How do you form a Rugby Club? The Stratford Herald had no doubt. It was by “a wing and a prayer!” I remember reflecting outside Shottery Church one autumn evening that there was need of another rugby club in Stratford, perhaps more of the coarse variety with emphasis on the more social aspects of the game! I spoke to a few friends and decided that the idea was worth further consideration. A few pints down at the Bell Inn persuaded me that there were three vital constituents. 1) A Pub, 2) A Ground and 3) A set of shirts. Simple really! Number 1 was soon sorted out and as I was a Governor of the High School (as it was then entitled), Number 2 was quickly expedited. There then followed the need to write to Flowers Brewery (Whitbreads in fact) and ask that if they could sponsor a set, then we would drink their beer and, to their eternal credit, they agreed. A couple of meetings at the Bell, the cost of a few pints and a specially designed logo by one of the locals and we were ready to face Harbury. Incidentally there was some training, courtesy of The Royal Engineers and there just remained some diplomacy. I invited Cllr Peggy Jocelyn(Chairman of Stratford District Council) to be my personal guest and having established that she was partial to white wine and her husband to decent ale, it just remained for me to ask Len Payne at the Bell to ensure adequate supplies. I must say that it was the best investment that any club could make because when there was a hold up with our licensing application for an extension to the permitted hours, it just took a phone call to Peggy and all objections just melted away! I mention no other names!

This is now 29 years ago and we have all moved on and in my case I have now retired back to Shottery. I am convinced that there is still a place for coarse rugby and we all owe a grateful vote of thanks to Stratford RFC for giving us that opportunity. When I remember having to put up the posts before a game(and take them down again), having to change in a thorn bush and wash in the stream that flowed underneath, followed by a long trek to the pub, then I have no doubt that we are very fortunate. Having said that, we still need to maintain our very special identity. Perhaps we need a motto? Not the one incidentally that is invariably sung at Annual Dinners, but it might be worth thinking about all the same.

I had the great privilege of attending the school where all this started back in the early 19th century. When the School XV turn out (playing in England Colours) they either defend or face the Doctor’s Wall,(Arnold) and on that wall is a very famous inscription about William Webb Ellis who incidentally was a day boy like me and also a priest of the established Church! With a fine disregard, he first picked up the ball and ran with it. The sporting world has not been the same since, but I hope that Shottery will hang on, not just to the ball but to the fine disregard, which, in these PC days is what is needed more and more.

David Capron