On Rugby - Chris Snuggs Playing for the 1st XV - Chris Snuggs 1963-1964 1st XV - Chris Snuggs The 1977-1978 Team - Chris Snuggs  
On Football - Chris Snuggs Stonehenge Rugby - Mike O'Leary The 1960-1961 Colts - Chris Snuggs In Memoriam: Phil Bennett - Chris Snuggs  
Church Field - Chris Snuggs Losing at Wymondham - Chris Snuggs Games Afternoons - Chris Snuggs    

ON Rugby - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

First, I refer you to Jerry Page's "History of Rugby": a beautifully-written and hugely-perceptive and informative homage to the school in general and of course to rugby in particular.As to Jerry's question: WHY was WHS so good at rubgy? I throw this into the pot for stirring:

1) Taffy knew his stuff backwards of course, and loved the game. Without love, little is possible. And knowing his game meant we practised the basics properly: getting the ball out to the wing as fast as possible; standing deep, running onto the ball, running straight and hard, drawing the tackle and handing off the ball, the dummy, the sidestep, the ploy from the back of the scrum, falling on the ball, tackling properly, the grubber-kick, scrummagging low etc etc etc. We actually practised those things, and when we played a match it was often obvious that though the opponents may have had individual skill, spirit and courage, they often weren't as familiar with and/or as good at the basics.

2) I read somewhere that Taffy had been a seaman on convoys to Russia during the war, but I haven't been able to verify that or get any details. Masters were very reticent about their war exploits. I also believe that Ben Turner was a fighter pilot and that Stretch was a tank-commander in Africa. I really regret how silly it was not to question the old guys more about it, but I guess they were both modest and wanted to put it all behind them. The point being, that someone who had been on Russian convoys is not going to pussy-foot around going through the motions and being soft on lippy or idle recruits, but is going to expect and demand toughness from his charges in honour of the sacrifice his comrades made to preserve our freedom.

3) Taffy also epitomised something dear to my heart, and which he among others was responsible for giving me: the idea that if you're going to do something, do it properly. There was nothing half-hearted or incomplete about rugby at school; it was taken and practised with great seriousness - as in other aspects of school life of course.

4) The school being young, there was a conscious and/or unconscious drive to make its mark somehow, to prove itself. The same thing could be seen on the arts and music side. Merlin Channon, Barry Salmon, Leslie Johnstone, Patrick Hutton, Derek Thornbery and all the others did nothing half-heartedly just to pass the time of day.

5) Being a boarding-school meant we were in situ all the time and could devote more time to perfecting whatever took our interest. That was important. And in my day we had TWO rugby afternoons midweek AND a Saturday game. I remember that we even went quite often down to Orwell Side on Sundays and practised "the kicking game". All together, that was a LOT of practice.

6) Success breeds success. By luck or judgement, there were some exceptionally-talented boys in the early years who got the school off to an amazing start in scholarship, sport and the arts. By 1957/1958 the standard was already high, and the 1st XV of that year in particular was awesome. Boys following later had something to live up to.7) We had magnificent facilities and in particular Church Field. It kind of inspired the same level of devotion to rugby as that to God that the nearby church did! When you went up to Church Field you felt you were going somewhere really special.

8) I happen to think that we had four exceptional headmasters who gave Taffy and others a lot of encouragement. To do your best in any area of life you really need that from those in authority.

Did I forget anything?

On Football - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

Let’s be clear: I’m writing about the Greavesie stuff played mainly with the feet and a ball. There are purists who insist on this being called “soccer”, but of course, the word “purist” has always had the slight whiff of the weirdly obsessive about it. This is actually a very interesting subject for me, who was always interested in words - long before WHS days in fact, even though Derek Thornbery in particular nurtured and refined that interest. After all, words are what mainly differentiate us from other animals, some of which share over 90% of our genes.

Returning to our sheep, I see it as entirely logical that the WHS game be known as rugby and the Greavsie one as football. The fact that Americans call their weird handling game “football” can be ignored. Don’t get me wrong; I love America and probably a majority of Americans, but they are not going to dictate the agenda here. Funnily enough, I have often wondered what they should call their game. It is not - as we have seen - football, but neither is it rugby. Do we know where it was invented? For example, if it were first played at Kalamazoo, we could call it by that name - just as rugby was invented at Rugby School - which is of course fortunate for our game. Imagine if it had been first played at Doncaster! Then it would have been called “donk”. Even worse, it could have first appeared in Snodbury, Didling, Blubberhouses or - God forbid - Droop. Incidentally, it is amusing (you don’t have to agree) to think that if it had been at WHS that, for example, William Blair-Hickman had first picked up a ball and run with it during a game of football then the game would have been called “Woolverstone”, and no doubt at some stage “Woolvo”.

