History of the Old Reptonian Golfing Society: 1924 - 2005
By David Pepper - Honorary Treasurer.
1. Golf at Repton
2. Formation -1924
3. The early years before the War
4. The last 60 years
5. The Halford Hewitt
6. Other Scratch Competitions
7. Other Contributions to Golf by ORs
8. The Future
1. GOLF AT REPTON
In the eyes of most people, Golf is not a true team sport and it is therefore not surprising that Boys have hardly been encouraged to play the game whilst at Repton beyond the occasional match against the Staff, the ORs and in recent years Shrewsbury.
However it is a game which requires infinite patience and control of the mind and there are many who regard it as wonderful training for a successful journey through life.
The Society was formed at the OR Dinner held on 7 July 1924 and no doubt the catalyst for its formation was the fact that 8 days beforehand, the final of the very first Halford Hewitt Cup for Old Boys had taken place in which Repton did not partake.
The aim of the Society was clearly stated “To arrange matches and competitions for ALL its members, not merely to collect a representative team for inter-school tournaments, and the longer handicap player will be as welcome as the scratch or plus performer.” These aims have passed the test of time and remain as relevant today as they did then.
At its first meeting JL Low (Brook 85) was elected President with JLS Vidler (Hall 05) Captain and H Meeson Morris (Hall 10) Secretary.
The Society was fortunate in having the patronage of John Low, a most influential force in the golfing world at the time. He had been a fine player who played for Scotland and reached the semi-final of The Amateur Championship in 1896 &1897. In 1901 he went one stage further before losing a stern battle in the final to Harold Hilton, only one oftwo amateurs to have ever won The Open Championship. As a golfing legislator he served on the Rules Committee of the R&A for 23 years from its foundation in 1897. He was also very involved with the Oxford & Cambridge Golfing Society and was the President who gave the Putter which is played for every January at Rye. John Low was appointed President of the ORGS for life in 1928 but sadly died the following year at the comparatively young age of 59.
Both John Vidlerand Meeson Morris had been Oxford Blues and were to become a formidable Halford Hewitt pairing.
3. THE EARLY YEARS BEFORE THE WAR.
The Society was clearly a success and by the time of its first meeting held on 2nd November 1924 at Moor Park it had a membership of 90. A decade later it had reached 240.
Early meetings were generally held at Rye in the spring and Stoke Poges in the autumn. Later meetings were held at Hayling Island, Bramshot and West Byfleet in the South and Formby in the North where Jerry Dodds was the organiser. In the Midlands, a meeting was held at Brocton Hall and in 1933 this was won by Max Pepper. The organiser indicated that he had neither the time nor the money to continue which lead to Ian Rayner, the Secretary, writing in November of that year to ask Max to accept the post of Midlands Secretary.Max was to hold one office or another within the Society for the next 50 years.
A concerted effort was made at that time to scour the country for a more representative team for the Halford Hewitt team and matches were organised against other Schools. A team was also entered for the Midlands Public Schools Meeting held at Little Aston where in 1936 Roger Bayliss, an English international, recorded a gross 141 for 36 holes, some 9 shots better than his scratch handicap.
Other good golfers in this era included RL Sykes, an Oxford Blue, Jack van Zwanenburg, Leslie Merton, Donald Piper, David Smyth and Michael Ivor-Jones. Donald Piper, who was subsequently to become the headmaster of St Anselms Prep School, holed in one at the English Championship at Deal whilst on his honeymoon. David Smyth recorded every game of golf he ever played in a diary and these diaries were recently for sale at £4,000! Much later in 1974, Michael Ivor-Jones was to win The British Senior’s Open Amateur Championship.
Other well known members of the Society during this period included HW (Bunny) Austin, tennis player, HS Altham and BH Valentine, cricketers and the Hon FSG Calthorpe, another cricketer was the Treasurer.
Plans were made for a match between the Northern and Southern Members of the Society scheduled for 24th September 1939 to be held at Church Brampton in Northamptonshire but it had to be put on hold with the outbreak of War.
