Reunion will bring entire rugby team back together

Back row (l to r): John Fifield, John Grant, Martyn Wingate, Phil White, Keith Dingle, John Hopkins, David Thorp, Dick Kendall, Dick Churm.  Front: John Owens, Richard Simonsen, Peter Cunningham; Ken Bailey (capt); Chris Clark, Barry Squire, Keith Tomlins

Back row (l to r): John Fifield, John Grant, Martyn Wingate, Phil White, Keith Dingle, John Hopkins, David Thorp, Dick Kendall, Dick Churm. Front: John Owens, Richard Simonsen, Peter Cunningham; Ken Bailey (capt); Chris Clark, Barry Squire, Keith Tomlins

A Pompey forward heads the ball towards the Milton goal.  (Barry Cox collection)

From the heat of Egypt to blackberrying at Leigh Park

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These 16 rugby-mad lads formed a bond for life 50 years ago on the muddy playing fields of England.

As members of the First XV at Portsmouth Grammar School, the rigours of the sport and its even more ferocious off-the-pitch antics turned them into a band of brothers.

(L-r) John Fifield, John Owens, Richard Simonsen, Peter Cunningham, Ken Bailey, Chris Clark, Barry Squire and David Thorp at the previous reunion

(L-r) John Fifield, John Owens, Richard Simonsen, Peter Cunningham, Ken Bailey, Chris Clark, Barry Squire and David Thorp at the previous reunion

Now they are planning a reunion. All of them. They’re all still alive, have all been contacted and are all heading back to Portsmouth in September to rekindle memories of 1962.

Even more impressively, the lads’ coaches and former masters at the Old Portsmouth school are still alive and planning to join their old, now grey and balding, charges.

Ray Clayton, the one-time backs coach and head of geography, and John Hopkinson, the head of PE and head coach, are pictured here. They will be accompanied by Peter Barclay, who coached the boys in the second form at the end of the 1950s.

Scrum-half John Owens, who now lives on a Welsh hill farm near Brecon, has been one of the prime movers in organising the reunion on September 29 and 30.

He says: ‘We were inspired to do it because last year we managed to get eight of us together [the picture here with each player’s image from the original line-up superimposed beneath] and thought it would be wonderful to try to get the whole side together.’

That process has taken many months with team-mates scattered around the globe. Old boys will be returning from France, British Columbia, Sydney, Arizona and Kuwait.

The grammar school has switched the kick-off time of its First XV match at Hilsea against Churcher’s College from the morning of September 29 to the afternoon to enable the old boys to get there.

In the evening they and wives and girlfriends will meet for drinks and dinner at the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club, Old Portsmouth.

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