The Development of Isle of Wight Rugby – Part Two – The Post War Years
by David Ball
The revival of the Club came about in 1950 when a public meeting held at Ryde Aero Club in September of that year supported the actions of a small group of enthusiasts who had negotiated the use of an area of land for a pitch at Ryde Airport, the use of the Aero Club as headquarters and taking over a fixture list from the disbanding Saunders Roe Club. Club jerseys for the restart were dark blue and remained so up to 1953/54, when it was decided to change to blue and gold hoops.
At the time this was thought to be a major step. Little did the Committee at that time know that in practice this was only the start of a pattern where the frequency of change in Club colours would be second only to the movement between grounds. In 1954/55 the Club played in black and amber hoops. In 19555/56 blue and gold hoops became the favourite again until 1963-64, when it was decided to revert to the initial colours of red and gold – a change accompanied by a disastrous experiment in
persuading players to buy their own very poor quality jerseys. Needless to say this was not a successful venture and in 1965/66 the colours were changed again to the dark blue strip only for yet another change to follow into the current colours of Navy Blue and gold.
The trend with pitches was very similar. Club minutes between 1950 and 1960 reveal the constant anxiety of the Club to establish its own identity through the ownership of its own ground and headquarters. Sites were considered near Warner Holiday Camps at Puckpool , near Wootton Recreation Ground and ultimately at Binfield Corner, a seventeen acre site between Newport and Wootton. These opportunities were lost however, through hesitancy in decision making, finance and matters beyond the control of the Club. The pattern of movement was unique even by Island standards. The Club started in 1950 at Ryde Airport before moving to Wootton Recreation Ground in 1955/56 with changing at Cedars Hotel, about half a mile from the pitch, or at the local boxing club, about the same distance. In 1956-57 there was a move back to Ryde Airport and then in 1960/61 came a move to Newport Nine Acres Recreation Ground, with the use of a second pitch owned by the Army at Parkhurst. Nine Acres had changing facility problems and in 1963-64 another change took the Club to Lakeside Inn at Wootton, with the use of a second pitch on Wootton Recreation Ground. Drainage problems at Lakeside soon materialised however and all matches were played on Wootton Recreation Ground during the 1964-65 season whilst HQ remained at Lakeside until further discussions brought about an HQ change to Ryde Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club together with an agreement with the Ryde Borough Council for the use of a pitch on Playstreet Lane Recreation Ground. A second pitch was retained at Wootton.
Playstreet Lane proved to be another disaster, with a totally unsuitable stony playing surface coupled with poor drainage. Accordingly the Club used the Wootton pitch for major games whilst using the Ryde facility as HQ. In 1969/70 two pitches were again obtained at Wootton and once again all matches reverted to that ground and in 1970 the Club decided to concentrate resources at Wootton, where they remain today.
Up to 1953-54 the Club in general ran only one team. There were attempts to turn out an A XV but a shortage of playing members caused repeated embarrassment in the cancellation of fixtures. From 1953 onwards however, the Club have been able to field two teams although another crisis point arrived in 1961-62.
For some years the Club selection process had been the subject of some debate, with many of the players feeling that selection was based of school and business background and eventually this led to a firm breakaway movement to form Sandown and Shanklin RFC. Needless to say matches between two Clubs were hard fought – as is still the case today whatever league positions might suggest otherwise.
Original article ‘The Development of Island Rugby – Part Two – The Post War Years’ by David Ball