Anyway, that was just to clarify our terminology. The point is this. I assume (I am not a great fan of assumptions, but like idiot politicians, they are hard to avoid) that the absolute vast majority of boys going to WHS had never played rugby but HAD played football. ERGO, rugby was completely new for them but they were used to playing football - and presumably for the most part liking it. And yet, during the standard seven-year incarceration at WHS, football would be off the menu except as an slightly illicit and guilty occupation on Orwell Side well out of Taffy’s sight.

WERE boys disappointed not to be able to play football? I THINK that I knew before I went to WHS that rugby was played there, but I am not sure that I knew that there would be no football at all. That was not a problem for me, but I assume it might have been a big disappointment for some boys.

As for football, I do remember that some of my peers wanted to play it somehow or other, and of course Sunday on Orwell Side was just about the only opportunity. I remember quite clearly talking amongst ourselves and asking “Is it allowed? What if Taffy finds out?” Well, we never knew whether Taffy found out or even cared. In schoolboy legal terms, what we did on Sundays was to a large extent up to us; even at that tender age I remember feeling that even if Taffy objected to ANY manifestation of football on WHS soil he would not legally have a leg to stand on in trying to ban it.

In truth, I have NEVER known what he thought of boys playing the dreaded football on WHS soil. I assume he MUST have known it went on, but I do know that to me at least he never referred to it or took any steps to discourage it. I remember we junior house boys playing impromptu games of football on Orwell Side, but now I think about it I don’t remember seeing any older boys doing likewise. Maybe this was a newbie thing and after a couple of years boys were so into rugby that they no longer bothered with any form of football - on Orwell Side or elsewhere.

As for Orwell Side, I certainly don’t remember playing football there much after my second year, but we did play something called “the kicking game”. This was a non-contact game where we kicked the ball to each other rugby-like up and down the pitch (and touchline) - it was more like practising our rugby kicking skills than a game as such.

So there you have it; football was squeezed out of existence at WHS, where rugby was king. A good number of WHS boys were VERY good at rugby; would they also have made a career in football had they not gone to WHS? Maybe, but it was as it was, and I do not remember any great and lasting regret that we had no official football at WHS. There COULD have been a compromise: playing rugby in the autumn term and football in the spring. Would that have been better? I guess not.

PS I recently used the word “rugger” in connection with the hallowed game and got really told off by “a purist”, who insisted that “rugger” was a bastardardized version of the word and should be banned. I had never thought about this before. I have the impression that we used the word “rugger” at school. Does anyone remember? Did Taffy ever use the word?

PPS Orwell Side - weren't we lucky to be able to wander about and do things there? What a beautiful place to spend a lazy summer afternoon.

Jon Kemp (73 to 80): Football was played every Sunday morning in the front Garden at Corners. The pitch included the drive and a few trees.

Frederick Townson (52 to 58): In the '50s kicking a round ball often resulted in a detention.

Chris Snuggs (58 to 65): WOW!

Graham Forster (59 to 67): Taffy caught a group of us playing football on Orwell side and confiscated the bal

Roger Friend (58 to 63): I remember walking on the grass being a hanging offence! So was walking on the 6th form path ....

Chris Snuggs: Well, he was out of order, I am sorry to say. Not least because there was no actual RULE that you couldn't play football on Sundays on Orwell Side, was there? Nobody in their right mind would have gone up to Church Field to play football, but OS was a different thing! And Sunday was our day off!! Did you get your ball back?

Graham Forster: I don't know: it wasn't my ball. Taffy hated anyone playing with the round ball.

Chris Snuggs: I kind of knew he hated it, but not that he ever took any action to stop it, yet I was there when you were. Your group must have just been unlucky on the day.

Graham Forster: Maybe Wales had just lost in the 5 Nations????

Chris Snuggs: A pretty rare occurrence in those days ...

Richard Stokes (72 to 79): We had goalposts on Orwell side. We once had a charity match vs Ipswich School. I think Paul Whitmarsh played for Greys Athletic. The score v Ipswich was 0-0.

Chris Snuggs: Goalposts on OS? Unthinkable up to 1965 and probably longer!

