Wigan Grammar School

Football

   
In all probability the boys of the early 17th century played games amongst themselves, but organised school games are a much more modern development.  Cricket in summer and association football in winter were the school games in the early 1900’s, which is about as far back as any accurate records go.

The School possessed a good football team in the last decade of the nineteenth century and opening years of the twentieth, and two players as least, G Barlow and S Royle, reached amateur international status after they had left school.  But during all this period the constant question was where to play.  There were constant searches in various districts of Wigan and several temporary fields were obtained, but none was entirely satisfactory.  It was in the days before the First World War that a ground at Beech hill known was “Waterworths” was brought into use.  This continued right up to 1927 when the land was used for building.  Then for a year or two a field was used on the other side of Gidlow Lane near the R.O.F, now Milliken’s.  The pitch here consisted of about as much cinder as grass.   The hut which served as a dressing room was transferred bodily to Prospect in Standish when the present ground was first leased on 1928.

In the early days the expenses of games had to be met, apart from an occasional grant by the Governors, from subscriptions by the boys themselves.  In 1910 the football secretary somewhat proudly reports, “We have put up new goal posts and have invested in nets for them”.  In 1911 a balance sheet shows that £2 18s 2d was spent on football and £1 8s 2d on cricket.

1st X1 1922
Football matches were played against local schools such as Chorley, Leigh, Rivington, Cowley. Ashton, and also against local teams such as Dicconson Amateurs and the Junior Conservatives.  Once the School beat Cowley 23-0 at Soccer!  The local schools competed in a league, the winners holding a shield for a year. It is not clear how often the School won this, but in 1909 and 1910 it is reported that the shield was hung in the School Hall.  Competition for this shield ceased at the outbreak of the First World War, and seems not to have been revived.  There were no House Matches since Houses were not formed until 1926, but spirited inter-formed matches took place, called Test Matches, which are reported at length in the early Magazines.

The Round Ball

Soccer in the 1930’s was played on the “big pitch” and the “little pitch” at Prospect Hill, Standish.  This meant either a three-penny bus ride (a lot of money then) or for many of impecunious means a leisurely stroll from Beech Hill up the old colliery rail track, and an even more leisurely one back again. 

1st X1 1931
Changing accommodation was euphemistically known as the “big hut”, cold, without light, barely holding 22 players, and the “little hut” which had added difficulties of bags of sawdust, mowers and other paraphernalia of West the groundsman.  On House match days 88 players somehow squeezed in. One bucket of cold water outside provided washing facilities.  What bliss when some kind householder handed over a bucket of hot water!  Yet House matches on a league basis were memorable competitions of intense rivalry, and often almost the whole House was on the touchline cheering the team.  Non-attendance had to be explained at Friday house-meeting!
1st X1 1939
Conditions were the same for School matches, mainly confined to 1st and 2nd teams and played on Wednesday afternoon (a school holiday – enlightened days in education!) and Saturday afternoons.  When the new School was opened in 1936-7 enthusiasm and standards seemed to leap forward.  The fine records of School teams in the years just prior to the war culminated in the magnificent first team of 1938-9.  After drawing their first game 4-4 at Poulton, they went on to win the remaining twenty-five, scoring 165 goals against 28.  The whole School became involved in their feats.  Indeed involvement by each and everyone characterised soccer and all games during this period.  Neither Prospect Park’s remoteness nor its inhospitable accommodation was able to stifle it. F.Holmes 1939

U14 X1 1966

All soccer was played on our own pitch at Standish up to about 1955 when this was made into a reservoir. We never knew from season to season where school matches would be played.  Weekday games were usually at Little Lane, changing by the pitch – weather permitting.  On Saturdays our first “home” ground was at Parbold!  After that we had the occasional use of a pitch at Pemberton with plenty of stray dogs and also a path across the middle of the pitch which the locals refused to give up for a ball game! Next season, Coronation Park, with nowhere to change and a new problem of grazing horses.  The manure may have helped the grass to grow, but visiting goalkeepers were less enthusiastic.  We moved on again to Green Hill, uniquely impressive in its unsuitability.  The small hut disappeared after November 5th, and so much did the goal posts droop that a straight corner kick often scored. Things at last improved with the opening of Robin Park and union with Linacre which enabled us to use Christopher Park also. Soon six teams turned out weekly, junior teams competed in local leagues and the 1st XI won the first and second Mackereth Cup competitions in 1966 and 1967.D Eccles 1967