The 1920s (9)
The opening game on 9th September against Plymouth Albion Reserves was lost 3-15, Jack Daly "a terror for work, wonderfully fit, and worthy for first class rugby" (and inherited from the YMCA) scoring Argaum's try. Worthy of note is that post world war 2, his sons Tim (scrum half) and Jack Junior (centre) gave sterling service to the club whilst Jack (Snr) served on the selection committee. There followed a 3-0 win at Buckfastleigh (Tommy Hayman's home town) where the local press reported "despite inclement weather a good game was witnessed. The home side had Argaum well in hand against a strong wind, until near half time when Nicholls touched down for the visitors. Buckfastleigh pressed repeatedly but were unfortunate". There followed narrow defeats; North Tawton 0-5. Teignmouth 0-6. "The home side had all their work cut out to keep the visitors’ forwards from scoring, but Argaum lost Stevens through leg trouble". There followed defeat at Salcombe 0-3, repeated in February by a margin 0-8, but wins v Plymouth Ramblers 11-6 at Higher Home Park in a hard, interesting game and then Okehampton 9-3. On 24th March 1923 there was a pointless draw v Plymouth Albion Reserves, where "Pearce (for Argaum) struck the home cross bar attempting a drop kick and another attempt by Keen missed by inches only. For the visitors none did better than Beer, whilst Pearce was always a danger".
The Club colours which - at any rate since the war - had been light and dark blue bands - changed to red and white bands. (The absence of colour photography is to be regretted) whilst in season 1931-2 they were changed again to the current green black and white strip which had been the colours of the original Plymouth Rugby Club - for some seasons been defunct and incidentally - the colour of the City of Plymouth.
On 27th September "despite a weak team" the Club defeated Plympton Athletic at Plympton by three tries to nil (Mortimer War and Heard), subsequent results were St Budeaux 17-0, Plymouth Corinthians 3-0, RMLI 0-10, Okehampton 0-8 and Bere Alston 8-8.
The second half of the season 4-0 v Plympton. 3-14 v South Wales Borderers, this report carries the first mention of one George Wakeham, a forward of considerable talent who became a rugby administrator of outstanding merit. He was responsible for re-founding the OPM rugby club - in the formation of which he took about half the Argaum team with him and in due course of time to become President of the D.R.F.U. and, for many seasons, President of Plymouth Albion RFC, of this game against the Borderers the report records that Wakeham and Cummings of the forwards and Chirgwin and Chappels outside played well. The end of February records a meritorious win at Teignmouth by a Freddie Blight try to nil but the following week the South Wales Borderers repeated the treatment to the extent of 14-0 at the brickfields "The Regiment having won through to the Army cup final proved too much for Argaum - Beer at fullback rendered great service, his tackling and kicking being of the highest order. Followed in successive weeks defeats by Kingsbridge 0-16 and 0-5, whilst on 25th March Devonport Services having called off their fixture at Camborne, Argaum stepped boldly - if rashly - into the breach. Ward opened the scoring from an interception to put the Club in the lead but thereafter in an open game it was one way traffic for the Cornish Senior side who scored 4 goals and 5 tries whilst Wakeham scored a later consolation try for Argaum to give a final score of 6-35. Undaunted, the club travelled to Barnstaple the following week and in the opening minutes a break by Keen put Blight through on the wing to open the Club's account. Thereafter, the home side had the better of matters scoring two tries and although Ward levelled the score with a penalty goal a further goal by Barnstaple settled the issue (11-6) "The score was a fair result the Argaum forwards played well and Beer at fullback got in some useful touch kicks". The season ended with defeat 11-13 at Totnes tries by Ward, Martin and Nicholls plus a conversion by the latter.
Results - let alone reports - are hard to come by, mostly narrow defeats, 5-6 Bere Alston, 3-8 RN Depot, 3-6 Kingsbridge (Wakeham's try), Plympton 5-7 (Ward try, Beer conversion), North Tawton 0-11 and, at the end of the year Buckfastleigh 0-0 played in a deluge.
1926 is somewhat more informative, if not more successful. 0-6 at Plympton. Bracken at full back was very resourceful and Pearce at half back always a danger. 3-6 v RN Depot - on the run of play Argaum were unlucky to lose. Against a resuscitated YMCA 3-3 at Higher St Budeaux - Argaum were awarded a try in the last few minutes - Buckfastleigh 3 Argaum 3 (Ward try) Services A 0-0 Beer throughout had a very fine game, and yet another draw, YMCA once again 6-6 tries by Thomas and Daly; Beer Bracken and Wakeham deserving mention; also deserving mention the first reports of the halfback combination of Leslie Paul and Bill Westlake - both products of Queens College Taunton - as was also George Wakeham - a combination to continue with some success for several seasons to come. Mention of the social side emerged when the season wound up with a very successful Whist drive and dance at the Revel Assembly Rooms the lady supporters providing the refreshments for the large number present. A more - for Argaum - ominous note 'New Rugby Club formed, the OPMs RFC have arranged fixtures for season 1926-7'. the Hon. Treasurer, chief instigator and founder member - George Wakeham.
