The Early Years
We are the Hornets, not always Newquay Hornets. In Tom Salmon’s book, The First Hundred Years, which he wrote to celebrate the centenary of the CRFU, he refers to our gypsy-like wanderings prior to 1972, when we settled at the Newquay Sports Centre.
Our story begins in a pub as befits a rugby club. This pub was the Britannia Hotel, close to the site of the old Cornish Stadium at Par Moor. The Hornets RFC was formed there at a meeting of seven enthusiasts on August 15th 1933. No club could have had a more eminent first President. They had written to the greatest Cornishman of the day, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and “Q” accepted. “Q” in his younger days had played rugby for Bodmin. Colonel Treffery was elected Chairman and J D ‘Jimmy’ Carter was the first Honorary Secretary. A field was acquired at Quintrell’s Farm, Crinnis. It was agreed that the club colours should be ‘green and white circles for stockings and vests and blue shorts’. Match fees for home games were fixed at one shilling (5p today). Spectators were to be charged sixpence.
The first club captain was Geoff Harvey, whose son Robin was to play eight times for Cornwall; and the vice-captain, L R W Salmon, was asked to 2manage the journalistic business of the club”.
The early minutes note that within a year, it was agreed to increase the wages of the groundsman from 2/6 to 5/- (25p these days), but the Hornets, despite the generosity of Colonel Treffry, who provided posts and balls, were in the red every year, with the exception of 1938-39. Indeed at the end of the 1934 season each of the seven committee members agreed to lend the club £5 “to meet liabilities (£3 was repaid to each of them two years later, but the minutes do not record whether the other £2 was ever returned). At the same 1934 meeting, the CRFU was thanked for making the club a grant of £20. Surprisingly for such an impecunious club, the CRFU invited the Hornets to consider senior status for the 1936-37 season and they accepted. Geoff Briggs, who later played at scrumhalf for Cornwall, became the first senior skipper with J C Bedford Daniel as vice-captain.
Bedford Daniel joined in our first season, when we played at Crinnis as a junior club. Even then, our fixture list was an interesting one. We played Truro, Liskeard, Troon, Lanner, RNE College, Plymouth Argaum, the Tamarians, Devon Barbarians, Camborne School of Mines, OPMs and one or two reserve sides. However within three seasons we were playing all the senior sides in the county and doing very well at it. We also fixtured Devonport Services, St Thomas’s Hospital, and we played the Wasps on the morning of an international at Twickenham. Bedford recalls it “as a fitting reward, or so it seemed to us, for what was undoubtedly a very great improvement in the club’s standard of play”.
Our best pre-war season was 1937-8 when we took away the ground records of both Penryn and St Ives. Bedford Daniel remembered these games well.
“The Penryn game we won by only two points, and in the last few minutes, the referee fearing possibly the wrath of the home crowd, awarded Penryn no less than five penalties, all in kickable positions. All were missed. The game at St Ives was equally memorable, and especially so for me. In just about the last minute of the game I picked up a loose ball and went over for the winning try. At the time my Uncle James was the St Ives Chairman, my Uncle John the Secretary and my Father the Treasurer.”
Sustaining as such victories were, no one thought then they would last for quite as long so they did. The Second World War was around the corner, and during it the Hornets were disbanded. The club wasn’t re-established until 1949.
Post War Rebirth
Another pub figures in the post war history. This time the meeting was at the General Wolfe in St Austell in 1949. Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of L J Barnaschone, new members were recruited. One of them was Roy Edwards. This proved to be the start of a very long association for Roy. He went on to be captain from 1952 until 1957. He was team secretary for thirteen years. Members during that time will remember the green, printed selection postcards falling through the letterbox. He was Chairman for three separate years, and President for twenty years, as well as being elected a Life Member of the club.
The club continued to play at Crinnis and later at the Cornish Stadium. This was hardly a success because the ground was littered with broken floodlight bulbs.
