Back when I started this nonsense I scribbled a piece on my early experiences of school rugby (‘When it Started’).
Hidden in this informative stuff was a story about when one of my fellow Under 13s got mullered by our rugby teacher, after we had been pasted by one of our rivals. The PE bloke was John Brown and to save you looking it up the key bit of the tale is here –
Anyway despite being average at most things (and distinctly less than average in the class room) I was selected for the rugby team in each year group. This was great as I soon discovered that I really enjoyed the game even though for some totally bizarre reason I was picked as hooker for the U13 and U14s. This wasn’t too bad since at that level forward play was only marginally more aggressive than on the wing (how things soon changed!)
My first memory of playing for the school is losing 75 – 0 to Colfe’s GS in the U 13s (they were obviously better at rugby as well as geography!) Note – you’ll need to read the whole original post for that bit about geography to make sense!
Anyway at the team practice after this debacle John Brown, our coach, was not too chuffed at the result. Mr Brown was rumoured to have been a British Lion and although we twelve year olds had no idea what this was at the time we assumed that it was likely to be pretty impressive. I’ve since looked him up in Clem Thomas’ excellent ‘History of the British and Irish Lions’ and he doesn’t exist (well he existed obviously, but not as a Lion apparently). Nevertheless I can well believe he was a decent player in his time despite being put in charge of the U13s!
Anyway – he was more than a bit miffed at our performance and in particular the tackling (or rather lack of it).
He kept ranting on about the fact that we’d missed so many tackles – something that I thought would have been pretty obvious from the final score line (in particular when you remember that in those days a try was only 3 points and 12 year olds rarely manage to kick conversions)
Mr Brown announced that he was going to show us how to tackle and pointed to one of our wing forwards – Peter Pledge.
Pete is in these two photos – in the U14’s he’s the one on the far left in back row – in this story he was a year younger!!!
5 years later he is still in back row on the extreme left! And obviously survived!
“Run boy” shouted Mr Brown (a bit like Richard Harris at the end of Camelot – but without the sword). A rather stunned Pledge jogged off across the pitch – followed at a sprint a few seconds later by the teacher.
To be honest it wasn’t much of a contest, Pledge was pretty easily flattened before he’d gone 30 yards and Brown jogged back with a smug look on his face – telling us that was how it was done (yeah we all learned a lot from that – I remember thinking at the time that if we’d been 10 stones heavier than them and been allowed to hit them without the ball then we would probably have been alright)
Whilst Brownie (we weren’t too creative with nicknames even back then) continued to shout and pound his (not inconsiderable sized) fists a couple of us noticed that Pledge was a tad slow in re-joining the group. Actually he was more than just a bit slow – in fact he didn’t move at all until the ambulance men lifted him onto the stretcher.
I am delighted to report that Bully Brown looked a trifle concerned and hurriedly asked for directions to the hospital
I am even more pleased to inform you that Pledge recovered fully and thoroughly enjoyed his new found fame. It also made me even more determined to get away from the rough stuff and to try and secure a shirt with a very high number on the back.
And so it went on – I seem to remember that we improved as I don’t re-call a pasting like that again – probably because we were now more scared of what Brownie might do than anything the opposition could throw at us. To be honest I don’t remember many other games at all.
The point of all this is that I accidentally managed to track down Mr Brown – turns out that his real name was Harold and that not only was he around, but also an England international & a British Lion apparently.
He played for Blackheath and was an aggressive and hard tackling centre – as Pledge could certainly attest.
From the cuttings & from stuff on Google he was patently a bit special- shame it didn’t rub off on the U13s!