1906 – Southport Olympic Rugby Club

After a period of three years absence, a new Rugby club was once again formed in the town.

“A correspondent writes:- It has been felt for some time that a large place like Southport ought to contain many public school men and others who have played the Rugby game, and have had to give it up on coming here, owing to the fact that there is no club in the neighborhood. An attempt is now being made to raise a team for next season, and with this object a match was obtained for today. The usual difficulty was experienced in getting a scratch side together, but despite the fact that six of the best players (including some old county men) could not turn out, a fairly decent team is going to Crosby this afternoon to encounter Merchant Taylor’s school. Southport can hardly hope to win as the players have never played together before, and thus will not be able to combine to any degree of proficiency. The forwards are a strong lot, and, if they can get possession in the scrummage, they should enable their backs to score once or twice. Will any persons who are interested in the formation of a Rugby club kindly communicate with T.A.Saul, 70 Leyland Road? There must be many who would welcome the idea of playing the old game regularly?”

(Southport Guardian, 24th March 1906)

The first scratch XV put together to represent the new club, to face Merchant Taylors School at Crosby was announced as follows in the Southport Guardian: Back, A.N.Other; three-quarters; Taylor, F.Walker, T.Saul, and C.B.Alexander; halves, D.Dixon and T.H.Nutall; forwards, F.Carr, J.Carr, G.Scott, WMinshull, Dutton, T.Sykes, J.E.Clemence, and W.Hart.

Southport Visiter – Tuesday 27 March 1906

At the time of this first scratch meeting no name had yet been decided for the new club, and it was clear that it was a different entity to anything that had come before it, despite an obvious desire to pay tribute through the choice of name and kit.

“A meeting was held at the University school on Tuesday evening, the purpose of which was to form a Rugby Club for Southport and District. It was decided to name the club ” Southport Olympic” after the old club which existed before some years ago. The welcome announcement was made that upwards of twenty members were already assured. These include men who have represented Cumberland, Surrey, Monkstown, and Kilkenny County, besides others who now play for clubs our of town, or were in their school”

(Southport Guardian, 14th April 1906)

“As announced in these columns at the end of last football season, the Rugby game appears to have taken root once again in this district; how deeply remains to be seen. The game is certainly the finest winter pastime indulged in by the youth of this country (writes a correspondent), and ought to obtain plenty of adherents, once it is understood by local people.

“The new club has taken the title of Southport Olympic, this being the name of the Rugby club which flourished here some years ago. The old colours have also been adopted by the present organisation. For the coming season, 1906-07, a full fixture list has been compiled, the series of matches commencing on the 22nd inst., and proceeding without break to the middle of April. they are not very difficult, being with “A” and “B” teams of the clubs in the Manchester and Liverpool districts, and a few with the first fifteens of other new clubs.

“Even with such fixtures as these Olympic by no means expect to give startling displays, as the team will be a very mixed one. However, there is plenty of promise in some of the members, and others have had a lot of experience. Several of the members have not played the game before, but hope to be able to give a good account of themselves after a practice or two. Intending members need not be deterred by the fact that their knowledge of the game is nil, as it is very easily learned.

“Sir George Pilkington, who is always prominent in encouraging sport, has kindly consented to be president of the club, and several other prominent local gentlemen have either given or promised their support, as vice-presidents.

“This afternoon the first practice match takes place on the ground, Victoria Park, and owing to the close proximity of the first match, that against Eccles “A”, next week, a good muster is expected, a large number having promised to attend.

Will prospective members who have not yet communicated with the secretary kindly do so, to 70, Leyland-road”

(Southport Guardian & Southport Visiter, 15th September 1906) – Same Article published in both newspapers

It is interesting to note George Pilkington’s clear interest and support in resurrecting the amateur Rugby game, as he had earlier in the year resigned from his position as President of Southport Central, the town’s professional football club, when it was proposed that they become a limited company.

On 22nd September, one week after the first practice of the season, a full fixture list was published in the Southport Guardian. Only 12 men had turned out for the first practice session at their Victoria Park home on 15th, owing to several members not yet having returned from holiday, and a number of players new to the game were present.

(Southport Visiter, 22nd September 1906)

The first official match of the season the new club was held on the 22nd September 1906 with the following team announced: Back, R.Johnston; three-quarters, J.K.Matthews, F.S.King, G.Jackson and T.H.Nuttall; halves, H.L.Hart and H.Barber; forwards, J.B.Dixon, T.A.Saul, J.F.Bradshaw, J.Carr, F.Carr, E.V.Blackburne, S.Clarke, and J.E.Clemence.

“Where the chief weakness lies is at half, the two who figure in that position having had very little experience. the forwards would be materially strengthened by the inclusion of Manning, who is unable to play, while if King could be induced to go into the scrum, his weight and experience would considerably improve it. Southport can scarcely expect to win, but can relied upon to try hard”

(Southport Visiter, 22nd September 1906)
(Southport Visiter – Saturday 29 September 1906)

With Victoria Park housing no washing facilities of its own, players would have walk to walk along the promenade to the Victoria Baths to wash after the match.

Notable participants during this time included Vernon Rowley, who played for Lancashire and the referee of the November 1906 match against Waterloo was Paul Carter, later president of the club (1949-59).

The club acquired its first press officer, George V Gibbs – a Gloucestershire full back in the 1890s, who wrote regular reports for the Visiter under the ‘Wanderer’ pen name. He was the father of Charles Gibbs, who became chairman of the club in 1919.

A change of identity

At the annual meeting held at the Royal Hotel on September 11, 1909 a proposal to drop the Olympic name in favour of Southport Rugby Union Football Club was defeated, but those that wanted to kill the Olympic name would not lie down, and the motion was brought back repeatedly until it was finally carried on 22nd April 1913. A new era had dawned.

Southport Olympic side of 1913

Next: Southport Rugby Union Football Club