This is a long and wandering tale, one that is not finished yet.
In 1960 Club President George Proctor wrote “a history of the Club should be completed for record purposes and to bring to the notice of its members the achievements of the past and its proposals for the future. The gradual, but successful strides of the past have been an accumulated effort in which all members took part.” These words are as true today as they were in 1960 and as they were from the very start of rugby in Macclesfield.
From a ‘fighting start’ in 1874, via the fields of cricket, association football, and a pub car park MRUFC passed through Fallibroome in an earlier guise before finding their first real home at Tytherington. But this was not the end of change as the Club continued to move forward on all fronts. Although the next move was an enforced one.
The laying of the Silk Road through a significant chunk of ‘hallowed turf’ forced a return to Fallibroome roots. Now (in 2017) even the ‘new’ home, Priory Park, is subject of possible change with the possibility of a new clubhouse and artificial pitch.
Memories Are Made Of This
Over the years many club members have captured their memories on video, these memories form a part of the clubs Living History, a history of the club as it is and was remembered by people there rather than dusty unspeaking photos and newspaper articles.
In 2014 several of the club’s oldest members gathered to reminisce on their times at MRUFC during the 1950s and 1960s when the club played at the London Road ground and when for the first time members began to seriously consider the purchase of their own clubhouse and grounds at Tytherington.
The Course Of History
In the following video David Wilkinson charts the course of MRUFC from the introduction of rugby to Macclesfield in 1874 through to Priory Park in 2016.
The Timeline then gives more detailed descriptions of key events and personalities on this course.
IT WAS FOOTBALL AS THEY KNEW IT
In 1845, the first football laws were written by Rugby School pupils; in 1863 the Blackheath Club decided to leave the Football Association and in 1895 rugby had its own schism as union and league went their own ways.
Whilst all this change was happening in the game of football the Rugby version arrived in the North, and specifically Macclesfield, initially as played by infantry men of the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers who played their first match in Macclesfield in 1873.
THE KICK OFF
In 1874 matches were arranged with Crewe, Congleton and Stockport consisting of 20 players a side. Only some years later were the Laws amended to make it todays 15 a side game. The first game to be played under the Rugby rules of football took place on the Boughley Lane Ground, on 14th January, 1874. Since Boughley Lane later became known as Bowfield Lane and eventually Victoria Road this first game probably took place on the ground currently occupied by the Macclesfield Cricket Club.
That first game saw a team under the command of H. Frogatt playing the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers (CRVs) Athletic Club. Local ‘match rules’ specifically stated that “hacking ” and “tripping ” were allowed. The next game was another ‘local friendly’ between the 8th CRV’S and Captain Brocklehurst’s Troop of Yeomanry. The game was a long one, lasting from 3-15 to 5-30 p.m., hopefully not because of any on-field trouble.
IT’S NOT CRICKET!
There were a number of clubs and associations playing some form of football in Macclesfield. One of them was the Olympic Cricket Club. In October 1876 the two organisations (CRVs and Olympic CC) amalgamated and in the winter months played football, on alternate weekends playing rugby and association football matches. Gradually a ‘football club’ emerged, Macclesfield Town Football Club, with sections playing both forms of forms of football in their own right.
JWH THORP LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD
The 8th CRV. Athletic Club was successful in making the game very popular in Macclesfield. JWH Thorp was probably Macclesfields first ‘rugby star’. Besides playing for Macclesfield, he often assisted the Manchester Club and played for the County. He was considered to be one of Cheshire’s leading forwards. He had the distinction of playing in the first eight County games against Lancashire, and, in 1883, he became the second President of the Cheshire Rugby Union, a position that he held for over 20 years. In 1898 he was elected as President of the RFU and re-elected the following season. He was the first and to this date (2016) only Cheshire representative to be elected as President of the RFU, a unique honour. Today the following photo Thorp hangs in the Committee Room at Twickenham. The only Macclesfield player to be so recognised by HQ!
The Museum at Twickenham has also provided a scan of the opening page of minutes for the first meeting attended by JW Thorp.
A TOWN IN UNION
In 1878 the first Macclesfield Rugby Club affiliated to the Rugy Football Union along with such clubs as Bowdon and Sale. Whilst there is no surviving internal register of RFU affiliated clubs from this period, Charles W Alcock’s ‘Football Annual’ of 1878 lists ‘Macclesfield’ as one of the clubs affiliated with the RFU at that time. The annual was written with the assistance of Mr Guillemard (then vice-president of the RFU) and is the RFU’s most reliable source of information for this time. Macclesfield Rugby Union Football Club isn’t listed in the annual until the 1929-30 edition and are then, as before, listed simply as ‘Macclesfield’.
THE PHOENIX RISES AGAIN
There is little information to tell us why organised Rugby went out of existence in Macclesfield around the end of the nineteenth century but it was probably allied to the growing popularity of the Association form of football. But you can’t keep a good dog down and early in 1926, W. J. Siggins started the movement that would result in Macclesfield RUFC constituted in its current form. Siggins played Association Football for the Y.M.C.A. Where he was one of the few members with any previous experience of Rugby football. Nevertheless his enthusiasm and efforts generated sufficient interest in the “oval ball ” game that a meeting was held in the Majestic Cafe, Mill street, to consider the possibility of raising a side. This was Macclesfield’s equivalent to the infamous George Hotel meeting (at which the Northern Union split from the RFU and initiated Rugby League) if less significant in the development of rugby globally. The main contributors were ; W. J. Siggins, R. L. Rogers, W. E. Whiston and F. Hermann. F. Hermann undertook the duties of Honorary Secretary during the formation period, and it was due to these pioneers and others, including H. O. Kemp, H. Bennett, W. Geeson, J. H. Wilson, D.Moorhouse, E. P. Hanrahan, G. Rowson, F. Arnold, C. Arnold, A Butler and E. H Leah, that the Club came into being and was, founded in 1926, under the Presidency of Major A. M G Debenham MC, a prominent Lancashire forward who lived at Bollington.
