This is how it was at Hampstead

By Valerie Hewison

It is very difficult to put into words what was so special about Hampstead, yet all of us who were involved know that we had a great experience that has stayed with us when the playing days have long gone.

The club house in central London was already a run down building on two levels with poor facilities which nowadays would be considered a health hazard. Despite this it was a big space with few frills and no rules which suited the cavalier feeling of the time.
The mood was slightly anarchic, Hampstead was setting a different standard from the conventional rugby clubs. Eight or nine teams were put out each week, many of which were run like fiefdoms. Brilliant events were arranged such as beer festivals and balls in prestigious venues and the playing , singing and drinking all aimed to be more successful and more outrageous than any other rugby club in the area.

This was a heady cocktail and it produced the most amazing times that now we can only remember.
My specific memories are more mundane. It was the Seven Season with Jerry Coade as Captain. We are off to Luton, trained and practised with victories already achieved and expectation high. Out came the team with a new star from South Africa, Stan Hannath, who had been hidden for a while in the lower teams. He ripped through the opposition with the help of a talented team and motored into the final. We on the sideline were euphoric, there is no greater excitement. At the winning moment I was leaping up and down in sheer joy. When Leon Sugarman from our team returned to collect his glasses from my safe keeping, I had to admit that they had jumped out of my pocket and I had crushed them underfoot in the excitement.
Meanwhile, Ken who was running the touch, had picked up a sweater to use as a flag without realising that it contained Peter Jones’ teeth which were found only after much searching.

The Sevens featured also in Wales where camping in Rhandirmwyn was a rugby group offshoot. The village had an annual show and a Sevens competition and we took down a team known locally as ‘the London boys’. Came the day we progressed through the local teams. Waiting between matches was hard for Richard Wheatley who being sought urgently for the next tie had fallen asleep in the vegetable show tent.

What happened in the final? Did Ross Raeburn put his foot offside?   All in doubt and finally all lost in the last minutes.
This is how it was at Hampstead, some amazing highs, some lows but always exciting.

On a final note, in 1968 when Ken and I, just married, lived at Swiss Cottage, our neighbour was another Hampstead player. Ken pointed out to me a long haired slightly disreputable figure with a denim cap. I advised Ken to have nothing to do with him. Little did I know that this was Tony Mac, who with Phyllis would become life long friends. They and the others in our group are our Rugby family and have been our friends all through our lives and without doubt we owe this to Hampstead Rugby Club.


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