SEPTEMBERS PAST

Finally, at last, a new season starts, same old hopes and fears, will the knee hold out, will the partner realise that I have gone missing the whole of Saturday etc.  September for rugby people is and always has been the ‘new start’. To quote JP Morgan “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are”. So it was, in September 1950 and then again in 1961, when dreams of new clubhouses and grounds came to fruition. The building of the London Road Clubhouse was undertaken by members at week-ends. The first sod for the foundations was cut on October 17th, 1949, and with complete disregard for the elements of wind, rain, frost and snow, work was completed in time for the opening by WE Whiston on September 9th, 1950.

A sketch of the new Clubhouse at Tytherington in 1960

 

Then, having expended all that energy on a new clubhouse, 10 years later it was repeated but on a grander scale and on Thursday 7th September 1961 the Club’s first-ever wholly-owned clubhouse and grounds were formally opened in Tytherington. The cost to build was £12,000 but included about £4000 of work undertaken by volunteers. The Tytherington facility was built as a Sports Club, primarily Rugby but hosting Macclesfield Hockey Club (including a pitch!) and expectations that other sports such as Squash might be hosted at a later date. The Artists impression proved uniquely and remarkably similar to the final clubhouse structure despite the slight dip in one corner of the main club room floor!

WE Whiston looks on as the 1950 fabrication takes place

 

All this frenetic expansionism came many years after the original push to grow rugby in Macclesfield. On September 21st 1927, after the club had been going in its present guise for no more than 8 months WE Whiston deemed it prudent to introduce the game to the general public and revive interest in Macclesfield rugby that had gone dormant more than two decades earlier. Whiston’s chosen vehicle was a ‘charity match’ in aid of the General Infirmary, today this location is Sainsbury’s. The match was played on the Congleton Road Ground on September 21st, 1927. The teams were Mr. Charles H. Williams’ County XV, which included A. C. Gillies and P. H. Davies, Scottish and English internationals, against W. Parlane’s XV, which included A. L. Gracie, a Scottish International.

Sadly and as ever the Second World War saw more Macclesfield Rugby Club members give their lives. Lieutenant D. Henry Jennison was killed in action on Friday, 1 September 1944, aged 21 years. A letter from his Commanding Officers states:“He was killed outright when his tank was hit at close range.”.  Perhaps more tragically Sergeant Harry Slingsby was in charge of a mortar party engaged in a firing exercise. The first shell fired normally but the second exploded in the mortar barrel, killing Harry and three other soldiers on 27thSeptember 1945, he was aged 29 years. And finally Sergeant Fred Bloss, of Royal Air Force, Volunteer Reserve died in Singapore on 22ndSeptember 1943, aged 29 years. There are no details of his death. 

Members erecting the new club house in 1950
Members erecting the new club house in 1950

And now for some history ‘off the wall’, as the youth might say. In 1962 an interesting non-rugby item was reported in the local papers, the demise of Macclesfield Fencing Club. What does that have to do with Macclesfield RUFC? Well one of the few members still active at the time of closure was Eric Pastore who later chaired team selection at the Club and whose family contributed over many years to rugby in the North West. Coincidently Eric was also one of the few members of the Macclesfield Rifle Club when it too folded many years later. It is no wonder that Eric could refute the statement that the last charge of the British Cavalry was at the Battle of Omdurmann. On the way to watch Macc at Lymm, back in the day, David Brookes trotted out this urban myth only to be corrected by Eric who stated he had actually been in the last cavalry charge and it was in the Middle East during the Second World War – priceless!

Late in September following the English World Cup win at Wembley that year a number of Club players, supplemented by friends and players from other local clubs and pubs put on a charity match in aid of Deaf Children. Essentially the game was between Hanging Gate Club Sutton and the Kings Head, Gurnett, and featured about 50% Club players. The teams were supplemented by many other players from Sale, Birkonians, Leek, Wilmslow, Sandbachians and Congleton. Possibly the most notable being from Sale: Alan McInnes and Roy Maddick who would later play for the Club. We have little detail on the game, score or even proceeds but records show that after the game there was a social in the club house! As ever some things don’t change whilst the cause was laudable was the event the game or the social?

The end of September 1976 saw the then traditional Glengarth Sevens competition at Davenport Rugby Club (now Stockport) and a notable success for MRUFC but not in the main competition. The U10s, coached by Terry Thomas won the Glengarth Trophy beating Broughton Park 8-4 in their final played before the main competition final. That team would contribute much to the future of Macclesfield RUFC. Terry (to become Lord) Thomas, when Chairman of COOP Bank, would encourage them to sponsor the building and fitting out of a new Lounge Bar in the Clubhouse. The players included his son, Neil Thomas, Ian Taylor and Mike Hall who would all go on to play with honour for the first team over a number of years. 

And finally, as we await news of competitive rugby restarting and reflect on the narrowness of last season’s miss of promotion, consider September 1995; the season’s opener was on the 2nd September away at Worcester (and it was a first team!) followed immediately by Sandal at Priory Park in the Pilkington Cup (a trophy akin to football’s FA Cup) before more prosaic fare in the form of a friendly against Ashton on Mersey. The month was closed off with two League games, Bridlington at home and Bradford and Bingley away. What a start for one of the best teams ever produced by Macc, captained by Rob Davies and vice-captain Mark Droy. The Club that season boasted a fully fledged Ladies team, captained by Catherine Reader and Sue Tebay who were to open with a game against Rhyl before League fixtures with Waterloo seconds and Vale of Lune. Their closing fixture that season was Bristol away.


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