Some five or six members departed with George to found the OPM side and the departure of this number of players did not enhance the seasons prospects, however with a side of Boyes, Johns, Willcocks, Mills, Blight, Paul, Westlake, Keen, Martin, Elliott, Sloggett, Thomas, Percy, Beer and Brooks they mounted the first hurdle. Plympton - 9-6 tries by Blight and Mills plus a Johns penalty. Although no fixture card is available the team selections and results appear in profusion compared to previous years, probably due to our Leslie Paul taking over as Secretary although he cannot recollect the year in which he took office. Of the original YMCA survivors Percy, Blight, Keen and Beer were still appearing but the sides contained several new names which in ensuing seasons became closely associated with the Club. Apart from the half back combination of Paul and Westlake, A. Mills and his brother - sons of a former Devon County Player - were the usual centres whilst in the back two forwards destined to play a leading part over the ensuing seasons. Vic Brookes a strong hard compact no nonsense prop and Harold Sloggett a big powerful forward described as "always the Extrovert a leader in all spheres, wonderfully fit and hard graft in the line outs and scrums"; he retained his fitness in the summer by playing water polo for the Plymouth Amateur polo team. Another forward dedicated to fitness was hooker George Percy who eventually retired from the rugby field at the age of 43. One of his latter day props - Jim Ross describes him as "hard as nails but he bled very easily and I nearly always finished covered by his blood". In days when players were expected to purchase and launder their own shirts at the exorbitant price of twelve shillings and sixpence - later rising to fifteen shillings. George's propensity for bleeding might well have caused a marital rift to his props when it came to the laundering. Following the Plympton game 5-8 v RNC College II at Keyham (Westlake try, Beer converting), Kingsbridge 0-9 and Kingswear 0-3 "on the day's play Plymouth were the better side and were unlucky to lose by the only try producing one of the hardest games experienced by Kingswear". 7th November saw revenge against RNE College II 9-3, Argaum did the bulk of the attacking but the College tackling was deadly. The College opened the scoring but a penalty by Beer coupled with tries by Percy and Mills - after a brilliant solo effort clinched the game for Argaum. Naval Stores 20-0 (tries Keen 2, Mills 2, Westlake and Ward plus a Ward conversion) - Paul and Westlake showed up well at half back, then 8-18 at Salcombe - Argaum were below strength and had three new players on trial. Mills scored a try in each half Beer converting one.
1927 opened with wins over ERA 9-3 and OPMs 12-3 ("the first fixture with the reformed OPMs") at Honicknowle with tries by Ward, Elliott, Blight and Mills, followed by 3-0 over Plymouth Corinthians Mills running the length of the field to score the vital try then - once again - Salcombe 0-12 followed by a heavy defeat 3-25 at the hands of YMCA. Balance somewhat restored by success at Kingsbridge 10-6 Mills 2 tries Beer 2 conversions, all in the second half Bill Pain a lanky well built forward who was to become well known to the Club - both as player and referee for Devon RFU, was responsible for one of Kingsbridge's scores with a penalty. Followed two scoreless draws v Plympton and St Budeaux, the latter a dour draw with defences supreme, finally 0-13 v C.Y.M.S. who proved fitter and cleverer.
This season saw the revival - after almost 30 years - of a 2nd XV, who celebrated their resurgence with a 14-0 win over Plympton Juniors meanwhile the first team faced somewhat more formidable opposition at Falmouth "attractive play" being a feature of Argaum's visit nevertheless the club went down by a margin of 6-0.
The team photograph shows that uncompromising character Vic Brooks as captain, H Ward his vice and includes such characters as Freddy Blight, Harold Sloggett, Alf Beer the Mills brothers (W and A) George Perry, Leslie Paul and Bill Westlake.
The outbreak of the 1914-18 war put an end to civilian rugby in Plymouth and not until season 1919-20 did reports of civilian rugby reappear in the "locals". The first ascertainable press news of Argaum is for 8th October 1921, showing a result Plymouth Argaum 3 St. Budeaux 0 so that it would seem the club did not re-establish itself until the second post war season. Furthermore, the re-establishment came from a rather improbable source - Plymouth YMCA RFC! C. S. Brewer, who was to become Treasurer, reports "we were playing as the Plymouth YMCA rugby club, with a home ground at Efford, when we were informed there was no longer to be a YMCA rugby club, nor would it be possible to continue playing at Efford. The reason ascribed was that some of the players were not actual members of the YMCA and in any event, did not attend the YM meetings regularly or often enough. We were loathed to disband, as we had the nucleus of a good team and if we could play away, it would solve the ground problem. The next question was a name for the Club. I remembered that in my very young days, there had been a club named Argaum, which comprised fellows in various walks of life and living in the vicinity of Argaum Villas, Stoke. Indeed, the main qualification for membership was to be a good chap first and a good player second. I proposed and it was agreed that we should become Plymouth Argaum, and so the club was re-formed." A variation of C. S. Brewer's reason for the demise of Plymouth YMCA rugby club is offered by T. May, one of the few who helped to re-form the club in the 1920s. "We went away to play Penryn on a Saturday holiday time with a further match on the Monday. We put up a pretty good show and intended stopping at a hostelry in Falmouth. The police demanded admittance after midnight and the bar was still open - the Monday match was cancelled!" This version has been largely confirmed by J. S. Mortimer, another member of the team, save that he attributes the late session to have occurred at Penryn!
