Hamiltons was founded in 1875. No other rugby club in South Africa dates back to 1875. When Hamilton’s claims to be the oldest in South Africa, it does so with justification. Continue reading History of Hamilton SP RFC – Foundation
In the 1920s there was much negotiation with the Cape Town City Council for ground at “The Track”. Several sporting codes joined in the negotiations. In October 1921 Hamilton’s and Green Point Cricket Club joined forces to attend to the field, granted on a year’s lease by the City Council. The cost of levelling and rolling was £21. In those days there was great respect for the seasons. Hamilton’s would have its first practice on 1 April 1922, thereby not interfering with cricket. And that practice would be on the side ground at the Track, used by the WP Athletic Association which agreed to allow Hamilton’s players free entry to train. Then on 8 April 1922 Hamilton’s teams played Villagers teams in friendly matches. In those days members of the home club would referee the matches. The first team would practise on a Thursday – only. At the 1924 AGM Oupa Versfeld chastised the Club for practising only once a week. In his day – a phrase nobody ever wants to hear – the players went up Table Mountain every week and trained every night.
On 8 May 1922 Jock Haswell informed the Club’s committee that it had obtained the use of the new ground – between Fort Wynard and the Somerset Hospital – at a rental of £1 per annum. That year the groundsman’s wages were 25/- (25 shillings) per week and he received a bonus of £2. The military authorities allowed the Club to connect up to their water main with meter and piping. The City Council laid the piping and installed the meter for £13 7s 6d, an amount shared with Green Point CC. The military also allowed them the use of a hut on the field, to which a shower was installed at a cost of £12. Gun fittings had to be removed and the first estimate of doing the job was £10, then it was £4, and finally the SA Railways & Harbours did the job for £1 2s 6d to which Fred Burmeister added tips to the value of 17/6! Hamiltons was happy, till it turned out that that amount had covered labour only and the SAR&H then charged an additional £5.
In 1923 Hamilton’s gained permanent use of The Track as its home ground.
Committee meetings in the 1920s were held at The Track, but the AGM was held in the Manchester Hotel.
Having acquired the ground next to the Track, Hamilton’s and Green Point CC moved the next year to take over the Track itself. The combined delegation, led by Maj. GB Brand, went to see the City Council when the YMCA’s lease of the ground expired. They were supported by the Amateur Sports Federation. The two bodies, referred to as “the Amalgamated Club”, were offered a ten-year lease from 1 August 1924. The two clubs formed a Board of Control. They were close, sharing a ball that year. In fact the Board of Control was financed partly by a series of dances held in the Sea Point town hall. In April that year a “gang of convicts” was hired at 15/- a day for a week to work on the ground. The leading light for Hamiltons in this matter was the chairman, WE Lawton.
After World War II the clubhouse needed renovating and lucky cards were sold at 6d each to raise funds. Members spent time working to improve the clubhouse, so much so that the captain of the 2nd XV used working in the clubhouse as an excuse for poor attendance at practices. Some members of the committee “expressed concern” when beer was served in the clubhouse. They “hoped that this privilege would not be abused”. Later Bo Wintle would suggest that the Club apply for a “malt licence” so that beer could be sold. Graham McGregor had a friend in the Liquor Branch of the SA Police, from whom he would find out procedures. When the committee discussed the matter, it was decided that neither wine nor spirits would be served. There was disagreement about serving beer, John Appleton leading the charge against its availability. It was agreed to investigate a licence for the sale of beer. Appleton was “strongly opposed”: to any such action. The clubhouse was used for meetings in 1949, after the purchase of 12 tables and 48 chairs.
As early as 1875 the Club decided on colours. In those early days club members frequently played amongst themselves in various kinds of teams – Colonial Born vs Home Born, Ugly vs Handsome, Married vs Unmarried , for example. But in 1875 Hamiltons had opponents and the opponents had colours. Bishops wore dark blue jerseys – for practical reasons. These boys played in shirts which were not very hardy and so some bright fellow decided to use the rough dark blue jerseys which workmen on ships used and in many cases still use. Bishops had jerseys and so SACS decided to get jerseys as well. They went off to Porter Hodgson’s in Adderley Street. The only jerseys they had in stock – and in only two sizes – were those with blue and white hoops. That’s how SACS, and subsequently Western Province, got their colours. The Western Province jersey would develop a mystique, but in fact its unromantic ancestor was the only jersey design the shop had!
