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1118 - The History of Hartlepool Boys' Brigade Old Boys RFC

The Beginnings

B.B.O.B. R.F.C. owes it's existence to the establishment of the 1st  Hartlepool Company Boys' Brigade in 1887. Captain Dr. 'Bertie' Morison, a player with Hartlepool Rovers, was keen to develop the game and records from the 1890's reveal the Company fielding two youth sides in local fixtures. His dedication and those of subsequent Company Captains, Will Coverdale 1924-55, Fred Jacques 1955-75 and Jack Waller 1975-94, has ensured the continuation of a proud rugby tradition within Hartlepool and Durham County. Paul Craggs, the current Company Captain has been a 'Brigade'regular for the past twenty seasons and looks good for a few more yet.

The Old Boys

In 1892 Dr. Morison formed the 'Hartlepool Old Boys' lnstitute' to provide social and sports facilities for former Company members. Two rugby teams were formed and the senior team, called the 'Old Boys' won the Durham Junior Cup in 1895. The second fifteen, composed of the younger members of the club, was called the 'Institute Team’ and managed to get to the final of the Hartlepools Junior Cup on two occasions only to lose to West Hartlepool Vulcans and Hartlepool Creelers, both strong teams in those days

By 1914 both the Brigade Company and the Old Boys' Institute were housed in the Old Mill on High Street. Records reveal that in 1924 Lieut Morton 'undertook to arrange for a rope to be provided as an emergency exit from the Mill Drill Hall! Different times!

1st Hartlepool B.B. Company Rugby Records


Winners Hartlepool Junior Rugby Cup                                                                                                                                                


Winners Durham County Third Teams Cup      


Winners Gibb Shield                                                                                                             


Winners Durham County Fourth Teams Shield     Boys Brigade were the very first Holders of the Shield.                                                                


Winners West Shield                                                                                                              


Winners Durham County Fourth Teams Shield. Winners Gibb Shield                                                                                                                                               


Winners Durham County Third Teams Cup. Winners Lormor Cup


1930 and Onwards

The origin and adoption of the title B.B.O.B. relates to events in November 1932 when members of the Old Boys' Institute, founded by Dr. Morison, chose to move premises after a disagreement of principles. The issue related to a proposal to raise funds by selling tote tickets which the Brigade and Church authorities viewed as gambling and something they would not sanction. Details of this time are outlined in the 1st Hartlepool Company 75th Anniversary Celebrations Booklet of 1962. These events were also confirmed some years ago by the late Dick Temple who was an Old Boys member at the time and continued to play for several years. It is interesting to note that no change was made to the name, perhaps due to the lasting respect in which Dr. 'Bertie' was held. That club, which dropped 'Old Boys' from their name in 1978, now exists as Hartlepool R.F.C. with headquarters at Mayfield Park.

Captain Will Coverdale took immediate action to organise funds and replace equipment which had been removed and in December 1932 a fresh generation of 'Old Boys' formed the 1st Hartlepool Company The Boys Brigade Old Boys Association. In February 1933 it was reported that already there were over seventy members of the social club and forty members of the rugby section.

Brigade rugby flourished during the 1930's with a strong Company side winning the County Fourth Teams Cup in 1931 and the Third Teams Cup in 1932. Many players from this era went on to play senior rugby with Hartlepool Rovers; several achieving Durham County Honours. Those who moved to the ranks of B.B.O.B. helped the side reach the final of the Durham Junior Cup during 1935-36, losing to West Hartlepool E.R.O.B. 12-6 at Clarence Road. Success came the following season with a 15-0 final victory over Sunderland Rovers, again at Clarence Road.

1938 and 1939 saw victories for B.B.O.B in the finals of the Pyman Cup.

The War Years and After

The club ran well until the Corporation took possession of the Old Mill in 1937 during the demolition of the old Croft area. Fortunately the Company was able to acquire the former St. Marks Church which was converted and renamed The Morison Memorial Hall. The premises also provided facilities for members of B.B.O.B.

Along with many clubs, rugby activity was curtailed by the outbreak and continuation of the Second World War. Many members were called to military duties and The Morison Hall was requisitioned by the army authorities.

