Briefs from the past
In the 1913 Teignmouth decided to go professional. The Rugby League made overtures to various clubs which Teignmouth accepted. World War 1 intervened before the project could be got off the ground and the Rugby Football Union reinstated Teignmouth after the war without any recriminations.
One Teignmouth player set up something of a record when he played for the Second XV one week and England the next. He was Frank Davey who was chosen to play for England against Wales in 1931. The week prior to the big game he had to cry off from a Teignmouth 1st XV away match and turned out for the reserves at Bitton Park instead! Surprisingly Davey never received a county cap. Nor did Bill Broom who was good enough for the Royal Navy.
The greatest winger the club ever produced was Roger Matthews. Between 1933-37 he played more times for Devon than any other Teignmouth player. In 1935 he played for the combined Devon and Cornwall side against the New Zealand All Blacks.
Possessed of a great burst of speed and a devastating side step me must have been close to international honours. His playing career started in the 1930’s and continued to the early 1950’s when he played for the 3rd XV helping to coach the younger players. He still holds the club try scoring record for one season – a total of 26.
A great club stalwart from 1921-1948 was George Rooke senior. When his playing career finished through injury he acted as club trainer for 20 years. A former reserve team captain he also played many games for the 1st XV as hooker.
“Smart” Hooper had a novel way of keeping fit – visiting fairgrounds to take on professional fighters in the boxing booth! He played for Teignmouth from about 1921 until 1939 and was capped for Devon. After the war he was 1 XV regular touch judge.
The man who has probably had the most influence over Teignmouth Rugby Club is Orris Tosio. He kept the club going through the dark days of the 1930’s during the financial crisis and was largely responsible for building up the club from a junior side to one of the best in the South West.
His contacts were many and it is said he could put his finger on any promising player form Lands End to Bristol. This did not make him popular with some players who found so called “outsiders” suddenly appearing in the first team. But the means justified the ends as can be seen from the results and fixtures at the time. Gloucester, Plymouth Albion, Redruth, Clifton and Exeter were among the top sides soundly beaten during his term of office.
Mrs Maudie Tosi, his wife, will also be long remembered. She had only to see an old player and his wife pass the cafe they kept in Wellington Street and would dash out and invite them in for her famous coffee and cakes.
During the Second World War all rugby clubs were temporarily closed. Games were occasionally played for charity and the man who organised such matches in Teignmouth was Mr Philip Nathan. He raised teams from players home on leave and those serving in the area to provide cash for the war effort.
The early days of Teignmouth Rugby Club are lost in the mists of time. Although there are obviously many gaps it has been possible to piece some of the happenings during the first few years.
Officially the club was founded in January 1874 but it is known that a team did play some games in previous years when players from colleges and schools, home for the Christmas vacation, were joined by other enthusiasts.
In those far off days fixtures were arranged from October to the end of February. The opposition included Exeter Training College (now St. Luke’s College), Paignton, Exeter and the 5th Devon Rifle Volunteers from which the Newton Abbot club was formed.
The infant club was frequently on the move as playing fields were swallowed up for house buildings. Among the early pitches were two in the Buckridge Road area and at Cross Park in New Road.
Particulars of the opening match for the 1876/77 season have preserved. The game took place at Exeter Training College and the Teignmouth side was Addison (Capt.), McManus (backs); H Wilson, Reid, Soper, Burdon, Carter, Harris, Blanchford, Christean, Heafield, Morris (forwards).
There were more forwards than today and naturally they monopolised the game. It was commonplace for mauls to go on for a long time in gladiatorial fashion. When the backs did secure the ball their role was to drop kick as far ahead as possible into touch or to dodge or outrun the opposition. According to the match report: H. Wilson for the visitors started auspiciously and getting the ball ran nearly the whole length of the field and placing a touchdown. However, he failed to kick a goal. Unfortunately the college side won the game.
During the early 1880’s Teignmouth gained prominence for possessing a burly set of forwards known as the “The Smashers” and led by George Rice. In 1888/89 the team reached the final of the Devon Senior Cup being defeated by the famous Devonport Albion at Exeter. The team was: W. Hooper, H. Scagell, Ramsey, Hatcher, Lee, J. Scagell, Cox, Hawkins, Lear, Newbury, Parsons (Capt.), Parish, Millington, W. Lee, Bolt.
The club passed through a trying period in the 1890’s caused mainly by the uncertainty of playing fields. Landowners were reluctant to grant a leased they were occupied on a season to season basis. Grounds alternated between Crosspark and a pitch in Buckeridge Road, known as Frosts.
One of the earliest officials of the Devon Rugby football Union, W. Harcourt Style, the honorary secretary, came from the Teignmouth Club. He also refereed the first recorded county matches in 1883, 1884 and 1885 against Cornwall.
