Flares of the ’70s

The 1970s saw the club rapidly develop both on and off the field, becoming a real force to be reckoned with around in the local area and further afield.

Dallington Park was our main playing venue while in 1970 the then COOPA club in Newland (roughly where the Grosvenor Centre is now) was our post-match base. This was followed by the upstairs room of the Duke of York, at the bottom of Salisbury Street in Semilong, which again was run by Ted Parker. But the club was ambitious and looking to find a permanent base so in 1972 Ted helped us acquire the lease of the clubhouse and courts of Mascot Tennis Club (who had moved to Duston School). This was at the rear of the Saints ground at Franklins Gardens, behind the lake and next to the Brewery’s Bowls Club (now the Crooked Hooker). There were many great days and night spent here, we held a variety of social events (Percy who?) and even entered the local midweek darts league!

The bar turnover amazed the brewery for such a small venue, especially one run and staffed solely by volunteers. So much so that they supported our plans to build a new brick clubhouse on the old tennis courts. Mainly down to planning and hard work by Club members, particularly Stephen “Tramp” Hamp, Pete Collyer, Ian Billson, Paul Tew and John Felce the new Clubhouse* was built. This was achieved with minimal professional help and eventually the Trinity Pavilion opened in 1976 (the bar still run and staffed by volunteer members). * the clubhouse building is still in use in the “Village” area at the Saints, it’s been utilised for a variety of uses including their Study Centre.

Geoff Keates continued as Club Captain until 1973, but remained the key driving force behind the Club throughout the decade and beyond. The 70’s saw 6 other captains each bringing their own stamp on playing development. Dave Hart took over from Les Northover as Hon Sec before handing over to Pete Collyer who began his 13 year tenure in this key role. In 1973 Ian Billson took over from Pete Tyrer as Fixture Secretary, a role he would continue until 1991.

By now we were operating as a true Open club and more members were being drawn from outside solely “Old Boys”, as a result the playing strength continued to develop. However, Ian worked incredibly hard to correspondingly build the strength of our fixture list for all sides near and wide. Ian kept meticulous records and fixtures with results for all sides can be found in the Stattos section of this Blog. These show that even in the 1st XV best seasons we never got above 75% win success, showing we wanted stronger challenges not taking on clubs just for easy wins and a 100% win rate.

There were no leagues in those days so the Northampton & District Rugby Alliance Cup was the big prize locally, but this remained elusive. However, after a few near misses the Lewis Shield was again won in both 1975 and 1978 – this was a great achievement as players who had previously won the Alliance or Lewis could not play, showing our great strength in depth to win again within just 3 seasons.

By now we were running 4 senior sides as well as regular Colts. We also continued to develop our reputation as a side who liked to move the ball around, especially as we never seemed to have a large pack! As numbers increased from 1977 we were regularly running a 5th XV, even if this meant Stu Robinson had to drag players out of the Keep and Prince of Wales to get a full side out to play on Kingsthorpe Rec!

In the 70s we also started the traditional Easter tours, always very eventful times, you can see more details that anybody can remember in the Cultural Exchanges section of The More Social Side of the Club section of this Blog.

As with all areas of this Blog we welcome any memories that you may have from this, and other eras. Please send in via the How to Contact area of this Blog.

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