Hamiltons was far more systematic. One must bear in mind that at that time there was a limited assortment of colours and materials available and coloured materials were brought from overseas. That is why it was easiest to wear white and to dye garments a single colour. In 1875 Hamiltons colours were white with a bright scarlet sash from the right shoulder to the waist with a Maltese cross on the left breast. In 1878 the jersey was changed to white and scarlet hoops two inches wide. In 1881 the jersey was changed to orange, black and scarlet bands, first about 2½ inches wide, then 3½ inches wide. In 1894 the present jersey was introduced – three single broad bands of scarlet, black and orange. In 1910, with the amalgamation with Sea Point, the jersey was again changed to red and black in four broad bands with a yellow Maltese cross on the left breast. In 1914 the club went back to the 1894 jersey.
In 1875 shorts were white; in 1898 they became navy blue; and in 1910 they became white again.
The Hamiltons playing uniform has not changed since 1914 – apart from a brief (and ugly) flirtation with collarless jerseys in the 1970s! – and it has also retained its distinctive, striped blazer.
The Wanderers Club in Johannesburg, founded in 1887 when Johannesburg was just a year old, took its colours from Hamiltons. The first secretary of the Wanderers was Charles Llewellyn Andersson, who was knighted in 1922, a former Hamiltons captain. He wrote to Cape Town for a supply of maroon jerseys, but the only jerseys the supplier had were Hamiltons jerseys. Wanderers bought them and their colours have remained Hamiltons’ colours since. The Hamiltons Club in East London, founded in 1904, was, according to Ivor Difford’s history of South African rugby, named after the Green Point club. According to Syd Loubscher of Border, it took its name from the Duke of Hamilton in Scotland, whose family home, set amongst the East Lothian woodlands, is Lennoxlove, dating back to the 14th century.
In 1925 Hamilton’s and Villagers, believing it was founded in 1875, celebrated their golden jubilees. The two clubs had a joint jubilee committee to organise the celebrations. The Hamiltons members involved were AR Burmeister, JD de Villiers, WE Lawton, AJ Pienaar and HA Solomon. The Villagers men were PS Twentyman-Jones, WFR Schreiner, RB McIntyre, ED Tudhope and EF van der Riet. But the workhorse behind it all was Mrs Stephan.
The rugby match was played at Newlands on 2 May. The WP Rugby Union allocated 250 stand tickets for the clubs. Six teams played, including the Old Crocks. Playing for the Hamiltons Old Crocks were some famous names – Arthur Burmeister, Sport Pienaar, Richard Luyt, Alex Reid and Jock Anderson.
HRH the Prince of Wales, later the short-reigned Edward VII, was introduced to the two first teams. Newlands was decorated for the occasion – at a cost of £35. Hamiltons won the main match 12-4 and of the six matches Hamiltons won two, Villagers won two and two were drawn. The teams that day were:
Hamiltons: E Sonnenberg, S Robinson, C Keet, V Bosman, A Fish, J Tindall, W Humphreys, PJ Bayly (captain), KL Hogsett, T Kruger, W Swan, F Jameson, G Allken, R Scott, J Brown
Villagers: T Davies, PW Krige, G Findlay, JK van Niekerk, EF van der Riet, JA van Niekerk, R Brunt, FW Mellish (captain), J Findlay, AI de Villiers, HF Melck, R Archer, A Wood, J Shannon, W Hennessy.
The referee was WA Millar. From the gate the WPRFU made a grant to the Club of £125 for developing the grounds.
The committee elected for the jubilee year was as follows:
President: JGB Heyneman
Vice-president: A Blair
Captain: PJ Bayly
Secretary & Treasurer: JC Haswell
Assistant secretary: A Vercueil
Committee: DS Bam, FA Burmeister, LE Helm, CL Keet, WE Lawton, RR Solomon, JC Tindall
WE Lawton was elected chairman by the committee.
A joint Hamiltons-Villagers dinner was held that same day, 2 May 1925, at the Cadag Hotel at 12/6d a head. A Jubilee Ball was held, organised by Mrs Stephan. It raised the amount of £135 16s 0d. The two clubs combined to buy Mrs Stephan “certain silverware” purchased from Messrs Fletcher & Cartwright at a cost of £10 12s 6d.
Hamiltons ended the 1920s in triumph. The Club won the Grand and Town Challenge cups. The players who played were: G Michau, E Sonnenberg, G Pinchin, HW Morgan, A Uys, WJ Steensma, EHF Mellish, L Adkins, V Viljoen, AF Fish, A Zoutendyk, GH Brand, CE Louw, JC Tindall (captain), SP van Wyk, PJ Bayly, JG Siveright, D Doherty, AE Gordon, BL Osler, AE Herbst.