In 1894 it was announced that ladies would be admitted free to all matches. Ernest Hutchings, member of a well-known family connected with the legal profession, was Secretary and Mr. McBryde of the London Hotel granted rooms for changing accommodation.
The closing stages of the decade indicated a more settled position at Crosspark with improved paying performances under the captaincy of R.D. Whiteway Wilkinson.
Just after the turn of the century the team played a remarkable series of matches in a Devon Junior Cup Final against Friernhay which resulted in a 0-0 score on three occasions. Both clubs were declared joint holders. An aftermath of the marathon was the return of the team medals to the Devon RFU. It was considered the tokens were of poor quality and trifling value.
Following the semi-final win a supper and social evening was held and a gift presented to the captain Jack Scagell, who was leaving for South Africa. Winsborrow took over the leadership and reports praised the polished displays of W. Shapter at full back.
During the period a Teignmouthian called O’Neill , who played when home on vacation, played in the North v South trial game and was eventually picked for England on three occasions.
The annual meeting in 1903 resolved to withdraw from all cup football. H. Gann who was appointed captain for 1903/04 reported more than 50 players available and good fixtures arranged for the teams. B.W.L. Ashford, ex Somerset county player, was President and gave a great deal of time in coaching the teams with emphasis on tactics to take advantage of alternations in the laws of the game.
In 1904 the club was able to transfer activities from Crosspark to Lower Bitton Ground which promised better times ahead. Fixtures for 1905/06 had a strong Somerset flavour with games against Bridgwater, Bridgwater Albion, Taunton, Wellington and Weston-Super-Mare when Herbert Fraser was captain.
The club moved across Bitton Road in 1906/07 to a site on which the Avenues now stand. The area was admirably suited for recreational development and a syndicate of local businessmen interested in rugby were responsible for the project. The field was named The New Recreation Ground and it had a small stand.
The opening fixture was against Sidmouth and a procession through the town from the Dawlish Inn changing accommodation was headed by the Town Band and the chairman, members and officials of the urban council.
The team that day was: Passmore, Hextor, Barrett, Mogridge, Rice, Jarvis, J. Scagell, Finson (Capt.), H. Fraser, Smith, Huntley, Rabbage, mason, Woodley, Rowe. Teignmouth won 13-3.
Sadly a mistake was made in not allowing the newly made up ground to rest for at least a year and badly. Despite attempts to alleviate the drainage problem the ground deteriorated progressively with continued usage.
Apparently disagreement occurred between the club and the ground company and the venture which was embarked on with promise and enthusiasm was abandoned. The club returned to the Bitton ground next season and has stayed there ever since.
In 1907 the club changed its name to the Teignmouth Athletic Rugby Football Club, which was short-lived. Probable reason for the change was the interest in athletics by some members. F. Hill, H.J. Heysett and Tom Hextor competed in local events with some success.
Improved results followed the establishment of the Bitton enclosure and in 1911/12 cup rugby was resumed. The Devon Junior Cup was won by a team captained by Jos Parsons.
Activities were suspended on the outbreak of the First World War. A full fixture list was resumed in 1919/20.
Frequent changes of officials in the early 1920’s resulted in reorganisation and O.F. Tosio became secretary in 1923 after being an occasional player and serving on the committee since 1920. From then on steady progress was maintained to become one of the leading clubs in the Westcountry.
Improvements to the ground layout were undertaken and with the disbandment of the junior Bitton Rovers R.F.C. three teams were catered for. Players selected for Devon county championship games included T.H. Smith, F.P. Middleton, R.G. Hooper, W.S. Broom, W. Webber and G.R. Matthews. W.S. Broom played for the Royal Navy and was selected as a travelling reserve forward for an Ireland v. England game at Dublin. Webber and D.H. Durer figured in England trials and former captain R.F. Davey played for England against Wales in 1931. Other Devon county players were E.W. Lamble, W.J. Matthews, D.B. Edwards, R. de la Moran and L.C. Oliver.
A unique holder of the office president from 1924 to 1934 was the Right Hon. The Lady Cable of Ideford. For several seasons Brigadier Sir Ralph Rayner, held the position.
The highlight of 1927/28 was the choice of Teignmouth by the New South Wales Rugby Union team known as the Waratahs for training purposes in preparation for the tour of Great Britain and France.
Teignmouth had the honour of playing in the official trial match in which all members of the touring team appeared. The game attracted the largest attendance seen at the ground and Teignmouth Hospital received a substantial donation from the match receipts.
The Devon Senior Cup was won in 1928/29 but unsatisfactory games caused a withdrawal from cup rugby and eventually the competition was abandoned. Many noteworthy successes were accomplished up to the outbreak of the Second World War.