Church Field - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

Of the many things I took for granted at school, one was Church Field. It was there; we went up there two or three times a week in the rugby season, watched or played and came home to tea - it all seemed completely normal. And yet in retrospect, what a magnificent jewel that was for the school: what huge luck to find such a flat piece of land with no stones, bordered by trees with a beautiful church at one side.

Obviously part of the original estate, someone in London (or maybe even Mr Smitherman?) made sure it became part of the school. I guess we will never know who exactly it was that fought to change it from a field of potatoes or grazing cows to a revered place of sport.

And it was revered - dare I say "hallowed"?. The very words "Church Field" had a special ring to them. It was not right outside the front door of the main buildings; we had to trudge our way up there, but somehow that added to the aura. The spectators went up first, and then the teams arrived and took up their places. I was lucky enough to play there many times, but most distinctly remember standing on the touchline as a first former watching that magnificent Bill Coutts 1st XV play Wymondham: Coutts, Marriott, House, Fletcher et al...... it was then that we realized how important rugby was at WHS. It was all so ritualistic, so magnificent.

I later played for the 1st XV, and so enjoyed the whole range of associations experienced with that field. And those experiences included the Saturday morning meetings of the 1st XV in the 6th Form Common Room of Halls house, where Taffy went over the tactics and gave us a pep talk. How important and privileged we felt!

Yes, I for one took it for granted, but imagine what WHS would have been without Church Field. I played on many pitches at and after Woolverstone - including at university - but never on a pitch like ours at school.

Playing for the Firsts .... - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

We didn't ALL love rugby, but we all played it, and many did love it. And for those who did, playing for the 1st XV was the ultimate achievement. When I arrived at WHS, I had like almost everyone else never played rugby and neither did I know much if anything about it - which is fairly normal unless you came from a rugby family. But within a week or so of arriving, I was up on Church Field watching the 1st XV play, and in my case, what a team that was. There was the imperious Bill Coutts, soon to have an England trial, two searing and monstrous wings in Dennis House and Robin Marriott; huge forwards including Mickey Baranyai, famous in WHS folklore for having (so we believed) fought against Russian tanks during the 1956 Hungarian uprising.

Well, these guys were the school heroes, and so one naturally wanted to emulate them and be heroes in their wake. And we soon got swept up into the ethos of the game. We had games two afternoons a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays- I wonder who originally sanctioned that; Mr Smitherman obviously signed off on it). We had Taffy from the outset, and games afternoons consisted if I remember rightly of a period of training on basic skills: running, passing, tackling, falling on the ball (Taffy was VERY hot on doing that right). A bit later came more concentration on scrummaging, running, the sidestep, the dummy, the grubber kick and so on. But there was ALWAYS a practice game - which was fun. Skills training is all very well for a while, but the game's the thing. And so we got lots of practice at actually playing.

Even in the Under something teams, we soon realised that in basic skills we were often far better than other teams. The simple dummy seemed to work easily against most, as if they had never seen it before, let alone practised it - or defending against it. On that, Taffy was equally hard. "GO FOR THE MAN," I remember him saying; "Round the legs and put him DOWN." And we did. And we had "ploys" (it was Taffy who taught us the word!). Many involved an element of deception, which was great fun.

So, rugby was serious, and as with everything at WHS, the pursuit of excellence was serious - and playing for the 1st XV was the ultimate. I forget how and when one was notified of one's first selection for the 1sts. I wasn't selected until I was in the 1st Year 6th, but quite a few boys were picked earlier. Did Taffy have a quiet word with us individually first? Did he announce the next weekend's team on the practice ground? Or did we find out when a teamsheet was put up somewhere? Someone else may remember, but I don't.

Anyway, once selected for one's first game, one looked forward to the ritualistic Saturday morning team-talk in the Senior Commmonroom of Halls House. It was a small room, so it was a bit of a squeeze. I remember meeting there very clearly. Taffy would give us a pep talk: mention things to do; things to avoid; remind us of the basics; say something about the opposition. And then later, the moment come, we would trot out onto the hallowed pitch of Church Field to the cheers of the assembled spectators. And we did usually have a good crowd to cheer us on I seem to remember. It was all very ritualistic and dramatic - and of course usually glorious, so it was no wonder that playing for the 1st XV was the pinnacle of rugby ambition - at least within the school; a number of boys were selected to play for representative teams, but there wasn't a big fuss of that made inside the school as I recall.

Happy days ...... .


