Sidmouth RFC - a history of the junior section - part one 1800s to the end of WWII

No play for the foresseable future. The shut gates at the Blackmore home of Sidmouth RFC. Picture TE

No play for the foresseable future. The shut gates at the Blackmore home of Sidmouth RFC. Picture TERRY IFE - Credit: Archant

On April 17, 1930, Sidmouth RFC held a Victory Dinner at the Winter Gardens (latterly Carinas) to celebrate the 3-0 defeat of Brixham to win the Devon Senior Cup, writes Terry O’Brien.

In his speech, the Sidmouth chairman and Devon RFU president Tommy Fitzgerald recalled that he had ‘started his football on the Three-Cornered Plot’.

That would have been in the 1880s when, what we now know as the Triangle was a large grass area covering the bus terminal, roads and putting green used as a playground by the children of the town.

There is no record to show if this football was adult-supervised or boys playing their own games, but it shows that boys playing rugby goes back to very beginnings of Sidmouth Rugby Club.

In 1888, a proposal was made to form ‘a juvenile branch of the that youths who might become members could have the use of the field and a ball for an hours practice one day a week...the annual subscription to be one shilling.’

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On Boxing Day that year, Sidmouth fielded three teams with the 3rd Team playing Honiton Juniors. It can be safely assumed that the Sidmouth players were predominantly youths.

By 1891, there were reports of the formation of youth teams in the town. On Boxing Day 1891 a match was played on the Blackmore Field between two youth teams Fortfield Rovers v Land Wanderers.

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And, in 1892 there were reports of Fortfield Rovers v Exeter Clarence and Sidmouth Boys v Ottery Boys.

Other youth teams mentioned during the 1890s were Jubilee Rovers, Landpart Echoes, Cotford Rovers, Sidmouth White Stars, Sidmouth Blues and Sidmouth Echoes.

None of these teams were officially linked to the Sidmouth Club, but they would have been encouraged by the club and provided a source of future adult players.

Following Sidmouth’s Golden Age in the mid-1890s, there was a marked slump at the turn of the century.

Playing numbers dropped and the club struggled financially. In an effort to rekindle interest among boys and boost future playing numbers, the club’s founder and president Bingley Pullin presented a trophy to be played for by teams of 17 years and under.

The first Pullin Cup competition took place over the Christmas period in 1904. Three teams played a round robin won by a team called the Harlequins.

The medals were presented by Bingley Pullin’s eldest daughter Olive and one of the recipients was his son Roy.

In 1907 the Pullin Cup was won by a team called the Mudlarks. In 1909 they formed their own club Sidmouth Albion playing their home games on the Recreation Field. One of the players was George Bolt, who was also their secretary. He would go on to serve as the Sidmouth RFC secretary for 35 years. By 1914 most of the players had joined the main club including two future captains.

In the 1910 Pullin Cup final Sidmouth Boys School defeated Woolbrook School. The first example of schools playing rugby.

After rugby had been resumed after the First World War, the Sidmouth Observer reported on November 3, 1920 that a Sidmouth Juniors Football Club had been formed for youths 15 to 17 years.

The first game against Honiton was lost 3-15. Following a proposal at the SRFC AGM in May 1921, it was decided to bring the Sidmouth Juniors into the club. Sidmouth had its first Colts team.

On the 1925 membership card, George Bolt is listed as colts secretary.

The Pullin Cup had been revived and the newly formed Supporters Club provided medals for the winners and a ball for the losers.

In 1926 it was reported that ‘the Headmaster of Sidmouth Parochial School has decided to foster the Rugby Code, and it is expected that the Blackmore Field will be utilised for practice on Friday afternoons.’

School fixtures took place against Patrick Fitzgerald’s XV, Exmouth School, Exeter School and Allhallows School. In 1928 they won the Pullin Cup.

At the AGM in 1937, Master James O’Brien was presented with the Pullin Cup medals for his team. The Mudlarks had won it for the third consecutive year. This would be the last time the cup was played for until 1972. I still have my father’s medal.

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