In 1932 the Club membership exceeded 750 and fielded 8 teams. But then more than 40 new members would join each year
The Union was founded on 30 May 1883 at a meeting in the Masonic Hotel in Cape Town, scheduled for 10.30 a.m. The man responsible for calling the meeting was FJ Aicheson, the Hamilton’s Secretary. The club representatives who attended were:
Hamilton FC: WV Simkins, J Miller, FJ Aitcheson, HJ Budler
Villager FC: RW Shepstone Giddy, JB van Renen, V Sampson
Woodstock FC: CWP Douglas de Fenzi, J Robb
Rugby FC: JT Apsey, J Tennant
United Banks: JA Cooper, M Burdon
These were delegates at a time when club affiliation was vague. CWP Douglas de Fenzi, for example, was the captain of Hamilton’s that year. He, Budler and Simkins were in the Hamiltons team that won the Grand Challenge that year.
Despite the preponderance of Hamilton’s people at the meeting, they elected RW Shepstone Giddy as the first president of the WPRFU with another Villagers man, Joey Milton, as vice-president. The additional members were Simkins, Douglas de Fenzi, Sampson, HE Tindall of Stellenbosch (father of Jackie Tindall), and WH Ashley of the SA College (SACS), better known as an opening bowler. Douglas de Fenzi became the first secretary of the WPRFU.
Writing in the 1930s, CGS Nicholson, a well-known sports writer, speaks of the Big Five who had run Western Province rugby up till then – Billy Simkins, Jack Heyneman, Louis Smuts, Bill Schreiner and Jock Haswell. Simkins, Heyneman and Haswell were Hamiltons men; Smuts was a SACS man; and Schreiner was president of Gardens.
In 1887 the WPRFU started to look for headquarters. Playing on Green Point and Rondebosch Common was not satisfactory. Cricket had obtained a ground from the local breweries and rugby looked for a dedicated playing venue. The men behind the idea were both from Hamiltons – CWP Douglas de Fenzi, secretary to the WPRFU, and Billy Simkins. They asked cricket if they could share the ground, but were turned down and so rugby went in search of its own ground. Shepstone Giddy, Billy Simkins and F. Robb of the Woodstock Club identified a piece of ground opposite the cricket ground. It was then leased from the breweries for £50 for the first year and £100 for each subsequent year. Newlands was first used for rugby in 1890. The Union eventually bought it for £2 500 in 1894.
In all of this finance was a problem, and the man who saw to it was Billy Simkins of Hamilton’s, who had become president of the WPRFU in 1889. Newlands remains the only major rugby ground in South Africa wholly bought and owned by the Union. For much of its existence – in fact till the presidency of another Hamiltons man, Jan Pickard – it led a precarious existence financially. The clubs had to chip in regularly. For example, when in the 1920s new stands were built and the field was swung round to run north-south instead of east-west, the clubs held functions to raise money. The president of the WPRFU wrote to Hamilton’s in 1921 to ask for help in raising money for “rebuilding the centre portion of the stand at Newlands”. In the days when the ground still ran east-west, the main stand was where the Jan Pickard Stand is now and the old Members’ Pavilion was in the north-west corner.
Sporting bodies often co-operated in ventures such as building a stand. The Union wrote to Mr HJC Stephan to ask the Metropolitan Golf Club and also to the Green & Sea Point Bowling Club to become involved. Hamiltons organised a “Stand Ball” in the City Hall, for which ladies worked on a committee chaired by the Mayoress. The Club also organised bridge drives, which raised £15 5s 9d, and suggested a seven-a-side soccer tournament to be played with a soccer ball. The lub also organised its own ball – at 15/- (15 shillings) a double ticket, and 10/6 (10 shillings and sixpence) for a single. Mark’s Orchestra played for 13 guineas (13 pounds and 13 shillings).
The first fully representative Western Province team won the SARB’s first tournament, held in Kimberley 1889. Billy Simkins was the manager of the side which contained other members of Hamiltons – Ben Duff, John Versfeld, JC Berrangé, A Darter, CL van der Byl (who died in 1922), Charles Versfeld and Marthinus Versfeld (whose nickname was Oupa).
