|A HISTORY OF PLYMOUTH ARGAUM RFC - 1887-1987|
Recollections by Peter Matthews
In the unravelling of Plymouth Argaumís origins - in the years 1894, 1896 and 1897 at a time when my paternal grandfather was Chairman of Plymouth RFC - Argaum had matches against Plymouth RFC Old Crocks. It may be of interest that at that time, the regimen for training for the Plymouth Rugby Club was at their then club in Embankment Road, which stood on a site where there are now shops - before the Embankment Road was widened. Millbay Drill Hall was rented twice a week and the stalwarts assembled to indulge in the popular Swedish drill with - doubtless - waxed moustaches, endeavouring to develop biceps comparable to their hero Sandow; in other words they were the muscular men of the day. No doubt Argaum were equally hirsute and hefty, for the scores seem to show the two sides were pretty equal in prowess.
The next thought that passed through my mind (having been concerned with Ex - Service men over so many years) was that the pre-1914 Argaum side must have lost many of its members during the First World War, for the Club was only able to re-start in the early 1920s, whilst we of the World War II generation did not lose quite so many players, as Argaum - thanks principally to one Thomas Kingdom Hitchins and, in a lesser degree, Leslie Paul, were able to re-start soon after 1945.
Not that the pre 1939 Argaum club was not service minded, for many of us joined the Terriers after Munich in the autumn of 1938. Besides which, amongst the Club members were not a few personnel of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who turned out for the Club whenever their service obligations permitted.
Indeed, taking the wider view, Rugby Football has always been well to the fore when the call to service came. Some twelve years ago, I had the privilege of meeting that great stalwart of the rugby field, Tommy Voyce, who lost an eye in the first world war and, despite this, played for England many times after 1918. In the course of our conversation, he described himself as the original blind side wing forward! Of course, when his other eye failed, Tommy came to us at St Dunstans and then set off - on his own - to South Africa, to spread the goodwill of rugby football and there to travel all over South Africa, to meet as many of the rugby fraternity as possible. Tommy recollected having often played at Beacon Park and although he was a friend of the late Ted Butcher, he strongly objected to being tackled by Ted - the Albion full back - for Ted had an absolutely stiff arm, the result of a war wound from the 1914-18 war - and that arm gave you a real thump when it hit you! Thus, the true spirit of the game.
Returning to my personal experience with Argaum from 1933-1939, this is based on my own recollections so please forgive any inaccuracies in my material, for after all, we are talking of events which took place 50 years ago. The first game I recollect in which I personally took part, was under the captaincy of the late Tommy Lane and was at Sidmouth in September Ď33. The day was so hot, that arriving shortly after 2p.m. we were advised the kick off had been put back to 3p.m.. The heat was really intense. Argaum were a few points down at half time and conceded a few more in the second half, but rallied in the last ten minutes to score twice. It was a weary Argaum that left the field that day.
It was probably at the end of 1935-36 season, that a deputation arrived in my office Elliott, Ellis and Bowden at Lloyds Bank Chambers near Derry's Clock (the building now converted to the Bank Inn) - the conversation went something like this:
".... we want you to become Hon. Secretary".
"What's the matter with Tommy Hitchins?"
"Oh, he would be a jolly good secretary, but his business is at Stonehouse; too far from the central pubs and cafes and you are within a stones throw of all. You can't run a rugger club, unless two teams can be got together at the last minute of a Saturday".
So, largely on geographical grounds, I became Hon. Secretary and one of my treasured staff, Miss Elizabeth Brown, organised the teams during the week. All I need do, was to attend at the honoured meeting places of a Saturday morning and then, telephone madly to the Royal Artillery at the Citadel, to gather together two sides, transport and the like then gather the cars together - ostensibly outside the Swarthmore Hall on Mutley Plain, making a final sweep of a certain hostelry on an island by the traffic lights, there to gather together any other likely candidates and so - set off in all directions.
A further recollection is of the Geasons Plympton, which for a few pre-war seasons was Argaum's home ground, with changing accommodation at the George Plympton. The pitch was marked out by our part-time groundsman and of a Saturday morning, when he attended with shovel and bucket, he followed the cows as they were driven off by the farmer (Gardeners should note)! On training nights, doubling round the perimeter of the field was a little hazardous. However, a hot bath in the changing room and a thirst quencher in company of mine host of The George - the excellent Mr Sandford - soon put matters right.
By the Spring of 1939 we all knew war was inevitable so that the Club dinner and dance, held at the Continental, was by way of being a valedictory extravagance. The tickets were all of five shillings and sixpence (I having to organise it), for that price we had five courses plus an eight piece band with Grant Arnold as its leader and of course, dancing in the Continental ballroom.
NOTE. Peter Mattews joined the Royal Army Service Corps T.A. in 1939, transferring to the Royal Engineers in 1940. He was, unfortunately, blinded in an explosion whilst on active service. It was his enthusiasm for the game that provided the spark that set off the re-emergence of the Club in 1946.