The 1940s (5)
Messrs Matthews and Hitchins - war or not - were equally determined that Argaum should re-start as soon as normality returned. Peter was sadly blinded on war service with a bomb disposal unit, nevertheless, one of his first enquiries of Tom Hitchins was "What are you going to do about Argaum?", which was hardly necessary to fortify Tom’s already well founded determination. The geasons had, during the war, been taken over by the Local Authority and there built a "British Restaurant" where, without the surrender of food coupons the locals could obtain a three course meal for the equivalent of 7.5p, so that after only a brief period, the Club had lost the only ground it had ever had.
With the war over, Tom Hitchins, with the aid of a pre-war address book, and a public advertisement in the local press, called a meeting on the 15th July 1946 at the Lockyer Hotel, presided over, (inevitably?) By Leslie Paul. The meeting produced a total of 20 bodies and three apologies for absence, Alf Beer, Peter Matthews and one other, who offered all help short of playing - and then found themselves turning out for several seasons. A call for potential players at the meeting resulted in four hands being raised and doubtless carried away by this display of playing strength, plus a hidden supply of shirts and a credit balance of £4.6.9d. in the hands of Doug Adams the Pre-war treasurer, the meeting unanimously supported a proposition to restart in Season 1946 - 47. And equally unanimously, and doubtless with considerable relief - elected Tom Hitchins Hon. Sec. And Leslie Paul President. Tony Birnage would have been Captain, but shortly before season opened his Company moved him away from Plymouth, so that Lester Neal - a Pre-war player - started the seasons Captain. Of necessity much reliance was placed in this the first post-war season, had to be placed on pre-war players, largely 2nd XV performers. From here on, for a very considerable period, completed fixture cards are readily available.
The first post - war match was against Old Public Oaks in Central Park with no changing accommodation other than the hedgerows, which also had to do duty for storing player’s valuables - if any. The opening game resulted in 10-3 a win for the Club.
The full season record reveals that a somewhat geriatric Argaum side - 6 pre-war players regularly appearing - ended with a record of 16 wins 7 defeats and 2 draws 216-129, the defeats included Salcombe 3-19 and the two draws v OPMs, there were also no less than 9 cancellations. A fortunate addition to the Club's playing strength was a small RAF Unit at Collaton Cross; particularly one Taffy Morgan a full back in the true Welsh mould who in the Club's game against Buckfastleigh Ramblers at Buckfastleigh completely dominated the game with his positional play catching and touch finding contributing immeasurably to the Club's 8-0 success. A fair number of matches in the first half of the season are designated as home this would indicate Central Park with all its lack of changing facilities! This however would not suffice for Tom Hitchins who set about finding a pitch for the Club which led to an (almost) unprotesting pilgrimage through several agricultural deserts ending in semi permanence in sharing a field with a multitude of moles and an open air water heating system activated by an open fire under the boiler which required the attention of the home side at half time, if not earlier:
Early in the season Lester Neale moved to Cullompton to be replaced as skipper by another pre-war player Skip Floyd - amongst other things an intimate of Bill the Bosun. Other pre-war players to survive the season were Roger Lethbridge, Dave Dobell and "Cooper" Coombs. Newcomers on whom the Club were happy to rely on in the following seasons were hooker Joe Kirk, wing forward Bill Farren, centre/stand off half Dick Osborne and scrum half Tim (F.R.) Daly son of Jack Daly of the YMCA days.
Tim Daly a lively intelligent and natural scrum half became captain whilst his father, Jack, joined the selection committee. The opening game, at home, again against the OPOs was, on this occasion, lost 9-13, to be followed by a run of 6 consecutive wins including, sensationally, 6-3 at Salcombe - the first ever recorded win over that club; the return at home was, however, lost by the identical margin. Apart from a heavy 3-29 defeat by Services A and 6-24 v RAF Collaton Gross (internecine warfare, the return was also lost much more respectfully 15-7) the season was pretty successful 19 wins 9 defeats (inclusive of Collaton Cross (2)) and one draw 333-176.
For this season - and many thereafter Tom Hitchins arranged the renting of a large field at Estover, capable and in due course of time doing so - of housing three pitches. The pitch was on land (designated in the Plan for PLYMOUTH as a green belt forever) rented from Mr A G Neal, now the site of Fine Tubes Factory. Wearing one of his other "hats" viz. the Plymouth Amateur Operatic Society - Tom prevailed on a fellow member to use his (the latter’s) influence on Plymouth Breweries to allow the club the use of some outhouses adjoining the George Hotel Roborough and to convert them into changing accommodation (somewhat cramped) and bath and, when consent was forthcoming, the change was by no means to the disadvantage of the Brewery. In some inexplicable fashion Devonport High School Old Boys Rugby Club became entwined in the venture - and indeed lent a hand in the conversion work - in return, subject to Argaum’s priorities, obtained the use of the pitch and the overcrowded changing room. The one drawback of this particular venture was that, at a time when no new cars were available on the home market and petrol was not exactly flowing out of the fountains, the George Hotel was fully two miles distant from the Estover pitch; the one redeeming feature was naturally - Tom, and his pre-war Alvis which incessantly patrolled the George - Estover road bulging at the seams with players, a scene happily recorded in one of Skips inimitable cartoons (below). Of the Club’s game against Old Suttonians at Marsh Mills on December 20th, 1948 the Club trainer "omitted" to arrive with the shirts resulting in a rather reluctant side taking the field "topless" with one or two noticeable exceptions who intelligently provided themselves with top covering of some sort; whether the chill of the season caused them to exert themselves in their semi nude condition more than usual or just an anxiety to keep everyone moving as often as possible the result was the best of the season, 29-3.
Tim Daly continued as Club captain and a very full second fifteen fixture list was arranged - and fulfilled, in view of the increase in numbers Jimmy Wreford became assistant secretary and Terry Barron manager of the 2nd XV.
Tim continued as captain Bill Farren his "vice". Unhappily ill health forced Tim to retire early in the season so that for the great majority of the games Bill Farren a vociferous, tactical and thoughtful wing forward took over.