Wigan Grammar School

Rugby

   
 
In 1909 a team of 13 was trained by Mr Perry, the caretaker, to take part in a local competition in Rugby League football.  The team reached the final.  It was in 1926 however that Rugby became a School game, first under Mr William and later under Mr Turton and Mr Gore. The Rugby footballers were more fortunate in having a ground and pavilion with washing and changing accommodation, as these games have from the first been played at Prospect Park, Standish, by kind permission of the Wigan old Boys RUFC.  For some time boys were allowed to play either type of football as opportunity offered, but for many years before the late war senior boys had to choose one game and stick to it, as otherwise team building became impossible.  For House matches, of course, boys played either code as required.
At the time of the introduction of Rugby to the School, the Magazine printed at length the views of each member of the staff on the innovation, and these make interesting reading today.

 

FROM THE SCHOOL MAGAZINE:
For our retrospect this term, we have chosen some comments by certain members of the Staff, made in their younger days, on the relative merits of Rugby and Association Football,  These comments appeared in the magazine, at the time when Rugby was being introduced into the school for the first time.

Mr Allanson:  Both Soccer and Rugger have their good points, but judging the matter on points, I think Rugger has the advantage.I notice at the latter game that it is necessary for the referee to book down the said points as they are scored.  Also the goal posts at Rugger are more pointed, so is the ball, and so are the remarks of the forwards in the scrum.  Hence, looking at the matter from this point of view, I think Rugger wins – “on points”.

Mr Boswell:   Whilst Rugger is a fine game for the older boy, it seems to me to be too strenuous for younger boys who may be growing rapidly.  Furthermore, if Soccer were played in the Lower School, and Rugger in the Upper School, the latter game would probably be of more benefit by the experience already gained in ball control in the other more open game.

Mr Denning:  Many boys are born beefy, but devoid of football instincts.  It is a sheer impossibility for them to kick a round ball straight.  These boys go through school, from the lowers to the uppers. And at the end of their school career, have taken no part in games. Soccer is a game which cannot easily be assimilated, but Rugger can be played by one and all, unless blind or maimed. A large school ought to run both Soccer and Rugger teams in conjunction.

Mr Gore:  When we examine the degree of popularity enjoyed by Soccer and Rugger throughout the country, we should immediately reach the conclusion that Soccer is the better game.  However, I do not think this is the case.  I am inclined to the idea that Rugger is a game that requires a rather high standard of intelligence; hence the popularity of Soccer. What of the school?  Bearing in mind the frequent calls on one’s intelligence to interpret correctly the game of Rugger, can we come to any other conclusion, but that Rugger should be the School game? Let us by all means have in the School a game which will certainly offer some degree of pleasure to the spectator.

Mr Johnson:  A boy always has the feeling that he would like to kick something – his class-mate, a tin can, a ball under his arm is foreign to his nature; hence although making greater calls on his intelligence Soccer is a better game for him. Surely it is the function of the Secondary schools to turn out Amateurs for the Soccer code.  At present this is cursed with the stranglehold of Professionalism.

 

 

The Oval Ball

1st XV 1931
Rugby at School in the 1930’s was played with the emphasis always on back play ad forwards who were generally unskilled on the drills of rucking.  In loose mauls the scrumhalf position was usually over populated by forwards anxious to show that they too could run, handle and sidestep so that the rightful incumbent was often impeded or made redundant. The first pitch at Prospect Park, now a rather pleasant extension of suburbia, had a pronounced slope with an estimated difference of 11 feet in elevation between the ends – it seemed like 50 feet on a muddy day with a biting north-easter.  The strategy, as Harold found in an earlier conflict at Hastings, was dominated by the slope.  The second team ground, from a narrow plateau at the top end, sloped precipitously and dipped in two places downwards and sideways.  From this muddy hollow the call of “get stuck in” might as easily be a plea for help as a rallying cry
   
 
Before the match
After the match
 
More games were won than lost but victories against Southport and Wade Deacon were few at home and even rarer away, which with typical schoolboy basis we attributed mainly to well chosen referees. Physique rather then age was the basis of the groupings in junior rugby. The Bantams were meant to weigh under 7st 9lbs and to be under 5ft 2 ins if they were under 14.  But complicated extensions of this caused such disputes that the Government Weights and measures Department flourished into a major unit. Despite these conditions many people made their mark in Senior and Club rugby and most famous of course being Roy Leyland who was capped several times for England. JBradburn 1939

A Rugby Tour to Germany in 1952

The Touring Party 1952
Our hostel was by Hitler’s Olympic Stadium – indeed we trained and played on the outer field.  It is an inspiring sight, similar to Wembley in general idea, but with no covered accommodation and with seats for everyone.  The cordiality in Berlin was once more very fine, and we were at home straightaway with every modern convenience.  It is too much to cite every recollection of that memorable week, but several stand out as impossible to omit. Our fellow-tourists were the highlight of the stay – a Paris University XV which found no difficulty in returning home at 3.00 am rising at 9.00 am and playing brilliant Rugby on the same afternoon.  Moreover they possessed an interminable range of French melodies which we were unable to translate but which a M Favier interpreted in broken English.  He was admirably lucid. There were, of course, many interesting tours.  The war damage even after seven years, makes London seem unscathed.  Still there are great ruins and pile upon pile of rubble, but what has been renovated is really fine to behold – a modern city in the best sense.  The nearest we reached knowingly, to the Russian Sector was that Brandenburg Tor, where we viewed the renowned Reichstag and the Russian War memorial, marred, unfortunately, by the presence of two stationary tanks and guns. The site of Hitler’s Chancellery is hard by – razed completely to the ground.
Wilkinson breaks clear
Our thanks indeed goes out to the Berliners who provided so much for so little.  Their enthusiasm for friendship – Berlin sees few foreign travellers – and their unbounded generosity will live long in our minds.  A pity their Rugby was not so highly developed as our own but their sportsmanship on and off the field was of the highest order; with instruction they must improve vastly for the will is certainly there.  We sincerely hope the Germans have obtained as good an impression of us as we have of them. Whether they were Berliners in the East of Hanoverians of the West, war or rumours of way never seemed so fantastic as during that fortnight.

 

In conclusion it must be emphasised how much the success of the trip, beforehand, during and after, was due to Mr Savigny and Mr Bradburn.  We all deeply appreciate the unflagging efforts they made to transfer everything from paper to practise, and no expression of thanks could be really adequate. M.Cornish 1952

 

The team meets the G.O.C.'s