4. THE LAST 60 YEARS
After the War, the Society slowly re-formed under the guidance of the new Secretary, Gilbert Reuss who subsequently handed over to Max Pepper in 1957 who was to act as both Secretary and Treasurer.
Max appointed Regional Secretaries in the South, Midlands and North with a series of managers to run various meetings and matches. In 1966 he handed over the reins to his nephew Richard as Secretary by which time membership had increased from 100 to 250. However he remained as Treasurer until 1980 when his son David succeeded him. Richard continued for over 20 years until his appointment as Life President in 1988. Bruce Knight succeeded Richard as secretary until he emigrated to South Africa some 10 years later when Richard Hodgkinson acted temporarily until Tony Bishop, the present incumbent, took over.
In the South, Gilbert Reuss remained Regional Secretary and by the time John Sale succeeded him in 1963 meetings were held bi-annually at either Addington, Worplesdon, Woking or New Zealand. John Sale was subsequently succeeded in turn by Tony Barnett, Robin Burleigh, Bruce Knight and presently Adrian Pepper. Several matches are also played each year against other schools including Malvern, Uppingham, Charterhouse, Shrewsbury,Sherborne, Marlborough and Westminster with John Fletcher, Patrick Franklin-Adams, John Ballinger, Robert Miller and David Griffiths being the current managers.
In the Midlands, Dick Quill ran the Brocton meeting until handing over to Tim Hampton in 1966. In 1995 Brocton advised us that pressure from an increasing membership meant that they could no longer take societies on a Sunday and we were fortunate to move to Little Aston where Philip Davies took over from Tim as the man in charge. Liam Foster is now responsible for the match against The School.
In the North, Alan Armitage and then Rummy Sale organised a Cheshire meeting now held at Delamere Forest and run by Malcolm Pennington for over 30 years. Additionally Alan Pentecost ran a meeting at his home club, the Notts GC at Hollinwell. When this ceased we were fortunate that Bill Burleigh had started a meeting at Lindrick presently run by John Wood. Tony Bishop also started another meeting at Alwoodley now run by Nigel Dickson. A match is also played annually at Formby against Oundle and managed by Richard Hunt.
There have also been weekends away with other schools in the form of Malvern, Uppingham and Westminster. The occasional special meeting has also been held at Royal St Georges and 2006 sees such a meeting in September to celebrate the appointment of Patrick Franklin-Adams to the presidency of the OR Society coming only three years after our own Life President had held the same office.
Finally, the postponed North versus South match eventually took place at Tadmarton Heath in 1968. However it was not played again until 2000 when the ‘Ard men of T’ North lead by Tony Bishop took on the Southern Softies lead by Richard Fry, the captain of both the Society and the home club, Littlestone. Subsequent Captains of the Society, David McIvor and John Hutton have continued the match.
5. THE HALFORD HEWITT
The Halford Hewitt is the golfers’ equivalent of The Arthur Dunn and The Cricketer Cup. Hal Hewitt was a gregarious Carthusian who also gave another Cup for Skiing. From small beginnings in 1924 with 8 Schools competing, it rapidly became full up with 64 Schools in teams of 10 playing knockout foursomes over 4 days in April at Deal with Royal St Georges acting as an overflow for the first 2 days. In the past 40 years only one new school has been admitted when Beaumont was merged out of existence.
From the early years right up to 1960, the winning schools were almost entirely Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Marlborough and Charterhouse. Repton, despite a number of good players, rarely progressed beyond the second round although it is worth quoting from The Times in 1939 when Bernard Darwin, its correspondent and doyen of golf writers reported as follows:
“Then came the real thrill of the morning in which Marlborough, the holders, only escaped with the skin of their teeth against Repton. It is always soothing to the vanity to find oneself a good prophet. This Repton side looked so good on paper that I boldly declared that they would nearly beat the terrible Marlburians, and they did me proud. Each side won two matches without much ado and then everything hung on the top match which was prolonged to the 21st hole where sadly Marlborough won in 5 to 6, an anticlimax after a glorious fight”.
