For the 19/20 season, we ran the club's Third Team (in conjunction with the Pirates) with a slightly different focus. Instead of a weekly fixture (which we have struggled with in recent years) we attempted to put out a team on the last Saturday of every month, with the hope that this would appeal to those who cannot commit to regular weekly rugby but haven't hung their boots up yet (you know who you are)! There were 4 fixtures in total (2 before Christmas and 2 after), along with a good social aspect to couple some delightful rugby!
The team is ably organised/run by Rich Hall, always arranging appealing fixtures, including some 'away days'/coach trips whre suitably delightful hostelries are frequented, punctuating the return journey!
SO - if you're liking the sound of a run-out once a month, then please make contact with Rich Hall ASAP so that we can continue to build momentum and get more players putting on a Kenilworth shirt regularly!
Rich will communicate with the squad/group directly and provide more information, and can be contacted on 07506 722452 or email@example.com.
PIRATES - History and Philosophy
‘In The Beginning…….’
In September 1977, yet another season of rugby at Kenilworth RFC had commenced. The more senior members had delayed their start to the end of the month in order to allow the ground to soften a little. Still clinging to their visions of youth, despite staring menopause in the face, Jack Pilbin and Mick Wheatley travelled to Lichfield with the 4th. XV to experience their annual introduction to pain and oxygen starvation.
Having come to terms with relegation to 4th. XV company, they both hoped that some of the team could play, if not drink, and that some could drink, if not play. As it transpired, they were deeply disappointed on both counts. On an unpleasant afternoon, their unsmiling hosts took grim joy in administering a royal stuffing. After the event and over a plastic cup of tea and a shared fag, Jack muttered “There was only three of us in that mob who could play – you, me and that new kid from Rugby (Jim Turner, who had just joined the club and who was swiftly elevated to the 1st. XV). We can’t be putting up with this every week. We’ll have a bath and a beer and have a think about it……”.
So it was that the veteran twosome hatched a plan to form a 5th. XV, consisting of some mates then retired, some talented younger elements to provide some speed and cutting edge, plus hoovered-up left-overs of the 4th. XV. This, they hoped, would form the basis of a consistently winning side.
Enter such stalwarts as Chris ‘Honkers’ Holmes and Johny Coates, both ex-Coventry players, Mike ‘Dad’ Taylor from Coventry Welsh and ‘Nobby’ Hirons from Standard RFC – all soon to become influential in introducing further players from the Coventry catchment area. Also around this time, the 5th. XV metamorphosed into its more enduring imago – the ‘Pirates’ – befitting their future nomadic, rapacious reputation!
Among the Coventry recruits was the Pirate’s first international, Chris Wardlow. He would have been the Pirates first British Lion as well as he had been selected for the 1971 tour of New Zealand, but he picked a fight with Moggie Campton in a match playing for Northampton against Coventry, had his jaw broken, and had to withdraw from the tour! Chris would be followed in later years by Barry Ninnes (a One Cap Wonder for England), Colin Grimshaw (an OCW for Ireland), and Jim Broderick (Barbarians and England). Out of retirement came ex-1st. teamers such as ‘Ced’ Holbrook, also an ex-Richmond centre/fly-half, Bob McCleavy, ex-Broughton Park, Mike ‘Gropers’ Springthorpe, ex-many bedrooms, Dave Fish, Ian Watson and ‘Drinking Eric’ Kennel. The younger element included Simon Bloxham, Maurice ‘Moggie’ Bennett, Adrian ‘Prinny’ Prince and Paul ‘Pine Tree’ Donaldson. Unforgettable recruits were John ‘Tshombe’ Chambers, leaping in the second row complete with scrum cap and black waistcoat, and John ‘Dead Legs’ Gilbert, the lightning-fast hooker. This eclectic mix relied on the Midlands pool system to provide opposition and, consequently, became rugby gypsies – always travelling and rarely welcome. This, however, had the advantage of providing ample opportunities for the Pirates to drink their way home! The Club soon became aware of this lost revenue and so made every effort to provide a home pitch, despite running six sides on a Saturday at that time. When a home game did materialise, the pleasures of the Cow Patch were inflicted on a side whose aspirations still inclined towards running rugby.