Such was the organising ability of W. E. Whiston, that in a short time practices were commenced on the Trinity Wesleyan FC ground, off Congleton Road. And practice was needed for many involved had only a rudimentary knowledge of the game. So it was not unusual for these enthusiastic members to practise Rugby on the Saturday morning and play Soccer in the afternoon. The location of the Trinity Wesleyan Ground was close to the current playing fields opposite the Rising Sun pub.
THERE IS ONLY ONE MRUFC
The purpose of all the practice was to fulfill a number of fixtures in the new year, 1927. Macclesfield RUFC started their second life with a game against Davenport on 1 January 1927 with W J Siggins as captain. The game took place at Grange Road, Davenport, with a 10-45 a m. kick-off. Many years later Davenport were to become Stockport Rugby Club and counted amongst their stalwarts Keith Bentley, son of Charles Bentley a stalwart servant of MRUFC as both player and committee man and eventually President.
A copy of the article introducing MRUFC in its first year, hangs in the Clubhouse (see below), the original appeared in the Macclesfield Courier 1st January 1927.
The report of the game, a 63-0 reverse!, notes that it was attended by a number of “Macclesfield enthusiasts” presumably walking off the New Year celebrations. But more importantly that raw inexperience was no match for practiced opposition despite game efforts from Siggins at full back and Arnold and Winder at half back.
THE FIRST ANNUAL MEETING
The first Annual Meeting, at which the rules of the Club were formulated, was held on 9th May, 1927, at the Y.M.C A., with the President in the chair supported by the Rev. W S. Coad, Dr. Proudfoot and Dr. A. C. Gillies when, for the ensuing year, Rev. W. S. Coad, F. Hermann, E H Leah, J A Lees, W. J. Siggins and W.E.Whiston were elected to the Executive Committee.
Interestingly an Extraordinary General Meting (EGM) was called after the second AGM, a copy of the notice hangs in the clubhouse, see below.
We have no background to this meeting but the two items were formalization of the Rules and responsibilities of the Committee and significantly a call for increased player subscriptions and a levy on unpaid subscriptions. Were players always dilatory about paying their subscriptions, has the Club always struggled to make ends meet, probably!
COCK OF THE NORTH
So successful was the inaugural season of MRUFC that the new season was to introduce a new, additional, team the A XV. The now needed more space and facilities this prompted a move to new fields and headquarters, the Cock Inn, Henbury. That season the playing record for the 1st XV was played 26, Won 22, Lost 3, Drawn 1. Points for 346, points against 95.
OUR FUTURE PAST
Success followed success and a further move was required. Once again a farmer’s field was selected this time to the west of Macclesfield, off of Alderley Road, an area known as Fallibroome! So 50 years before Priory Park was envisaged MRUFC rented grounds that would later become a permanent home (but only after three more moves).
A NEW GROUND – AGAIN
The Fallibroome Ground was taken. It was a step in the right direction as it offered some degree of permanency, that was be an important factor in retaining fixtures, and for the future of the club. No time was lost in erecting a hut for changing, and this was followed by an extension providing baths and heating apparatus.
Sir C. D. Macara, Bt., was appointed captain. There were changes of officials. K. Maclean call took over the Honorary Secretary position from H. O. Kemp, who had given valuable service for the previous four years. Harold Siggins replaced G. Howe, the Honorary Treasurer, who had carried out those duties from the club’s inception. G. P. Higgins and J. H. Wood jointly took over the position of Team Secretary from W. E. Whiston, who had carried out that arduous duty as well as that of Hon. Fixture Secretary from the beginning.
Sadly the financial position of the Club was not good, due to the expense incurred in the purchase and erection of the new Clubhouse. Funds were raised though the popular annual dance and other efforts, but it was to take a considerable time to attain the figure required to meet the cost. A story not too unfamiliar today! Towards the end of the season the Club had one of their best victories, when they defeated a strong Waterloo “A ” team by 15 points to nil, a game in which Jack Hill played one of the best games of his career at full-back, and one in which Vic Bull excelled in goal- kicking. Vic Bull, after seven years’ service, was the only member of the original team left playing and for several years many a breathless forward must have blessed him for his long-kicks to touch.
YOU WIN NOTHING WITH A YOUNG SIDE
The lst XV was a remarkably young side, the average age being about 21. The staff of the King’s School were strongly represented in J. S. Heap, W. S. Logan, S. R. Jones, the recognised “hooker ” for years, M. L. Harvey, a scrum-half who had the ability to throw the long pass accurately; and from the School XV : G. A. Frith, the ex-lst XV captain, and R. C. Fox, a 15 stone, 10 .5 sec. forward, who eventually became one of the best forwards in Cheshire. Ian Proctor was the greatest find, who was at Leeds University after a distinguished Rugger career at Ley’s School.
It was during it “the J. H. Wood era” that the Club entered the Crewe Seven-a-side Tournament, organised by the Crewe and Nantwich Club for three consecutive seasons. This feat was commemorated on a cigarette card produced by Ardath Tobacco. In the first year 12 clubs from five counties took part, including Chester, Wrexham, Bowdon, Stoke-on-Trent and Old Birkonians. Much to the surprise of the Club they defeated the crack Stoke-on- Trent team in the final after eliminating Winnington Park in the semi-final. The Stoke side consisted of six county players and an Oxford Blue.
The following year Macclesfield repeated their previous success and became the first side to win the tournament in successive years. In these two games it was R. C. Fox and I. R. Proctor who did nearly all the scoring. In the third encounter, in 1937-1938 season, hopes of ran high of being able to perform the “hat trick”, but such hopes were quickly deluded in the first round when the Club were in the lead and taking it “easy” against Wrexham who proceeded to score a snap try in the last minute of the game. Those who took part in these .’ games were :J. Hill, J. H. Wood, N. Williams, R. C, Fox, I. R. Proctor, R. J. Sutton, L. N. Corbishley, F. W. Ledgar, P. Growths, D. Eccleston, V. Bull, G. Stephens.