Eight years later when the Halford Hewitt was restarted after the War, the first round draw once more saw Repton drawn against Marlborough and this time Repton prevailed! However the subsequent few years saw only occasional wins until early in the 1960s when a number of younger players lead by David Taylor, a Cambridge Blue and Geoff Horrocks-Taylor, a Yorkshire county player, began to play. It was then that the captain Donald Piper took the momentous decision in I963 to let youth have it’s head and picked a team of 10 bachelors with an average age of 24.4 and handicap of 2.7.
The statisticians have subsequently rated their chances of outright victory at 20,000 to 1. However after a comfortable win against Aldenham, they defeated the defending champions Oundle and never looked back ruthlessly dispatching such giants as Wellington, Malvern, Uppingham and finally Fettes by the narrowest of margins with Donald’s son Tim Piper hitting a glorious brassie to the 18th green to secure a one hole win and the vital third point. It was a wonderful week-end capped by the fact that Repton had won the Arthur Dunn the previous day.
Donald then handed on the captaincy to Tim Sale and it has rotated every 3 years ever since with the new captain being chosen by the previous year’s team. However many of the bachelors soon got married and success proved elusive for the next few years with only the occasional win until the mould was broken in 1969 when we were narrowly defeated by Eton in the semi-final with both of the last two matches losing on the last green.
Under the watchful eyes of Max Pepper and Jack van Zwanenburg, the most faithful of supporters, the 1970s saw a number of good years but we constantly failed to reach beyond the last 8. However in 1986 under the captaincy of David Pilch, we were once more successful, defeating the old enemy Malvern in the final with John Wood, playing for the first time, striking a wonderful 2 iron to the last green to secure a one hole victory and the third point. Only Bill Burleigh, Tim Hampton and David Pepper had survived from the 1963 team and they were also joined by Martin Kippax , Keith Andrews, Philip Carr, David Griffiths and Patrick Franklin-Adams.
Since then a place beyond the last 8 has eluded us despite outstanding performances from Philip Carr who has won 47 matches of 64 played and John Wood who has won 40 from 53 played. The long standing partnership of Tim Hampton and David Pepper came to an end in 1990 after 48 matches of which only 14 were lost. We do however have a number of promising golfers including 20 year old Myles Pearson and the captain Richard Hodgkinson, both of whom are scratch or better, as well as Pete Forster, Nick Martin and Mark Anselm which augurs well for the future.
Over the years several Reptonians have played in the Cricketer Cup or the Arthur Dunn as well as the Halford Hewitt but John Hutton, a past captain of the Golfing Society, and Peter Gill are believed to be the only ones who in recent times have played in all three. Patrick Franklin-Adams claims to be the only person to have competed in both Halford Hewitts -he also skied for Repton back in 1962 but sadly this competition is now defunct.
6. OTHER SCRATCH COMPETITONS
The success of the Halford Hewitt prompted old boys of other schools, who were too late to enter, to start their own competitions. In 1953 the Queen Elizabeth Coronation Salvers Trophy was started at the Royal Burgess at Barnton for Scottish Schools albeit with only a team of six per side. Always held at the end of September, they decided to invite a number of English Schools and in 1962 an invitation was extended to Repton thanks to a contact of the Burleigh family being a member at Barnton. This proved to a useful training ground and had much to do with the Halford Hewitt win the following year. Since then we have usually fielded a team and on one occasion back in the late1960s reached the final only to be beaten by Loretto. The present manager is Jeremy Cunningham.
In England, there soon followed a similar event, the Grafton Morrish played at Hunstanton and Royal West Norfolk GC at Brancaster in early October after qualifying rounds throughout the country in May. Again Repton saw this as a way of introducing its players to foursomes match-play and after many years of trying, 1991 saw John Wood, Keith Andrews, Richard Hodgkinson, David Griffiths, Robert Miller and David Frost prevail with the last two named pulling off a shock win down the final hole against the might of Coventry. Four years later the same team apart from Douglas Campbell replacing David Frost won again with Douglas and Rob Miller again doing just enough down the 18th hole to secure victory for themselves and the team to rob KCS Wimbledon of the title.
