1886- Founding Fathers, Golf Balls and Black Balls.
With mens and women’s time due for games against our first ever opposition Wimbledon in the near future I thought it might be interesting to head all the way back to the beginning and explore in more detail the very beginning of the club and meet some of the men who built the club from the literal grass roots.
It has already been established the key role played by The Cherry Tree Pub in which our founding fathers met and drank and imagined the future life of the club. More widely Hockey was on the up in 1886 with the Hockey Association founded in January (along with Arsenal football club). Swirling around in the papers in the year our club was founded there was a whole load of political turbulence largely revolving around events in Ireland with Lord Salisbury managing to put in two different spells as PM in a single year and Winston Churchill’s Dad Randolph resigned as Chancellor trying to call the PM’s bluff- a tactic that backfired and left Randolph in the political wilderness for the rest of his life.
In other events Crufts had its first ever dog show and February was spectacular cold and miserable (rather like 2021 in fact!).
But back to the hockey and to former club archivist James Lickorish to pick up the tale…
During the Hockey season 1885-86 three gentlemen of Southgate were enjoying their usual pint at the “Cherry Tree” discussing the attributes of hockey, it was decided to pay a visit to Wimbledon Hockey Club to see how the game was played and to assess the general organisation. It was stated, on reliable authority, that whilst watching the game one of the party became a casualty, being struck a severe blow on the head by a golf ball-they must have wondered whether this ‘assault’ was part of the game.
At their next meeting, however, it was agreed to send the following letter to influential local inhabitants of Southgate and district –
As it appears to be a very generaL wish in the neighbourhood that a Hockey CLub should be formed, we have arranged with that object in view, to hold a Meeting on FRIDAY THE 8TH, at the “CHERRY TREE”, Southgate at 3.3O p.m., which we shall be glad if you will attend, and endeavour to bring with you any of your friends who may be willing to join.
It is proposed that the game should be played in accordance with the rules adopted by the Hockey
A.L. Ford, Old Park, Winchmore Hill.
W.J. Phillipes, “Elmhirst”, Bycullar Park, Enfield
Eugene White, “The Green”, Southgate.
At the meeting on Friday, 8th October 1886 twenty residents answered the call and so the famous Southgate Hockey Club was formed.
The subscription was 10/6 (52p). The President – R.D.M. Littler, Captain – C. Warner and Hon. Secretary – Eugene White. Home fixtures were played on the Presidents Estate “Broomfield Park”. The first fixture was played against Wimbledon and was lost by 2 goals to 3. Other fixtures were arranged with Surbiton, Ealing and Molsey.
Electing new members to the club was carried out by the Committee and each member had a number of black balls and as each proposal was put forward a bag was passed around, should two black balls be inside the bag the proposed name was excluded – hence the expression ‘being blackballed’.
In 1887, it is recorded that agreement was made to use the Adelaide Pavilion in the winter, a local builder, Newbys, was paid to transport the wooden structure to and fro. About the same time the Hon. Secretary A. Eugene White was empowered to arrange for an erection behind the pavilion, at a cost not exceeding £3 for washing purposes.
The Committees first purchase, in order that the rules of the Hockey Association be maintained, was a 2″ ring; no doubt the Committee were making sure that the members were not using oversize home-made sticks.
In 1887 the club accepted an invitation from the Southgate Cricket Club to join them at their annual dinner – an important step as the Southgate Hockey Club moved to the Walker ground shortly afterwards. In 1889 it was agreed that a pavilion be erected 18ft x 10 ft with shutters and a corrugated iron roof – the cost not to exceed £21 the following year the Southgate Cricket Club paid 2 guineas for use of the new pavilion during the summer.
It was not long before the membership reached a total of 40 and three sides took the field every Saturday. Matches there played between the 14 best clubs twice a season. The Club owes much to Eugene White, an indefatigable member for 46 years, and it is difficult to assess adequately the value of his work.
For nearly half a century he worked unceasingly in whatever capacity he served: his whole energies are spent on the welfare of the Club. He was Honorary Secretary for 14 years, and was afterwards appointed Treasurer; in 1907 he was appointed a Trustee and in 1922 he was elected President, a position he held until his death in 1932. A Tablet to his memory was unveiled on the ground on 26th October, 1935.
The aforementioned gives an insight into the early times of the Club.It should be noted that from the 1900’s a great deal of hard work and organisation has gone into perpetuating the Premier’Club of England.’