A. A. Arnold, another member of the King’s School staff, joined the Club and probably not since the days of W. J. Siggins had Macclesfield had such a versatile player. Full-back, three-quarter and forward were all within his scope.
The Story of the Cigarette Card
RUGBY JOINS WITH ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL
In pre-NHS days nurses would routinely lodge in Nurses Homes whilst training and working. Without NHS support these Homes needed funding. In season 1937-8 MRUFC staged a Charity Match to raise funds for the Nurses Home. The match, pitching Macclesfield and District against Manchester and District took place at the Moss Rose, home of Macclesfield Town Football Club. This would be the first of a few such ventures.
It’s all just football!
On the 1st May 1940 rugby was played at the Moss Rose (home of Macclesfield Town FC) for the first time. It is interesting to note that the rugby club, whilst playing for a charitable cause, was also very much engaged in “missionary work”. So the programme Editorial expresses a desire “to make the Macclesfield Club better known to our own townspeople” and whilst the crowd was expected to be full of rugby fans the likelihood of significant numbers of others being present is catered for, again in the Editorial, by giving an outline of scoring in rugby.
Wartime rugby invasion of football ground
LEST WE FORGET
Lieutenant, Henry David Jennison, M C, 13th/18thRoyal Hussars, Royal Armoured Corp was a member of both Macclesfield Rugby and Cricket clubs and played for both first team. Henry went to France on D Day with the Royal Armoured Corps and was awarded the Military Cross for some outstanding military action. Henry was killed in action on the 1st September 1944, aged 21 years. A letter from his Commanding Officers states:“He was killed outright when his tank was hit at close range. His men buried him, and I think you would like to know that when we visited the spot the next day, after the battle, we found it a mass of flowers, and being tended by the French”. Henry is buried at London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval, Somme, France and commemorated on the Park Green War Memorial, Macclesfield.
FROM THE ASHES
After the Second World War the Club restarted regular fixtures under prompting and leadership of President T Turnbull and Chairman of W E Whiston.
ON THE MOVE, AGAIN!
Post war years were difficult for many reasons, for MRUFC one difficulty was the loss of Fallibroome as a playing facility. Thankfully Kings School stepped in and provided temporary accommodation and facilities which ceased when the Club opened its new ground and clubhouse on London Road on 9 September 1950.
FIRST ANNUAL DINNER CUM DISASTER
The first Annual Dinner was held with WC Ramsey, President of the RFU as Guest of Honour. It was a formal and Grand occasion befitting the Guest of Honour. Over the years its grandness and formality would deteriorate to a point where, because it was held on a Friday night, various teams were unavailable on the Saturday afternoon!
WHAT? ON THE MOVE, AGAIN!
Late in the 50s accomodation once again became an issue as farm land became a premium. Ever looking forward the Committee guided its members towards a new home which for the first time ever would be fully owned by MRUFC. The new grounds and clubhouse at Tytherington were opened by the President of Cheshire and the Mayor of Macclesfield on 7 September 1961.
FIRST, FOR FIRSTS
The first club team (teams) to play at Tytherington were the second and third teams of the day. The first team had to wait until later in the month before he team, captained by John Taylor, conspired to lose 10-3 to Bury. And on the last day of the first month Don Innes celebrated scoring the first try to be scored by the first XV at Tytherington this during a 9-5 win over Old Aldwinians.
LIGHTING UP AT TRAINING
At this time smoking was very much a feature of social habits particularly after the rigors of a physical training session. In October 1961 the club gave a new meaning to ‘lighting up’ when the installed floodlights to facilitate dark night training. Sadly, in keeping with the clubs tradition of being always just one penny short of a full purse those that trained were asked to pay towards the cost of turning on the lights. Amateur days indeed and may be there was a double benefit if players had less to spend on cigarettes as well as getting fit!
FOURTH FOR THE FIRST TIMELINE
In a season of firsts the 14th October saw another first when for the first time ever the club fielded a fourth team. This team started extremely well and recorded two wins before losing at Davenport at the end of the month.
On Sunday 25th February a Macclesfield Invitation side played Saxons, a team of well known players from senior clubs in the North West. The Saxons won 11-3. The Macclesfield team included a number of schoolboys some of whom would feature for the club in later years. They were; Little (who was a North of England U19 trialist), Joyce, Croxall, and Welch. The game was played in snowy conditions and featured a strong forward performance from the Macclesfield pack who were a stone a man lighter than their opposite numbers whilst Alan McInnes provided a constant threat.
As April arrived so did another tradition of that time, the sevens season. On the 7th April 2 teams entered the prestigious Stoke sevens. They contained a heavy Kings School presence. The ‘A’ seven progressed to the quarterfinals before being beaten by Stoke A (the eventual winners). Later in the month this was followed by the Manchester sevens. From the qualifying competition Macclesfield emerged as qualifiers following wins over De La Salle and Tyldsley. In the finals with Barker, McInnes and Miller beginning to make their presence felt and Holland proving an adept linkman Macclesfield beat Warrington and New Brighton, eventually to lose to Wigan in the quarter finals. The season concluded with a sevens tournament at Tytherington in which 6 teams were present. The team containing Barker, McInnes, Holland duly secured the trophy.
Cheshire finds Macclesfield – at last!
Macclesfield playing prowess had gone unnoticed by the Cheshire RFU for all the years since the Clubs formation in 1926. Now at last Alan McInnes became the first Macclesfield player to be selected for a Cheshire trial. The trials were played at New Brighton where Alan gave a good account of himself albeit not quite so good as to be selected for the full Cheshire team.
On Saturday 6th December Macclesfield first XV lost at home to near neighbours Davenport. In itself not a remarkable or notable feat but the game was played after the Annual Club dinner on the night before. Of three teams only the seconds recorded a win, and sadly there were a number of absentees from those games. Of those that did turn up few were ‘better for wear’ and the Macclesfield Express subsequently carried a report of ‘excessive noise from the club’ and ‘complaints from neighbours’.
