• Keith Gregson

Unveiling the Last Stand - An Appropriate Fixture


1st XI 1912

Saturday 9 November sees the re-dedication of the stand at Ashbrooke and a 1st XV fixture with Winlaton Vulcans. This is an appropriate fixture. Like Sunderland RFC the Vulcans (formed 1896) is over a century old and like us has had its ups and downs across the years. Even a cursory glance at old copies of the Sunderland Echo reveals fixtures between the two clubs taking place as early as 1903. In the meeting at Ashbrooke on 14 November of that year, Sunderland’s fly half was 18 year old James Adamson who had just left Sedbergh School to start working in the family business. He lived around the corner from the club in the Elms West. His name is the first on the memorial being unveiled on the Last Stand. He was ‘killed in action’ in May 1917 when a shell hit his dugout. A written testimony to him ran;

‘A brother officer wrote, “He was the bravest man I ever met at the front and continually doing magnificent things. He was loved by officers and men, and his pluck and cheerfulness we will never forget” and his Captain: “He was a prime favourite with all, and always known as ‘Jimmy’. He set a magnificent example of courage, and was the bravest fellow I ever met”.

His commanding officer also wrote: “He was a gallant officer and a cheery friend”. He was a keen sportsman, fine gymnast and footballer, and won the Epee d’Honneur in an open competition at Newcastle; and was awarded The Royal Humane Society’s Certificate for saving life.

By a strange quirk of fate I also came across another fascinating link between Winlaton Vulcans and today’s ceremony. Former SRFC player and groundsman Jon Buddington (see recent blog) found an interesting scrap book covering the 1907/8 season and placed it in the archives. This reveals that towards the end of the previous season there had been ‘a large gathering’ for the SRFC v Vulcans game at Ashbrooke. More pertinent perhaps was the fact that the book also contained a press cutting covering the opening of Winlaton Vulcans’ own ‘ new stand’! It had been constructed at a cost of £100 and was opened at the beginning of the 1907/8 season. I had noted this because of the inaugural speech given by Vulcans’ devotee  Colonel Napier-Clavering who had helped to sponsor the building of the stand. In this speech he declared;

‘No game brought out the true nature of a man than Rugby football; nor did he know of any that taught a man discipline, self-restraint and courage as well as it did’.  

The word courage was also used in the tribute to Jimmy Adamson – as recorded above – the very first name on our Last Stand Memorial. As the memorial is unveiled and the match played both match and memorial stand as a fitting tribute to all now remembered on the stand. This applies to those lost in conflict as well as those who, at a later date, devoted their lives to the club and the game of rugby and, in many cases, died too young. It is also worth noting, with reference to the colonel’s comment, that today the term ‘man’ can be widened to include the ladies who are very much part of today’s game at the club.

Keith Gregson

Club archivist

www.keithgregson.com

Two of Keith’s online books are being sold solely in aid of club charities –

Can you do nothing to mend my broken heart? The Ashbrooke Boys - A sports club at war 1914-18, online   https://shoptly.com/i/w4r

From Shetland to Keel Square - A study of British maritime and island life during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - online   https://shoptly.com/i/hnu

Also find his regular contributions to the World Rugby site at

https://worldrugbymuseum.blog/?s=Keith+Gregson

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