|A HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH ARGAUM RFC - 1887-1987|
The Thirties & Beyond (1930-1946)
Season 1930 - 31
At last, a club fixture card and - what is more a record of most of the results. Freddie Blight, a member of the original 1921-22 side was captain, Les Rowden vice captain, Leslie Paul secretary and Harold Sloggett Treasurer. The season opened with an "excursion" to St Ives, the selected side Cleverley, Blight, Lock, Osborne, Plucknett, Westlake, Paul, Brooks, Perry, 0'Carroll, Hooper, Barten, Rowden, Keen and Hawkins when with a drop goal from Osborne and a try by Vic Brooks they were beaten in an enjoyable opening to the season by 7 points to 20. Continuing the Cornish trail a team with Shaddick for Paul lost at Falmouth 0-6 - a first half penalty and a second half try, whilst the following week September 20th "Penryn get a shock. Last minute try saves game". Played in a heavy down pour accompanied by gales of rain Argaum were losing 0-3 at half time but tries by Paul and Plucknett put the visitors in the lead the equalising try being scored in the last minutes. In the meantime the Second XV had not been idle, opening with a 3-0 win over D.H.S.O.B. The First team returned locally to suffer defeat at the hands of RNEC II at Keyham 5-13, the College doing their scoring in the first half, the club's points coming from a Leslie Paul try converted by Roy Cleverley after the interval but poor finishing over the line cost Argaum many opportunities. The first victory for the season October 4th v OPMs at Chelson Meadow 11-0 followed by North Tawton 8-3 and Plympton 9-3. The 2nd XV were also in action beating Kingsbridge Reserves 3-0 but suffering defeat by Albion Juniors 7-10, RNEC III 0-12, Bere Alston 5-15 and 0-3 v Devonport High School. On the 1st XV front Salcombe; once more, 0-12, RAF Plymouth 5-3, 6-0 Kingsbridge and 9-5 OPMs but St Lukes, Royal Marines and Brixham reversed the trend 0-11, 0-13 and 0-27 also Okehampton 3-16. The Second team's return game against Devonport High School was abandoned when the Argaum scrum half suffered a broken leg.
1930 somewhat disappointingly produced 3 wins 2 draws and 6 defeats (Salcombe 0-13, Honiton 0-19 Bideford 3-26) whilst the 2nd XV continued their fixtures also without conspicuous success although of the game against RNEC III, 8-12 (tries Birchall and Bartlett conversion Cleverley) the report speaks of "a bright opening game".
Of the First team drawn games v OPMs (8-8) each side had only 13 players, and 0-0 v North Tawton, "a veritable triumph for Beer who stood between the home side and victory on several occasions". A report of R N Barracks v Kingsbridge on 21st March adds to Alf's Laurels. "Mr A Beer, the old Argaum full back, made a very efficient referee". Alf returned to his full back role for the games at Honiton and Bideford in the course of which Argaum conceded 45 points so he may perhaps have regretted not sticking to his role as referee. The fixture card for the season for the 1st XV reveals 9 wins 14 defeats and 3 draws a points record 123-226.
Season 1931 - 32
E P Evans a tall forward of several seasons experience with the club - particularly alongside Harold Sloggett, took over as captain with Bill Westlake his vice. Les Rowden, George Perry and Roy Cleverley continuing and new faces in the persons of Tommy Lane and Jim Ross; also included Vic Brooks who - from his plus-fours and golfing jacket would seem to have retired from the rugby playing area, likewise Secretary Leslie Paul in rather more formal garb. Evans recalls "the pleasing habit of Cornish clubs paying Argaum a guarantee" but, unhappily, only Falmouth appear in the seasons fixtures and that, disastrously 0-36 although it is possible the date, 2nd January immediately following New Year’s day may have had some bearing on the margin of defeat. Although a fixture card is available, results - particularly in the second half are sketchy. The season opened in a blaze of glory for after drawing the opening game against the Royal Marines 3-3 they went on to beat HMS Norfolk 9-3, Worcester Regiment 28-0, YMCA 3-0, RNE College III 47-6 - "the College side had expected to play Argaum Seconds but sportingly took on the chiefs", and Plympton 6-0. Then on 7th November RNE College II with quite a strong side were too good for Argaum to the tune of 15-0 when despite mud and rain a good deal of open play was witnessed. Thereafter disaster, of 13 results recorded there were 11 defeats 1 win and a draw. The club colours are officially recorded as green black and white, whilst a number of matches were played at The Geasons the home ground of the Plympton Club, who permitted Argaum its use when not required by the home club. A few 2nd XV fixtures are recorded but no results and it seems likely that the reserve side faded temporarily from the scene.
