s, then at age 16 playing for Macclesfield 1st XV. He recalls: “It was snowing and David was stuck in Manchester, so I got called in for my first game for the ones, away at Newcastle, Martin Ainsley was captain and one of the best I ever played for”. As a Colt he made the Cheshire Shield final with Macclesfield three years running, winning it twice. Iain went on to play for North of England U18s and an England U18 reserve, Cheshire U20/21 before going to Orrell aged 22. He returned to Macclesfield for a season with Dave Cusani, before going to Winnington Park for 4 years. Another season at Macclesfield before spells at New Brighton and Northwich, finally returning to Macclesfield, where he plans to play yet another season aged 53. Highlights for Iain were his many games for Cheshire almost 50: “Playing with the Macc lads at Twickers in the County Championship final was special, as was coaching many of the lads that went on to play with me in the seconds. Another great experience was at Orrell, being invited by the expat community in Dubai to play in a 7s competition, against all sorts of international opposition; we didn’t win a game, but it was great fun, and a bit hot!”
Of their offspring David’s Jack was the first to follow in their footsteps, showing the way for his younger brother Tommy. Unlike his father, Jack’s talents were silky side-steps and a great boot, although he has the same abrasive edge. Jack played Hooker for King’s School and played for Cheshire through the U16 – U20 age groups. His silky skills moved him into the backline where he’s spent many years in the 10 shirt playing with his Uncle Iain. Naturally, Jack played a lot of rugby with his brother Tommy, who recalls on the recent Club podcast that Jack was a tough kid, and whilst on holiday in Wales they were playing together and when Jack tackled him he broke his arm in the fall, Tommy going on to say: “I must have been cocky then because I said to the Paramedics that one day I would play for England”, ironically Tommy’s one cap, so far, was against Wales.
Tommy played through Minis and Juniors with his brother and then at King’s where he moved to inside centre before his outstanding career as a hooker for Macclesfield, Sale, Wasps and England. At Macclesfield Tommy had to wait sometime before he could get a start in the no. 2 shirt: “Mossy was a permanent fixture, I sat on the bench for eight or nine games, before Mossy got injured and I managed to get my first start away at Blaydon”. Franky Barker on the recent podcast asked him what advice would he give to young players, Tommy said that if you have ambitions, never give in: “When I was younger, whilst I had played county rugby I never played for North of England or beyond, I had trials but it never happened, I was distraught at the time, but it made me stronger; they said that I was too small at the time”. Tommy’s time would come, his move to Sale playing professional rugby would develop his skills, strength and general physique. He’s blessed with his Dad’s big bones and his Uncle’s incredible engine. His performances for Sale were not going unnoticed, Lawrence Dallaligo raving about his tackling ability. He took the positive step to move to Wasps to be more in Eddie Jones’ vision, which was to pay-off. Franky asked him what were the highlights in his career so far, he said that playing for England Saxons was special and of course ultimately getting his cap for England; he said that the build-up that week to the game was incredible but that the game itself went like a blur: “The detail leading up to the game was amazing – what would we do if the lights went out? And Steve Borthwick’s detail in improving the lineout goes into amazing detail”. He recalled that following on from his cap he was selected for an England XV against the Barbarians: “It didn’t start well, after 10 minutes I did my ACL and that was me out for months. Three years later I was picked for the England Tour to Argentina, but at an England session, the day before we travelled, I did my other knee”. Tommy is philosophical about the injuries saying that they make you stronger and better as a human being. His ambition now is to win silverware with Wasps saying that the only silverware that he has, was the winning the league with the second team and uncle Iain.
Iain’s son, Christian, the youngest of the three, equally spent his youth at Priory Park, actually at one stage being coached by his cousin Tommy while in the U14s. Not surprising another hooker, a classy player with the lion’s-share of his career ahead of him. Christian played for Cheshire at various age-group levels from U16s and at the age of 17 had the pleasure of playing his first senior game, with his Dad in Macclesfield’s Second Team against Vale of Lune. Given his age, he couldn’t play in the front row so he played at number 8, scoring a hat-trick – not a bad start to senior rugby. He has captained England U20s against The Netherlands and was selected to play for England Students against France, which they won – a rarity against France. With exams at Lancaster University he’s missed out, so far, on a full Cheshire cap, but he will be hopeful next season. Now playing for Preston Grasshoppers, Christian should find his way back to Priory Park next season to test himself against old teammate/rival Sam Moss. It would be nice to see Christian back at Macclesfield sometime, and who knows possibly Tommy back at Sale Sharks, joined up again with his pal Danny Cipriani – or is that too much to ask!
And what of the next rugby generation of Taylors; well Tommy has made a start with the addition of young ‘Archer’. Now there’s a name for a Hooker (First spotted by yours truly).