Renegade Football at the High School (4)

In the Spring Term of 1915 more than fifty or sixty boys began to turn up for rugby practice every single Wednesday and Saturday at the High School’s Sports Ground in Mapperley Park. “Welcome Back O Orange Arrow” :

This is the sport they were learning. Notice the oval ball:

So far the school was not playing any fixtures but merely learning the game. Official matches began in the Christmas Term of 1915 but the First XV were forced to anticipate their first ever victory for quite some time. One heavy defeat came at Newark Magnus School by 0-43. When they played the return game against Newark, in very poor weather, much was made of the fact that they lost by only 0-8, the team’s best performance so far in the new sport of rugby. Their best quality seems to have been their sportsmanship and they played at least one game without conceding a single penalty. Here’s a rugby game from long, long ago, before anybody thought of playing with a ball:

The Second XV found life equally difficult but much of it was their own fault. The whole lot of them were what Philip Larkin would one day call “Losers, loblolly-men, louts” :

“….the fly in the ointment this term has been the very irregular amount of keenness shown in the Second Game. There are far too many hefty fellows in the Upper part of the School who prefer to spend their half holidays idling about, perchance frequenting picture palaces, or doing something equally futile…It is not as if these fellows spent their afternoons in some profitable pursuit ; that might be mistaken, but it would be to a certain extent excusable. They simply waste their time.”

The first victories for both teams came in the Christmas Term of 1916 when the First XV won five of its six matches. Here is one of the earliest photographs of the High School First XV I could find. It is the team in 1926 and “Guts” Kennard stands on the left and the Groundsman, Mr Albert Onions is on the right:

Here is the team for 1929:

We know who the players are in this photograph:

Back row: BF Sander, MH Pockson, HR Lawrence, TC Doar, GB Green, LCS Sutton, AH Bowman, NH Baker, Mr Kennard

Middle row: CF Carr, AG Payne, JT Thompson, AS Hancock (Captain), RP Lawrence, AV Spencer

Front row: JR Bignall, G Cooke

This is a photograph of the earliest rugby match I could find, played at Valley Road Playing Fields on Thursday, October 6th 1932. The First XV played Mr R A Palmer’s XV, but lost by 0-18:

I did mention in previous posts about this subject, though, the fact that: “The boys, by a substantial majority, would have opted for football.” instead of making the change to rugby. Not that that was enough to persuade the boys actually to attend football practices, of course.

Football, though, always seems to have appealed to the rebellious nature of the boys, especially when rugby took over as the Chosen Sport. Even when football was a school sport, though, some of the younger boys wanted more of it, and they were quite prepared to break the rules of the High School to achieve that aim. The first incident occurred on Saturday, November 21st 1908, and shocked the School Prefects to the core. We’ll see how that came about and why the Prefects had to hold an emergency meeting, another time.


Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

15 responses to “Renegade Football at the High School (4)

  1. Just like my school in the 1960s

    • Yes, I would have thought that most young men of a given era were fairly similar, especially in inter-school activities. I used to drive the football team around to their fixtures and it was often surprising how like us the opposition were.
      As for “Losers, loblolly-men, louts”, no all-boys school ever runs short of them.

  2. My son, Sam was captain of rugby at Magnus

    • That was a great achievement, I would have thought. I know that the High School boys have always found Magnus very difficult opponents with a high level of commitment. They always seemed very big and fit and our pasty faced city boys all thought that they were the sons of farmers who trained by throwing hay bales around.
      Happy Days!

  3. Gong against the rules to get more exercise in another sport…. I don’t think we’ll see that in today’s schools.

  4. Fascinating.

    REPLY: Thank you. I am so glad that you enjoyed it.

  5. Interesting look back into history and the origins of the sport in schools, times have certainly changed in many ways since the earlier days in sport.

    • Yes, they certainly have, Nowadays, the élite players in private schools may well be treated like very young professionals, with all kinds of training methods available.
      In my daughter’s school they had a “School Personal Trainer” who gave every girl their own personal plan, irrespective of how fit or unfit they were. I thought what a good idea this was, as it offered a great many girls the chance to improve their fitness, without reference to what talents they had.

  6. I hated inter-school football. Not your sort of football. Ours. But it doesn’t matter. It was winter, it was cold and the nasty little Mick from the Catholic School who was my opponent didn’t want to be there either. So if the fog was thick enough we let the ball pass to someone else and we stood and shivered – two lost souls united in misery.

    • Aussie Rules looks a brutal sport when it appears on our specialist sports channels. I was hardly a keen participant in rugby either, although given my weight, the teachers always put me as a prop, so there was little escape.
      Cross country was the sport for me. Four of us down to the bus shelter with a packet of twenty Players’ ciggies….Happy Days!!

  7. Great photos there John. I played rugby at school and it was more a case of who could get the dirtiest! Football was always considered much more important as a sport.

    • People have so many different opinion about rugby. At our school, many of the mothers were worried that their sons would get seriously injured.
      I suppose football can be played very easily by anybody, whether they are in the slums of Argentina, Brazil, Belfast or Newcastle. It requires very little equipment and, most of all, it unites Mankind, insofar as it is the only thing that all of Mankind is agreed on, with the same rules, the same number of players, the same size pitch and so on.

      • That is certainly a good point John,and even though there’s tribal war amongst fans, the game itself is accepted in one form across the world. Maybe there’s something in that.

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