As former players in the Halford Hewitt grew older and lost their places, it was suggestedthat a competition for these players should take place inland and at a kinder part of the year. Accordingly the original 16 Schools were invited to send teams of 6 members over the age of 50 to play knockout foursomes over 2 days at Woking in July 1961 for The Bernard Darwin Trophy. The next 16 Schools soon followed suit playing for The Cyril Gray Trophy at Worplesdon and the other 32 now play for the Mellin Salver at West Hill. Sadly Repton have never won The Bernard Darwin having been losing finalists in 1971, 1985 & 2005.
As time moved on, so did the players and the age limit was raised to 55 with a Senior Darwin Trophy for those over 65 being started in 1988. Not content with that an 18 hole foursomes stableford competition was started for the over 75s called the Very Senor Darwin but affectionately known as the Terminal Darwin! Every School can enter as many pairs as they can muster and it is pleasing to report that Repton are the only School to have produced 3 pairs. It is thought to be something to do with the Derbyshire air particularly when in its first year in 2001, Edward Newsome and Harold Leeke won the event by holing the course at Woking in under 80 strokes.
A recurring name throughout the history of the Darwin competitions has been Geoffrey Fletcher who, having taken up the game rather later than most, has played in one or another in every year since he became eligible in 1971 and he is still going strong at 85 years of age.
7. OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO GOLF BY ORs
The immense contribution to the game by John Low at the start of the last century has already been referred to earlier. However the connection with the R&A does not end there because in 1981 Bill Burleigh joined its Championship Committeeto be followed by David Pepper andMartin Kippax. Subsequently David Pepper and presently Martin Kippax became Chairmen of this Committee responsible for running The Open Championship. All of them have also spent time on the Rules Committee as has Keith Andrews who is a current member, with David Pepper acting as Chairman between 1995 and 1999.
On the female side of the game, Sir Richard George as Chairman and Chief Executive of Weetabix Limited was responsible for virtually saving the Ladies’ professional game back in 1987 when he arranged sponsorship for the Women’s British Open which still continues today.
Richard Pepper, our President Emeritus, has run the Midlands Public Schools Meeting at Little Aston for over 40 years. He has also served on the Committee of Halford Hewitt and organises a number of events for the Senior Golfers’ Society for which Tim Sale is the Scottish secretary.
In recent years many ORs have served as captains of their own golf clubs and these are listed below with apologies to anyone inadvertently omitted:
Keith Andrews – Little Aston
Neil Andrews – Little Aston
John Beddington - Kedleston
David Bowett – Hunstanton
John Bullock - Trentham
John Coley – Blackmoor
Peter Cooper – Royal Worlington and the Lucifers Golfing Society
Myles Elliot – Sunningdale
Patrick Franklin-Adams – Walton Heath, Lloyds Golf Club and the Lucifers Golfing Society
Richard Fry – Littlestone
Peter Gill – Trentham
Tim Hampton – Little Aston
Geoff Horrocks-Taylor – Ogden, Halifax
Martin Kippax – Bolton
Robert Kirkland - Kedleston
Gerald Lanceley – Trevose
Dennis O’Neill – Luffenham Heath
David Pepper – Little Aston
David Pilch – Royal Norwich
John Walker – St Enedoc
Tony Wesson - Rye.
8. THE FUTURE
The Society is in excellent shape with over 300 members and the only thing it lacks is more participation from the younger membership who have a free subscription until they are 25. Furthermore the cost of any meeting excluding alcohol is limited to £25 for those under 25, and £35 for those between 25 and 30 years of age. The society is also able to give financial support to those younger members representing the society at the Halford Hewitt and other scratch events.
The aims of the Society have not changed from the outset and still include the arranging of matches and competitions for ALL its members irrespective of handicap.
All ORs are welcome and those wishing to join should contact our most efficient Secretary Tony Bishop.