It’s cold outside
And it was, for 3 months the first team played no rugby as the country suffered one of the severest winters in living memory. To date it had been a moderate season winning as many as they lost but the break seemed to act as a catalyst. Starting with a win over Toc H they went unbeaten through to the end of season. In part this was due to players such as David Miller (a Kings schoolboy debutant) and Dai Jones (a former Welsh schoolboys hooker) complementing the skills of Holland and McInnes. This run of success was to be a forerunner for the most successful season to date.
Sevens Up and Away
Macclesfield built on the sevens success from the previous season probably as much because of the introduction of fast and skillful young players such as Miller and D Jones. When the Manchester qualifying tournament came round there was little surprise that Macclesfield went through unbeaten against Lymm and Oldham. In the tournament itself Miller really started to show his pace and elusiveness as Macclesfield recorded wins over Old Salfordians and Preston Grasshoppers (a senior club of the time) to get through to the quarter-final again. This time against another senior club, Hull and East Riding, the result was different as outstanding performances from Hope, Jones and Corke saw Macclesfield through to the semi-final. In what was declared to be the best game of the tournament, Macclesfield came second best to yet another senior club, Waterloo, who in turn went on to win the tournament. The following day once again featuring David Miller this seven won the Stoke 7s by beating Shrewsbury, Winnington Park and then the hosts Stoke.
Backwards into a new record
MRUFC started the new year with a 7th consecutive win, over Leek, in what was a brawl of a game. Maybe this was why top try scorer David Miller ran backwards over the Leek line to score a try after throwing 2 outrageous dummies? But more noteworthy and worthy was the fact that Don Innes scored, again, extending his personal record to scoring in 9 consecutive games which is still a record for a first team non-goal kicker.
Is Seven(s) better than 15?
Capping a most successful season Macclesfield Sevens produced a successful defence of the Stoke Sevens trophy. Two events stood out. The result of their against home team Stoke was decided only after a period of extra time by a ‘golden score’, inevitably an Alan McInnes drop goal. Their subsequent semi-final with Winnington Park also remained tied on normal time but this time it was a Mitchell try that secured the ‘golden score’ winner. Then in the final against Wolverhampton newspapers reported that the referees watch was broken so a touch line time keeper was nominated. The “time keeper” some how managed to extend the second half into a fifteen minute slog! This after Macclesfield had already played two sessions of extra time going into the final. The ultimately tired but triumphant team were; Miller, McInnes, Mitchell, Holland, Croxall, Bowyer Hope. They followed up their Stoke success in the Manchester Sevens eventually losing to Sale in the final. The scores were level, 5-5 at half-time in a tense and cagey affair. Sale eventually ran out 13-5 winners.
Ian Proctor still going strong
Another land mark season opening saw four teams being fielded for the first game of the season, all against Wrexham. Remarkably Ian Proctor was made captain for the day in celebration of his 31 years as a player. His longevity was marked by the award of a tankard.
What ever became of these likely lads?
The local paper produced on the 3rd February carries an interesting report of a return match between Broken Cross and Central Schools (both schools are now one, Macclesfield Academy), neither had or have had a record of playing rugby as a school sport and yet this was return match so there was some history. Possibly teachers turned Macclesfield “stars” (such as John Webster, Alun Evans) were involved? None of the players involved were to gain any fame with Macclesfield later on nevertheless ‘Dai’ Jones, who was teaching at Kings School, was credited with initiating interest in rugby at Broken Cross and in helping to put together this historic local fixture.
Hodgkinson for England
Kings School player and occasional first team starlet – Norman Hodgkinson succeeded in going throughout the various stages of schoolboy trials to eventual selection as a reserve for England U19 team to play France. Hodgkinson eventually made the full team on his debut against Wales.
OLD IN THE LEGS
Following yet another plea for experienced players to forsake retirement and continue playing in lower teams in order to provide tangible encouragement to younger players finally Macclesfield were able to select a Vets team for the first time. Players must be over 28. The average age is in the 30s. This is in every sense the start of a Golden Era, after many seasons of trying to maintain the playing strength of the club against falling player registrations for the first time there was a real step for players to extend their playing careers and their membership of the rugby club. It was a slow start initially just one game against a Widnes Vets side who had a full season of fixtures scheduled. In time Macclesfield would field as many as three different sides with Vets status.
IS RUGBY ON’T TELLY
This month, as the first team were struggling to put together a decent set of results the club announced their latest high value signing….a colour television! This was part of the drive to retain customers in the clubhouse beyond the compulsory post match pint. The plan was rather more ambitious than just extending the post match pint because in these days Rugby Special (the only televised rugby available weekly) didn’t actually go out until 7pm!
YOUNG IN THE HEAD
The club form their first Colts team. However, the vast majority of the team were schoolboys and many of them from Kings School so the club couldn’t be seen as “competing” against the Schools for players, and so a novel solution was proposed. Peter Harper (senior) was approached to captain a “development” team which would be titled Colts and would select mainly boys under 18 to play in a team containing a number of old heads. Sometimes the number of old heads was actually only one – Peter Harper. In the interest of balance and development the number of older heads was frequently as many as two with John Taylor providing advice and guidance to the young forwards as Peter Harper was with the young backs. A set of shirts were purchased and the new team started its life in the short form of the game, sevens.
Macclesfield Colts entered the North West Colts Sevens Tournament, held at Newton-le-Willows. That seven was actually a Kings School team and they duly won the Tournament by beating West Park Newton, Lymm and Orrell. Although they were Kings School by another name some of that team had played for club senior sides during the year most notably Steve Smith (later to play for England) and Steve Midgelow (who later played for Wilmslow and Sale).
