The Story of the Siam Cup

On 9th May 1945, the Channel Islands were liberated by British forces following five years of German occupation. During that period, one object – now in the World Rugby Museum – had a particularly lucky escape. On the 75th anniversary of liberation, we bring you the story of the Siam Cup, a trophy with a secret.

Siam Cup

The Siam Cup is the second-oldest contested rugby trophy after the Calcutta Cup. It is a circular rose bowl made of Siamese silver and set upon an ebony base, altogether measuring 32cm in height with a 27cm diameter on the silver bowl. The silver is intricately decorated with figures of dancing girls and elephant heads. Around the base are silver plaques engraved with the cup winning teams since 1920. Continue reading

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The International Rugby Championship in the 1890s – Part 2

Last week we posted Part 1 of The International Rugby Championship in the 1890s, looking at 1890-1894. Now onto Part 2…

After Ireland’s unexpected Triple Crown in 1894, the International Championship opened in January 1895 with England facing a very strong Welsh side at St Helen’s, Swansea.  Influenced by the huge 36-0 victory by the South over the North at Blackheath in December 1894, the English selectors chose no less than 10 new caps for the encounter of whom nine including five new forwards had appeared for the South.  They also selected the South captain, the highly experienced forward Sammy Woods, to lead the side in his 11th international.

In contrast, Wales under the captaincy of the great centre Arthur Gould in his 21st international picked a very strong side containing seven players whose cap tallies were in double figures and just five new caps.  To considerable surprise, England won the match by 14-6 after scoring three tries in the second half during which their inexperienced pack dominated the opposition in front of a spirited partisan Welsh crowd.

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Wales v England, 1895. Artist unknown.

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#FromTheVaults – Melrose Sevens Medal, 1883

On 28th April 1883, a seven-a-side rugby tournament was played to raise funds for a rugby club experiencing some financial difficulties. The tournament would become an annual event – the oldest rugby sevens competition in the world. This medal, one of the highlights of the Museum’s collection, was awarded to one of the tournament’s first ever winners.

Melrose Sevens 1883 2006-225

The Melrose Rugby Football Club was founded in the Scottish Border town of Melrose in 1877. By 1883, the club was seeking ideas to raise finances. Ned Haig, who played for Melrose alongside his employer, the local butcher David Sanderson, suggested a fund-raising tournament in which an abbreviated form of rugby would be played against invited local teams. Reducing the number of players to seven-a-side and reducing match length to fifteen minutes allowed several games to be played over the course of a single day. The ladies of Melrose raised funds for a small trophy, known as ‘The Ladies Cup’, to be presented to the winning team. The final was played between Melrose RFC and local rivals Gala RFC, with the home team winning by one try to secure the trophy. The town is thus considered the birthplace of rugby sevens and it continues to host ‘The Melrose Sevens’ tournament each year. Continue reading

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The International Rugby Championship in the 1890s

The 1890s was a decade of momentous change in rugby union.  History has tended to highlight the adverse effects of broken time payments and the advent of professionalism leading to the formation of the Northern Union, but the growth in public interest in the game as shown in the rise of new clubs and venues and the greatly increased attendances at club and international matches were impressive.  This was epitomised by the growing importance of the Home Nations Rugby Championship throughout the decade.

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England, 1884

The first championship involving all four home countries had taken place in the 1882-83 season.  England won the first two titles outright thereby claiming their first Triple Crowns but Scotland soon recovered and, after sharing the title in 1886, won the championship outright in 1887.  Politics played its part even at such an early stage in rugby’s history and England took no part in the 1888 and 1889 championships.  Ireland made a distinctly shaky start and lost nine consecutive matches between 1883 and 1887 and, although Wales’ record looked more impressive, both Ireland and Wales won only 3 of their first 16 matches between 1883 and 1889.  England and Scotland were the dominant teams and their annual clash for the Calcutta Cup had become the most eagerly awaited fixture of the season by the end of the 1880s. Continue reading

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An Eyewitness Account of Wales v New Zealand, 1905

A few years ago we ran a 5 part series called ‘Rugby’s Greatest Upsets’, which included an article on the Wales v New Zealand match in Cardiff on 16th December 1905.

Today we are sharing an eyewitness account of the same match, extracted from the 1948 book ‘Rugby Recollections’ by WJ Townsend Collins (aka ‘Dromio’), who was a poet and correspondent from Newport.

The All Blacks’ Tour of 1905 had official sanction; the financial arrangements were considered to be such that the amateur status of the players would not be endangered; and the tour opened with two amazing victories—over Devonshire by 55 points to 4, over Cornwall by 41 points to nil.  I saw their third game—against Bristol.  They won again by 41 points to nil.  These three victories proved that the All Blacks were a combination of uniquely-gifted players.