At this time, as was not surprising for the South Africa’s first club, Hamilton’s had much influence in running rugby and in team representation. Top men in forming the spirit of rugby administration in the Western Province in those early years were Billy Simkins, CWP Douglas de Fenzi, Jack Heyneman and Jock Haswell, and later those such as Piet Bayly and Jan Pickard. For many years outstanding players, both Springboks and Western Province, played for Hamilton’s.
Between 1891 and 1910 twelve Hamiltons players represented South Africa. They were BR Duff, M and C Versfeld, PA Scott, CB Brown, TEC Hobson, JW Anderson, A Reid, ARD Burmeister, C Hahn and RR Luyt. Between 1884 and 1910 Hamiltons players who played for Western Province were: CL Andersson, CWP Douglas de Fenzi, DS Pargiter, JR Wiley, AH McLeod, RLO Versfeld, J Berrangé, BR Duff, B Darter, C Versfeld, J Versfeld, M Versfeld, CL van der Byl, CJ Jones, CJ Thompson, HT Jones, P Myburgh, PA Scott, P Butler, HC Wood, C Duff, F Scholtz, E Allen, G Butler, A Brown, J Jeffares, PJ van Reenen, CB Brown, JC Faure, TEC Hobson, A Reid, ARD Burmeister, J Dobbs, H Flockhart, R Pritchard, JW Anderson, C Hahn, WJ Mills, WJ Sleigh, EH Shum, RR Solomon and C van Vuuren – 42 players in all, a remarkable number at a time when provincial matches did not occur every year.
On 19 June 1875 the Green Point club played a match against SACS. On 3 July the return match was played. This time the Green Point club is called Hamilton Football Club. The first match between Hamiltons and Villagers was played on Rondebosch Common on 1 July 1876. The result was a draw as neither side scored.
For some twenty years the game at the Cape was Gog’s Game. Then along came two men from Britain, one a Villager and the other a Hamiltonian – Joey Milton and Billy Simkins. Joey Milton had played for England, as did two of his sons. He later became Administrator of Southern Rhodesia and has a famous school in Bulawayo named after him. Billy Simkins was a Cockney – born within the sound of Bow Bells. Those two persuaded footballers at the Cape to adopt Rugby School’s rules. Canon Ogilvie did not like the idea at all and Bishops lagged behind Villagers and Hamiltons in this regard. Hamiltons adopted Rugby Rules in 1878.
The first rugby match between Hamiltons and Villagers was played in 1878. At this time the number of clubs in and around Cape Town started increasing with the formation of Gardens, Woodstock, Stellenbosch, Malmesbury, Paarl, Worcester and Wellington. In 1883 the Western Province Rugby Football Union was founded. Its first duty was to standardise the laws and its second duty was to organise a competition. This was an important change for South African rugby because from then on clubs played, not just “friendlies”, but for two points a match. This happened a century before competitive games were introduced in England. South African rugby was competitive at all levels.
The Western Province RFU was followed by other Unions – Griqualand West (1886), Eastern Province (1888) and Transvaal (1889). This led to the formation of the S.A. Rugby Football Board in Kimberley in 1889, to co-ordinate the laws nationally and to develop a competition. Then came Natal (1890) and Border (1891), and in 1892 the Currie Cup was introduced as a competition for the first time.
It is worth recording that in 1886 another Western Province Rugby Union was founded – the Western Province Coloured Rugby Union, for rugby was a passion for many, especially those of the Moslem faith. Then they lived in places like District Six, Bo-Kaap and Green Point – and they were ardent supporters of Hamiltons – as distinct from those “agter die tol”, down in Mowbray, Rondebosch, Newlands, Claremont and Harfield Village who supported Varsity (University of Cape Town) or Villagers.
For many years a Hamiltons AGM would have a packed gallery of supporters wearing their fezzes – knowledgeable men who knew their players and were especially fond of the likes of Gerry Brand, Bennie Osler and Jan Pickard.
Not only was the game competitive in the Western Province, but it also had no qualms about charging gate money. Hamiltons were to play Villagers on Green Point Common in the late 1870s. Jack Heyneman went to see the Mayor of Cape Town and told him he intended to rope off the field and charge entrance. The Mayor warned him that this was not strictly legal as the ground was on a common. Undeterred, Heyneman recruited some soldiers from The Castle at a shilling a head, pegged out and roped off the playing area, and stationed a policeman at the only entrance. Entrance was a shilling for adults and 6d (6 pence) for children. One man, Christoffel Brand, objected. The policeman called Heyneman who told Brand to come in and keep quiet, which Brand did. The gate money amounted to £25. The expenses were £10 and the balance was given to the WPRFU.