The Move to Newquay
The 1954 season began with the club having no pitch to play on. The first match was played on a soccer pitch at St Stephen. After the second match of the season, away at Culdrose, a meeting was held in the Petty Officers’ Mess, when it was decided to transfer the club to Newquay. A pitch was acquired at Smith’s Farm at Tretherras, but soon lost, and the search began for another. The Golf Club was tried, the Cricket Club, and even the possibility of converting a council dump; none was feasible. Eventually Newquay Urban District Council came to the rescue. They made the St Columb Minor Recreation Ground available. Even this was not without its problems; the villagers had a longstanding affection for soccer!
But the Hornets were not to be dissuaded from the view that Newquay would make a splendid home, for, apart from anything else, it had been noticed that arriving at Newquay Grammar School were an impressive number of rugby-playing teachers, and as it turned out, they were to provide the backbone of the club for the ensuing few years. And also in 1954, with the arrival of a new headmaster the Grammar School began to play rugby in the autumn term.
Meanwhile, despite their troubles, the Hornets managed to keep their great sense of humour. In 1956 the club minutes record that “40 gallons of beer were consumed, thus beating the previous record of 297 pints at Redruth in 1938”.
Around the same time, the committee realised that “the club was suffering, not so much from the lack of training, but rather of coaching in the tactics of all aspects of the game”. So they appointed an official coach, “with full powers to direct and criticise all playing members”. He resigned three months later……..
Roy Edwards, who in all innocence, joined in 1949 relished his years with the club.
“In 1948, Rocky McLeod and I were playing for Camborne. He transferred to the St Austell Hornets, and he invited me to join them to help regain the senior status they had held before disbanding at the outbreak of the War. Little did I realise then that it would take 18 years – and little did I realise the problems that we would face.
We were continuously looking for a home and a pitch to play on. We even started one season with a full fixture list and no pitch save that we eventually borrowed a soccer pitch and used surveyors poles to extend the goals. We once played away at Redruth Highway when flags were placed around a huge hole in the middle of the pitch to warn approaching players to run clear for fear of falling into its unknown depths; and the grass, I remember, was as long as a hay field.
But despite all this players came to us from east and central Cornwall, where rugby was desperately trying to find its feet, and it is interesting to remember that there were times in those days when 600 or more spectators would come to watch us play a junior side.
Our real breakthrough came in 1957, when, as a junior side, we beat a very strong Redruth Reserves side by 8-6 and took away their unbeaten home record of 31 matches.”
We were on the way again and the late fifties and early sixties did much to compensate for the war years, which had halted the progress of the club during a most crucial period in its likely development.
It was during this period, too, that the name of the club was changed to the “Newquay” Hornets, although the decision was not taken without opposition. Many stalwarts wanted the club to remain “The Hornets”, but the growing number of local players made the change inevitable.
At the AGM held on 27th June 1958, at Newquay Women’s Institute, a committee proposition was put to the meeting to change the name of the club from “The Hornets RFC” to “Newquay Hornets RFC”. An amendment proposed by a St Austell member, HJ Stewart-Brown that the club continue to be known as “The Hornets RFC” was defeated by 10 votes to 3 and so the club became officially linked to the town of Newquay.
Clive Folland, who captained the club in 1957 and 1958, wrote: “ the years 1956-63 saw a steady improvement on the playing strength of the club, and we saw the introduction of Colts and Second XV rugby. Much of this was due to the increasing interest being taken in Rugby by the schools in Newquay. In the successful team of 1959-60, for instance, there were no fewer than seven players from the local Grammar School – four teachers and three senior pupils.
The Colts side was formed in 1960. Its first match against HMS Raleigh was played at St Columb Minor on 3rhd December, resulting in a win 6-0. Seventeen matches were played in all that season, with six wins and a draw. The side provided Rugby during the second half of the season, when the schools switched to soccer. In the following season this side became the 2nd XV; basically young players with a leavening of one or two older, more experienced players. The second team continued as such for five seasons. For three seasons the results were disappointing and matches were sometimes cancelled for lack of players. The situation improved from 1963 when increasing numbers of adults, helped by an influx of players from RAF St Mawgan, were joining the club.