A financial crisis erupted in the early 1930’s when an exhaustive investigation of the club accounts revealed certain discrepancies. To the surprise of the committee who thought the club was in a strong financial position, Teignmouth R.F.C. was virtually bankrupt and close to extinction.
Due to the good offices of many friends of the club, including the outfitter who supplied the jerseys, and hard work by the committee enough money was raised to pay off all debts so that by 1939 a small balance was in existence.
After the war the Bitton Park layout was switched, in conjunction with the local council. The grandstand was re-erected facing the River Teign and the council purchased the adjoining tennis courts in what is now known as Milford Park so that the playing pitch could be re-arranged to play in it’s present direction.
Devon honours in county championship matches were gained by W.I. Scourfield, who also skippered the county, F.R.C. Full and W.H. Rogers, G.J.D. Rooke obtained county recognition against Wiltshire. M. Hodge (West Buckland School) played for England Schools under 19 group.
Separate officials such as fixture and team secretaries were introduced in the post war years and the supporters club formed. The offshoot has been of immense help to the parent club providing social and catering facilities and finance.
Overseas tours have become a popular innovation and games have been played in Jersey, Spain, Ireland, Holland, France, Belgium and even the United States.
Over the years the clubs facilities have been improved and the club can now boast some of the best facilities in the county, which include three bar areas, a skittle alley and a first class changing room complex.
Cup victories have been rare since the Devon Cup victory of 1928/29 season. Teignmouth won the Havil Plate in 1986 and the Devon Senior Presidents cup in 1996.
The introduction of league Rugby in 1987/88 season saw Teignmouth placed in the Cornwall & Devon league. They have remained in this division. The latter end of the 1998/99 season saw Teignmouth staring relegation in the eyes. A good start early on in the campaign gave talk of the possibility of promotion. However a very poor run of form saw Teignmouth slip toward the relegation zone. With relegation very likely towards the end of season luck shone Teignmouth’s way. With Teignmouth lying second from bottom in the relegation zone news was received that OPM’s, the team who lead Teignmouth by 1 point, had fielded an illegible player and were likely to have points deducted. This would mean Teignmouth would be placed above them and safe from relegation. This period also saw some improved performances and some vital league victories. Alas, this late improvement of form did not move Teignmouth up the league and at the end of the season finished second from bottom still with the chance of relegation, as OPM’s had lodged an appeal regarding their points deduction. Breaths were held early into the close season where OPM’s appeal failed and saw them relegated from Cornwall & Devon League and Teignmouth remain.
With 1999/2000 season fast approaching the club has high expectations. With the appointment Roy Henderson as Director of Rugby. Roy is returning to Teignmouth after a spell at Exeter RFC as administrator. During his time at Exeter they have risen to Division 2 status in the Allied Dunbar Premiership, and, hopefully, in the not so distance future enter into the elite top flight of English rugby.
The 2000/01 season was a black year for Teignmouth Rugby Football Club. Before the season began Roy Henderson resigned. Then in December 2000 saw the Club closed down and put into the hands of the administrator due to an unpaid VAT bill. With the Club facing closure a rescue package was launched with members reaching deep into their pockets to raise in excess of £30,000 to buy the Club back.
On the field he 2000/01 season saw Teignmouth finally end their tenure in the Cornwall & Devon league after 13 years. The season was badly affected by a Foot & Mouth crisis, with a number of games unplayed. Teignmouth failed to win a single league match away from home and saw themselves struggling at the wrong end of the table, eventually finishing mid-table. Disaster followed however. Due to relegation’s from the National Divisions, a re-balancing was needed of the South West leagues. The Cornwall & Devon league was hit hard and saw 5 relegated, with Teignmouth sent down into the Devon 1 league for the first time in their history.
Teignmouth were only to spend one season in the lower division. The 2001/02 saw a more buoyant one than the previous. All aspects of the Club prospered and this was also reflected on the pitch. Devon 1 was dominated by Kingsbridge, leaving Teignmouth to battle out second spot with Honiton and Sidmouth. Teignmouth’s run-in was especially difficult, with the team having to travel away to the of Honiton, Sidmouth and Cullompton,. Teignmouth travelled to these places and came away with a win on each occasion. Teignmouth finishing as Devon 1 runners up, and winning a play-off spot for promotion against the Cornwall 1 runners-up.
Teignmouth’s play-off opponents were Mounts Bay of Penzance, who also had home advantage.
Teignmouth support came out in full and created such a noise that they turned this away match into a home game. The Teignmouth side rose to the occasion, easily playing their best rugby of the season. The game went to the wire with the Cornishmen running in two late tries and dramatically failing to score a third and winning in the dying moments. Teignmouth hung on to secure a 14-17 victory, returning to the Cornwall & Devon division.
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