PLYMOUTH ARGAUM RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
1931 - 32
Season 1932 - 33
Whilst no less than three fixture cards survive, none have a complete set of results. Tommy Lane (stand off/centre) - who had graced the previous seasons photograph - was captain with George Perry - still going strong, vice. No 2nd XV fixtures or results appear. Notable newcomers were scrum half Peter Matthews, small of stature whose courage was in inverse ratio to his size, and Stan Rundle a tough hard grafter in the scrum. Opening with a visit to Salcombe, the half time score of 7-6 (Perry try, Lane drop goal) must have raised the hopes of those aware of the Salcombe "bogey". Full time score Salcombe 32 Argaum 7! There followed wins over Okehampton and the Norfolk Regiment then four defeats in a row, 6-13 v Plymouth Albion Reserves, 3-18 v Sidmouth 4-8 v Royal Artillery and 0-5 v Plympton relieved by an 18-0 win at Totnes and of Argaum’s last try the report says "Carpenter went over taking the home back - who was knocked out in the process - with him". The match v HMS Rodney was somewhat notable losing 5-12 a quarter of an hour from the end Argaum ran in 5 tries plus 2 conversions in this period to win 24-12. New Years Eve and defeat by Exeter Reserves, at Exeter 6-8 tries by Gunn and Sloggett. 1933 seems to have been something of a disaster as apart from a 41-0 win over the Norfolk Regiment there are 8 defeats and 6 missing results one of which was against Salcombe! There is no reference to any second team activities.
Season 1933 - 34
Tommy Lane continued as captain Harold Sloggett his deputy. The team for the opening game at Sidmouth included Lane, Westlake, Matthews, Sloggett, Rowden, Ross, Hitchins, Rendle and Len Giddy. Giddy had had some success with the 2nd side and fully deserved his promotion whilst the arrival of Tom Hitchins - little as it was realised at the time - was to have a dramatic effect on the club's future. Tom having then recently left West Buckland School was looking for a rugby club who could use his services and presumably consulted his uncles W.W. and T.J. Hitchins who hopefully had no hesitation in recommending to him the Club they had represented 30 years earlier.
1933-4 is sparse in reports. There are records of defeats by the OPMs twice 3-5 in October and 3-6 in December - Hitchins touching down - 0-6 v Old Suttonians and 3-16 v Albion Reserves. Bere Alston were beaten 33-0 by a team which included Mervyn Hodge centre or full back with a very safe tackle and possessing a good (Welsh) rugby brain and Malcolm Robinson a powerfully built young forward, both becoming regular first team choices. On 3rd February 1934 "Albion get a fright at Beacon Park - Argaum gave Albion a rare going over in the first half leading by a Rowden try converted by Robinson to a try. They hung on grimly for the first 20 minutes of the second half until finally capitulating 5-9". There followed a 13-9 win over the Prince of Wales Volunteers a club side including John Molland the curate at St Marys Church Plympton. At this stage the club was increasingly having almost exclusive use of the Geasons ground at Plympton.