Results improved and so, in the 1965-66 season, it was agreed that the club should run an adult second team and form a Surfers XV akin to the second team of 1961, playing mainly colts opponents. Early optimism proved unfounded and 1968-9 only fourteen fixtures were fulfilled. For the next two seasons the club ran only two sides, but in a season a total of seventy-seven matches were played, what a contrast to the 21st century (in 2006-7 three teams played 68 games).
Clive Folland remembers the exceptional social spirit of that time. “ It is no accident that the sons of several of the players of this time subsequently played for the club. In a very real sense, these were years in which a Rugby tradition was truly established in Newquay.”
Bruce Connock captained the club from 1963 to 1966 and he was Hon Secretary between 1963 –69. He recalled for Tom Salmon that the years 1963 to 1970 were a time of change and consolidation. “but it was still characterised by the participation of players in all the club’s activities”.
Even then, many of our players had the ability to play in senior football; one of them, Ray Plummer, had already played for Cornwall. The results were exceptionally good, and so in the 1964-65 season, Penryn, Hayle, Falmouth and Bideford kindly fixture their first XVs against the aspiring Hornets, who in their first senior match since 1939 surprised Penryn with a 3-3 draw on their ground and Hayle were defeated at home 18-11, but the other four games were lost. However it was sufficient for the Cornwall Rugby Football Union to grant us senior status in 1965, when 24 senior fixtures were played and nine of them won.
During this period, Bruce recalled that all the players had one thing in common, they were proud of their growing club, they were willing to put up with the inconvenience of a lack of ground and clubhouse and prepared to accept the high cost in terms of time and cash of playing in Newquay.
During these days the club drank at the Central Hotel, run at the time by Roy Edwards. The small bar alongside King Street was the watering hole after matches. The Central Hotel was also the venue for the annual dinners, which were the social events each season. We always invited the press and that meant that LJR, who wrote the weekly Newquay Notes in the Cornish Guardian at the time, was present each year. He took great delight in watching the rolls pass him on their trajectories up and down the table, a bit like being at Wimbledon. These were also the years of the London trips. There was normally a game against Sutton in the morning and a home international to watch at Twickenham in the afternoon. Great days!
We were lucky to be able to obtain changing facilities, first at Tretherras and later at Treviglas. During the mid-sixties the balls and flags were kept in Frank Stott’s mother’s shed (she lived near Treviglas School), and the ground committee had to make sure that all the necessary gear was available for all home matches, plus of course the freshly cut oranges for half time.
Richard Trewella remembers playing at St Columb Minor in 1960 for the first Colts side. “We played against sides like Mounts Bay Colts. They used to put 30 points on us to start with, but standards did improve, and in 1966 when I finally decided that Rugby was to replace surfing in my winter sporting calendar, I returned to play for a 2nd XV that was winning matches. I remember we beat Wadebridge Camels at St Columb Minor. My first team debut was against Falmouth, on Christmas Eve 1966 at home. I was a late replacement for regular prop, Peter Lobb. Peter had to milk his cows, there had been a power cut and he couldn’t make the match. Ray Plummer was captain and I played in the front row with Charlie Uren and Tim Ball. It was a famous victory for us. Falmouth was the team of the season, unbeaten when we faced them. We won 14-8.
The time at St Columb Minor was drawing to a close. On 30th November 1965, the Chairman of Newquay Urban District Council, John Hunt, called a town meeting of interested parties to tell them that the Duchy of Cornwall was to release a 25-acre site at Tretherras for development as a recreational area. At the time the land was valued at £180,000, if used for building purposes.
The Hornets joined the scheme and with a cost estimated at £35,000 there were major doubts expressed as to the viability of the project. The programme printed for the official opening of the Newquay Sports Centre on 8th May 1972 recalled the siting of the Centre. “The physical nature of the site has caused some problems as can be seen by the size of some of the embankments, but these south and west facing slopes do in fact enhance the setting and layout of the Centre. The position is also ideal with the open space of Newquay Zoo and Trenance Gardens on one side and the large comprehensive school development of Newquay School and Tretherras on the other. The urban development of Newquay would also show every sign of spreading around the Centre in years to come, which serves to emphasise the good fortune of this particular site.
