The French Connection pre-WW1.

During the 1908-09 season, the Racing Club de France, one of the leading French teams of that era, visited Kingsholm to play against a Gloucestershire XV, which included eleven Gloucester players – Gordon Vears (captain), F Welshman, Frank Smith, Willie Hall, Lindsay Vears, “Father” Dix, Jim Stephens, Billy Johns, Harry Berry, Dave Hollands and Bert Parham – alongside two each from Cheltenham and Cinderford. The Gloucestershire XV overwhelmed their French opponents by 39 (6 goals, 3 tries) to nil. Frank Smith helped himself to three tries, “Father” Dix scored a brace, and there was one apiece for Lindsay Vears, Jim Stephens and Dave Holland; Welshman kicked the six conversions.

Two years later, during the 1910-11 season, the Gloucester Club paid the first of two visits to France, undertaking the long journey to Toulouse to play the Stade Toulousain team. This trip took six days, with departure from Gloucester at 2-25pm on Saturday (seriously weakening the team for the match at Abertillery that afternoon, a fixture which was honoured but lost 3-14, by a makeshift side sorry that they weren’t going to France), overnight stops in London and Paris on the way out, two nights in Toulouse, and another in Paris on the way back, before arriving back in Gloucester at 8-40pm on Thursday evening (but the players still had enough energy left to defeat Swansea 13-6 on Saturday. The trip was judged a great success, and was never forgotten by the players, who regarded themselves as fortunate to be selected in the party.

Gloucester also won the match 18-13 on 28 February 1911, scoring 3 goals, 1 penalty against 2 goals, 1 try. Holford, Pegler and Hall scored Gloucester’s tries, Cook converting one and kicking a penalty. The result was somewhat controversial, and the match finished with a hostile demonstration against the referee, who was none other than the Rev O E Hayden, a Gloucester Committee man, who had accepted the invitation to take charge of the game. Fortunately nothing serious happened, and under an escort of players and gendarmes, Rev Hayden was able to exit the field of play unmolested.

A team photo from 1911 has come to light.

During the following season, 1911-12, Gloucester took the somewhat shorter journey to Paris to play Stade Francais, and were away for only three days. It proved just as enjoyable, and resulted in another victory, 13-3, Gloucester scoring 2 goals, 1 penalty against 1 try. “Father” Dix and Arthur Hudson scored the tries for Gloucester, Lionel Hamblin converting both and kicking a penalty.

The match was played on Thursday 14 March 1912, and afterwards the Stade Francais club entertained their visitors to a memorable banquet. Gloucester travelled home the next day, not arriving home until the early hours of Saturday morning, which may have contributes to their rather dismal 0-3 loss to Cinderford later that day.

Comments about this page

  • Great to see the photo referred to above! 👆🏼 My great grandfather James Hamblin is on the ground second from right.

    By Nicola Merry (02/07/2020)
  • Hello from Paris,

    I have this picture fom your team during the tour to south-west France in 1911.

    This is a postcard published by “Le Republicain”, a local newspaper in Bordeaux.

    yet, 14 men and a little dog isn’t the usual composition of a rugby team!

    By Frederic Humbert (29/04/2014)

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