‘Right lads, fags out’ - a regular comment before a Millwey Rise game in the 1950s!
PUBLISHED: 15:12 05 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:12 05 April 2020
‘They won`t last five minutes, let alone sevendays’, ‘Axminster does not need two teams’ and, ‘For sure, they will not even finish the season’, writes Dick Sturch.
Those afore written words are some of the cmments that were flying around at the time of Millwey Rise Football Club’s formation.
What the people who made these comments failed to understand was the people of Millwey Rise never considered themselves to be part of Axminster.
Indeed, the majority of them had moved into the vacated 315th American Hospital just after WWII, very much as ‘squatters’ and became a self-sufficient community, reliant on themselves, with little assistance from elsewhere, and identified by others as coming from ‘The camp’.
When new houses began replacing the original hospital buildings of ‘nissen huts and converted dwellings’ the name Millwey Rise became more common.
The nucleus of players who eventually formed Millwey Rise FC had been kicking footballs around the old hospital buildings for several years previously.
Many games were played with the goal posts chalked on the large wooden doors of what had been the hospital`s Fire Station.
The first ‘grass pitch’ which was shared with Suzanne`s goats, now lays under the houses of St. Andrews Drive.
The posts and crossbars were cut from the copse that ran behind the top of the Estate. Then, having dug the holes and planted the posts, Henry Trenchard, who was much taller than any of us, tied one to the other and we were ready to go.
This was at the time of National Service, and, gradually, as they reached 18, several of the regular participants disappeared as did the spaces on which we played as new houses were erected.
The only club in town back then was Axminster Town FC and several of us cut our teeth playing for them.
I played for them as a 14-year-old in what was the Town reserve ream. I recall this was the time when low cut continental boots were replacing the old leather boots with nailed in studs.
Unfortunately, at that time I was playing in the latter without any hope of affording the new ones!
I decided to replicate this new style and painted my boots black with white stripes. It didn`t improve my footballing ability, but drew some interesting comments from players and spectators alike!!
During the early months of 1958 news went round that Millwey Rise were going to form their own football club.
Being only 16 I was too young to go into the ‘Trout Inn’ where this was being planned, but one of those involved was the new football colub’s secretary, Fred Sweetland, our next door neighbour, who kept me informed of its progress.
Landlord and former Royal Marine, Bernard Hiscox, who had previously played in goal for Axminster, became the club`s first chairman and provided some valuable assistance in getting Millwey Rise FC up and running.
Other members of the committee were Aubrey Lee, John Tiller, Fred Sweetland. Stan Trenchard was elected president.
He, together with his wife Daisy, became major fund raisers for the new club and woebetide anyone who wouldn`t buy a draw ticket from Daisy on matchdays.
The field between Beavor Lane and the Cemetry (where the Redrow Estate now stands) had been loaned to them by Mr Diment, the local farmer.
Changing facilities were a trek away in the Social Hall together with the regulatory ‘tin bath’.
The club’s kit comprised of short sleeved Royal blue shirts with white vee necks while the socks were blue and white hooped.
There was a competition for team mascot contestants with the winner being whoever sold most ‘penny tickets’.
Geoff Avery was declared the victor after being adjudged to have sold the largest amount.
His challenger, Barry Huntley, who is still a regular supporter, lost out by two tickets (tuppence) and is still, to this day, certain some skulldudgery took place before the final decision was announced..
Millwey played their first match on a sunny August 30, 1958 away to Thorncombe. The line up that day read: Bernard Hiscox, George Willets, Cyril Dickson, Dave Mitchell, Henry Trenchard (capt) Dave Thorne, ‘Perce’ Downton, Pete Stevens, ‘Sam’ Branker, ‘Skip’ Willey and Dave Hawkins.
It was not an auspicious start. The match finished 1-1 with Perce Downton netting for Millwey only to see the lead snatched away by a controversial ‘own goal’ attributed to Dave Thorne, although, to this day, he swears the ball never crossed the line!
Whatr is not recorded is what Millwey Rise goalkeeper Bernard Hiscox had to say about it!
The next match was home to Drimpton, their first on the new pitch at Beavor Lane. A new name was introduced to the team, 16-year-old Dick Sturch (yours truly), at left back, a position he didn`t relinquish for the rest of the season.
Millwey won 4-0 and their next match was again at home, this time against Perrry Street, who they defeated 7-2.
The crowds that watched these matches were incredible in comparison to today`s games. There would often be between 100 and 300 observing, all having payed their ‘threpenny’ (two pence) entrance fee.
That is, except for a young Jane Cawley (now Jane Bostock) whose parents owned Axe Vale Laundry and lived in one of the `posh’ houses on the opposite side of the lane to the pitch. She recently told me that she would sit on the roof of their garage and watch the matches.
Millwey went on to win the next 10 matches; 9-0; 5-2;7-1; 20-0; 7-1;5-0; 6-1; 10-2 and 7-2.
Their 12 match winning run saw them chalk up a phenominal 92 goals. The 20-0 was at home against a struggling Whitford side, who they later went on to beat 15-2 on their own pitch.
Another high scoring game was the 11-0 defeat of Kilmington. There was one blemish on the season and that came on a visit to Drimpton, where they were beaten 3-1.
The only other defeat was at Beer in a Devon Junior Cup game where they lost by a single goal after finishing the game with only nine fit players after both Henry Trenchard and Perce Downton succumbed to some ‘zealous’ tackles! Following the deafeat at Drimpton, ‘Rise’ wen on to win nine and draw two of their remaining games.
Their last league game of the season was at home to Thorncombe and a 6-1 victory saw ‘Rise’ crowned Division Two champions with the visitors left to take the runners-up tag. The same two teams contested the Division Two cup final and again ‘Rise’ emerged victorious, this time with a 2-1 final score.
Thorncombe were again the opponents in the semi-final of the Arthur Gage Cup which ‘Rise’ won 2-1 before going on to win the final 9-0 against Merriot Reserves in what is still a record in any final played for this trophy.
By this time, Thorncombe must have been well and truly sick of the name Millwey Rise, but they did have the league`s top scorer, the big and powerful John Davies who went on to play for Yeovil Town.
Pete Stevens was Millwey’s top scorer that season with 61 goals. Sam Branker scored 50 and Perce Downton netted 35. As a 16-year-old, it was exhilerating to be part of this success.
On some Saturdays I would play for Colyton Grammar School`s football team in the morning and then turen out for Millwey in the afternoon and once or twice was frowned upon for putting club before school!
A few things still stick in my memory from those times. The majority of the team smoked, so the referee’s final words before he blew his whistle to start the game include: “Right l;ads, gas out” and, when we were playing away, I can remember driving around various ‘pubs’ collecting players for the match.
The half-time orange quarters always seemed to taste so sour and I also recall, drinking alcohol after the first cup final success and later feeling extremely unwell.
I was also honoured, on one occassion, to ge chosen to play for the Perry Street League XI, but the game called off through bad weather, and I was never being selected again. To this day though, I have thee three winners medals I collected that season!
Many of the original team are no longer with us, but of those of us left will always remember them and that fantastic season.
I thought the late sports reporter Gerald Gosling summed up those heady days for Millwey Rise FC when he wrote: “Even now, players who have not kicked a football for years will stick out their chests and say ‘I played for Millwey Rise’,
It is a pride born, one suspects, out of the breadline years and the satisfaction of telling those waiting to gloat: “We told you so.”
(Many thanks to Perce Downton for his help with dates etc in the compilation of this article - DS).
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