B.B.O.B. rugby resumed in 1947 with the formation of the Morison Youth Club and though failing to record a victory during that season the side grew in strength, winning the Pyman Cup in 1950 and 1953.  B.B.O.B. Honorary Life President Norman Kydd, Brigade's scrum-half during this period and now living in Yorkshire, recalls the pleasures of Saturday afternoon rugby and dances at The Borough Hall in the evening.

Sixties To The Nineties

The strength of the 1st Hartlepool Company was the background for the success of B.B.O.B. from the late 1960's through to the mid 1980's. Sides, composed largely of Brigade members, won the Durham County Fourth Teams Shield in 1967 and 1968 and the Durham County Junior Cup on seven occasions between 1973 and 1984. During this era Brigade were losing finalists in four Junior Cup Finals.

Brigade was always well represented by a regular second team, usually composed of up and coming youngsters and those aging types who refuse to hang up their boots and join the 'experts' on the  touchline. By 1999 dwindling player numbers brought the era of a regular second team to an end, a trend experienced by many clubs. An attempt was made in 2005 to raise a second side but only a single fixture was played. However, veteran Keith Hetherington is able to claim top second team try scorer of the season with his single touchdown in that game!

The Fred Jacques Trophy

Before becoming Company Captain, Fred Jacques was instrumental in the founding of Hartlepool Athletic R.F.C. in 1943. Following his death in 1988, the 'Fred Jacques Memorial Trophy' was inaugurated to be played annually between the first teams of B.B.O.B and Athletic. Sadly this tradition ended when Athletic were unable to maintain their club status after the season of 2010-11.

Matches often served as 'double headers' for this trophy, merit table or league fixtures. The first fifteen finals saw Brigade winning nine and Athletic six. Both clubs experienced difficulties from 2004 but ironically it was Athletic who won every further final until being forced to close.

Fred Jacques Trophy 1989 – 2011

B.B.O.B.R.F.C. Won 9 Points 332          Hartlepool Athletic Won 13 Points  422                      

The B.B.O.B.'World Cup'

Since 1997 Hartlepool B.B.O.B and Northampton B.B.O.B. have competed annually in a unique fixture, created by both clubs as the only known 'Brigade' sides in the World. The match is a feature of alternate tours and the Ship's Bell, donated by Robert Trueman, is awarded to the victors. To date, Northampton have won thirteen and Hartlepool seven, with one match drawn.

Following the loss of Hartlepool B.B.O.B. Chairman and club stalwart Peter Kegans in 2007 the fixture has been dedicated to his memory and a trophy awarded to the visiting man of the match. 

The  first award in 2008 suitably went to former Hartlepool B.B.O.B. captain and loyal club servant Tony Waterman.

The Old Friarage Field

The Old Friarage Field takes its name from the 13th century Friarage which belonged to the Franciscan Order of Grey Friars. Following the dissolution of the monasteries a manor house was built on the site around 1605. A remaining wing of this building became a workhouse and hospital during Victorian times and was enveloped as the hospital site expanded. St. Hilda's Hospital was closed in 1983 and soon demolished, leaving an isolated section of the old manor house.

It would be possible to dedicate a lengthy book to the history of rugby at The Friarage; such has been the importance of this venue since the 1880's. Here, in the context of a short review of the history of 'Brigade', a few details must suffice.

The Friarage was the ground of Hartlepool Rovers from 1883 to 1946 and premises on Moor Terrace, known as'Greencliffe' their headquarters. Large crowds were able to watch first class club fixtures, county finals and important games in the English County Championships

The Maoris

During the season 1888-89 a New Zealand Team, comprised of Maoris and colonialists toured Great Britain. The party of 27 played 74 matches in 25 weeks, a feat that the 'professionals' of today might find a little tough! In November 1888 they were entertained by Hartlepool Rovers and took the honours by the narrowest possible margin of one try to nil.

