By David Wilkinson
The association with Macclesfield Rugby Club and Marie Curie Cancer Care goes back to 1997, when my better half Jane, was the Cheshire Fundraiser. In the September of ’97 the charity organised a fundraiser for the north of England called The Dublin Dash, the plan then, to get to Dublin by whatever means, and in the process raise as much money as possible. I put a team together from the Vets squad of: David Whatmuff (RIP), Charlie Halle, Clive Kirkham and myself. We borrowed a truck from Alan Stephens, emblazoned it with our sponsors’ logos, and set off in our Vets rugby gear, badged-up as ‘The Macc Marauders. Having raised over £5,000, we came second, had a great time at Wanderers Rugby Club and vowed to come back the following year and win it!
We needed another fundraising idea; so I approached Peter Harper to put together a Cheshire Select XV to play the Macclesfield Vets team; the match would be branded ‘The Golden Oldies’ and played under floodlights at the Club. This was to be the first of what turned out to be many contests over a 12 year period, most of which were played before we dashed to Dublin each year. Peter’s influence with local clubs and ex first teamers meant that there was no shortage of very good players wanting to turn out and help the cause. Peter’s company Claphams Landscapes sponsored the match, which was the start of a 23 year relationship with the Club. It was a great success, raising another £1,000 towards the cause, which helped the team dashing to Dublin, for the second time, to be the top fundraisers. What the match had done was to get a number of Macclesfield’s finest players back on a rugby pitch, the front row trio of Harding, Taylor and Mannion; Usher, Burnage and Davies; and back row bruisers Worthington and Clarke. It’s no coincidence that most would go on to play a few seasons with the Vets helping to create a formidable team.
Golden Oldies’ contests, for Marie Curie Cancer Care would continue for another 10 years, the last one being Wilkey’s Last Stand; a curtain-raiser for my 60th celebrations, in the Clubhouse, and supposedly my last game, although I waddled around for another five years. We had raised close on to £60,000 for the charity over the years, with a number of the Vets carrying on with street collections in Macclesfield on Daffodil Day. Hundreds of players took part, from virtually all of the local clubs in the area, the rugby was always exciting and the craic afterwards in the Clubhouse usually put a few more pounds in the pot, after yours truly was cajoled by Peter Harper into a rendition of ‘Lavender Trousers’. The camaraderie demonstrated, once again, just why the people who play and watch this fantastic game, believe it to be the best team-game in the world.