At that time, the only pitch behind the Spinney Woods was the ‘bottom’ pitch – a bit of an oxymoron as it was principally bottom-less. Only ten years on from being grazing land, it soon revered to farmyard texture and odour in the monsoon season. Dad Taylor is still sure he saw a gun carriage and dead horses emerging from the ooze one winter! As it was illegal to lift in the lines-out in those days, anyone actually capable of leaping out of this morass received a deft nudge from the opposition, the nudgee usually spilling the ball and ensuring possession for the nudger’s mates. The counter to this ploy was the ‘tap off the top’ towards the scrum half, often guaranteeing the early demise of the No. 9 as the ball landed at his feet closely followed by bloodthirsty opposing forwards. Nevertheless, having racked up nine wins in the first ten games, Pirates rugby became suddenly attractive to more ex-1st. teamers, such as Billy Jenkin, Graham Fewkes and Taff Phillips. ‘Captain Beaky’ Wheatley was also penning a weekly report in the Kenilworth Bugle for the amusement of the locals, which caught the eye of Dave Castle, recently moved to the area, and of Notts., Lincs. and Derby experience. Chris Holmes, now vice captain and recruiter-in-chief for Coventry retirees, had also secured the services of Pete Jordan, a very large prop, Ian Darnell, a big second row, Robbie Cardwell, a fast and aggressive Ulster flanker, and Stevie Oliver, another lean and hungry flanker originally from Loughborough College. Later recruits included ‘Big Bob’ Orlidge, an ex-Bristol lock, and Alan Fisher, an ex-Nuneaton and Coventry centre, up-grading from Kenilworth 1st. XV.
The Pirates philosophy of rugby football as laid down by the ancient founders is perhaps best encapsulated by the first official fixture under the ‘Pirates’ flag. This was against Long Lartin, a maximum security prison housing at the time one of the Kray twins and John McVicar. The Pirates suspected the fixture was only arranged as the opposition weren’t in a position to cancel pleading previous engagements! Long Lartin’s captain and team organiser was one of the warders, a Mr. Barraclough (no, not that one), who was an ex-rugby league player with a car crash face, Neanderthal body and a forgiving nature. Watched by a few dozen lags, several wardens and some hungry Alsatians, the game was going well until a scuffle broke out on the touch line, apparently caused by bets on a conversion attempt. A couple of heavies minding the bookie defused the situation. The next incident actually took place on the field, caused by Jack Pilbin tipping a scrum and occasioning a small brawl, calmed by a very apprehensive Society referee. Jack, however, found himself grasped warmly by the throat by Mr. Barraclough’s very large hairy hand and, broken nose to broken nose, the latter was heard to enquire of Jack if he was trying to cause a riot or was just being a bleeding nuisance? “Sorry, Sir” was Jack’s meek reply.
Nevertheless, it couldn’t have gone too badly, as, after cups of some very dubious tea and HMG sandwiches, the Pirates were invited back for a Boxing Day fixture. That game would give rise to further Pirate tales, woven around how the lags played rugby that day fuelled by an alcoholic concoction of potato peelings and boot polish!
The results of these epic clashes? Probably immaterial according to Pirates philosophy, but the more curious and numerate can find them elsewhere on this site under Match Reports. ‘The Later Years…….’
The Pirates have proved to be a lasting phenomenon, if mostly in aspiration rather than performance. Saturday sides were being fielded right up to the mid-1990s, fed by regular injections of ex-1st. team players. Notable among these were ‘PC Plod’ - Bruce Doe – a judicious 2nd. row with a calming influence in moments of on-field stress, and Captain Beaky’s brother, Chris Wheatley, who had previously played for Coventry and Warwickshire, and joined the Pirates in 1983. “The best centre never to play for England”, according to one who should know – David Duckham. Meanwhile, Beaky himself had given up the captaincy at the end of the 1982 season, pleading the need to spend more time with his family and had gone to play at Harbury for a season’s sabbatical. His tenure as captain hadn’t been helped by significant opposition to the Pirates concept from Kenilworth RFC ‘alickadoos’ with accusations of a “club within a club” being thrown around. The accusations were mainly based on the probability that the Pirates would stuff the 1st. team of that era. Fortunately, Beaky soon returned to carry on playing for the Pirates until 1999, while the poisoned captaincy chalice passed to, successively, Dad Taylor, Colin Turner and Alan Pare.
