Darlington Mowden Park RFC.
On the 27th June 1950 the Club received a letter from the Rugby Football Union which read "I am pleased to inform you that my Committee has accepted the Darlington Grammar School Old Boys R.F.C. as a member of the Rugby Football Union from 1st September l950".
This was the first milestone along the road which started in 1946 when the Old Boys of Darlington Queen Elizabeth Grammar School - mostly ex-forces - played some scratch games at the end of the l945/46 season, and began the l946/47 season as a properly constituted Club. Thanks to the headmaster we changed at the school and played our games on the school field. Force of circumstances meant we carried out our business and social activities in the Kings Head Hotel.
A combination of pre-war stalwarts and a growing stream of first class school leavers soon produced a very successful side. Winning the Durham County Third and Second Team cups in successive years (1949 and l950) we became a Senior Club. Our first County Cap came in the l950/51 seasons, and our contribution to the County Side grew rapidly until on one celebrated occasion we provided a third of the team. In l954 we won the Billingham Seven-a-Side Cup which, at that time, was probably the premier sevens competition in the North East.
In due course it was felt we should have our own Club House facilities, and in l955 we converted rooms above Williamsons Garage in Woodland Road, into cosy, if somewhat cramped quarters. Our initial capital was helped by a very successful sweepstake on the Grand National of that year in which we offered as first prize Â£100 - quite a tidy sum in those days. Our bar shutter was a splendidly appropriate painting on wood by the Art Master at the Grammar School, and it now very properly, takes pride of place in our re-furbished main bar.
In due course the rooms became too small, and spurred on by the threat of a sagging floor, we searched for alternative premises. Characteristically in l958, during the course of a pork pie supper at the Boot and Shoe, the Committee agreed to purchase a property in Victoria Road. This was a large terraced house on three floors, with a good cellar, and as the result of some splendid voluntary work by members, it was transformed into a Club House which is even now remembered with affectionate nostalgia by ex-players and their supporters from the whole of the North East.
During our stay in Victoria Road we celebrated our 21st Anniversary, we became an open club, and started a Colts Section. For our 21st we had a excellent game against a strong Headingley XV followed by a well attended Dinner at the Imperial Hotel. We were almost the last Club in the North East to "go open" but as soon as more and more school leavers went onto higher education, and did not return to the area, our source of players was drying up.
The story of Colts and Junior Rugby is dealt with separately but initially the introduction of the new young blood was something of a culture shock. One of the older committee men taking the Colts by bus to Consett had to endure a dirge like rendition of that mournful piece of monotony "Lloyd George knew my Father" which Started as the bus left town, and continued -- except for the period of the match - until it arrived back.
By the end of the Sixties circumstances were conspiring to shape our future. The building of the Inner Ring Road meant we would lose our Club House and the projected re-organisation of Education in Darlington cast doubts on our long term future on the School field. There now began a big debate which split the club, between those who wanted a Club House separate from the pitches, but still in the center of town, and those who saw our future in the development of Club facilities on the new ground. Fortunately, the latter view prevailed, and after exhaustive searches around Darlington, we had the chance to buy our present ground.
The first stage of development consisted of the laying down of two pitches, and building of changing accommodation. This enabled us to start the l970/71 season on the new ground whilst keeping Victoria Road as our Club House. The next stage was to build a bar and lounge, and we were able to move finally in November l972. The official opening on 4th April, l973 was by G. Tarn Bainbridge, and a game against a Scottish Border XV was followed by a buffet supper.
Subsequently we extended the Club House, and built a stand on the First XV pitch. This was important on two fronts. On the playing side we were now able to stage important games, and over the years, we have hosted County Games at Schoolboy, Colts and Senior levels. The favourable comments from all concerned suggest that we carried our responsibilities with some style. On 28th September, l986 we celebrated our Fortieth Birthday with a game against a County President's XV.
On the social side we soon became part of the neighbourhood, offering our facilities over the years to activities as disparate as Amateur Dramatics, Aerobics, and as a meeting place for an Over Sixties Club. The Club became a popular venue for social functions of all sizes, since we were able to offer a variety of catering possibilities.
When we moved to Yiewsley Drive we thought it appropriate, not least because we were no longer an "Old Boys Club", to change our name to Mowden Park R.F.C. This had always had the disadvantage of not being obviously connected to the town of Darlington, so, more recently, with permission, we became Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C.
We have now played on our present ground for thirty nine years, and inevitably the years have seen great games, and games readily forgotten. We have had good seasons and poorer ones. We have had to contend with the decline in the numbers coming from schools, and the consequent fall in the numbers of sides.
We are currently hoping for a move to a new development in the West Park area of the town, where hopefully a new chapter of the club's history will be written and remembered.
We have a lot to contemplate with pride, and have come a long way from our humble beginnings. Hopefully, we have a long way to go!