The Fifties (1950-1960)

Season 1950 - 51

Bill Farren continued as captain, Jack Douglas his deputy, and for this season the Committee included a representation of the Extra A XV. Building on the favourable results of the previous season and reinforced by two "crafty" centres in the person of George Little and Lofty Hughes, who may have had a different baptismal name but if so it remained wrapped in secrecy. Frank Kingwell and George Rhodes on the wings, Jack at stand off and the base of the scrum operated for the most part of the season by Tim Daly and when his health again failed Harold Page, the outsides were a menace to any opposition. In the pack Peter Blackburn a hefty, strongly built prop, Ron Garvey a more than useful hooker from the local RAF and Terry Jones another useful prop comprised the front row supported by a "frightening" 2nd row of Bernard Baker and Sid Davis. A back row of Farren, Maunder and Wreford, not to mention full back Bill Palmer, a long striding and long kicking last line of defence, comprised a formidable side which was, deservedly, awarded the RIVE College Cup as a club affiliated to the Plymouth and District rugby Combination with the outstanding record. Of its first seventeen fixtures the team won 15 drew 1 and lost one (8-9), continuing into the New Year with a further 10 wins and 3 defeats. Totnes did the double 3-8 and 0-3 and the one blot on the record Salcombe 3-21. The final figures W24 L4 D1 328-83, leading scorers - Jack Douglas and George Rhodes 51 points, Frank Kingwell 42 and Tim Daly 31. The A XV which included such strong Club characters as, in the forwards, Wiggy Bennett, Bob Griffiths and Bill Sugden and outside Hugh Stone, Bernard Dunne and Ken Pooley were little behind their seniors recording 23 wins and a draw in 28 starts scoring 443-80. In the Devon 7s the Club were a little too enthusiastic in revenging the previous year’s defeat by Bideford, on this occasion 16-3, so that, slightly breathless, they succumbed in the next round by a single point to Paignton. The Extra A XV completed 10 fixtures winning 6 losing 4, 88-91.


1st XV 1950 - 51

Season 1951 - 52

Bill Farren continued as captain, Jack Douglas again deputising. Hugh Stone captained the A side with Ken Pooley its manager. Tom Hitchins stepped down as Secretary and Bill Sugden took over from him, Wreford as team Secretary. Tom was very properly elected a life member (in which capacity he joined Peter Matthews) but, happily, Tom’s was no honorary appointment and he continued as all things to all people.

This year had seen the opening of the Glenholt Country Club at Estover, the Country Club was reasonably close to the Club’s ground as the crow flies, but not having this means of propulsion it was, by road, equally distant as the George Hotel, nevertheless the facilities available were so in advance of those then currently being used that when the Glenholt Club’s Director Ken Powell offered the Club a block membership with the resultant facilities there was never any hesitation but to gratefully accept. Furthermore, as a members club there was a certain flexibility as to opening times - which added to the attraction.

A particular piece of unimaginative fixture making - clearly the secretary was unfamiliar with the previous record - brought Salcombe to Estover for the opening fixture in early September and the visitors rejoiced in the occasion to the tune of 3-19, thereafter matters settled on a fairly even keel save that on 29th December the secretary with a rush of "Leslie Paul" to the head accepted at short notice - a fixture against Newton Abbot 1st XV - at the time one of the more prominent Devon sides - with the not surprising result defeat 3-29. This side also featured the one and only Spencer Thomas at fullback. The one other defeat of consequence was by Devonport Services A 3-19, the only doubles were at the expense of St Columba, HMS Benbow and Dartmouth; the seasons figures being 17W 8L 4D, 241-142 Jack Douglas being top scorer. The A side had a good season with but two defeats to the end of the year and those by margins of 5-6 and 6-8 and W19 L5 D4, 270-96 with "Ches" Magill top scorer, the Extra A side completed 11 fixtures, winning but 3.