CHESHIRE CUP STARTS AGAIN
In January 1969 the Cheshire RFU announced the recommencement of a Cup competition which would
be open to all clubs registered to the Cheshire RFU. The competition was to commence in season 1969-
70. The previous competition, the Cheshire County Challenge Cup, was first played for in season 1877-8
and was competed for annually until sadly a County meeting held in April 1891 agreed that “cup ties be
discontinued as detrimental in the long run to the true interests of football in Cheshire”. Among the clubs
to take part in the first few Cup competitions were Alderley&Macclesfield, one of JW Thorp’s clubs.
The first record of Macclesfield entering the new Cheshire Cup is not until 1971-2 season when they were
drawn against Cheshire Police. Games were played alongside the regular fixture list on a Sunday, thereby
meaning two games a weekend for many players.
In that first ever game MUFC turned in a scrappy error-strewn performance featuring an interception try
by Phil Jones, and yet another immaculate kicking display by scrum-half Geoff Leech and saw the end in
THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MISMANAGEMENT
Many years before replacements were thought about, 1970 actually, the then “B XV” (fourth team in the hierarchy) travelled to play St Helens Rec and on arrival found they had 17 players! This over supply was perhaps down to “team management” taking a belt and braces approach to team selection at the bottom end of the hierarchy, a sort of “select them and we’ll sort it out later” approach. What happened was fortunate given the time and difficulty involved in travelling to St Helens. One of the extra players agreed to stand down but no one else volunteered so the teams agreed that a substitution could be made at half time. We are left to wonder what the one volunteer got up to during his unexpected free time in St Helens!
Are You Macclesfield in Disguise?
This old sporting taunt was much in evidence at this time of the Club’s history. The first game of the new season was against our nearest and dearest the wah-wahs from down the road, Wilmslow. There had been a trickle of Macclesfield players who had moved to Wilmslow in search of “better rugby” and in this game the Wilmslow half backs were Steve Smith and Steve Midgelow, both ex-Kings and both of whom had featured in various Macclesfield teams over the previous two seasons. Almost by way of providing a conveyor belt of players the Macclesfield props that day, John Robinson and Dennis Oliver, would also move to Wilmslow and play for Cheshire. In this “past versus present” fixture Wilmslow trounced Macclesfield 40-6.
OLD MAN ROBINSON KEEPS ROLLING ALONG
In the last game of the season, versus Leek, John Robinson who was the current first team captain, played
his 106th consecutive first team games for the club. This constitutes a record subsequently unbroken and
most unlikely to be broken with the physically demanding nature of the modern game at first-team level.
A Mini is spotted for the first time
In this case, not the famous small car but a number of small rugby players. Every Sunday morning during
November 1971 over 70 Primary School aged boys converged on Tytherington to learn the rudiments of
the game of rugby, this was Mini-Rugby. This form of rugby was introduced by the RFU to try to expand
the game beyond the traditional private and grammar schools. Macclesfield was one of the very first
North West clubs to introduce Mini-Rugby, so-called because of the size of the players not the size of the
pitch. Dai Jones, first team coach and Kings School teacher, supervised the game’s introduction to
Macclesfield and was assisted by a number of other Kings masters. At the outset, it was targeted at
teaching the rudiments of the game to young boys but fairly quickly plans were formulated to extend the
sessions into a weekly programme of games and training.
GIVE ME THE MINI AND I’LL GIVE YOU THE PLAYER
Well not quite the manifestation of this infamous Jesuit motto (actually phrased after the Greek philosopher Aristotle) but when the Mini/Junior Section was formed under chairmanship of George Lewis who could have foreseen the extent of Sunday morning activities at the Club and the serious impact that these players have had on the Clubs fortunes.
At the AGM chairman, Charles Bentley, confirmed that the proposed “ring road” developments (which were planned to go through the pitches at Tytherington and eventually became what today is the Silk Road) )were moving forward. Consequently the club were now actively seeking a new ground. And so the tenure of the club’s first ever wholly owned ground and clubhouse was to come to an end after a short 20 or so years.
First ever Macclesfield full international
Steve Smith, who had started his senior playing career at Macclesfield finally made his international debut when he was capped by England in Ireland. The strongest part of Steve’s game was acknowledged as his spin pass from set piece and broken play. Steve himself acknowledged this as a skill taught him at Loughborough by Alan McInnes, former RL player and former Macclesfield star.
STARTING TO SEE LITTLE PEOPLE
Macclesfields newly formed Mini/Junior section eventually played their first fixture against another club, Wilmslow. The game was played at Kings School and comprised nine players a side. At the time it was reported to be the first of its kind played to be played in the North West. The Macclefield team that day included Graham Jenion who would eventually become the club’s highest try scorer in a season, and David Taylor. Both would go on to play with distinction for Sale.
Acorns Grow Oaks
Building on the success of the mini-rugby initiative at the club the Macclesfield Sports Association introduced a mini-rugby competition for Macclesfield area primary schools. The Association chairman was David Hancox, a club stalwart, and the competition ran uninterrupted for several years. The competition was “introduced” by means of a demonstration game where Broken Cross primary school beat a “first year” Wilmslow Grammar School team by 2 tries to nil. The age difference and definition of Primary School would today mitigate against such a game. And the result was almost certainly nothing to do with the close association between David Hancox and Broken Cross Primary School (where he taught!).
Big Slam for Macclesfield
On one glorious weekend in October the rugby teams of Macclesfield (that is town and school) played and won 17 games of rugby. The cumulative result was played 17, won17, points scored 479, points conceded 43. This astonishing result was achieved by 5 Club teams beating Hoylake, 6 Kings teams beating William Hulmes, the Club’s Colts beating Heaton Moor, and 3 of the clubs mini/junior teams beating Kersal and Ashton on Mersey respectively. Rugby really was on a roll in Macclesfield.
RAMPANT COLTS CONQUER CHESHIRE
The Cheshire Colts Shield was won by MRUFC for the first time, the first silver ware won by the Club at any level since the successful Sevens teams of the 30’s.
New Coach, New Training Methods.
