On 2nd June 2012 Southport Rugby Football Club had more reason than most to get out the blue white and red glad rags and have a right old knees up in saluting Her Majesty as there was cause to celebrate a triple, triple crown.
In 2012 the club had cause to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics, and the its 140th birthday. It also heralded 125 years since the club changed its original colours, 100 years since it changed its name and 85 years since it moved ground.
- The original colours? Only the same as the Union Jack. Blue white and red!
- The previous name? Would you believe in the year of the Games in this country it was Southport Olympic RFC!
- The previous ground? Victoria Park, named after the present Queens iconic ancestor!
Victoria was the reigning monarch when the club was formed in 1872, thirty five years into her tenancy which lasted until 1901. She was succeeded by Edward VII (1901-10), George V (1910-1936), Edward VIII (1936), George VI (1936-52), and now Elizabeth II (1952 – present).
The 2012 Diamond Jublilee is only the second to be celebrated in the UK. The first was that of Queen Victoria in 1897 when the club was a quarter of a century old. However there was little if anything for the club, then known as Southport Olympic, to celebrate as it had not played any rugby for six years. The storm over broken time payments had shaken the game in Lancashire and Yorkshire to the foundations and many clubs which Southport had regularly played had resigned from the Rugby Union, and joined the Northern Rugby Football Union later to become the Rugby Football League decimating the fixture list*
It was not until 1906 that Olympic re-established regular fixtures, having re-structured and merged with another local club Birkdale RFC at Victoria Park.
Five monarchs further on and the club is in far more majestic circumstances, on occasion sending members victorious, but more often than not happy and glorious with a few more royal pretensions throne in for good measure…
• For many years the club regularly held its “Annual Rugger Ball” at the Birkdale Palace Hotel. It was renowned for being ‘the talk of the town’
• This year the ‘White Tie & Diamonds’ ball on Saturday 30th June is no less prestigious, appropriately enough at The Prince of Wales
• The clubs first ground was a field adjoining the Alexandra Cricket Club off Roe Lane (now covered by houses on Melling and Irton Roads). The cricket club was probably named after Princess Alexandra, Victorias daughter-in-law later Queen to Edward VII. Nowadays Princess Alexandra carries out royal duties on behalf of her cousin Queen Elizabeth.
• King George V Grammar School throughout its existence had a very close relationship with the club, with many Old Georgians proudly donning the Southport jersey. This continues today with many of the Colts studying at Sixth Form College, with many of their KGV predecessors regularly seen on the touch line or in the bar on match days.
• Christ the King also has a close relationship with the club with many past and current players amongst its alumni including Chairman Andy Carney, and his siblings Aidan and Chris, First XV captain Gareth Lang, and stalwarts of varying age such as John Gillow, Frank Mason, Tom Peacock et al.
• Even the bar is by royal appointment. In 1937 Waterloo Road hosted the Lancashire v Cumberland County Championship clash. However, as Southport was not a licensed club at that time the magistrates granted a temporary licence to James Dolan, licensee of the Crown Hotel, from 2 to 5pm for the occasion.
• “We are the Champions” is an oft heard anthem by Queen to suit the occasion. This season the Second Team and Junior Colts both earned the accolade in winning their respective league titles, as well as the u11 and u7 in winning their Southport Rugby Festival tournaments.
All of which gave members, families and friends a great excuse to don the original club colours to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with a unique Southport RFC flavour with a 'Party On the Pitch' and a BBQ, music and a DJ, sweets stall, bouncy castle, ice - creams as well as fun events and games for children (both young and old).
Waterloo Road as turned into Royal Hillside for the afternoon as party goers hoped that they wouldn't long rain over us.
*The 1897 Diamond Jubilee gives a chance to look back at the rugby circumstances at that time. As far as Southport Olympic was concerned it seems to have been pretty grim as the side ran out of teams to play.
On 27 August 1895, as a result of an emergency meeting in Manchester, prominent Lancashire clubs Broughton Rangers, Leigh, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets, St Helens, Tyldesley, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan declared that they would support their Yorkshire colleagues in their proposal to form a Northern Union.
Two days later, on 29 August 1895, representatives of 21 clubs met in the George Hotel, Huddersfield to form the "Northern Rugby Football Union" (usually termed Northern Union). Twenty clubs agreed to resign from the Rugby Football Union, but Dewsbury felt unable to comply with the decision. The Cheshire club, Stockport, had telegraphed the meeting requesting admission to the new organisation and was duly accepted with a second Cheshire club, Runcorn, admitted at the next meeting.
The 22 clubs and their years of foundation were: Batley FC 1880, Bradford FC 1863, Brighouse Rovers FC 1878, Broughton Rangers FC 1877, Halifax FC 1873, Huddersfield FC 1864, Hull 1865, Hunslet FC 1883, Leeds FC 1864, Leigh FC 1878, Liversedge FC 1877, Manningham F.C. 1876, Oldham FC 1876, Rochdale Hornets FC 1871, Runcorn 1895, Stockport 1895, St Helens FC 1873, Tyldesley FC 1879, Wakefield Trinity FC 1873, Warrington FC 1876, Widnes FC 1875, Wigan FC 1872.
The name of the league was changed in 1922 to the Northern Rugby Football League, mirroring its sister organisations overseas, the Australian Rugby Football League and New Zealand Rugby Football League. "Northern" was dropped at the beginning of the 1980s followed by the evolution of Super League in 1996.
Had Southport Olympic also taken the Kings Shilling would history now see the club still playing Wigan Warriors (originally Wigan FC) and St Helens but in Super League? Shane Cook v Shaun Wane v Sean Long, now there's a thought; three's a crowd if ever there was!