SARACENS FC (RFU) Outline History 1876-1926 (introduction and opening chapter)
When reading the pages of this brief outline of the history of Saracens Football Club, the reader must bear in mind that the records of the Club had been lost, and nothing was known of its origin and early years when this work was commenced. The disclosure of such records as are contained in these pages is for the most part the result of protracted search, and thanks are due to Messrs, F.W.Dunn, C.C.Reed, H.E.Reed, A.Barton, W.R.D.Keys, J.H.Williams, T.Sawer, J.G.Brodie, A.J.Wilson, and D.McMillan, all old Saracens, for their personal reminiscences concerning the respective periods of their playing days.
It is now proved beyond dispute, however, that for fifty years the Saracens have consistently supported the Rigby Football Union in its stand against professionalism in Rugby Football, but the great difficulty with which the Saracens have always been confronted is that of a permanent and suitable ground. Once this difficulty is removed there can be no doubt that the Saracens Club will continue for another fifty years and more, and it is to be hoped that the efforts of the Club Officials to acquire a permanent ground will meet with the support and success they deserve.
O.R.G.Williams 30th January 1926
The Saracens Football Club came into existence in 1876, when a few enthusiastic Old Boys of the Philological School, Marylebone Road (now Marylebone Grammar School), formed the club and procured a pitch on the Primrose Hill Playing Fields. Amongst the first members were F,W.Dunn, F.Turner, H, Turner and H.Carter, all of the St George’s Bicycle Club. The Saracens commenced unpretentiously enough, with just sufficient numbers for one fifteen, but, owing to the keen sporting spirit of its members, season upon season, the jubilee anniversary arrives with the Club placing in the field five fifteens. The advantage of a regular nursery from which to draw its recruits has never been enjoyed, and so it is that the Club’s progress towards its present position is not an unbroken series of successes. Indeed, its very existence was at one time seriously jeopardised, but the Saracens rallied together and preserved their Club until Dame Fortune once again smiled on them. It is not certain whether any Saracen was awarded his international cap, but it is certain that several Saracens played in international trials. The club, therefore, cannot boast a long list of internationals, but they have what is perhaps more important, and certainly more difficult of attainment and retention – Tradition. The tradition of the Saracens is well known amongst metropolitan clubs, of both ancient and recent formation, and in periods when games were more often lost than won that traditional spirit remained. Although the continuance of a club in a large measure depends upon the success of the premier side, yet this fact, whist being borne in mind, was not allowed to smother the spirit in which the game was played. The principles laid down by Mr G.Rowland Hill and his colleagues were seriously taken to heart, and we find the Saracens treating their matches as sport, pure and simple, with the better side winning, thus ensuring their opponents’ enjoyment of the game in the same spirit as themselves during and after the period of play. This, then, is the tradition of the Saracens. Come what may. The true spirit of rugby football predominates over all other considerations.
The first President was Lord George Hamilton MP, but, in accord with the prevailing custom of those times, the brunt of the presidential duties fell to the Vice-President, the Rev. J.R.Diggle, who was then a curate of St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, and subsequently became the Chairman of the London School Board. He was followed by the Rev. F.J.Jomini MA, who was also a curate at St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square. The Club colours were a black jersey with a red star and crescent badge, white knickers and red stockings.
Details of the playing record for the first season are lacking, and it is not until the 29th December 1877, that any record of Saracens appears in the Press. The Saracens then played and defeated the Crusaders by 1 goal (dropped by F.W.Dunn) to 4 tries (three by H.Blackburn and one by Avis). In those days a goal was all important, as tries, although an advantage in cases of drawn games, were of little scoring value as against goals.
The Crusaders, whose ground was also on Primrose Hill Playing Fields, were the neighbours of the Saracens, and despite ancient history, were very particular friends and rivals.
In 1878 the Crusaders obtained a new ground at South Mills Fields, Pond Lane, Lower Clapton, and enjoyed a very successful season, with wins against Primrose, Portland, Buffalo, Rob Roy, Clapton and Richmond Rovers. The Saracens also did well at Primrose Hill with 11 wins, the defeated sides being Alliance, Strollers, Victoria, Will o’the Wisp, Barbican, Bees, Rob Roy, St.George’s and Chelsea Institute. At the end of the season a meeting was held at St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, at which the majority of the members of both the Saracens and Crusaders Clubs were present, and an amalgamation of the two Clubs was resolved upon. The reconstituted Club retained the name and colours of the Saracens and took over the ground of the latter.
This amalgamation proved very successful in every way, as not only was the playing strength increased to allow a second fifteen to be run, but the Club’s affairs were safely in the hands of enthusiasts, who were already experienced in the onerous duties of a club official. The subscription was 5 shillings, with an entrance fee of 2 shillings.