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A match and sing-a-long heralds Hampstead Rugby Club’s 50th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 13:45 23 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:45 23 March 2017

1st team 1968-69

1st team 1968-69

Archant

On April 1 the resounding sounds of a “quiet drink” will echo around Hampstead as a group of rugby players return to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their club.

Hampstead RFU players 1973/4Hampstead RFU players 1973/4

Founding members of the reformed Hampstead Rugby Club (RFU) and the offshoot Jock Strapp Ensemble will watch the team compete against Belsize Park then settle down for a pint.

The roots of the club, based in Golders Green, are found 100 years before its 1967 reformation.

In 1867 the Hampstead Football Club, as it was known, disbanded with some players heading south of the river – the Harlequins – and the rest, the Wasps, went north, now based in Sudbury.

A team of Hampstead players formed the Wanderers 40 years later who were so named as they had no fixed ground. Of these men who fought in the First World War, some came home decorated with honours, others were killed.

The Hampstead Rugby Ball in Madame Tussauds in April 1970The Hampstead Rugby Ball in Madame Tussauds in April 1970

Sadly, no more games were played on Hampstead Heath as there were simply not enough players.

Jerry Coade, a founding member of the Hampstead RFU, was one of a group of local men to reform the club which is still going strong.

He said: “In 1967 it was reformed with players from the Central YMCA but there’s a rumour the YMCA excommunicated these players for singing naughty songs

“The YMCA teams transferred the fixtures and played under the name of Hampstead with a club house near Regents Park.”

The 7th annual Hampstead Beer FestivalThe 7th annual Hampstead Beer Festival

In the following season the RFU recognised Hampstead as a member of the Middlesex clubs.

The men set about creating club shirts which were designed using their coat of arms, based on Norman knight Sir William Peverel.

Jerry added: “William the Conqueror awarded the Manor of Hampstead to William’s father Sir Ranulph Peverel who was married to Ingelrica. We found the coat of arms belonging to William Perveral which contained a vairee, a heraldic device by the French made from squirrel skins which lined Norman barons’ coats.

“We used wild boars with the vairee, to denote the boars running around Hampstead until the 13th century.”

The shirts did not come cheap, so the players found a novel way of paying for them by forming the Jock Strapp ensemble, formed by Mike Flynn with Jerry a key chorister.

He said: “We knew plenty of songs, popular ones and rude ones as well and kept on bringing out these records which we recorded in pubs and in studios. Some were really quite beautiful and some were terrible.

“We recorded three LPs of rugby songs which include Swing Low Sweet Chariot, a rugby anthem and less commonly known tunes. Nine sets of rugby shirts were all paid for from the proceeds of the LPs which sold quite highly.”

He added: “Mike Flynn was the club chairman for many years and then was elected president. Without his drive and enthusiasm I doubt the Central YMCA RFC would have become Hampstead RFC - the highly successful and diverse club it is today.”

The club celebrated 25 years with a Founders Ball in 1993, involving a reunion of members as far afield as Australia and Canada who had not seen each other for more than 20 years.

In a few days time members will return to watch the current first XV play on the Heath extension at 3pm and “a few beers and supper afterwards” at the George on Haverstock Hill. Expect a raucous sing-a-long.

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