A question that has been asked time after time is “How and by whom, was the Collegian’s Club first started?”
The answer to the latter half of the question is simple – by the Collegian’s Rugby Club which was originally the Old Collegian’s Rugby Club, but became an Open club in 1938.
What will probably interest most people is what motivated the initial move and how a Rugby Club, with only 67 members, went about achieving its objective.
After the Second World War, the Collegian’s rugby players having no home of their own, did their training on the Old Bulwer Street grounds which is now the home of Merchiston School.
Facilities available were very poor, and certainly not conducive to maintaining good progress, added to this no certainty ever existed as to where the boys would be entertaining their opponents on a given Saturday evening, which invariably resulted in lack of cohesion, and control of players of the younger generation. This state of affairs irked the boys, and early in 1949 the thought of obtaining their own premises was first conceived, but as the Rugby Club was only just solvent this could at that stage not be anything more than a pipe dream.
However, some bright individual hit upon the idea of hiring the Members Pavilion of the Royal Agricultural Society in between the Annual Shows. Negotiations commenced immediately and after it found that the proposition was an economically feasible one, a meeting of the Club members was held in a room in Hesom Street with the object of forming a sporting club to be known as the Collegian’s Club, which eventually cater for the requirements of sportsman from most walks of life.
Under the Chairmanship of Mr Paul Randles the committee of 16 had to start organising in a big way. Requirements of the Liquor Act with all its complexities had to be compiled with, and ways and means had to be found to finance the project as a whole. A gift of 120 pounds was made by what had then become the Rugby section. 100 pounds was for the Liquor licence and 20 pounds for the initial stationery necessary. This was virtually the only direct financial backing that the Club had received from Mr C.A. Filday, who was the President of the Rugby section, officially opened the Club on 1st January 1950.
The rapid growth of the Club right from the inception was attributable in the main to the tremendous amount of enthusiasm which was engendered on both Sportsmen and Sportswomen. What was probably partly responsible for this was the fact that it was just after the war and a terrific comradeship was still very much in evidence. It soon became the Mecca of all Sportsmen and in no time at all the Rugby Section has been joined by Hockey, Badminton, Cricket, Athletics, and Tennis.
Mention has been made of Sportswomen but no particular sport specified – well, other than rugby, they participated in the lot and generally played a very important role in putting the Club on the map.
With the influx of the new sub-sections it soon became very obvious to all that pastures new would have to be sought as no structural alterations to benefit the Club could be undertaken unless they suited the Landlords as well. Being two entirely different organisations this was naturally rarely either feasible or possible, and although eternally grateful to the R.A. Society for the initial start given, it was realised from the inception the R.A. Society Member’s Pavilion could only serve as a stepping stone. The raising of funds remained the Club’s main objective throughout as tentative enquiries had revealed that the City Fathers would be prepared to grant loans to Sporting Clubs on the pound for pound basis as they were in fact providing sporting facilities that should, strictly speaking, have been provided by the Corporation, as is the case in a few open centres.
However, the site the Collegians Club now occupies was nothing short of a jungle when initially leased from the Corporation in 1955. After many months of exceedingly hard graft by the few Club stalwarts, the over 600 gum trees of various sizes which had laid claim the ground were removed by means of block and tackle.
By the time this mammoth task had been completed, the club raised R12, 000 by every conceivable legal means at their disposal. This was in fact matched by the corporation and enabled the club to proceed with the erection of the initial structure.
What the members had been striving for for so many years had finally become an accomplished fact when occupation was taken in 1957. The Club was officially opened by the President, Mr P.H.M. Franklin in June 1957. Sporting amenities then available at the new Clubhouse consisted of:
- An oval which could cater for both hockey and cricket and to a lesser degree athletics as well.Two concrete tennis courts.
- In so far as rugby was concerned we were indeed fortunate in having Woodburn No 4, right next door, but at least they had better change-room facilities which included hot showers.
The squash section was formed in 1959 with Bowls following in 1963 and the overall growth has continued unabated throughout. Many has been the occasion when the Club has been embarrassed as a result of inadequacy of accommodation. Further loans had to be negotiated to provide additional amenities of every description and as can well be imagined overheads soared. This inevitably had the curtailing effect upon expansion from the Mother Club point of view and it became necessary for sub-sections to finance any additional projects themselves. The Collegians Club is deeply indebted to a great number of people for the tremendous amount of hard work that has been put in over the years. It has essentially been a team effort and for this reason alone, individuals have not been singled out for special mention.
The Collegians Club
The early history of rugby in Pietermaritzburg can be traced to the introduction of rugby football at Maritzburg College.
The second Headmaster took over the school in 1868 and immediately introduced cricket, rugby, athletics, shooting, cadets and gymnastics.
In 1870 the first ever inter-schools game was played, on the bone hard Market Square in Pietermaritzburg, against Hermansburg School.
About the mid 1880?s a Mr. St John Grieve presented a cup for soccer and this nearly killed rugby in the Pietermaritzburg area, and then Maritzburg schools (Maritzburg College and St Charles) began to play codes (rugby and soccer) as did most of the clubs and British Regiments. There are Records of College Playing St Charles at both codes on the Oval at 2pm and at 4pm, both schools brought on four extra players for a game of rugby at 4pm. It must be remembered that in those years the numbers of boys in each schools very limited.
Mr A.S Langley joined the College staff in 1897 and was perturbed to find that the school was playing both codes. This very powerful personality saw to it that the playing of soccer was stopped and that rugby became the sole winter game. Under Mr Langley?s vigorous coaching College became a very strong rugby playing school, and with the assistance of two masters (Langley himself playing at centre and Loram in the pack) won the senior Murray cup in 1900 and the senior League Trophy in Pietermaritzburg, the York and Lancaster cup, in 1901. Hilton College is the only other school team to have won the Murray cup, this they did in 1898. In those days these two schools were allowed to play two masters when they met senior club sides.
Encouraged by the success of the College side, Mr Langley felt that an Old Collegians rugby football club should be formed. After an inaugural meeting on the 23 November 1902
the new club was formed on the 27th February 1903 with the president being EW Barnes (Headmaster of Maritzburg College) and AS Langley as Captain. Eventually, with increasing numbers of Maritzburg College Old Boys moving away from Pietermaritzburg it was decided
that the Old Collegians Rugby Football Club should become an open club in 1938, known as the Collegians Rugby Club.
The Second World War intervened and when rugby was resumed in 1946 the Collegians Club rugby players practiced on what are the Merchiston playing fields today. Early in 1949 the rugby club began to make plans of obtaining their own premises. With this object in view, a committee of 16 men under the chairmanship of Mr Paul Randles began to raise funds for the project. They received splendid support from the Collegians Rugby Club and other supporters, so that in a short time Mr CA Filday, the president of the Rugby Club opened the Collegians Club on New Years Day 1950. This social club has grown remarkably and is now the home base of a variety of sporting and social activities.
There is a very direct connection of the Collegians Club with the start and development of rugby in Pietermaritzburg through Maritzburg College rugby, the Old Collegians Rugby Football Club and Collegians Rugby Club. Long may the Collegians Club, the Collegians Rugby Club and Maritzburg College flourish.