The new first team captain, Bob Jenner, quickly made his mark by introducing a series of technical coaching exercises to the usual pre-season fitness slog. Although fitness was not avoided and certain innovations were served to exercise the mind as well as the body, notably the 108 Steps circuit. This involved a run from the club’s ground in Tytherington to the bottom of the 108 Steps to commence 10 laps of a circuit going up the 108 Steps and returning via Churchside and Church Street. Surprised at the relative fitness of certain renowned “forward trundlers” the Captain took time out to walk round the circuit in a clockwise direction only to find the “forward trundlers” huddled in the Fiesta Fish Bar, taking a rest for every other lap! Very much a case of “playing what you see in front of you”!
England “star” Trials at MRUFC
In the last game of the season MRUFC played hosts to Wigan a team they had not played for several years because their respective fortunes had soared or declined. Wigan, featuring the Cusani brothers, at that time still young players, duly ran out winners. Dave Cusani would go on to gain an England cap, against Ireland, whilst playing for Orell before eventually transferring to MRUFC and being instrumental in one of the club’s “golden periods” under Matt Harding.
New Clubhouse delayed by Selection Committee!
Although pitches had been laid the first brick had not arrived so news that the new clubhouse and ground were to be officially opened the following September turned out to be overly optimistic (by 12 months!). Less unexpected was the announcement that the “house beer” was to be selected by a small team of representatives from each team plus the Clubhouse Committee (these being Peter Ord and Graham Waters). The selection process was to involve a series of brewery visits and tastings. How the winning beer was to be selected was not discussed but it was agreed that if any one could remember a particular visit that would automatically disqualify the brewery in question (this being irrefutable inverse logic!). In support of funding for the new club house Graham Wilson was asked and accepted the task of signing up 1000 Vice Presidents at £5 per person. Its impossible to imagine today that such a task might be considered even at £5 let alone the today equivalent of £20.
FALLIBROOME WHEREFORE ART THOU?
Finally? Well possibly. Fifty years after moving to Fallibroome for the first time MRUFC moved there again and the newly named Priory Park was opened on the same land although not the same pitch on 14 September 1980.
Pinderella loses her Cherry case
Following a break of many more seasons than some felt necessary the club saw the return of a favorite of yesteryear, a pantomime production, in this case it was the first edition of “Pinderella” produced by the Harts. Enthusiastic audiences cheered Oscar worthy performances from the leading players, David Whatmuff and Adrian Lamb. This enthusiasm was curtailed somewhat by news that the club had been found guilty of breaking Gaming Law in respect to their raffle of the Datsun Cherry earlier in the season. The court accepted the innocence of the Club but said ignorance is no excuse. The Datsun Cherry (a car) was donated by Isherwoods as a raffle prize, proceeds to go to the Clubhouse Building fund os the loss of the court case was sad on two counts.
SILVER COLLECTION BEGINS
The 1st XV are Cheshire Plate Winners
COLTS BEATEN BY A SOCCER SCORELINE!
In April of the 1983-4 season the Colts team made another visit to the final of the Colts Shield. This time to play a fancied Birkenhead Park team who had the rare privelege of playing a final on their own turf! Sadly in an extremely tight affair the Blues returned home on the wrong side of a 4-3 scoreline!
The MRUFC squad that day contained a number of players who would eventually represent the Club at 1st XV as well as the Senior County side. feature prominently in the clubs future success on and off the field. As well as the Gray brothers; John and Howard there were two offspring of MRUFC ‘royalty’. David Miller’s son, Chris – a winger with less of the fleet footed talents of his father but with the same nose for the try line; and John Taylor’s son Ian, destined to become the oldest player to represent the first team player at the Club.
MACCLESFIELD PLAYERS RECOGNISED
The Cheshire ‘B’ XV that played Lancashire on the 11th December 1984 contained three representatives from the Blues. David Taylor was hooking, with Club and 1st XV captain Martin Ainsley playing at openside and a young Steve Henshall on the bench.
Meanwhile the Cheshire Schools Under 18s had Mike Hall playing at full back. Mike was a rare specimen in the sense that he was at Fallibroome, not one of the well recognised rugby schools of Cheshire or even Macclesfield. Mike would later go on to play with distinction for the Blues 1st XV.
A BROKEN PLATE
Sadly on their return to the Cheshire Plate final the 1st XV suffered another narrow defeat to near neighbours Sandbach, 11-9.
COLTS WIN BY A RUGBY SCORELINE
One year after suffering the narrowest of defeats at the hands of Birkenhead Park the Blues Colts returned to the final of the Cheshire Shield to beat Winnington Park in another tense encounter, 13-12.
On this occasion the Colts were happy to have ‘home advantage’ which combined with an experienced team, many had suffered in the previous years defeat.
Creeping competitiveness of club fixtures had been restricted to Merit Tables and more latterly Cup and Shield competitions. Now the first Rugby Union League was introduced on a trial basis in the North West and MRUFC were one of the pioneers in the newly designated Girobank North West League.
COLTS RETURN TO THE FOLD
Almost 10 years to the day the Colts returned to Cheshire Shield final and came away with the trophy.
The First Step to Future Glory?
Macclesfield’s victory in the Cheshire Cup final arguably changed the fortunes of the Club because it was the first time the Club had ever won the trophy, and did so by beating Sale! Macclesfield were plying their trade 4 divisions below Sale.
Macclesfield, captained by Matt Harding and coached by Clive Kershaw, Graham Waters and Gary Brightwell, found their confidence, and ran out 21 – 4 winners and lifted the trophy. David Cummins, who played in the centre that day, remembers “Sale had a team with some top class players as you’d expect, but didn’t actually play the full first 15. They certainly had a number of regular first team players representing the Club on the day, supplemented by some second 15 players. Macclesfield obviously were very much the underdogs, and most people expected a Sale to win handsomely, having dominated the Cheshire Cup for a long time.” “There was a massive crowd down at Wilmslow, I think around 3,500. We’d played well all season, and the league title went down to the very last game the following week against Manchester. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite pull it off, and Manchester won that game narrowly.” “But the victory over Sale FC was a pivotal moment for the club and acted as a real catalyst. We continued our run of form the following season and won the league and were promoted. In fact I think we went through the whole of the 1992/93 season unbeaten in both league and cup games. We won every single match we played and won the Cheshire Cup again that season too.”