1st XV 1951 - 52

Season 1952 - 53

At the annual meeting Leslie Paul by reason of his many other commitments retired as President, to take of the post of Senior Vice President, succeeded as President by Tom Blackburn who had been most actively associated with the Club for several seasons and whose son Peter was still propping the front row. Bill Farren continued as captain completing, unusually, a hat-trick of full season’s captaincies and indeed one should add most of the 1949-50 season also, Jack Douglas again Vice Captain, Wiggy Bennett captaining the A side. A somewhat uneven balance of results for the first 5 matches after which - following a long interval - acquaintances were renewed with Crediton at Estover, when the Club for its pains were soundly beaten 3-27 and doubtless, suffering from this aftermath, Salcombe were, once again, successful 8-9. However, in the New Year this was reversed, at Salcombe, 8-6. The season’s record read W18, L11, D5, 339-190. Excluding one notorious game against a team from the Welsh valleys rejoicing(?) in the name of Ystradgynlais - maybe the name should have been a warning - for whom Easter Saturday had been reserved and for whose benefit, thanks to the generosity of the President and the hard work of the Club ladies, a truly wonderful after-game spread had been laid on at Glenholt Club. Conditions for play were, admittedly, un-Easter like with intermittent heavy hail/snow showers. The game - refereed by a naval padre appointed by the Devon Union - made its start and at half time the Club had established a narrow 3-0 lead; the break was fateful (or fatal) the visitors held a conference amongst themselves whereupon without reference to the referee or the home side, they unilaterally withdrew and returned to the Club where they lost no time in falling on the refreshments supplied and decided the Club was the place to spend the rest of the night, somewhat to the distress of regular club members who were unacquainted with Welsh rugby songs - or at any rate these particular lyrics. Taking into account this half fixture the club finished the season with a string of six wins in the course of which they scored 75 points without a point being registered against them. Plymouth Civil Service 27-O, S E Essex Technical College 25-0, Plymouth Albion United 19-0 and finally OPMs 11-0 in the course of which they deprived the old Boys of their unbeaten home record for the season. The A side figures W20 L8 D2, 368-183 and the Extra A won 5 L9, 83-131.


1st XV 1952 - 53

Season 1953 - 54

Jack Douglas captain, Bill Farren having gone off refereeing for the Devon RFU, and a partly successful season too. 23 wins 7 losses and 2 draws, 384-108, 6 "doubles", honour shared with Launceston and Albion United, one win apiece - and the double against the Club no prizes for guessing - Salcombe. The A side also successful, but not quite so W19 L9 D2, and the Extra A W10 L7 but points wise 157-162. Noticeably, there were no out of the County visitors over the Easter - lesson learned? In the Devon 7s the Club again qualified for the area finals beating Paignton 11-9 to come up against the eventual winners St Lukes College in the next who very much had the "legs" of the Club particularly when obtaining possession from a kick and it was left to Peter Blackburn to discover it was advisable to be "accidentally" offside from the centre kick, scrummaging thus not giving the College the same advantage - however the result was not affected. A report of an A XV fixture v HMS Defiance (3-6) reports Burston opened the scoring for the ship with an opportunist try. Several seasons later Leading Seaman - well on and off depending on his service disciplinary record - Lofty Burston became a tower of strength as a superbly loyal forward for the Club although subsequent mention of opportunist tries is lacking.


1st XV 1953 - 54

Season 1954 - 55

Jack Douglas - to whom references were being made as Argaum’s veteran stand off half - continued as skipper with Peter Blackburn as his deputy. Many of the "old firm" were still serving; Sid Davis, Bernard "Pop" Maunder, Ron Garvey, Ches Magill, George Rhodes and Norman White with the addition of a sprightly centre or stand off Geoff Cornah an RAF product. Hugh Stone captained the A side doubling this office with that of Treasurer. In a highly successful season the 1st XV W25 L7 D1, 368-157 one of the more exciting and closely fought games was at Kingsbridge where at half time the Club was trailing 0-11 but came back with a tremendous second half rally to win 14-11. A rare double over Devonport Services A 11-3 and 6-5 and tight results against Plymouth Albion United (3-0 and 0-0) indeed in 16 fixtures against Plymouth sides the Club was unbeaten, with Salcombe a game apiece 3-5 and 6-3, as to the first Salcombe game the report refers to the game appearing lost to Salcombe "until Friend crossed for Salcombe, Hamble converting". Some seasons later Roy Friend moved to the Plymouth area joined the Club becoming in due course captain of the 1st XV and - somewhat later - the A XV both with some considerable success.


1st XV 1954 - 55

The A side results W13 L15 D2, 257-228 whilst the Extra A achieved rather more playing activity than hitherto, although with no conspicuous playing success W7 L13 D1, 163-205.


2nd XV 1954 - 55

Season 1955 - 56

The rumours of Jack Douglas' veterancy may have had some substance as he retired from playing but took over from Hugh Stone as Treasurer and with Jack's retirement came to an end the successful playing Farren/Douglas Era. John Frankham a wing forward who came from the Midlands was captain whilst two long serving veterans Ken Pooley and Reg Gurling were captain and vice captain respectively of the A side and Ron Garvey was John Frankham's deputy. In a 1st XV playing record of 17 wins 12 defeats and 4 draws there were a couple of nail biting finishes, 16-16 at Salcombe - the return was cancelled - and 21-22 at Dartmouth against the Royal Naval College - (the College had won at Estover 3-14) Oldham were (welcome) Easter visitors defeating the Club 0-6 whilst for the first time we made the acquaintance of ‘C’ Division of the Metropolitan Police who were to become staunch friends and opponents for several seasons; on this occasion, by way of introduction, they combined with Plymouth Police and were successful 6 -17.


