PERSHORE Rugby is celebrating 60 years this year, since the club was formally set-up and players of all ages ‘kicked off’ a 13-month series of celebration events, from May ’22 to June ’23, with a ‘Happy 60th Birthday’ -themed float at the Pershore Carnival last weekend
A lot has changed at Pershore Rugby since 1962, when the club was officially formed with a proper constitution and its first committee of Keith Robinson (Secretary), Ken Rowe (Fixtures Secretary), John Pettifer (President), Maurice Mitchell (Treasurer) and Roy Hirons (Chairman, at the age of 19).
Back then local Pershore lads had been playing for Cheltenham, Worcester, or Evesham Colts, but by September 1962, as yet without a home ground, very few funds, and without a full set of shirts, the new Pershore club played and won its first match, 8-13, away against Avonbank College, led onto the pitch by captain Gwyn Butler.
Today Pershore Rugby is one of the most progressive and inclusive rugby clubs of any, with women and girls playing, as well as men and boys and every age-group is represented – from 2 in the Pershore Pups, to 82 in the Third Age Touch section. A wide range of different types of rugby are now on offer too. In addition to traditional men’s senior XV Rugby Union, women now play 15-aside contact Rugby Union too. And Sevens (as played at the Olympics) is offered to both sexes now. The club offers non-contact Touch as well, which has become very popular, since it can be played by anyone, including in mixed squads and mixed age groups where whole families can play together.
No matter what type of rugby is being played at Pershore today, all teams of all ages still wear the club’s traditional colours of red and black, which were agreed in 1962, since scratch sides from Pershore in the 1930s, well before the club was formally set up, played in red and black. And the Abbey is still the club’s emblem, born from the early 60s when Abbey officials gave the club so much support and granted permission for the club to mark out its first pitch on ecclesiastical ground at the old racecourse at Cornmoor on the Defford Road. It wasn’t until 1970, after securing a loan, that land in Mill Lane was purchased by the club and an area mowed for a pitch and three years later a clubhouse was erected.
A fabulous clubhouse, with a new changing room block, now stands on the same Mill Lane site, alongside three full-sized pitches and a floodlit training area. And it will be here that many of the 60th celebration events will be held – a big celebration day of rugby from all sections and ages on 25th June, with demonstration matches, bungie runs and bouncy castles (including for the adults); a Teddy bear’s picnic on 10th July when the winning youngster’s 60th rugby ball design will be announced; a ladies day on 8 October; and a grand final black tie and dinner and dance event on 3rd June, with a top speaker, when newly designed 60th ties will be on show.
The facilities at the club are a far cry now from the tin baths provided for the club’s first players in a large room above the bar at the White Horse Hotel in Pershore in the early 60s. By 1964, when the club’s HQ was at the New Inn skittle alley, some talented players were being drawn in – including a 15-year-old Bill Lyons, who went on to play for Moseley (the then top club for international players) and John Clarke, who, with Bill were the first players to play for the County and the North Midlands.
Several generations of descendants from the original Pershore Rugby players of the sixties still play at Mill Lane. Still well remembered ‘old boys’ include Micky Knott, Roger Wilesmith, Brian Llewellyn, Tony Simpkins, Terry Rose, Malcolm Healy and the original first committee members, whose enthusiasm and hardy-spirit paved the way for the success of Pershore Rugby 60 years on today.