PLYMOUTH ARGAUM RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB
1933 - 34
T.K. Hitchins, L. Rowden, H.M. Robinson, S. Rendle, L. Giddy, J. M. Ross, D. Beattie
J, Rowden, W.G. Westlake, H. J. Sloggett
V. Brooks, G. Perry, W. Wilton, J. Lock, M. Hodge, T.T. Lane (Capt.), P. Matthews, F. Baskerville, J. Beatty, L.F. Paul
One game in February 1934 appears to have met with press approval, this against RNE College II, a team of Cleverley, Rowden, Hodge, Lane, Wilton, Westlake, Matthews, Ross, Perry, Molland, Sloggett, Robinson, Beatie, Giddy and Rendle were involved in "a delightful exhibition of fast entertaining rugby play going from one end to the other through sparkling running and passing movements". Half time 8-8 a Rowden try Robinson conversion and penalty. A drop goal by Bill Westlake in the second half edged the club to victory 12-11 the College scoring a goal, a try and a penalty. Of Bill Westlake - and his long career with the club - one of his scrum half’s writes (and he should know) "Bill had a very safe pair of hands taking a pass from any angle and his long touch finding kicks were an untold boon to weary forwards". Other results 0-12 v Salcombe (Hitchins. and Sloggett were prominent) 6-25 v Civil Service at Plympton. North Tawton in successive weeks 13-6 (Sloggett Wilton, Lane tries, Westlake drop goal) and 6-3 (Molland try Robinson penalty goal) and finally 13-3 against Prince of Wales Volunteers. The press has a photograph of Plymouth Argaum RFC and their guests at the annual dance held at Stonehouse Town Hall - of one such occasion it is alleged that beer was seen running down the steps of the Town Hall.
Season 1934 - 35
Memorable, if for nothing else, for the fact that for the first time in almost 50 years the Club had its own ground. Plympton RFC having, lamentably, ceased to function their captain used his good offices to effect the transfer of their tenancy of the Geasons Plympton to Argaum - a fact duly recorded on the fixture card. The playing pitch reasonably flat some 200 yards from the main road, with changing in some outbuildings at the George Hotel half a mile distant. The opening match was against Liskeard at the Geasons when, doubtless to mark the occasion, the kick off was by the deputy Lord Mayor of Plymouth Mr W.J. Bastard - does one discern the hand of the Hon. Sec. Leslie Paul in this? - Happily the result marked the occasion, the Club winning 18-0, the team Cleverley, Creber, Hodge, Sully, Wilton, Westlake Matthews, Ross, Perry, Giddy, Robinson, Sloggett, Rowden, Prior and Beattie. Bill Westlake was captain, Malcolm Robinson his deputy. A valuable newcomer was Ron "Ginger" Sully a fiery hard running outside or wing forward whose nature matched his hair! To him fell the first try on Argaum s home ground, the others by Perry, Wilton and Rowden, Robinson kicking three conversions. There followed defeats at Buckfastleigh (0-3) Civil Service (0-6) and Albion Reserves (5-6), all at Plympton, a win at Torquay against their Ramblers but defeats 3-4 Old Suttonians and North Tawton 4-5 (Cleverley drop goal) then a run of success 12-3 Royal Artillery 9-0 North Tawton in the return Torquay Ramblers at home, 8-0 Okehampton 12-0 (the need for an accurate place kicker was felt for an accurate place kicker was felt) and 9-0 v OPMs on Boxing Day, the one fly in the ointment, Salcombe away 0-11 and in the New Year they repeated the dose at Plympton 3-5, the fixture card records 7 wins and 6 defeats for the first half of the season and a points record of 94-44 the second half was not so successful, apart from Salcombe when "Argaum threw away a good chance" Plymouth Civil Service repeated the treatment twice more, Liskeard (5-8) Old Public Oaks (6-8) and Devonport Service A 0-11 whilst on the credit side Buckfastleigh were beaten in the return 8-0 and Old Suttonians 3-0. The season finished with a good away win over St Austell Hornets 13-3 the final tally W12 L13 D3 199-145.
