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Hugh Dixon R.I.P.

Yesterday we learned the sad news that the club's founding chairman, Hugh Dixon, has passed away,

We can think of no finer tribute at this time that to share the story of the founding of the club and its earliest days  in his own words - words that say much about the gentleman and the rugby man.

"After a fairly undistinguished playing career which I thought had ended in 1974 at Alton, I intended to become a spectator and not a player. However events dictated otherwise.

That spring, in discussion with some friends we asked ourselves why there was no rugby in Farnham? Accordingly I was deputed to attend the a g m of the Farnham Sports Council to ask that very question. After much debate which mainly, if I recall, centred on netball and soccer, under any other business I asked " why do we not have a rugby club in Farnham?  The Chairman's response was "if there is a need for a rugby club, please join our committee as member for Rugby" I was thus co-opted with a brief to form a rugby club!!

Back to the group of friends, prominent amongst them Peter Bewsey, Keith Phillips and Peter Chinn. We decided to seek publicity for support for a rugby club. The Farnham Herald kindly printed a call to arms to attend a meeting, of all those interested, at the Bush Hotel to establish the level of interest. Much to our surprise about 30 people turned up some young and some not so young. It was especially good that a group who had formed themselves as Rushmore Rugby Club and played a few ad hoc fixtures agreed to throw their lot in with the embryonic Farnham Rugby Club. Notable amongst those were Bob Thorne, Duncan Kent and Terry Hill. This, and the response from the floor indicated that there was considerable appetite for rugby in Farnham and that it was feasible to set up a club.
When we got the section of finding people to serve in various roles there was one person who put himself up for almost every job. That great enthusiast was Pat Kennedy who became the most dedicated and hard working club secretary who served the club for many a year.

Practically all posts were  filled by enthusiastic volunteers, apart from that of fixture secretary. Whist this post was under discussion the one person who whose attention had wondered, was Rod Barrett. Accordingly he was appointed!! The enthusiasm was infectious with too many, to mention individually, becoming involved. By the end of the evening we had a full and very enthusiastic committee, Peter Bewsey  as captain and Roger Davis as coach. Not long after, thanks to our reluctant fixture secretary, we had a few fixtures, not league mind you, in time for the 1975/6 season.

The next problem was where to play. So back to the Sports Council, surely they would be able to solve a simple problem like that? They were most sympathetic but of no practical help. Every possible venue suggested was not available for one reason or another. The reason that sticks in the memory was a suggestion that we play on one of the inferior pitches, which we knew to be vacant, in Farnham Park. We were solemnly told that this could not happen because that was reserved for a possible Gas Works ( remember those)football 2nd XI ! At this point there was a sense of humour failure. Gas Works we said, we are talking about a club which will carry the name FARNHAM, surely that should take precedence? But no! 

So back to our own devises. We had contact with the very decent headmaster of Waverley Abbey School in Tilford. He agreed to allow us to mark out a pitch on their sports field provided we supplied the posts and touch line flags. So that was the challenge. Fortunately Hugh Dixon lived in nearby Churt and had some rather tall pine trees in the garden. We cut down four of these, stripped off the branches and marched them across the common to Tilford where Pam Pownall and a band of volunteers set to with a bucket of white paint! For the cross bars we blagged  a couple of lengths of 4 x 2 from a builders merchant and touch flags appeared mysteriously from who knows where and  we were in business. All this being achieved on the morning of our inaugural match!! So Tilford Abbey School was our home for our first season with The Pride of the Valley in Churt being where we conducted our post match entertainment. To celebrate the commencement of a new club, and as our first home game, we decided to hold an inaugural celebrity match. The coach, Roger Davis, via some mates at work, managed to get ex England international Dave Watt and some other quality players to come to Tilford on a Sunday afternoon.

Rather that just field our strongest XV we tried to give all players a part of the game. This meant that some of the guys who considered themselves to be the best in their position were not necessarily in the starting line up. In most cases this was o k except for our stroppy scrum half who felt he had been slighted and insisted that he go on for the start, notwithstanding that another scrum half was on the field. This took a bit of diplomatic effort to sort out as we found there were two scrum halves trying to elbow each other out of the way!  Thus is the way of course rugby.

Our first proper fixture, was away against Old Guildfordians 2nd XV from which we emerged with an opening defeat but only by about 6 points. We considered that we had passed the test and reached a significant milestone in our establishment.