There can, in any event, be no possible doubt but that from the ashes of the YMCA arose the phoenix of the post war Plymouth Argaum RFC, corroborated by the fact that for a period there were no further reports of YMCA results and included in the first Argaum selected side published appear no less than and possibly more than, nine players who had previously appeared regularly in the YMCA shirt.
Mr. Bonney was the first post war President, T. Jolly Secretary, C.S Brewer Treasurer and Tommy Heard - could he be related to the "original" Heards - a splendid stand off half was captain Tommy Hayman (Albion and Devon 1910-11) was trainer, committee meetings being held at his house and his good lady laundering the shirts. Amongst former YMCA players now regulars in the Argaum side were Messrs Beer, Blight, Burch, Beever, Daly, Keen, Perry and Thomas.
No fixture cards are available for this early post-war rejuvenation and all matches were, of course, played away Consequently, reports and results are somewhat spasmodic. North Tawton defeated the club 15-0; full back Alf Beer, who over the years put in sterling work, "saved tries in the opening stages". A contemporary describes Alf "he was bald headed and brave - it was marvellous how he could hold a ball and pull his opponents on to him, shouting all the time to the referee that he hadn't got the ball!" Possibly more marvellous, was to what extent the YMCA can instruct one! HMS Indus were beaten 5-0, HMS Impregnable 13-0, R.N. Barracks 8-0 and Salcombe 0-8 and 3-5 in the return - the first report of a remarkable series of results against the South Hams club. Results continued, with St. Budeaux 13-0 followed by a visit to Barnstaple where "Barum had out a strong scrum, losing 0-3 at half time, the visitors appeared to greater advantage with bustling work by their forwards and really giving Barnstable an anxious time. There was not a lot to choose between the two sets of forwards and Barnstaple hardly deserved their win by 2 tries to nil".
F W L Burch became Secretary and E H (Birdie) Partridge President in a season that for the first and (to date) only time Argaum won the Plymouth Lockie Cup. Of the earlier rounds, only one report is available, against Bere Alston at Plympton, who were defeated 31-0, the backs playing remarkably well with Heard outstanding. Tries by Heard, Cummings, Ward and Keen - two apiece - and a further try by Pearce who also kicked two conversions. The final was against Devonport Services A at the Rectory, Argaum scraping home by a try to nil. They owed their victory "to the smartness of their forwards, although it was Chirgwin the half back who scored. The ground was very heavy and handling could not be indulged in. Both sides made frequent attempts to give a display of this phase, but a forwards game suited the conditions better. Argaum possessed a fast set of forwards and a fairly skilful back division. They had the better of the game and deserved victory".
A photograph - compete with Lockie Cup in the foreground - taken at the Rectory after the game shows: E Partridge (President) G Cummings, W Hawke, F Burch, J Martin, A Hodge, C S Beever, F Blight, J Daly, S Ball, T Hayman (Trainer), F J (true initials J S) Mortimore, R J Dobell, A Beer (Vice Captain), T Heard (Captain), H Keen, R Trounce, C W Bracken, L Bonney (Vice President), J Pearce and J Chirgwin. Three members in the photographs are wearing caps, as to Mortimore, his is a Newton College cap so it appears unlikely that the pleasing gesture of awarding Argaum caps (which started as in the early 1900) had been revived. Of Argaum Lockie Cup experience, a contemporary of that time writes "having won the Lockie Cup, we withdrew the following year because of dirty (not just rough) play by certain teams".
Other recorded results during the season, were wins over Plymouth Ramblers and St Lukes College - both 3-0 - and 6-0 at Okehampton. At North Tawton in December a published team of Beer, Bates, Bracken, Hawk, Ward, Pearce, Heard, Cummings, Trounce, Brown, Dovell, Burch, Thomas, Nicholls and Keen, a very keen game resulted in a draw 3-3, Beer kicking a penalty from half way. The next report 9th February 1924 - a team showing eight changes from the North Tawton side lost 0-7 at Penzance, there being no score at half time but Penzance had the better of the opening of the second half when they did their scoring; thereafter Argaum did much better giving Penzance a strenuous time "Blight intercepted but with a clear run preferred to attempt a drop goal - which failed". There were defeats at the hands of Salcombe 0-12 and Newton Abbot Reserves 0-24. The one remaining recorded result on March 9th, produced an 11-0 win over St Lukes College at Exeter.