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
For the first time in its history MRUFC finally became Cheshire Cup winners. But success was not limited to the top of the Club as the Under 17s won Cheshire Youth Cup.
The 1st XV win the North West I Courage League.
RUGGA BUGGA’S INVENTED
As Mike Keeling contemplated the end of an illustrious playing career spanning many years, positions, clubs and teams he wondered whether some of his former teammates from around the UK might like to join him in one last Hurrah. Of course they did and it wasn’t. This last Hurrah was actually the beginning of a touring side that still plays today albeit without any of the original players on the pitch.
Mike Keeling describes the inauguration and development of the Rugga Bugga’s in this recorded interview. https://youtu.be/eFWzINg7seQ
FILL THE PLATE
The 1st XV win the Cheshire Plate.
CUP OVER RUNNETH
Now the 1st XV were experiencing one of its most successful playing periods ever winning the North 2 League and the Cheshire Cup, this for the second time.
SUCCESS BREEDS EXPANSION
Playing success, increased club membership and a bugeoning Mini/Junior section enabled the Club to expand its facilties and with kind sponsorship from Co-op Bank the Co-operative Bank Lounge and new changing rooms were opened.
The Under 11s win the Cheshire Youth Cup competition.
1st XV win Cheshire Cup for the third time and lose away to Gosport in semi-final of Intermediate Cup. As testimony to the success of this team six members of 1st Team were selected for the Cheshire County side which were losing finalists in that years County Championship at Twickenham.
MRUFC celebrates125 years of affiliation to the Rugby Union.
MACCLESFIELD GOES GLOBAL
Well not quite global, more national as the first team played 22, Won 17, Lost 5 scoring 645 points and conceding354 on their way to winning the Cheshire Cup for fourth time and gaining promotion to National 3 North after second place play-off.
Eight (8) MRUFC players represented Cheshire in the County Championship.
Played their first game at National level as a Member of National 3 North.
The 2nd & 3rd XVs win their respective Divisions in the Fairclough Homes NW Intermediate League.
MACCLESFIELD THIS IS HOUSTON
Actually it was the arrival at the Club of the outcome of space research in the form of Astro-turf. The latest addition to the Clubs playing facilities, the Astro-turf pitch was formally opened.
THE DARK LINED SILVER CLOUD
The 1st XV finished a largely successful season in National 3 North, coming 2nd in the league to lose the promotion play-off game at Redruth, and losing in the final of the Cheshire Cup.
The second team meanwhile celebrated becoming joint Winners of Premier Division of NW Leagues and the 3rd team won promotion from Division 2 of NW League after finishing second.
TWO CUPS AND A PLAY OFF
While the 1st XV were winning the Cheshire Cup, again, the 2nd XV reached final of their Cup, the Halbro Cup, and the Under 17s (Junior Colts) reached their divisional play offs.
ITS OURS AND IT STAYS HERE
The Cheshire Cup is retained.
THE CUP IS DROPPED
Finally the 1st XV lose in the Cheshire Cup, this year its runners-up only.
IT OURS AGAIN
A strong challenge from the 1st XV saw them eventually missout on a play off finishing 3rd in National 3 North but they did regain the Cheshire Cup. The second team continued their domination of their rugby sphere albeit with a small weakening, finishing 2nd in Bateman BMW Premier League and once again winning the the Halbro Cup. Whilst the 3rd team won promotion to Miller Homes Division 1.
The Club provided the venue for the inaugural Manchester 7s some recognition of the Club’s status in the Manchester area.
ALL THAT GLISTENS IS SILVER
The 1st XV win National Division 2 North to gain promotion to National Division 1 and visit Twickenham to beat Barking in the final of the National Division 2 Champions Cup.
Not to be outdone the 2nd XV won a League and Cup double, champions of the Bateman BMW Premier Division and winners of the Raging Bull Cup.
EXTREME HEIGHT CAUSES A NOSE BLEED
The 1st XV play their first ever game at National Division 1, the third tier of English rugby thereby officially entering the list as one of the top 50 clubs in England.
WORDS FAIL BUT NOT THESE TEAMS
In their first ever season at National 1 the first team finish 4th having challenged for another promotion for much of the season. But the second team were not to be outdone winning the Bateman BMW Premier League / Conference and retaining the Raging Bull Cup
Spectators and members attending the first National League 1 match of the season against Wharfedale, were greeted by the sight of technology imposing itself on Priory Park. A new electronic scoreboard was unveiled and dedicated to the memory of Peter Jones, a former player and President of the Club. A doubly fitting tribute as operation of its manual predecessor scoreboard was a regular duty of the Jones family during Peter’s Presidency. Over the years this task was regularly undertaken by the younger Jones’, in the form of various grandsons until they developed their rugby skills to follow Grandad, Peter and Dad, Richard onto the field to carry on the family rugby tradition. Thereafter that task was invariably willingly carried out Peter’s wife Dot.
Farewell a club character
September saw the passing of Malcolm Bennett, one of the Clubs stalwarts and characters. Over many years Malcolm’s contribution to the Club had ranged from first team manager, writing match reports and chief cheer leader traveling to support the team whatever the distance. Added to that was his willingness to help out on the grounds during the week and ensure the club was painted inside and out and ready for the start of the new season. On match days, dressed like a ‘Dandy’ with loud jacket and braces expressing his personality Malcolm always enjoyed his pre-match lunches and was never slow to give an opinion
Macclesfield Stars Recognised
Three Blues stars are recognised by call ups to the English Counties versus Irish Clubs XV at Preston. Tom Mantell (pictured) joined the Mulchrone brothers; Charlie(pictured) and Fergus(pictured). The brothers were instrumental in Macclesfield’s fine season and scored an incredible 28 tries between them. Ecstasy turned to agony for the pair as they both pulled up with injuries just days after being selected for the England Counties against Ireland.