Gerry Warren (Berners '65 to '72): I think the 71/72 cohort were the best team. They won every match from U12s to 1st XV.
(NO PHOTO OF THIS TEAM AVAILABLE, only of the 7s team shown below):

Chris Snuggs (Berners/Halls '58 to '64): That raises an interesting point. Normally, one would expect a boy to be selected for the 1st XV in the 6th form, but some were surely picked when still only 5th formers. I wonder who? Phil 'Ugh' Davies?, Dave Waight?, Martin Offiah? Making such a list will need a fair bit of research - OR direct evidence from one of you. On the other hand, I don't think any selection of players above their year took place until the 4th year at least. In other words, you could only play for the U14s if you were in the 3rd year no matter how good you were. I am assuming there was some kind of rule about this, but could be wrong. I never thought about it until now. I never remember anyone playing above their year (until the 5th form) in my era.

According to my records, Dave Waight started at WHS in 1965. He is first mentioned as playing for the 1st XV in the "Janus" report for 1969/1970, when he would have been in the 5th form. I assume that is the first year he played for the 1sts. (Louis Parperis might know as he played in the SAME 69/70 team.)

In the 68/69 report the captain was Jim Cottrell, but there are no names for players given. SO, Dave played for the 1st XV as a fifth former, which wasn't that common (research needed to determine HOW common) and was therefore a considerable achievement. I guess Taffy would have wanted to be sure that a fifth former's body was up to mixing it with boys up to three or four years older. No matter how talented the player, a year's physical growth makes a lot of difference at that age. Clearly, Taffy had no qualms re Dave Waight!

Iain Turner (Orwell '63 to '70): Playing for the 1st XV whilst in the fifth form was quite common as I recall. In my year, Philip Galpin, Paul Mattey, Viv Beresford and myself got the nod and I have memories of several other fifth years above and below my year doing the same.

Louis Parperis (Orwell '63 to '70): Peter Timms, in the same year as Dave Waight, played a few games at scrum-half before Iain was moved to play there. Jim Cottrell first played for the 1st XV when he was in the 4th Form, when he was also a regular in the 1st XI. Of the eight boys who started in Orwell in 1963, only Tony Isaacs, who left at the end of the 5th Form, was not awarded colours. Dave Gush and Peter Fishwick were awarded them for sailing while Iain Turner, Phil Galpin, Paul Mattey, John Morri and I were awarded them for rugby. Iain was one of a unique group who were awarded colours in three sports (athletics, fencing, rugby) along with Viv Beresford (badminton, cricket, rugby). Iain was also an incredibly talented painter, though he took four science subjects at A level and consequently had to drop Art as a subject and a violinist who could bring tears to your eyes. He really was that fucking awful.

Gerry Warren (Berners '65 to '72): Dave Waight was in my year. In the U12's and U13's Dave Brotherton was fly-half and if I remember correctly Dave Waight was inside centre. With DB leaving at the end of the 2nd form, DW moved up to fly-half and Max Berliner moved from prop to inside centre. DW certainly played for the Colts in the 4th form. This was the only team I never played for, but I was at every match as touch judge. I wonder how much better the 1st XV would have been if we hadn't lost some of our best players early, apart from DB and Max, there were Pete Timms and Steve Davis, both of whom had trials for England U15's I believe. Also Nick Lovell, a lightning-fast winger. These are just the ones I remember.

Chris Snuggs: Crikey! You guys have good memories! And what a flood of talent ..... I still think it was quite an achievement, so congratulations. I don't recall it being so common in ‘58 to ‘64, but I can't remember. Nor can I remember when I was first selected for the 1sts - pretty sure it wasn't in the 5th form though.

Iain Turner: I forgot about Richard Harber, also in my year, who was 'mentioned in dispatches' in Phil Davies' report in the 1968 Janus. That means that 5 of the '63 intake played for the 1st XV as fifth formers! We may not have all played at the same time. (I only managed a couple of games as I recall) but potentially a third of the team! Four of us were also in the victorious Ipswich Sevens squad.

Stonehenge Rugby - Michael John O'Leary ('57 to '61)

Michael John O'Leary: Does anyone remember Stonehenge Rugby? It was used as an introduction to rugby for first year pupils when they started. The whole year was split into 2 teams and lined up behind their respective try lines. 6 rugby balls were distributed along the centre line of the pitch. Everyone was told that the aim was to ground the balls behind the opponents try line using whatever means were necessary, no passing required. Then the starting whistle was blown and all hell broke loose. It was great fun to see 60 (?) boys rushing about on the field like dervishes!

