Rugby memories with Terry O’Brien - recalling the presidents of a special club

The 1962/63 Sidmouth RFC team including Brian Thomas with the ball, Derek Marchant standing third le

The 1962/63 Sidmouth RFC team including Brian Thomas with the ball, Derek Marchant standing third left and Len Perry in a suit sitting in front of him and next to Brian. Stan Baker is sitting second right. Picture: SIDMOUTH RFC - Credit: Archant

Here we bring you the final article in a series of ‘Rugby Memories’ from Sidmouth RFC stalwart Terry O’Brien.

In 2017 I had the privilege of joining an elite and, at least until then, eminent group of nine other men, writes Terry O’Brien.

I was elected president of Sidmouth Rugby Club.

It seems that I have been elevated to a position more ornamental than useful at an age where I am at my least decorative.

However, a few words about my predecessors.

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The first two presidents were prominent citizens with the clout and contacts required to oil the wheels for the new club seeking to establish its place in the community.

Since the election of the club’s founder Bingley Pullin on his retirement from playing in 1894, all have been ex-players who went on to be prominent administrators or volunteers.

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The incumbent for the first two years was William Hine-Haycock, a solicitor who had moved to Sidmouth from Kent.

His home was Belmont, which later would be converted into an hotel by Tommy Fitzgerald. He was more of a cricket man and was a long-time treasurer at the Fort Field.

In 1886, the new president was another lawyer. John James Galloway Radford lived in Sidmount, opposite the Knowle. His offices were in Hope Cottage, which were subsequently given to the town by his daughter Constance and now houses the museum.

He is best known for gifting the Ham to the town as a place for recreation.

For the next 54 years from 1894, the figurehead position was filled by Bingley Pullin and Freddie Orchard.

Their biographies have been covered fully in previous articles.

Following Bingley Pullin’s death on Christmas Day 1948, Tommy Sanders was elected to replace him at the following AGM. Tommy Sanders was an estate agent and businessman, who had been a regular 1st Team player in the 1930s and captain in 1938-39.

He played one game for Devon, scoring a try against Dorset. After the war, he took on the position of fixture secretary before becoming treasurer in 1947.

He combined the two roles for the next two years and remained president until his death in 1979. He also served a term as president of the Devon RFU.

Len Perry, a contemporary of Tommy Sanders, became the new president.

He had started playing rugby for his home village of Sidford and transferred to Sidmouth in the early 1930s.

He also played for the midweek team Sidmouth Thursday.

He joined the committee after the war and became chairman in the 1960s.

Local councillor Stan Baker took over the mantle in 1987.

Stan was a former 1st XV team captain and played hooker for Devon 11 times in the 1950s.

An injury at work left him paralysed, after which he joined the committee and restarted the Colts team in 1964.

He remained an active official until his career in local politics took precedent.

Following Stan’s sudden death two years later, Brian Thomas became the eighth president. Brian was another former 1st Team player and captain.

He was born in Wales and moved to Sidmouth aged 11. After retiring from playing, he joined the committee, which he chaired from 1974 until 1980.

Derek Marchant was another native of Sidford.

He was a convert from soccer in 1957 and soon became a regular 1st XV team player. He joined the committee when a knee injury cut his playing career short.

Among his many roles in the Club was leader of the junior section from 1979 to 1985, when he became club chairman until 1989.

He became president in 2004, when Brian Thomas stood down.

It is an honour to be associated with these men and the huge contribution they have made to the development and rich history of Sidmouth Rugby Club, which is an exceptional example for a community sports club in a small town.

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