3 seasons with HRFC. By David Bond

I had 3 seasons with HRFC and that would have been 1968-70.  Strangely, although I went on to play for Tonbridge and Guildford & Godalming before retiring at age 31, I remember the names and people at Hampstead more clearly than the other clubs!

They were fun days. It was a rather chaotic club with no clubhouse or grounds in our ownership, but somehow we managed to field quite decent sides who held their own against local north London clubs and certainly offered the best repertoire of post match songs that I have ever heard. And there were some larger than life characters – notably the irrepressible Mike Flynn, Tiger Martin (who could sink a pint in 4 seconds and a yard in 12!!) Dave Bercey and Roger Martin to name four but I’m sure there are many others I forget.

 Roger and I joined the club when we were flat mates in a dump of a place in Fulham that we shared with Jerry Coade and Beau Foulkes-Morris and others, and we were working for British Steel. I had moved to London having been playing for Warlingham RFC. Later I worked again with Roger in the oil & gas industry and we were both best men to each other at our weddings. Our wives are still close friends.

Roger’s stag party was held at the club and several people wanted to get revenge for some of the things he had done to them, so when we had all had a skinful, Roger was laid on a table, stripped and someone produced a razor and proceeded to shave a tram line from his chest to his dick. His lovely wife to be, Susie, must have been impressed on their wedding night!

And then of course there were the ‘training nights’ at the clubhouse when one of the players who was in the CID showed blue films that had been confiscated on police raids. How times have changed, its all readily available on the internet now.

Saturday nights at Redhill St after a game were memorable. We generally drank far too much and raised the roof with the songs. Our long-suffering girlfriends had to go through this performance every weekend. I seem to remember that security was not the best and the clubhouse was broken into many times. There was a tarmacced area adjacent to the clubhouse which was lit and made a reasonable training area, as long as you stayed on your feet! I think we also trained on grass in Regents Park and probably used Hampstead Heath too.

The pitch at Hampstead Heath was like an amphitheatre which meant that when we had a lot of rain, it poured downhill onto the pitch so it was often very heavy. I do remember a game when the pitch had lying water on it, cut up badly and before the end of the game we could not discern who was friend or foe! We all went into the showers in full kit to get the worst of the mud off.

We also played on council pitches at Hackney Marshes. A desolate place but good playing surfaces because a lot of WW2 bomb rubble was dumped there which helped the drainage. The changing rooms were bleak and probably hot showers were not to be had. 

There were of course several changes to the first team where I played, but I do remember well the back row of Prescott, Sugarman and Bond. Bob Prescott was about 6ft 2” and played No. 8, Leon Sugarman was a very quick flanker and obviously Jewish and I was on the other flank. We were known collectively as “a 6ft 2” Jew with licence to kill.” We were well served by Jerry Coade our 9 who was quick and elusive and we had two large locks in Peter Hartley and Ray Muggeridge. Ces Davies was a fiery prop, often getting involved in fights, and Andy Devine at hooker. I forget who was the tight head. We had decent backs – Tony Hill at 15 and Manus Ward and Tony McFarlane our speedy wings. Duncan Florence at centre and ? Wheatley was the other centre.

In the earlier days, Ian Pole captained the side (see photo). He was a very nice fellow and an impressive and inspiring leader. Sadly he died quite young. Mike Flynn played in the 1st XV at that time and later went on to run the Hampstead Hogs – more of a social side!

We played mostly local teams but one highlight was playing at Franklin Gardens against probably Northampton thirds. We were well beaten that afternoon but put up a good fight and it was an experience to play there. We also had a game against a Middlesex clubs side. These were all good county players and again we were given a drubbing but enjoyed the experience.

We did occasionally pick up good players from Oz and S. Africa who were doing the London and Europe tour and wanted a few games. Some of these guys had played State rugby so were pretty useful and no doubt our results reflected this. 

Mike Flynn certainly drove the club and had a seemingly endless supply of ‘inspired ideas’. I seem to recall that he initiated a beer festival on a platform at Paddington station with a beer tanker in residence. I don’t know if the club made any money but it certainly seemed to be very well attended. Mike was a charismatic character who always seemed to be in the centre of things. It was he who organised a recording on a ‘78’ of rugby songs, sung by The Jock Strap Ensemble. Pity I didn’t keep a copy it would be a laugh to hear now.

Our club shirts were also Flynn inspired. They were rather ornate in claret and yellow and looked rather like the jerkins that medieval knights might have once worn over their armour. We had white shorts which was a mistake because they became impregnated with mud stains and could never be satisfactorily cleaned.

There were drinking games – boat races and another where pennies were held near ones crotch and were dropped into pint glasses. I remember a heavy night once at Stockley Park when a group of us went outside to the nearest tall tree and had a ’pissing up the tree competition.’ The winner was a vey tall second row who had built up a head of pressure and easily out did us all. Height does have some compensations!

Not forgetting ‘the 3 man lift’ when some unsuspecting person was held lying on the floor with a person either side locking the middle man with arms and legs. The so called ‘strong man’ would appear and boast that he could lift up all 3. Then followed a lot of muscle flexing and general bravado, a pint of beer was produced and the hapless and captive in the middle was unzipped and beer poured onto his privates! A rotten trick, thank God we have now all grown up!

Well they were good days at a time when we were young, fearless and carefree and had no matrimonial ties or mortgages. We had little money and what we had paid the rent, food and Saturday night drinking at Hampstead RFC.

Team photo: 

Back row – Gerry ? (prop), can’t remember name, Tony Hill, Bob Prescott, Dave Meneer?, Dave Bond, Ces Davies

Middle row – Andy Devine, Mike Flynn, Ian Pole, Manus Ward, Tony McFarlane

Sitting – cannot remember any of their names but the faces are very familiar!


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