Louis Parperis: It was three balls for the whole of my time (1963-70), but Mick (O'Leary) probably smuggled a few extras onto the field of play to improve his chances of being on the winning side.

Julius Marstrand: I remember I had been trained to be a defender, so I stayed close to our line attempting to stop anyone from the other side scoring - I don't recall the 'punching Paul Mattery on the nose' incident, but apologise if that was me. However, the consequence of this dedication to defence duties meant that when individual tallies were read out at dinner in Johnson's that evening, I was the ONLY one who hadn't scored a single try! Lesson learned - there's no glory in being a great defender.

Jon Kemp: Three balls, No rules, no scrums no lineouts. When a try was scored a 'senior' picked the ball up and just kicked it back into play. I'm afraid I went the whole game without scoring a try.

Chris Snuggs: Memories of actually playing it are vague, but the name is very familiar. Did we also play British Bulldog, or was that in another life? All probably banned now by H&SE ....... Speaking of which, Taffy once took a group (I think it was a class) into the valley over the balustrade and we all climbed up a very long diagonal branch to the top of a tree and down again ... his idea of natural selection, I guess! But we all survived ....

Jon Kemp: We played British Bulldog at Corners. It was one of the games we would play on Bonfire Night.

Michael John O'Leary: British Bulldog was in the gym with 2 (thingy majiggs, bench things not pommel horses) as goals with mats in front of each on which the keeper stood. The idea was to throw the rugby ball to each other anyhow (no forward passing rules etc) and then to slam it onto the oppositions bench thinggy. No tackling or going onto the mats allowed. Basketball without all the airey- fairey rules! I used to love it.

Philip Durosaro: My memory of Stonehenge Rugby was that it was the initial selection process for putting boys into rugby sets. Those boys who performed well were put into the set who played on the pitches in front of main building and some of the others played on Orwell Side pitches. Not having any detailed rules meant that civilized sporting etiquette did not exist. I remember lashing out at one boy across the face and apologising profusely afterwards and being amazed that the boy forgave me. I also remember Pete Alexander (nee Carlile) grasping a ball under a pile of other boys and shouting to him to release it to me so that I could run it in to the tryline. ]

Losing at Wymondham - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)

I must have played in some 70 or more rugby matches against other schools at WHS, yet remember only bits and pieces here and there; mere snippets of events, shadowy scenelets which drift in and out of memory. As recounted elsewhere, I remember at the end of a 1stXV match we lost to Holbrook standing on the pitch at the end wondering what the hell had happened. Then I remember being 63-nil up against Woodbridge in the UXIVs thinking: "Well, this is a bit pointless."

AND I remember this ...

It was the Under 13s playing away at Wymondham in the autumn term, and it was bitterly cold, so cold that the ground was as good as frozen even if the air temperature wasn't quite zero. I clearly remember thinking as in the Woodbridge game: "Well, this is a bit pointless." Frankly, the conditions were awful; we got to halfway through the second half and I remember thinking that it was a miracle nobody had been hurt. A mixture of snow and sleet had started to fall by then and the wind blowing from the start had picked up in strength. I just could not get motivated, and I found myself more or less just going through the motions. In terms of the result, this was somewhat of a pity as I was Captain at that time.

And we lost - not heavily, but a loss is a loss, and a WHS team losing a match was a fairly rare and perhaps shocking event. Losing to Wymondham was always especially tough. I knew I had to bear some of the blame, and yet winning at any cost has never been important to me - and it certainly wasn't that day. Something I always believed in was in the importance not of winning but of doing one's best, and that day in one sense I did not do my best - because I really thought we shouldn't have played in those conditions. It wasn't a question of cowardice, just of common sense. What is the point of risking breaking a limb just to complete a game? The brave thing would have been for the masters in charge to call off the match.

Mr Girling was our team coach at the time, and after the game he took me aside and told me he was relieving me of the Captaincy as he felt I lacked the determination and leadership qualities needed. I remember thinking at the time that it was all right for him to take that attitude as he hadn't had to play in those conditions - but not many of us have the nous and gall to stand up for ourselves at that age - and in any case, he sort of convinced me at the time that he was right.

So that was a bit sad personally. I think that Bryan Weaver took over the captaincy, but it is a bit of a blur. I wonder if anyone else present on that day remembers it as I do .......

PS I think that THIS must have been the team involved ....

The 1963-1964 1st XV - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)