The WPRFU instituted the Grand Challenge in 1883 on a knock-out basis. The first winners were Hamiltons. Twelve teams entered – Hamiltons, Villagers, United Banks, Malmesbury, Civil Service, All Comers, Mother Country, Colonial Born, Stellenbosch, Woodstock, Rugby and SA College (SACS).
Hamiltons and Villagers met in the first round on 7 July 1883. Hamiltons won one goal to nil and went on to beat Rugby (4-0), and Malmesbury (7-0) to win the Grand Challenge Cup which had cost the Union £25. The teams for that historic Hamiltons-Villagers clash were:
Hamiltons: JA Gibbs, J Biccard, AM McLeod, CWP Douglas de Fenzi, CL Versfeld, M Versfeld, CL Andersson, A Cassidy, CC Jones, J Cluper, E Rowe, JR Wiley, C Heath, H Butler, WV Simkins (captain)
Villagers: TE Lawton, A Peterkin (captain), E Stanford, WA Philip, RC van Renen, RB Badnall, RH Tredgold, CG Shea, AF Mostert, ET Ashley, A Bowen, DF Gilfillan, J van Niekerk, A Clisser, A Philip.
In those days the referee was a gentleman who sat on the touch-line and was referred to if there was a dispute. The captains would decide right and wrong. If they could not agree they would refer to the umpires, of whom there were two, one attached to each side. If the umpires could not agree they referred the matter to the referee. The officials for this match were:
Referee: HE Tindall (Stellenbosch)
Umpires: A Goodyear, S Couper.
In 1884, at the WPRFU’s first annual general meeting, it was reported that despite the “considerable” expense of the previous year, a profit of £4 5s 11d had been made – a far cry from the multi-million rand business of today. Ten clubs were represented at that first AGM. Hamiltons had three representatives – WV Simkins, AH McLeod and L Miller. The clubs represented were Hamiltons, Villagers, Stellenbosch, Gardens, Woodstock, Rugby, Diocesan College (Bishops), SA College (SACS), Garrison and Malmesbury. Paarl was to join later that year.
In 1884 Kimberley came on tour, a combined team and the forerunner of provincial teams. They played seven: won 3, lost 3 and drew 1. They lost to Combined Cape Town by two tries and seven ‘touches-down’ to one try and two ‘touches-down’. Their last match was against Hamiltons who beat them by a dropped goal and seven ‘touches-down’ to nil. Touches-down? Those were the days before the introduction of scoring. A goal was what really counted. Then there were tries – opportunities to attempt to improve (=convert) it into a goal. Then sometimes minors were countered. Minoring the ball was the act of touching it down on defence. A minor was also called a rouge. If you had a draw in your favour, rouges could win you the match.
Points were introduced in 1886 on the system used at Cheltenham College. The following table shows the history of changes in scoring:
|Year||Goal||Try||Convert||Penalty||Drop||Goal from a mark|
It was not a sissy game in those days. The list of Kimberley injuries is recorded as one fractured collarbone, one injury to knee, one injury to neck, one injury to shoulder, one sprained ankle and two knocked insensible.
In 1910 Hamilton’s merged with Sea Point. There had been other clubs in the area before that – Sea Point Villagers, Headlands RFC and Green Point RFC, all of short duration. Sea Point Club had been formed in 1900 by old boys of Green and Sea Point Boys’ High School after the school team had won the Schools Championship in 1899. The club made regular progress but lost players to Hamiltons. Nevertheless it won the Junior Challenege in 1909. At the suggestion of LB Smuts, the president of WPRFU, the two clubs amalgamated in 1910. Amalgamations are not easy. The committees merged, with the Hamiltons men in the more dominant role. At Sea Point’s insistence, the new club was named the Hamilton Sea Point RFC. The president of Sea Point RFC, A Blair, became the vice-president and their captain, Dennis Stoltz (whose brother, Melton, played for Hamiltons and Western Province), became the vice-captain of the new club. The name has stayed, thought the colours were changed for a while.
The Club’s greatest success after amalgamation was victory in 1914 over the Somerset West side which was a real powerhouse at the time with nine Springboks and three others who were provincial players. Hamiltons won 18-3. The Hamilton’s team was ARD Burmeister, CH Hahn, RR Luyt, W Bosman, A Roper, CFS Nicholson, M Scholtz, TM Moll (captain), S Glendenning, C Marais, D Bam, C Brodziak, R Flock, C Wood and PJ Bayly.