1st XV 1955 - 56

The A side broke precisely even W13 L13 D1. The Extra A had 29 fixtures recorded but no less than 14 cancellations although reasons are not shown save that all sides suffered a number of cancellations - doubtless weather - in February, of games played 5 were won 12 lost, 121-206. During the season a difference of opinion arose with the Committee of the Plymouth and District Rugby Combination the latter wished to select certain Argaum players for their Combination team at a time when the Club was not prepared to release them - and the players expressed their preference to play for the Club. As a consequence Argaum withdrew their affiliation and, therefore, lost the assistance of the panel of Combination referees who had officiated at home games for the A side and Extra A side. The void was manfully filled by former players, particularly Bill Farren, Frank Kingwell, Ray Twiss and George Finnie not to mention one or two who had not previously considered their capabilities as referees - and doubtless it showed! Midway through the season Tom Blackburn, a generous, enthusiastic, hard working, popular and much liked President left the Plymouth area for the Midlands to be replaced by one of his business colleagues - who must have become imbued with Tom's enthusiasm for the Club - Ted Delve. During the season a club badge came into being.

Season 1956 - 57

Chris Magner - a product of St Boniface College Plymouth who provided a number of Argaum players from their old boys, and indeed their not so old boys - became captain supported by an educated place kicking boot, Ches Magill (another ex pupil) his vice captain whilst Messrs Gurling and Pooley held the ropes for the A side. At about this time the Company of John Hitchins & Co. Ltd., Forage Merchants - alias Tom Hitchins - who through Plymouth City Planning edicts were obliged to vacate their long established base at Stonehouse. The Company’s ‘home’ was re-established at Bickleigh Down, Roborough just beyond the city boundary and at the same time the Hitchins family acquired several acres of agricultural grazing land within close proximity of the Company’s new establishment. Having some land available adjacent to the Company’s offices Tom Hitchins, with characteristic generosity and - let it be said - in fulfilment of a long cherished ambition, offered this land to Argaum on which they could build a clubhouse at the same time offering the use, without charge, of the grazing land for their pitches. Planning permissi:on to build a clubhouse on the land was naturally required, and here Reg Gurling, a qualified architect and a member of the Plymouth City Architects department proved a true tower of strength - drawing, submitting and obtaining planning permission from the Plympton Planning Authority to go ahead with the building. Thereafter came the problem of financing the building work and here - with the strong backing and help of the Devon RFU - a mortgage advance was raised through the Rugby Football Union to the surprise - let it be said - of some members of the Committee who doubted whether the Union would be prepared to finance a project in no way linked to the legal acquisition of a playing pitch the doubters were, in the event, routed. The playing front was somewhat overwhelmed by these events, the records reading: 1st XV W13 L14 D5, 245-265, A - XV W16 L13 D1, 266-254 and the Extra A W7 L12 D1.


2nd XV 1956 - 57


Action from a 1957 game

Season 1957 - 58

John Frankham returned to the club after a short Midlands excursion to reassume the captaincy with George Rhodes vice captain and Nigel Cumming in charge of the A side.

Early in 1957 planning permission and financial problems for the proposed clubhouse were overcome and the summer months saw inexperienced labouring parties on the site - driven remorselessly by Tom Hitchins - deployed in laying concrete foundations for the clubhouse; the concrete mixer was operated largely by two naval characters. Leading Seaman Lofty Burston - now gathered into the Argaum fold - and his assistant Petty Officer (scrum half) Dodger Long whose joint and several experience of operating such machines was, as was at once apparent, in immense proportion to the length of their joint naval service, it was therefore somewhat surprising that 68 tons of concrete were, during the summer, successfully placed into the Club’s foundations in time for a firm date to be arranged for the official laying of the foundation stone. It has never been revealed whether the completion of this work was arranged deliberately to coincide with Leslie Paul’s office as Lord mayor of the City of Plymouth or his Lord Mayoralty so arranged. Whichever, it was there could be no more suitable holder of that office to perform the foundation stone laying and so it was that on 5th June 1957 Leslie officially laid the stone in the presence of the Chairman of Plympton RDC, members of the Committee of Devon RFU, the President Ted Delve and many members both past and present. Photographic evidence of the occasion shows Bill Farren on hand to make sure the stone was well and truly laid. Colin Whiting, (A XV scrum half) a builder by profession, who had unselfishly given of his time and expertise and Reg Gurling the architect. To crown matters the stone itself was the gift of Bill Westlake who for many seasons formed a very effective partnership with Leslie at scrum half.


Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Clubhouse by Alderman L. F. Paul

Possibly distracted by the building operations, the 1st XV broke even W14 L14 D4, 228-222 with scores not deviating greatly in the For and Against columns save Truro 0-31 and Launceston 20-3. The best result, on paper, was 3-0 win over Middlesex Hospital on tour although the strength (or otherwise) of touring sides is hard to assess. ‘C’ Division Met. Police were, for the first time, played on their own account and the score could hardly have been closer, 5-3 to Argaum. The A XV W10 L17 D2, 206-277 and the Extra A achieved a record number of fixtures - 24, alas, winning but 6, losing 16 and drawing 2, 127-313.


2nd XV 1957 - 58

Towards the end of the season there was a big influx of school boy players - primarily from Kings Tamerton School - and having seen them in opposition to very adult (and bulky) Club second fifteen’s it was resolved - and next year brought into effect - that an under 18 (Colts XV) should be formed so the youngsters might have an opportunity of being opposed by teams more of their own age and size.

The summer of 1958 was again given over to clubhouse building, when besides Tom Hitchins’ 'whip', Messrs Norman White and Colin Whiting - both experienced builders (and club members) - took an increasing hand in the more technical aspects of building so that by the time the 1958-9 season opened the clubhouse was just about ready for occupation. On 3rd September 1959 that great English international forward 'Erb Stanbury who accumulated his caps between 1922-32, of the Devon RFU cut the tape to open the building. Also present, were Alderman G J Wingett Lord Mayor of the City of Plymouth, Mr G S Thompson Chairman of Plympton RDC, Mr A G Hole President of the DRFU, many members of that Committee and upwards of 100 members and guests of the Club. Erb Stanbury - apart from being on the staff of Plympton RDC had his home right opposite the Geasons and in his refereeing days for Devon RFU, on several occasions, refereed Argaum’s home games there without, probably fortunately, having to avail himself of the facilities of the George Hotel Plympton, his home being just across the road from the Club's then pitches.

Season 1958 - 59

From the outset of the season, the clubhouse - in truncated form - together with one pitch on the Hitchins land at Bickleigh Down was brought into use. The field at Estover was still retained for the Senior sides - the Colts - lacking transport of their own - used Bickleigh Down for their home games, the other sides making full use of the Clubhouse but travelling from there to Estover as necessary.

John Frankham remained in command with George Rhodes his deputy Dave Algate in charge of the A side and Bill Farren, having been 'talked into' or volunteered to represent the Colts side, was happily incorporated onto the Committee. None of the mature sides had a particularly successful season, the 1st XV W14, L22, D2, 257-355, the A side W5, L24, D2, 159-367 and the Extra A W4, L12, D1, 107-314. The Colts in their first full season had to wait until 1st November, when amidst great excitement, they recorded their first victory over Dockyard Technical College 2nd XV at Lipson. Thereafter, there was no holding them, finishing with 18 wins 11 defeats 3 draws 401-272. A tribute to Bill Farren’s patience and long suffering! Sadly the season saw the announcements of the deaths of two great club stalwarts. Tim Daley at the age of 36, and a pre-war 'veteran' Harold Sloggett.

Season 1959 - 60

Harold Brickwood, an experienced centre, was captain; Ches Magill vice captain, Mike Dodd captaining the A side. The 1st team got off to an indifferent start losing 5 of their first 6 fixtures with heavy defeats at Hayle and Kingsbridge finishing with figures of 10W, 5D, 18L, 195 -218. On the brighter side were wins over R.M.C.S. Shrivenham 6-5 and 'C' Division 19-3 other Easter tourists - Vickers Armstrong (South Marston) 3-3 and Blackwood 3-6. R N College Dartmouth, Torquay Harlequins, D.H.S.O.B. and Albion United completed the double over the club, consolation - Salcombe 9-0 (return cancelled), Launceston 6-6 and 6-3. The A XV showed improved results W16, D2, L13, 337-243, including the double over Launceston A (37-0 and 11-9) and R N E College II, whilst Kingsbridge A defeated them no less than 3 times by comfortable margins. The Extra A W5 D1 L11, the Colts away to a flying start of 7 consecutive wins had overall figures 21W 6L 3D, 470-211 and but for a crushing 0-47 by a very good Plymouth College side - the return was far more respectable 3-12 - the points against column would have been well under the 200 mark. Efforts were continuing strenuously to bring more pitches at Bickleigh Down into operation, the chief stumbling block being the large quantity of stones embedded in the fields and their devastating effect on players knees. The quarrying was by manual effort at the expense of many finger nails and was indeed a slow business in fact it required a further two seasons before 4 pitches were safely available.


2nd XV 1959 - 60

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