One of the more important considerations for the future is the provision of leisure time amenities. The opportunity for ensuring this for Newquay has been given due to the far-sightedness of the Duchy of Cornwall and the Newquay Urban District Council and the determination of the individual clubs to help themselves”.
The club owes a great debt to Geoffery Briggs, Bruce Connock, Clive Folland, Reg Roberts and Tug Wilson and all the other members of the time for all the work they put in to make sure that the Centre provided us the playing facilities we have today.
Membership of the Sports Centre was 25 pence per annum and the sports represented at the opening were Archery, Athletics, Cricket, Football, Hockey, Rugby, Small Bore Rifle Shooting and Motor Club.
Our president at the time, Alan Barbary, said, “whilst the playing of Rugby Union Football is our special interest, we share with all the other organisations who have contributed to the establishment of the Centre the hope that it will prove to be a place where we can all derive maximum benefit, not only from partaking in our chosen sport, but also in forging friendship with all who use the facilities provided here”.
A New Home, The Sports Centre Years
The 1971/72 season saw the club using the new facilities at the Newquay Sports Centre. For the first time we had two pitches. The principal pitch was full size and it had banks on the north and east sides, which provided excellent spectator areas. The first chiefs’ match played on the new pitches was against Penryn, a loss 7-14. The first 2nd XV match was cancelled, but on 16th September we defeated St Austell 36-0 and the Colts beat Falmouth 34-3 on Monday 18th September.
On Wednesday, 22nd March 1972, we played the CRFU President’s XV to mark the official opening of our new facilities. We lost by 10-18. The team that played that day was: John Tapp, Keith Sidwell, Tony Bailey, John Ash, Will Danning, Dick Rundle, David Humphries-Evans, Richard Trewella, Charles Uren, Peter Jolley, Ernie Green, Jim Parrott, Martin Taylor (Captain), John Edwards and Steve Cuthill., with Rob Wardhaugh, Geoff Cooke, Phil Evans, David Linnell and Brain Crowle the reserves. Vic Martin refereed and it was a great occasion with a beer tent on the top pitch. The official souvenir programme was sold at 10p a copy.
On 8th May 1972 Her Royal Highness The Princess Anne officially opened the Newquay Sports Centre. Geoffrey Briggs, the President of the Centre welcomed her and she unveiled a plaque that is now in the entrance hall of the old building. Bruce Connock was the Hon Secretary of the Centre and Reg Roberts represented the club on the Executive Board.
The Colts were restarted in 1971 and nineteen matches were played, mainly against other colts teams with 12 victories. In 1972, they were encouraged to set up their own sub-committee under the chairmanship of John Kennedy JP with Phil Eustice as captain. Twenty-one matches were played of which 15 were won. Initially Ron Olivey, an ex-player, took on the coaching, later Geoff Cornah, another ex-player, aided him. The team had a nucleus of Newquay School players, who had been trained by Reg Roberts, Bruce Connock, and Peter Davy. Many of the young players represented Cornwall at various age groups, they were Richard Lowe, Terry Wilson, Richard Field, Jeremy Bownas, Andrew Barry, Chris Ireland, Robert Moss, Peter Kennedy, Barry Howarth, Phil Cooke, Cyril May, David Snell, Mike Waller, Phil Eustice, David London, Roy Eastlake, Jim Harknett, David Linnell, Ken Hosie, Paul Vincent, Keith Perkins.
Tubby Harold, a former senior rugby player and ex-official Royal Navy referee and John Kennedy assisted in the running of the side. Norman Anstis presented the team with its first set of jerseys. During its first season the team beat Redruth, Truro, Falmouth, Bude, Mounts Bay, and Cornwall Technical College. A great start!