That was the week: Barbarians came back to Hartlepool

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MANY a fiece North-east gale has struck the promenade and swept sea spray on the Friarage since 1879, when a group of cricket enthusiasts decided to form a rugby club

So began Mail sportswriter Fred Lister’s celebration of the centenary of Hartlepool Rovers, who had started life as Hartlepool Albion, switching to Hartlepool Juniors in their second season, before settling on their present name in 1881-2.

There was already a Hartlepool Town club, founded in 1875, and for a time there was a great rivalry, before Rovers took over their seniors, and the lease of the Friarage.

Before that they had a ground on the Central Estate to which they had to carry and erect the goalposts each match.

Fred wrote: “One fact shines as brightly as the gas lamps which surrounded their ground in those far-off days, and that is the manner in which Rovers have always been able to rise to the big occasion.

“For they possessed the skill and expertise to dominate rugby in the North-east, with their history during the past 100 years liberally studded with a series of outstanding achievements unrivalled by any other club.”

In 1884 Rovers won the first of the 40 Durham Senior Cups captured in their first 100 years, parading the cup along Northgate preceded by a band playing Conquering Heroes.

Another early highlight came on November 14, 1888, when Rovers hosted the Maoris, the first ever touring side from down under.

The tourists gave their traditional war cry, Ake, Ake, Kia, Kaha, meaning “forever be bold and strong” and the match began, with Rovers losing by a solitary try. Later on the tour the Maoris scored five when convincingly beating Ireland.

On December 27, 1890, Rovers were the first opposition for the newly formed Barbarians, so it was appropriate that the club to become world famous played Rovers in the centenary match, which was won 62-10 by a strong Baa-Baas team including Bill Beaumont, Fran Cotton and Andy Irvine.

The key figure in this era was Fred Alderson, master of the town’s newly-opened Henry Smith School, who while with Rovers won six England caps, five as skipper and was a founder member of the Barbarians.

At what Fred Lister described as “a magnificent dinner” to celebrate Alderson’s second year as England captain, the Calcutta Cup graced the top table “generally believed to be the only occasion it has been away from the England or Scotland headquarters”.

Other highlights of the 100 years included five successive Durham Senior Cups from 1905 and another five from 1921.

Perhaps their finest year was 1911-12, when they compiled a world record points total for a season, 860, which stood for more than 40 years.

Later famous players included Bob Oakes, who became president of the Rugby Football Union in 1933-34 and John Dee, who toured with the British Lions in 1962 and England in 1963.

Do you have any memories of Rovers’ centenary celebrations you would like to share with other readers? Email andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.

Also in the news:

The Hartlepool branch of the RSPCA issued a strong warning to ferret owners to keep their pets locked up after two of the creatures were found roaming Welldeck Road and Honiton Way in the town.

Insp Allan Orritt told the Mail the two ferrets were very dangerous because they were hungry and could have caused injury to other animals or people.

“Not so many months ago there was an instance of a baby being killed by a ferrett in London,” he said, adding that the ferret in Honiton Way had been trying to get a pet rabbit.

l THE dangers of conker collection were also highlighted, after a seven-year-old suffered head injuries and a broken leg falling from a tree in Northallerton.

Safety organisations were calling for trees to be fenced off but a spokesman for Cleveland Police told the Mail there was no chance of this happening.

“Taking conkers from trees has been goijng on for time immemorial.

“ There is no way it can be stopped.

“Our advice for children is to be careful,” he said.

l TYNE Tees was off the air due to industrial action but BBC1 had medical drama Angels followed by The Rockford Files with James Garner and BBC2 viewers could enjoy The Two Ronnies before Alec Guinness in a TV adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre.

l PETERLEE man Jim Dobie, 36, of Sayer Walk, beat 2,000 other anglers to claim the £700 first prize in the Third International One-day Sea Angling Competition, held between Hartlepool and Seaham.

Jim’s winning catch included eight cod, weighing a record 23lb 15oz.