On Saturday 18th May 2019, a granite stone will be unveiled on the Memorial Ground where it will be dedicated to the memory of all the local rugby players who left their families and clubs to serve their country and gave their lives in doing so. The ceremony of dedication and blessing will be carried out by the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Robert Springett and will take place at 12.00 noon to be followed by two games. The first will be started at 1.00 p.m. between The Cherrypickers and a combination side. At 3.00 p.m. it will be followed by Widden Old Boys versus Old Cryptians.
THE STORY OF THE MEMORIAL GROUND GLOUCESTER.
The junior rugby clubs of the Gloucester area first began to talk to each other on an informal basis during the 1890’s. Fixtures were arranged and day to day business carried out. It soon became apparent however that a more formal arrangement was needed. In 1912, the North Gloucestershire Combination was born. It still thrives 107 years later, despite many ups and downs.
From day one, it was the ambition of the combination to have a ground of its own, in order that local clubs would always have somewhere to play. Sadly the idea was to remain just that for many years. The clubs were understandably poor as individuals and any money raised was welcomed for running expenses and kit. The common aim that was a ground of their own stayed with them as the years went by; a vein that always united local clubs. It took someone with a love of Gloucester R.F.C. and an undeniable sense of duty to them and to junior rugby clubs, to give that vein a pulse.
Arthur Hudson was not just a rugby man. He sponsored and enjoyed different sports in different ways. He played cricket and was secretary for Gloucester Athletic Club. He took a keen interest in tennis, running 20 courts on land in Estcourt Road. His first love had been football and he played for Gloucester Albion on what was then the car park at Kingsholm.
Arthur’s debut for Gloucester as a rugby player was in 1902 and he went on to play until 1920, captaining the club 5 times. During that time he was awarded 8 full England caps. Following his retirement from playing he took the club secretary’s job and held it for many years. At the onset of the second world war Arthur saw it as his duty to look after the club in whatever way was needed. So successful was he that during the first meeting of Gloucester R.F.C. after the war, the committee awarded him an honorarium of £150. True to his word, Arthur refused the offer but he suggested that it be used to start a memorial fund to buy a ground that local clubs could use. The club took up the offer and a fund was duly started.
In 1952, seven acres of land were purchased in Tuffley Avenue which have for many years been home to Widden Old Boys R.F.C. and Old Cryptians. Newcomers to the game are often puzzled by the title “memorial ground”, but these days many do not follow up the question of what the memorial actually stands for. It had always been an ambition of mine to right that wrong and put a standing stone monument on the ground that could tell in words how the memorial ground had come into being. Using some money earned from the sales of my history of the combination, some sponsorship from Coors brewers and some money from the combination itself, it was decided to go ahead with the project. The news came as a wonderful surprise to me as I was on holiday when the matter was decided. Since then, with the help of many people, I have tried to move the matter forward.
At this point I must mention two people without whom this monument would never have been erected. Andy Payne is the current treasurer of the Gloucester combination and Dave Booth a former Chairman. They have worked tirelessly and continue to do so in order to make this happen.
Martin Slatter. North Gloucestershire Combination. 10 March 2019.