Many members wonder about the colour of our kit and reason for the logo. The explanation is simple. The Bishops Mitre is in recognition of the Mitre pub in West Street, Farnham which was our early unofficial headquarters and spiritual home. The black and white hoops were copied from Marlow Rugby Club which is where the writer happily played for about 12 years before moving to Surrey.

Things progressed and soon even the Farnham Sports Council started to take us seriously so after our faltering start at Waverley Abbey, space was found for us in Farnham Park which was conveniently close to the cricket club which served as our clubhouse for after match entertainment. Not the most wonderful pitch but it served as a stopgap whilst we set about the task of have in our own facilities.
The best we could find was Wrecclesham. (Some might say we should not have bothered) It was owned by Farnham Council and comprised a clay cap field next to a former gravel pit and waste tip. Not you might say an ideal site but the best and only one available within our meagre financial resources.

There were no clubhouse buildings and the pitch sloped from touch line to touch line at a steeper than acceptable angle, apart from that it was perfect!! To solve the clubhouse problem we obtained a couple of redundant army huts from Aldershot, dismantled them, borrowed a truck and joined them together and reassembled them. To deal with the slope, we persuaded our full backs father, who happened to be the Commanding Officer of 3 Para, to conduct a night exercise to create two helicopter pads in the jungle. This was achieved by delivering dozers and diggers by helicopter in the dead of night and taking them away before dawn. It was fantastic that Brigadier Howlett persuaded himself that was a valuable training exercise, but unfortunately,  whilst this corrected the cross slope, it exacerbated the clay problem which was never properly resolved and the mud persisted until the day we left.

One of the great early memories of this pitch was the match versus Limoges University. For this match, we managed to bring in a ringer who at the time was a Cambridge Rugby Blue and went on to be the captain of Canada.  The result hardly mattered and is forgotten anyway, but the entertainment was excellent. A grand after match dinner was arranged in the upstairs restaurant of the Mitre. From this we learned, as if we didn’t already know, that the average, university student (French or otherwise) tends to have greater intelligence than the average Farnham front row forward !!  Our open side prop, having consumed rather more pints of Old Peculiar than perhaps he should, challenged the Limoges captain to a drinking competition " by all means" said the affable captain, " but I will drink your drink and you must drink mine" whereupon he produced a 15 litre plastic barrel filled with red wine of the region. Not to be outfaced our man accepted the challenge and matched pint of bitter for the Frenchman to pint of wine for our prop. All appeared well for the first three or four pints but then our man faltered and slipped to the floor. We carried him home and he apparently came round about 72 hrs later. Who says the French are stupid?

Although we had a new home and a thriving first XV it wasn't always that we could raise a full second XV. The poor captain had to go round the pubs to round up stragglers. He was much helped by George Alcoran our second row forward who was RSM of the Parachute Regiment. Sometimes they were reluctant members and more often blokes picked at random, frequently soldiers who George ordered to attend. It was a brave soldier who disobeyed George! The favourite hunting ground was the pub near Farnham Station which was then known as the Blue Boy. On one occasion an apparently fit squaddie who had never before played,  was dragged from the bar and told that he was to play front row. After the first scrum he emerged, shell shocked and muttering darkly, " f*ck this for a game of soldiers” and at half time absconded! History doesn’t relate what happened to that unfortunate when he next confronted his RSM, George Alcoran on the parade ground, but I suspect it wasn’t pretty.

We also dragooned a young lad for an away game who enjoyed the experience of the game and the after match entertainment so much that when we returned to the Blue Boy he carried on drinking until the inevitable feeling of nausea drove him to the bog whereupon he fell asleep in one of the lavatories. He awoke in the early hours and fumbled around trying to get out. The landlord thought he was being burgled and called the police. Our recruit was never seen by us again.

Various social and fund raising functions were held in all manor of places. The one that has outstanding memories was a strip show at the T A drill. A stripper had been booked who came on after much ale had been consumed by the attendees. Before going on stage she insisted that we test the sound system by playing the tape that she was to perform to. This event was organised by Keith Phillips who looked puzzled and perplexed as there was no sound system! After some detailed negotiation a portable tape player was found and she agreed, somewhat unwillingly to perform. Who can ever forget the sight of Keith following this girl around the stage holding the tape deck as she disrobed?"

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