Season 1935 - 36
Malcolm Robinson Captain, Mervyn Hodge vice, the season got off to a good start with 7 wins in the first 9 games including 27-3 Old Suttonians Camborne School of Mines 12-10 and Dartmouth 13-0. St Austell Hornets and Devonport Services A put a crimp in the proceedings but the winning path was resumed against Okehampton, Totnes and Tamaritans until Liskeard away - 6-9, and Salcombe, away also, 8-9. The club went on to complete the double over OPMs, Plymouth Civil Service, Dartmouth and Totnes but suffered similarly at the hands of Salcombe and Devonport Services A giving a not unsatisfactory overall picture of 16 wins 2 draws and 12 defeats 231-157. Newcomers during the season Eric Hannah (when available - he worked away from Plymouth) a penetrating and elusive centre or outside half and Roy "Copper" Coombs - service commitments permitting - chiefly at stand off and most determined in attack and defence. The club supper was held in April 1936 at the Harvest Home where former captain Tommy Lane - by now auctioneering in Penzance - claimed "that not many seasons ago the Club had been in the doldrums with neither money nor players". Captain Malcolm Robinson soon put the record straight by declaring that the Club had had a very good season and the selection committee had no difficulty finding teams. It is also recorded that Messrs Vic Brooks, Alf Beer, E A Thrall (vice president) and secretary Leslie Paul spoke but their remarks are not recorded for posterity.
Season 1936 - 37
This season ended something of an era. Leslie Paul resigning as secretary and being succeeded by Peter Matthews who attributes his election to that post by reason of the fact that his offices were so central - Lloyds Bank Chambers - now the Bank Inn. Unhappily no fixture card is available for the season but on 29th September a team of Hodge, Stent, Cocks, Hannah, Sully, Manning, Sanders, Matthews, Rendle, Perry, Bradley, Wale, Raw, Rowden, Dobell and Robinson 9-11 at Okehampton (Wale try, Robinson 2 penalty goals). Next 11-3 v HMS Drake at the Geasons, a team that included George Cross - to become President in the 1970s - on the wing. The following week again at Plympton, Services A "were altogether too strong for Argaum" as a score line of 0-23 would seem to confirm. Included in the side for the first time was H A (Tony) Birnage to become captain the following year. There followed comfortable wins over Royal Sussex Regiment 30-3, Kingswear 23-3, Totnes 32-3 and Kingswear again 29-0 thereafter the course went into reverse Liskeard 0-13, Albion Reserves 3-6, Civil Service 3-10 and OPMs Boxing Day 0-9. The new year followed much the same pattern of an equal share of wins and defeats; OPOs 9-3, OPMs 3-0 "Hannah cleverly eluding several defenders - ran through to score" and Totnes 29-3. On the other hand, Old Suttonians 0-5, Torquay Harlequins 0-6, Services A 0-27, HMS Drake 4-10 and Salcombe 3-12 (despite a superb display by Cameron at full back) and finally a narrow win 9-8 over St Austell Hornets. Cameron a drop goal Skip Floyd a try Robinson converting. Skip, an intelligent attacking wing forward who also appeared as wing three quarter had transferred his loyalties from Plymouth Albion - for whom he had often been a thorn in the flesh for Argaum; he was also a cartoonist of no mean ability and, post war, regularly contributed to the Football Herald in that capacity. It is believed that this season Leslie Paul became President with the long serving "Birdie" Partridge moving to Senior Vice President but there is no fixture card to confirm this belief .
