24 July 2023
From The Vaults
From being one of the founding clubs of the RFU (Marlborough Nomads) to the current day on the Common (Marlborough RFC), rugby and Marlborough have never been far apart.
Marlborough Public School, now known as Marlborough College, formed their own team in 1861. Marlborough Nomads were founded in 1868. They played in red, white and blue vertical stripes.
The Nomads comprised masters and ex pupils from Marlborough College and army personnel from the local army camps at Tidworth and the surrounding area. A relationship which continues today and is as strong as ever. 'Nomadic' in nature, the team played its rugby at various grounds around the London Area, Richmond, Blackheath, West Kent and Bedford Park, as they had no base.
Marlborough Nomads remained a well known, and respected Metropolitan Club until their amalgamation with Roslyn Park in 1911. They contributed eight England internationals, including Alfred St.George Hamersley, who captained England in 1874 before introducing rugby football to South Canterbury, New Zealand and also British Columbia in Canada where he became the first President of British Columbia RFU. In 2015 Marlborough College named a sports field after Hamersley, called The "Hamersley" Field.
Marlborough RFC were formed in 1930 and played up to the Second World War. They played in royal blue shirts and white shorts. They first played on a field at the top of Savernake Hill near to Savernake Forest. In 1934 the team played on the Marlborough Common for the first time, adjacent to Free's Avenue. Their base was the Sun Inn, where they showered and entertained the visiting teams.
In 1967 the revived team played their first fixture against customers of the Sun Inn. The Sun Inn being represented by the "Sun Downers". It was a close match resulting in a 3-0 victory. A penalty was given to M.R.F.C. after a crooked feed by scrum half Roger Swanton. The Match was designed to be a prelude to the 1967 season, and sought to generate support in the Town. Following this match a fund raising event of cheese and wine was held in the Town Hall. Their colours were Amber shirts and white shorts. This was the cheapest strip at the time, and no other club in the area had a a similar strip.
Like the Nomads, Marlborough RFC were nomadic up until the year 2000 when a club house was finally secured on Marlborough Common. It was funded by grants from the National Lottery, Sport England, the RFU and local fund raising efforts. At the time changing and showering were done at St. John's School, Cherry Orchard. Home and visiting teams would play and drive the 1 mile, to and from the common in all weathers and then entertain at a small cricket pavilion at Elcot Lane, supplied by the local Education Committee.
In 1978, the club was instrumental in the setting up of local leagues. The Daily Telegraph had it's own Merit tables for senior teams. Marlborough RFC suggested to the county that there is a place with lower teams to participate in a league system Howard Cripps club secretary sent out a round robin to all the clubs that Marlborough were in contact with to see if there was any interest in leagues. The idea was put forward by George Haddock former Captain of Marlborough RFC.
After defeat in one of the Dorset & Wilts cup rounds, he suggested at a meeting in Elcot Lane, that if there was a league competition in rugby like football then there would be more interest and motivation for the players.
At the the time rugby fixtures were a fixed tradition at all the levels of rugby. Before leagues Marlborough R.F.C always played Didcot, in the first match of the season, alternating home and away in successive seasons.
Clubman, Andrew Ross who had been on the Dorset & Wilts committee took George's ideas back to them and they asked George to write a paper on the idea. The idea was picked up by Mike Meinikie committee man of Trowbridge RFC who had close contacts with Bill Bishop, President of the RFU and a member of the Cornwall County Rugby Committee. The rest is History! George's "Acorn" blossomed into leagues for all.
During the late 1990s the strips changed from amber to black and amber, with black shorts.
When the leagues first started MRFC were put in Dorset & Wilts Division 2, through the '90s the club progressed to the Southern Counties, but by 2007/2008 had been demoted to Division 3 North.
During this time Marlborough forged links with the Army Camp at Tidworth, one of the largest army garrisons in the UK, which helped the club progress back up the leagues. The quality of rugby and type of rugby played now is greatly influenced by platers and coaches from the Pacific Islands of Fiji and Tonga. Our current coaches are Elisi Vunipola related to the current English Stars and Tonga International Taufa'ao Filise from Tonga and Cardiff Blues.
MRFC also have a strong Seven-a-side teams for male and female, led by James Davies and the Nomads still have a presence at the club, through our sevens adventures and our 2nd XV, who are called Marlborough Nomads.
MRFC also caters for all ages from under 6s through to Colts. Our Club Captain is currently "Welsh International Deaf" Ben Fulton, a very talented centre.
Please visit our club website to learn more about the club and our history- marlboroughrfc.rfu.club
About the Authors - Alec Thomas is a prop who played for Newbridge Grammar School 1st XV, Monmouthshire Secondary Schools Rugby Union, Newbridge United, High Wycombe RFC, Bracknell RFC, Seale-Hayne Agricultural College, Devises and Marlborough RFC from 1977-1988 who served as Chairman 1988-1991. Neil Goodwin is a No.8 or lock who played for Marlborough Grammar School, Sundowners and Marlborough RFC 1969-1971.
09 April 2023