Sunderland RFC has been in existence for almost 150 years. During that time, the match day programme has been something of a moveable feast (or in some cases famine). This year however, thanks to the good offices of club prop forward and enthusiast Ryan Buckley, the home game programme is back with a vengeance. One regular feature in the programme, beginning with this
weekend’s first home game against Sedgefield, will be an SRFC ‘Hall of Fame’ article with a player chosen from every decade of the club’s existence starting with the 1870s. This has been no easy task for club archivist Keith Gregson and as we get closer to modern times, he will be seeking advice and anticipates heated discussion as to the most worthy candidates. Fortunately the decisions to be taken here lie in the fairly distant future.
The feature starts in the 1870s with Durham and Sunderland’s first international Henry Kayll (as in Kayll Road). He was but one member of a fascinating sporting family. Next for consideration is William Bell – a man of many parts who enjoyed his moment in the sun with a fine display against the New Zealand Maoris in 1888. The 1890s saw the first club appearance for future international
and Barbarian ‘Tegger’ Elliot who was also an outstanding cricketer. Winger Phil Clarkson enjoys the privilege of being the first Englishman to score a try against the All Blacks on English soil (at Durham in 1905). The lead up to war saw the emergence of young Charles Pickersgill, a county stalwart at a number of sports and during the inter-war years a national bowls champion. In the 1920s Roy Wilson (ancestor of a number of club members past and present) moved from being an air ace to a rugby ace as he led the club to county cup victory.
Outstanding player in the 1930s was Alan Spence who played county rugby, appeared against visiting international sides and lost his life in the Second World War. During the war and post war period Bernard Cunningham represented his country and the armed forces and may well have been a peace time international had fortune decided otherwise. The post war years (1950 – 1990) bring us to familiar names and figures – Harry Wilson, David Boyd, Charlie Bentley and Jim Smith. The last 30 years (1990 – 2020) are those which will be opened up to discussion when appropriate.
This Saturday’s first home game of the season is in fact the fourth league match played and the 1st XV have made a most promising start having recorded three wins and amassed over 150 points. With the other club sides also enjoying a blistering September it looks like years of dedication to the sport at mini, junior and colt level is beginning to pay real dividends. Enjoying the World Cup? The matches are over by lunchtime. Get down to Ashbrooke and see the future of English rugby building on the solid foundations put down by our ‘hall of famers’ and their contemporaries.