The on-set of professionalism in rugby in the mid-90s began to spell the end for regular Pirate appearances - not, it must be said, because of recruitment demands for Pirates from semi-professional sides! These sides ‘required’ increasing numbers of substitutes to sit on the touchlines, almost instantly reducing the pool of available players, and, as a consequence, cutting the numbers of sides clubs were able to turn out. The Pirates thus began to suffer from a shortage of recruits and opposition and became principally a touring side.
Tours had begun in 1983 with Bideford 1. Bideford 3 took place in 2008 on the 25th. anniversary of the first tour! In between, Bob McCleavy and Robbie Cardwell organised annual tours ranging from Darlington to Sidmouth, and from Llandudno to Scarborough. In recent years, tour management has fallen on the narrow shoulders of ‘Perky’ – Paddy Flavelle – whose deliberate mistakes in organisation are glumly awaited by the tourists as the end result is usually a mis-match against 20 year olds. Pirates skills are still in evidence, however; often from ‘Pinky’ – Glyn Owen – another ex-Coventry centre/fly half, whose nickname reflects his inseparability from Perky and probably, being Welsh and a teacher, his politics. Another comparative stripling is ‘Benno’, Mark Bennett, an ex-Coventry winger retaining some of his pace and all of his reluctance to part with the ball.
Some Saturday fixtures are still being undertaken, together with grander showpiece events such the 2008 game against The Wooden Spoon Society team, boasting one Martin Johnson in the second row. There is a photo on the site somewhere of Chris Wheatley attempting to tackle the aforementioned!
Ah well, on to the next 30 years………..
The later years
As alluded to previously, the years with Paddy Flavelle as tour supremo led to several volumes worth of hotel and fixture mishaps and many Pirates still bear the scars, both physical and mental. Chronology tends to get lost in the fog of time, but it’s important to mark some of the more memorable moments from the sublime to the (admittedly more frequent) ridiculous.
His particular talent was to manage extremes of delight and despair on the same tour; he was a walking oxymoron. For example, the hotel and environs in Lyme Regis were a delight, with the more literate and aesthetically aware Pirates taking a stroll along the Cobb for a reenactment of The French Lieutenant’s Woman. However, Flavelle had managed to secure a fixture some thousand leagues back towards Kenilworth which resulted in a rather crapulous coach journey and Messrs Wheatley, Brayshaw and Owen pulling fetlocks in the warm up. Bideford (the third time?) worked the other way around with a less than salubrious hotel but a splendid game in a monsoon, a victory and the warmest of hosts. CPW won the parrot and was forced to dig deep for fines as a result of having been seen chatting to various Devonian lovelies about his man of the match award. And who can forget CPW’s rousing pre match call to arms at Dorchester RFC (a mere stroll from Weymouth) where he scathingly referred to his comrades in arms (well, three of them) as Pinky, Perky and PC Plod and demanded that there be no aimless kicking. Of course, he sliced his first kick out on the full.
On a Northern foray to Southport, Flavelle was able to relax and celebrate a tour without apparent mishap. The hotel was adequate, the fixture well - contested and the clubhouse sing song a real hit with the octagenerian President’s wife. However the indubitable highlight of this tour belonged to David Ashworth. The team having been directed to a rather good real ale bar in the bowels of the Scarisbrick Hotel to toast a fine win, Dashy sloped off to relieve himself and to give fellow Pirates a rest from his endless tales of banking during the credit crunch. He re - entered the fray with a look of astonishment and the immortal words ‘Lads, I’ve just found Narnia!’ He actually had. The next few hours were very jolly.