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New Zealand tour party, 1905

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I remember when…

World Rugby Museum Committee Member Richard Steele recalls his first trip to Twickenham back in 1960…

I can remember it as if it were yesterday.  I was a six and a half year old boy having breakfast on an ordinary Saturday morning in London in February 1960 when my father came in and asked me whether I wanted to go to a match at Twickenham that afternoon.  I was initially speechless but recovered quickly to ask, “why me?”  It turned out that my mother was not feeling very well and so I was being offered the chance to go with my Dad and Uncle John, a former business colleague of his who was a sporting mad honorary uncle, to see England play Ireland that afternoon.  Having already become an experienced listener to rugby radio commentaries alongside Dad because we didn’t have a television at that stage, I said that I was more than happy to join him and Uncle John.

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Remembering Graham Budge – the Evergreen International

Aidan Taylor shares his research on Scotland International, Graham Budge…

When researching capped players for my local magazine (East Lothian Life) I discovered that some had served King and Country, others played for the British Lions. But only one combined both.

In Scotland shirt

The name Graham Budge isn’t well known even in the Scottish rugby community but for a brief spell he stood out as one of the best tighthead props in the game after the war. The surname comes from a great-grandfather who came from the Orkneys and settled in Leith, Edinburgh possibly in the 1840s. Descendants farmed in Berwickshire and Graham’s father Walter decided to leave the farm near Duns to sail to the new world, spending the period 1911-14 farming in Manitoba, Canada. This classic prairie country is central to the Canadian immigration story as families headed west to try out a new life in the unforgiving bare land. Summers were hot and winters unbearably harsh; Walter married a local girl half his age with County Durham roots and in November 1920, Graham Morris Budge was born, the eldest of three sons.

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Famous English International Tries in the Amateur Era – Part 2

Last week we posted Part 1 of our Famous English Tries in the Amateur Era, looking at 1910-1969. Now onto Part 2…

The advent of coaching and tighter marking of opposing teams meant that there were fewer runaway tries from the 1970s onwards.  Memorable Twickenham tries kept on coming though.  A remarkable “combination” try was scored by Harlequins full back Bob Hiller against Scotland in 1971.  A break from inside the English 25 by the winger Jeremy Janion led to the ball passing through the hands of five England players before Hiller followed up to score in the right hand corner.  It was the second of the three tries he scored that season from full back, an English record for full back tries at that time.

England won their eighth Grand Slam with a superb running display at Murrayfield in March 1980 but they lost their opening match at Cardiff in January 1981.  They then went on to beat Scotland 23-17 at Twickenham scoring two outstanding tries in the process. Their young centre Clive Woodward in his second international season scored a superb individual try in the first half by leaving the Scottish defence standing in a 40-metre twisting run to the try line.  With the game in the balance in the final minutes, Huw Davies the Cambridge University fly half on his debut ran 40 metres to score after linking up with his wingers Mike Slemen and John Carleton.

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Huw Davies during England v Scotland at Twickenham, 1981

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Who was Frederick Whitehead?

Frederick Whitehead (1853-1938) was born in Leamington Spa into a humble family of bricklayers, but his father had a strong interest in painting and set up an art restoration business from the family home. Surrounded by Leamington artists and enthusiasts, Frederick and his sister were encouraged to attend the Leamington School of Art, and subsequently studied in Paris before touring the French countryside together for inspiration. He is known today for his pastoral landscapes, particularly of Warwickshire, where he grew up, and then Dorset, where he settled for the remainder of his life.

Frederick Whitehead 1

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Famous English International Tries in the Amateur Era

Almost 800 tries have been scored by England at Twickenham in more than 320 full international matches over the last one hundred and ten years.  Most of these tries have passed into the rugby history books but a special few are still recalled as defining moments in their eras.

The first international at the new ground in Twickenham took place against Wales on January 15th 1910 and began sensationally.  England’s fly half and captain Adrian Stoop caught the Welsh kick-off and ran to link up with his left winger, Ronald Poulton.  Poulton cross-kicked for the forwards who secured the ball and gave it to scrum half Dai Gent.  He passed the ball to Stoop who passed it on down the backline via the centres Bert Solomon and John Birkett, and Birkett gave the final pass to the Durham winger Fred Chapman who scored in the right-hand corner.  The first English international try at Twickenham had been scored after just one minute of the match and England went on to beat Wales for the first time since 1898.

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Depiction of the first international match at Twickenham Stadium, 1910

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