|On Football - Chris Snuggs||My Lost Cricket Ball - Chris Snuggs||Dickie Mayes - Chris Snuggs|
|Sailing v Cricket - Chris Snuggs||Eric Coates: Fast Bowler - Mike O'Leary|
|The Disappointment - Chris Snuggs||The Annual Cross-Country - Mike O'Leary|
|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?
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.
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!
|Sailing & Cricket - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)|
|The Disappointment - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)
|The Cricket Ball - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)
Eric Coates - Fast Bowler! - Michael John O'Leary ('57 to '61)
One gamesday in the Summer of 1959 or 60, we were playing cricket on Berners and Eric was bowling. As he trundled back to his mark on his very long run up, the facing batsman decided he needed to make an adjustment and put up his hand to stop play. The umpire at the bowler’s end raised his arm to signal that Eric should wait.
Eric never used to wear his glasses while playing cricket and didn’t see the signal, so when he got back to his mark, he turned and immediately started his increasingly thunderous run in!
Well, everyone panicked! The batsman ran one way, the wicketkeeper another, and the slips scattered leaving 3 lonely stumps waiting for destruction. Eric released one of his screamers and the ball missed the stumps by a whisker and galloped off to the boundary. We all fell about laughing! What a memory.
|Annual Cross-Countries - Michael John O'Leary ('57 to '61)|
Dickie Mayes - Chris Snuggs ('58 to '64)
I never liked the Pink Floyd song "Another brick in the wall"; it seemed to me to gratuitously and idiotically slag off teachers. "We don't need no education." How stupid can you get? And in any case no teacher entered the profession to get rich - most out of a sense of vocation to help young people learn about and thrive in the world.
A wall was for me not something negative, but a structure to hold up a building, to make a defence against enemies - something strong, honest and durable. And a wall is made up of many bricks, each individual one contributing to its strength. I could see WHS as a wall - its strength made up of many bricks, the latter being the site, the facilities, the teachers, the staff, the commitment, the music, the drama, the sport.
One of the bricks in my WHS wall was Dickie Mayes. It is true that he like so many other people and things I kind of took for granted at the time, but what luck we had to have a professional cricketer to coach us. Apart from his huge professional expertise and experience, he was a kind, patient and gentle man. I never remember him being angry, impatient, over-critical - or indeed anything but obviously determined to do his best with us. Essentially, the most noble thing a parent or teacher can do is to give a child the opportunity to develop to the full whatever potential he has in whatever field he is interested in. WHS excelled in that in all areas: academic learning, music, drama and sport - and not least in cricket. At WHS, if you were interested in something and prepared to work at it then you could pretty well be sure to reach your full potential in it - and nobody can ask more from a school or its teachers - leaving aside any controversy about what political, religious or moral values a school curriculum or teachers might seek to instill; that is a contentious matter today, but was not as I recall in WHS days.
What do I remember of Dickie? He took us for many a session in the nets, and if he was fanatical about anything it was in bowling length, length, length and in batting keeping a straight bat - unless cutting or hooking of course. He would demonstrate both skills, and in bowling with his off-breaks, which he tried his best to get us to copy - in most cases with limited success. But we could all bowl something or other even if not all well enough to make the team. I wasn't bad at off-breaks, but I preferred the leg-break. Why? Because it was more spectacular and more likely to bamboozle the batsman. BUT, there was a caveat - a big one; it had to be on a length!
I don't know if you have ever tried leg-breaks. Getting a huge spin on the ball was a piece of cake, but doing that on a length is another matter entirely. I sometimes bowled a few overs of off-breaks in matches, but no captain (even myself when I had a go as Captain), was ever desperate enough to ask me to bowl leg-breaks. I did have one magnificent moment, however - just one that I will never forget. We were in the nets and I was bowling to Robert Coates, he being a pretty decent bat. On this particular occasion I sent him down a leg-break for once on a perfect length. He played right forward with knees bent, but didn't quite get to the pitch of the ball, which sped insanely far and zipped past to knock over his off stump. It sounds stupid (and no doubt is), but I have never forgotten that moment - which was a success never repeated. But in life if you have wildly succeeded in something even just once then that is often enough to give lasting pleasure.
Getting back to Dickie, when not coaching he was of course preparing perfect pitches and grounds for us to play on, something else one took for granted. When I left WHS I somehow had a feeling that I would ever again in my life enjoy classroom learning so much, never again play in an orchestra, never act in a play or ever play in a rugby or cricket team in such an environment. And of course I knew for sure that I would never play cricket again on such a magnificent pitch as the one in front of school. That was also one where Woolverstone Park would play on a Sunday and we would wander round the boundary and find a place to sit and watch - including Dickie put his skills into practice. As with most of my teachers, I never thanked him when I left school, but we did meet up decades later on a barge-cruise reunion when I partially made up for it. I believe that he enjoyed a long retirement and passed away a few years ago, but he was like so many others an unforgettable part of my schooldays.