Maintaining their form of the previous season the 1st XV finished 6th in National Division 1.
But the 4th team were the team of the year gaining promotion to Division 4 South by winning Division 5 South and winning the Raging Bull Plate along the way.
Macclesfield Choose Cheshire XV?
Well thats how it must have felt to Macclesfield supporters as the Cheshire team to play Yorkshire in the first game of the County Champiuonship contained no less than 12 Blues players.
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 Keep was a former Blues player and Brierley, Marwick and Cruse would soon play for the Blues that total representation was 16 out of 22!
LEAD US O NEW EXECUTIVE
New Executive Committee formed at the AGM. The new Executive came into being in response to another of the perennial crisis of finance and management that the Club has seen over the 90 years or so of its presence as MRUFC.
WAKING FROM A DREAM
An administrative ‘cock up’ caused a points deduction and led eventually to losing National Division 1 status as the 1st XV were relegated to National Division 2 North. The second team provided some small relief by wining the Premier Division/Conference A. The Under 16s brought some hope for the future by winning the Cheshire Cup.
RUBBER BALL COMES BOUNCING BACK
In the most dramatic of circumstances the first team capped a highly successful season by winning National Division 2 North at the first attempt and gaining promotion back to National Division 1. Their success was one of many this season. The 2nd XV won the LBS Cup, the U19s (Senior Colts) won the Cheshire Plate, the U15s the Cheshire Cup and the U7s/8s/9s & 10s all won their respective Cheshire Festivals.
TOP OF THE PILE!
MRUFC play in National Division 1!
THE HIGHS AND LOWS
The joy of the 2nd XV winning the Premier League/Conf. A and the 3rd XV winning Division 2 (S) to gain promotion to Division 1 is more than offset by the despair of the 1st XV being relegated from National Division 1 to National Division 2(N).
A CLEAN SWEEP
The 1st XV are crowned Champions of National Division 2(N), the Cheshire Cup comes back to MRUFC, again, and the 2nd XV are crowned Champions of Cotton Traders Premier League
TOP OF THE PILE, AGAIN!
MRUFC play in National Division 1, again!
And in the morning, We Shall Remember Them
After the Second World War the club established a Board of Honour to remember those who had lost their lives during the conflict. Over the many ground and club moves the Board had gone missing. Finally it was re-established at Priory Park in a poignant ceremony of dedication attended by representatives of the whole club. Now we shall truly Remember Them.
Long-standing member and supporter of the club Ron Townley collapsed in the clubhouse just as the First team game against Tynedale was ending. Despite prompt attention from the Paramedics, there was little that could be done. A former Redcar Rugby Club member in his younger days Ron arrived at Macclesfield Rugby Club in the early 2000s and soon became general factotum to the Stags and a regular supporter of many of the club’s social activities.
The professional age is completed
The first team’s performance were reminiscent of the first half of the previous season but now they were season long. Despite a win over fellow strugglers, Peterborough, this uptick in performance was too little and much too late to save the job of first team coach Marshall Gadd. Marshall was not offered a renewal of his contract into the following season and chose to leave the coaching role with immediate effect. Andy Appleyard took over the position for the remainder of the season.
If that’s me cup I’ve had it!
The Cheshire Cup kicked off early with the Blues drawn away at neighbours Sandbach in a game that was played before August was out! The side was unusually young, average age 21, and contained a high proportion of Macc Lads, twelve of them coming up through the Juniors and Colts. One, Will Davies, secured the 30-31 win courtesy of a last minute penalty. Thus Macclesfield qualified for a runout with Chester. Sadly the relative difference in power told as Macclesfield subsided to a defeat in a game played on 31st August. So the cup run was over before August was out.
Are you Knutsford in disguise?
This season was a new and strange experience for the Junior Colts. Unable to guarantee a full squad for any given match the Macclesfield Junior Colts joined forces with Knutsford who were in the same boat. They were to play the season at Priory Park but under joint management and squad selection and training. A very welcome example of “the game is all” where it is better to play under any title than not play as Macclesfield or Knutsford.
Old School solution to New Age problem
Through November the second team had suffered a string of reverses. At this point the leadership trio of Sam Jones (captain) Jim Curtis (manager) and Pete Langley (coach) sat down and discussed how to attack the bad run of form. The decision was a “play” right out of the “old school” book of building team morale. The away fixture at Fylde was turned into a “coach trip”! Sadly the result did not go their way! However the Christmas jumpers and ale stop-off on the return seemed to mend morale as Rossendale were felled in the next game and the seconds commenced an unbeaten run through to the end of the curtailed season
Not so Jolly for the Ladies
When the first team travelled up to Kirkby Lonsdale for their League fixture it was an opportunity for Macclesfield Ladies XV to put another “first” on their CVs. They also travelled by coach to play Kirkby Lonsdale Ladies as the precursor to the 1st XV’s game. Their opposition were more experienced having played a few seasons on the rugby development path and now playing regular league rugby. The score line (43-0) reflected the difference in experience but not the strong defence and good handling skills of the Macc Ladies.
COVID-19 Rugby Nil.
As a virus pandemic was declared the first effects impacted MRUFC when their home match with Wirral was postponed because several Wirral players had tested positive for the virus. Although rugby wa played elsewhere this postponement was followed almost immediately by an unprecedented announcement from HQ; “Last night the RFU, acting upon government advice, suspended all professional and community rugby in England from today 17th March 2020 until Tuesday 14th April, subject to continued review.”. As we now know that was that for rather longer than the initial 4 weeks.
COVID-19th Macc 3rd
Following the initial postponement of the Community game the official season end was declared when the RFU published the end of season final league standings for 2019-2020 based on a methodology that looked at a team’s average points in their home and away fixtures and applied this to any remaining fixtures. This moved Macclesfield into 3rd position with Blaydon and Harrogate in the 1st and 2nd positions respectively, thus missing out on promotion by the narrowest of margins.