A Little Tribute by D. R. Gent

D. R. Gent: English International and Member of the Club from 1903 to 1910

‘So it’s the old Club’s fiftieth birthday; well, many happy returns to it ! I sincerely hope that it will keep going for at least as long again, and that it will give its playing members in particular the great pleasure it gave me. I never tire of telling folk I meet in my football travels up and down the country of the extraordinary record of the Gloucester Club. That a small city of the size of Gloucester should have had a Rugby Club that has always been among the half-dozen leading sides in the country is an astonishing record. Look at the towns, two or three times as big – and more – that have tried to run a Rugby side, and have had to be content with poor teams, or, in many cases, have failed in the attempt.’

‘My delightfully happy days commenced at the end of the 1902-3 season, though as a humble spectator. I had seen the Club play many times before then – at Swansea, when Walter Taylor, George Clutterbuck, and Percy and Frank Stout were among the “stars”. In the close season of 1902-3, in April I should think, George Romans asked me to play for a scratch side he was taking, under the auspices of the Club, to play at Cinderford. I was then at St. Paul’s College, Cheltenham, and I was very excited at the honour, as was everybody in College for that matter.      I forget whether we won or lost, but two things I do remember; first, that “Channer” Westbury played well, and that there were easier sides to play against than Cinderford, at Cinderford. And that opinion remains with me now.’

FIRST OFFICIAL MATCH

‘My first official match was against Bristol, at Bristol, in the Christmas holidays of 1903, and when I look back I can’t help thinking that the Fates fully intended me to start seriously, with no soft games in which “to get my hand in,” as it were.  Cinderford at Cinderford, Bristol at Bristol, Blackheath at Kingsholm were my opening games. Oh! – that game at Bristol! It rained in a deluge, blew a hurricane, and was freezing cold. I was lent a pair of Gloucester stockings. They must have belonged to Hawker or some such heavy-weight, for I remember that after I had put my garters on, they hung over my boots! Then as they got saturated with mud, they tended to hang down well-nigh to my heels. I did feel uncomfortable, and looked it, I’m sure. At half-time, we implored the referee (F. W. Nicholls, of Leicester) to stop the match. “Play on, men!” was his stern reply, a phrase of his that was familiar to all players of that time, and “play on” we did.’

‘I believe we won by a try, but I suppose that I must have shown signs of pluck or skill or something, despite the weather and the stockings, for a few days later I had the first of a long succession of cards telling me that I was picked to play on Saturday. I was a proud man, I can tell you. The next match was at Kingsholm, and was against Blackheath. It was memorable to me because the Blackheath full-back was none other than H. T. Gamlin. I don’t mind confessing now that I fully resolved before the match that his tentacles wouldn’t embrace me! If I did get near him, there would be a punt ahead or a kick to touch! The match was also interesting in that the new Secretary of the Rugby Union, Wing-Commdr. S. F. Cooper, played on the wing and scored a good try, performing one of his famous jumps to get it.’

OLD COLLEAGUES

‘My career with the Club after that time is probably remembered by older followers of the game. It was one long pleasure to take part in the games, for they were delightful fellows who formed the side, though drawn from all classes. George Romans, Gordon Vears, Arthur Hudson, “Jimmy” Stephens, Lindsay Vears, George Matthews, Fred Pegler, Billy Johns, Jimmy Harrison, Ernie Hall, “Whacker” Smith, Bert Parham, and, later, A. E. Wood. These are just some of the names that come back to me. What times we used to have, playing good, clean football in all parts of the country, and having a rollicking time afterwards! I can’t help thinking that the Club was well served in those days, probably because it was well run (as I have no doubt it is now). F. W. Lovesy, Charlie Williams, Bobby Bingle, the late H. M. Taynton, the late C. H. Dancey, “Major” Worth, “Billy” Rasbach, Alf Kiddie, Jack Brookes, Arthur Grey, H. G. Brown – these among others saw to the administration, and were partly responsible for the pleasure it was for us to play.’

‘Then again, there was – and is, fortunately – Tommy Bagwell. The Club has been fortunate in its trainer. No young fellows could have been “fathered” by a more reliable, helpful, and thoroughly sensible man. I hadn’t the good fortune to see him play, but I know that as an old player his advice was always acceptable to me, and always given in a kindly manner. I only hope that the players attached to the Club to-day take advice as they should, and don’t get it into their heads that they know all there is to know, and that old men, at any rate, can’t teach them anything. There is a lot of that feeling in the world, I’m afraid. Some of us “old ‘uns” who are inclined at times to offer advice used to play the game ourselves, and at times, perhaps, played it well – they don’t seem to remember that. I remember with pleasure, too, Joe Cromwell, then assistant trainer, but now promoted to the higher sphere of Committee man. Poor old Harry Dyke is gone, I believe! It would be a funny old Kingsholm to me, without Harry floating about, and his famous horse not far away. They were inseparable, and were often to be seen holding earnest conversations with each other.’

THE KINGSHOLM GROUND

‘In my early days we changed at the White Hart; then came our pavilion, opened with great ceremony, and we thought we were a provincial Twickenham, as it were. Now, there are all sorts of modifications in the arrangements for players and spectators, but nothing need ever be done to the playing pitch, as good a bit of turf as is in the country. I honestly loved to play on it, and what with practices and matches, I got to know every inch of it. I think I could have found touch at one time standing on my head! And what about George Romans? His accuracy at Kingsholm was a by-word in those days.’

‘Of course, the most memorable match in my day was that against the New Zealanders in 1905. We had a very fine side indeed at that time, but we were too light. In the all-important middle of the field were Stephens, Harrison, Hall, and myself, not one of us as much even as 11 stone in weight, whilst my own “fighting” weight was, to be exact, 9st. 4lbs.! That was the chief reason why they beat us by a cricket score – they simply trod on us and went on! Then there were our “battles royal” with Cheltenham and Bristol. Rarely was there much football played, because feeling ran so high. At times one wondered what we had a ball for, as it didn’t seem to matter whether a man had the ball or not. Mind, I am not blaming anybody; we were all as bad as one another probably.’

‘As for individuals, Hudson’s dash, “Whacker’s” tackling, Romans’ kicking, Woods’s all-round play, Johns’s dribbling, Stephens’s taking of passes, and Gordon Vears’s language in his capacity as leader, are abiding memories. The “full-throated ease” with which Gordon used to urge on his men was a joy to listen to; the words were very native English indeed!’

ABIDING MEMORIES

‘Well, gone are those days, except as abiding memories. We only go through that phase of life once. I was fortunate in having my lot cast with the Gloucester Club, and I hope that players and spectators alike enjoy the Club’s activities to-day as much as we did. Good luck to the old Club!’

‘I had hoped to come and referee the game on Thursday, but have found it impossible at the last minute to be away from my school the couple of days I should need, so I shall have to be content with reading about it. But I shall be present in spirit.’

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