Season 1937 - 38
And the fixture card for this season confirms that for 1937-8 at any rate Leslie Paul is President and EH Partridge Senior Vice President, Tony Birnage is Captain and John Cameron Vice whilst the name TK Hitchins appears as a member of the Committee. There is an almost complete fixture card with results, the one exception being St Austell Hornets on 5th February and that is (hopefully) marked "W". Accepting that as a win, it was hardly an outstanding season, 8 wins, 2 draws and 18 defeats. Salcombe (almost inevitably) and Services A both achieving the double over the Club. The Club had to wait until 23 October for its first win 14-3 over Newton Reserves, a side including Freddie Slee (a strong running centre) Mervyn Hodge, Ron Sully, Claude Hayes (a burly policeman forward) and of course Tony Birnage a tall gangly forward and doubtless by reason of his height, line out specialist, occasional place kicker and a great leader, whilst John Cameron in the centre had a fine turn of speed and a most deceptive swerve. A game against Liskeard 6-5 - reads "Gallant Liskeard, team of 11 lose by one point." Liskeard arrived 4 short. There was a fine open game against St Austell Hornets at Crinnis, which the home side won 18-12, 3 goals and a try to three tries and a penalty, Argaum scorers Slee, Yeoman, Sully and a Birnage penalty. Just before Christmas, at home to Buckfastleigh 5-6, Cameron obtaining possession kicked ahead and regaining possession scored a magnificent try. The Boxing Day game v OPMs was abandoned without score after one of the visitors (Westcott) suffered a broken leg following a tackle. 1938 shows wins over the Royal Sussex Regiment, Kingswear and OPMs, but defeats (amongst others) by Civil Service, Albion United, Services A, St Columba and Falmouth (Away) 6-28. The report "Argaum score first but swamped. Falmouth were given a fright when Cameron at Left Centre intercepted on the half way line and although hotly pursued, showed a clean pair of heels to touch down between the posts - Not converted". In the end of season 7 a side competition Albion United defeated the Club by a penalty in extra time.
Season 1938 - 39
Captain and vice captain as in the previous season. Besides a complete 1st XV list, the second side played a number of games for which there are alas neither teams nor results, although Peter Matthews purports to recall a crushing defeat of Salcombe Reserves and when he inquired of the referee as to the score, the latter replied "Well, I wrote it down up to 60 points and then stopped trying!" The 1st team record did not live up to such standards with a playing record of 11W, 16L, 166-272 which would seem to put the defence under suspicion. Salcombe inflicted no less than three defeats 4-6, 6-32 and 3-13 whilst Services A, Albion United (twice) the University of the South West and Civil Service, all inflicted heavy defeats a more encouraging defeat was that of 3-11 at Penzance Skip Floyd beating several men in scoring. There was a strong burst at the end of season, of 5 successive wins Rover Scouts 17-3, OPMs 7-6, DHSOB 11-4, Barnstaple Athletic 10-5 and Okehampton 12-5. There was one 2nd XV recorded result, HMS Diomedes 12-0. The last chosen 1st XV side to wear the Argaum shirt for 8 years was Barron, Lethbridge, Bowden W, Hammett, Cameron, Hodge, Daly, Bradley, McSkimming, Morton, Hayes, Birnage, Floyd, Hitchins, Dobell. In the 7s, Services B beat Argaum in one of the most entertaining matches in extra time - Argaum were rather unlucky. Socially, the Club advanced; the annual dance being at the Continental Hotel and a press photograph shows Captain Tony Birnage resplendent in dinner jacket supported by Leslie Paul, John Cameron and Tom Hitchins, similarly attired, greeting Alderman Modley who, happily, did not spoil the sartorial elegance.
Seasons 1939 - 46
Had Season 1939 - 40 taken its normal course, Tony Birnage would have been invited to continue for a third term as Captain, and Peter Matthews and Tom Hitchins joint Secretaries. A fixture list for two teams was completed when other events intervened. It should perhaps be said that since the Munich agreement Tom Hitchins had been a vigorous - and successful - propogandist for the Territorial Army amongst Club members, with the result that by the official outbreak of the second world war more than 50% of the Club members were already in uniform. If the outbreak of war left the Club without fixtures, it did not leave them without matches as the Western Independent (pictorially) recorded. First the marriage of Reverend J Molland and Miss Sloggett. John then recently returned from India where he held a Chaplaincy (No mention of Rugby in India) and Harold Sloggett’s sister - Sloggett a name synonymous with Argaum. Next that of George Cross, amongst other accomplishments captain of Devon’s Bisley Rifle team; and thirdly, at St Gabriels Church "Miss Peggy Pattison, leading comedienne in the Plymouth Amateur Operatic Society was married to Mr. T.K. Hitchins, now serving with the Territorial Army who is also a member of the Society - noticeably, throughout, any reference to Plymouth Argaum RFC is firmly suppressed.
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