The Barbarians

The famous Barbarian Rugby Club played their first fixture against Hartlepool Rovers on December 27th 1890, winning by 3 goals to a goal and a try or 9 points to 4. In modern terms this equates to Barbarians 3 Tries, 3 Conversions Rovers 2 tries 1 Conversion

The ‘All Blacks'

Perhaps the most notable of all fixtures at the Friarage took place on Wednesday 11th October 1905 when 13,000 spectators witnessed the extraordinary skills of the first New Zealand 'All Blacks'

On the previous Saturday eight players from the Hartlepools were included in the Durham County XV, who gave a good account of themselves against the tourists at Hollow Drift. Despite starting the game with 13 men, after Knaggs and Boylen were delayed on their way from Hartlepool, the Durham line was crossed only four times and Phil Clarkson became the first player to touchdown against the tourists in seven matches. Durham County 3 New Zealand, 16

Four days later during a fine afternoon and on a perfect Friarage surface, the skills and pace of the tourists proved too much for a joint Rovers and West Hartlepool side who failed to register a score. The All Blacks ran in l5 tries and converted 9 to record a final score of 63-0.

In 1946 Hartlepool Rovers moved their headquarters to the New Friarage on West View Rd. and the Old Friarage was used mainly by Henry Smith Grammar School.

In the mid-sixties B.B.O.B. acquired the use of the Friarage and continued to use the B.B. headquarters at the Morison Hall for changing. The sports hall, built 1970, provided improved facilities for changing and training and following it's demolition in 2004, Brigade made use of the changing rooms at King George V for two seasons.

Remembering The 1905 'Originals 'At The Old Friarage

In 2005 a Hartlepool B.B.O.B. and District XV verses Durham County Presidents New Zealand Select XV was arranged to celebrate the visit of the 1905 'All Blacks'. Prominent players from the Hartlepool District clubs formed a strong side to face a team made up of players with New Zealand connections living in the County. The event was well supported by several bodies and organisations in both Hartlepool and the County and thanks are due to County President Jim Ainslie and Secretary Chris Mcloughlin. A large crowd witnessed the 'Friarage Haka' and a match of high standard. The 2005 'Tourists' took the honours by 24 points to 19 in a close, competitive match, befitting this centenary occasion. The reception which followed at the Borough Hall concluded a memorable day in the history of 'The Friarage'.

In 2007 B.B.O.B. acquired changing rooms at the Bowls Pavilion, close to the field, and along with excellent hospitality at the Cosmopolitan Hotel the club is well positioned to provide social rugby on the Headland. New and experienced players will always be made welcome.

Unbeaten Champions

Season 2012-13 brought notable success, with the side achieving an unbeaten record in Durham-Northumberland Division Three to gain the championship. This was followed by winning the Durham County Plate at the end of the same season. B.B.O.B. 34 South Tyne College 17

2013-14 saw the side performing well in Durham-Northumberland Division 2 but the form could not be maintained during the following season and the club was relegated to Division 3. Problems with player availability and injury continued to create difficulties on the field and at the conclusion of season 2016-17 it was decided to join the Tees Valley Social League. It is hoped that the atmoshere of social rugby will help develop younger player's skills and maintain the enjoyment of the game for all those associated with 'Brigade'.

The main purpose of this short account is to introduce arange of photographs charting the history of Hartlepool Boys Brigade Old Boys R.F.C. It is hoped also to outline and establish the unbroken link between the 1s Hartlepool Company Boys Brigade and The Club today. The only variation came in 1932 with the adoption of the name B.B.O.B. as outlined earlier, and the rugby club remained  within the organisation of the Company and shared their headquarters.

At the present time many members and supporters of B.B.O.B. have been connected to the B.B. Company and close associations continue to be maintained.

We are therefore proud to claim a history of 'Brigade Rugby 'which spans more than 125 years.

Three Old Boys of the Company have played for England, Bob Poole (1896) Cliff Harrison (1931) and John Dee (1962). John Dee, Senior was appointed trainer for the England XV in 1962.

The history of a long established organisation will inevitably embrace many aspects and that of B.B.O.B. is no exception. Careful retention of playing records and information on events, begun in 1967 by Bob Shipley, continued by Keith Faint and maintained to date, provide valuable information of club activity over the past fifty years. Other, less detailed records, have also been able to assist the charting of the club's general history. Aspects such as Club Officials, Captains, Cup Wins, Top Try Scorer, Most Appearances, Notable Characters and Best Kept Tour Secrets will need to be addressed at a future date.

Best wishes to all those associated with rugby in Hartlepool.

                           Ian Fletcher Hartlepool B.B.O.B R.F.C.

B.B.O.B.R.F.C. play on the Old Friarage,Headland. Their Club House is in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. 




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