Bournemouth was a splendid location with a hotel just off the promenade, but the issue here was the sight of the pale, sweating figure of Flavelle on the trip down trying to secure a fixture after the original opponents cried off. Having scoured all of Hampshire (and some of Dorset and Wilts) for a suitable match against like minded half cut geriatrics, he came up with a tough outfit from Southampton with a massive Fijian in their ranks. It wasn’t pretty. Our overseas trip to the Isle of Wight was a first and Teignmouth was memorable for a ref who couldn’t count and the anatomical wonder of a side stepping belly which befuddled poor Jimmy Middleton.
But Flavelle’s lowest ebb came on the visit to Scarborough. The game was superb, the hospitality excellent and Hoho made a new friend in Henry. However The Grade 11* listed Grand Hotel, described by the great architectural historian Pevsner as ‘a high Victorian gesture of assertion and confidence’ was more akin to a dystopian vision of post apocalyptic Britain. To begin to summarise its horrors would bring many a Pirate (PC Powell in particular) out in a cold sweat, a fit of the screaming abdabs and have them reaching for the absinthe. Some have failed to tour since. Our fellow guests from the hard drinking section of the Orange Order Marching Bands Association were a welcome diversion.
Other highlights included the ‘drop a goal and win a Peugeot’ tour to Whitby where the goth festival was in full swing and speeding Stephens missed his train and the splendid Berry Head Hotel in Brixham when poor Paddy, having booked a hotel worth staying in, was forced by difficult canine circumstances to remain high and dry in Fillongley. He had, though, arranged for Brixham to have a very promising 19 year old flanker who pretty much ran the show. There was also the tussle with the Tenby Tongans where various uncles of the Faletau/Vunipola clan famously toyed with assorted Pirates on their way to the tryline; one memorable charge led to half a dozen attempts by our man Flavelle to halt an islander only to be fended off each time with a peremptory disdain almost as if he were a TV producer and tour organiser masquerading as a rugby player. In all fairness our hard man Glasheen came off second best, too.
But all good things must come to an end and it was time to pass on the organisational baton; indeed, it was a requisite for the future sanity of all Pirates. It was fittingly appropriate that our own travel supremo ‘If Only’ Carrick should take charge and, whilst not yet reaching the nadir of Flavelle’s worst moments, he has time on his side and has already indicated a propensity for left field hotel selection and strong, youthful opposition. The Worthing hotel was a good start but the opposition we faced at Hove RFC bore an uncanny resemblance to the Sussex Under 23 Elite XV. The Stalinist era brutalist architecture of the Holiday Inn Express on the Wirral was not to everyone’s taste nor was the decidedly non - coastal Mercure on the Tunbridge Wells bypass. However, the Birkenhead Park Clubhouse with a roaring fire, a splendid sing song and a generous Chairman was an inspired fixture choice.
It is, of course, true that without some extremely trusty lieutenants, PF and DC would not have had the time to plan and execute their various faux pas. Graham Ballinger has been a splendid treasurer and kitty keeper and Mark Bennett has generally maintained good form as pub seeker in chief. Pirates of all vintages particularly enjoyed his choice of hostelry with Turner’s Creek running through the sunlit garden. Tour court is a particularly enjoyable feature of our Sunday lunchtime pub stop and Dashy has taken to the role relatively ably with his deadpan wit and naturally sneaky ways. His predecessor as judge was the celebrated bon viveur and raconteur Wal Prescott who is sadly no longer with us, but his contributions to local rugby are suitably recognised each year in a memorial game against Old Coventrians.
In 2019 we also said goodbye to Chris Wheatley. Various tributes have been paid elsewhere to CPW but suffice it to say that he was the epitome of the Pirates’ values and ethos. He played on tour at the age of 70, scored a try with that outrageous dummy and almost immediately retired to the bar for a G&T. Legend is an overused epithet - but not in this case.
This darned COVID business has put a temporary halt to proceedings but we look forward to a few warm up games before a humdinger of a tour in 2022!
The Pirates are kindly and proudly sponsored by:
For more information on Kenilworth Pirates, please contact Dom Carrick on: firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07989 444438
Written by Mick Wheatley & Glyn Owen