Fred Applebee recalls in 1971 - Looking
back sometimes it seems only a
very short time since, at tea time in our diggings at 9 Huntly Road,
off Sheil Road,
looked across the table and said to my pal Joe
! If I start a new club will you be the first to join ?”
is exactly how the
rugby club came into being.
On the last Saturday of September in
1907 a raw, but keen group of
schoolteachers stepped onto the field at Lower Park, Birkenhead in
their distinctive black a lime green hooped shirts. It was probably the
first representative game for the founder members of what was to become
Sefton Rugby Union Football Club.
Fred was born in Slaithwaite, near
Huddersfield in 1882 where his father was the Scripture Reader of St
James Parish Church.
Slaithwaite, or "Sla-wit" as it is pronounced locally is a picuresque
mill town in the Yorkshire Colne Valley, and as a child Fred must have
had hijinks amongst the fields, hills, streams and dams.
The family home, "Brook Glen" looked like a terraced abode but just
at the front of the property and its vista.
"Brook Glen" rear door, left
"Brook Glen" front door, left
Local entrepreneurs decided to take advantage of the coming Industrial
Revolution and in the 1860’s built a Mill. It would seem to be
the perfect site with a ready supply of water which flowed from the
fields & natural springs of Bolster Moor
View from "Brook Glen"
Slaithwaite Resevoir from "Brook
"The Quiet Woman" pub
St James Parish Church
Slaithwaite Cricket Club nearby
Fred excelled in Mathematics at
the first year of college in 1899.
As his father was born and bred in London, and with probably lots of
family and friends there, Fred had no hesitation in going to England's oldest teacher training college, the College
of St John in Battersea (founded in 1838). By 1904 he was captain
of the college rugby team.
[Above photos from public member trees on Ancestry]
After graduating from St John's he was
attracted to Liverpool as there was a chronic shortage of teachers and
good pay as well. He taught at Anfield Road School.
Eager to continue playing rugby he coerced a group of schoolteachers to
form a team in 1907. At
the inaugural meeting it was discovered that of all those present, not
one was Liverpool born. Some wag suggested that the club should be
called "The Aliens" and the name
Fred returned to Barkisland,Yorkshire for his marriage
notice his best man was Joe Fairley
(what a choice for a new wife too, dad's an Inn Keeper !)
Fred's schoolkids gave us great
insight into his military career in the
Fred served with the Royal Engineers
and left for European theatre
1915, he received the British War and Victory medals.
All playing activities ceased between
1914/15 and 1918/19, but on 1st
April, 1919, a number of the old players decided to make an effort to
restart, and despite great difficulties in securing a suitable ground,
and with only eight members definitely available, fixtures were
arranged for the 1919/20 season. Membership rapidly increased, mainly
due to an influx of old boys of Liverpool College, and the succeeding
seasons were ones of steady expansion. At a General Meeting held on
August 31st, 1920, it was unanimously decided to change the name of the
Club to "The Sefton Rugby Union Football Club," and after playing on
grounds in Deysbrook Lane and Eaton Road, a ground was secured in
Meadow Lane, where the Club remained until it acquired its present
ground in 1929.
Of those members who decided to restart in 1919, only Mr. W. B.
, who joined the Club in 1911, and Mr. F. J. Applebee, one
the original founders, are still actively interested in its affairs.
Mr. Applebee was
Treasurer from then until the end of 1933/4, and a Committee man until
the end of 1938/9. Their efforts were mainly responsible for the
acquisition of the present ground, but they received the active support
of all members and the numerous social activities carried on provided
the nucleus of the purchase price of the ground and pavilion. In these
years, five XV's were being turned out regularly each week, the Club
meeting most Lancashire Clubs, and, when it acquired its own ground, it
had reasonable expectations of attaining first-class status. However,
the spread of the game in the district resulted in the formation of
many flourishing Old Boys’ Clubs, whose advent was welcomed, but
activities severely restricted the sources from which the Club had
drawn its playing membership, and it was only by teaching newcomers the
game that it was able to maintain its membership, although the change
over from Soccer to Rugger at Oulton School, in which the Club had
taken an active interest, eventually eased the position.
The rich history of the Aliens RFC is
available today due to the
meticulous efforts of Secretary and founder member
Fred who recorded Committee minutes
fixtures, results, players
statistics and preserved the newspaper cuttings of the games.
Fred played cricket with a lot of his
rugby chums at Clubmoor Cricket
Club, off Maiden Lane where the Aliens originally had their ground.
He continued the post until 1926 but
was a majestic servant to Sefton
RUFC for decades to follow. They celebrated the retirement at Ye Hotte Potte
Fred was badly injured in a car
accident in 1932.
As ever, a strong mind is important in
recovering from trauma, here he is back at the wheel of his class at
Anfield Road School.
Echo 13th Jul 1946
The period from
1933-4 until the outbreak of the second war was one of anxiety as
considerable difficulty was experienced in meeting the running expenses
and the financial commitments entered into to repay
the annual instalments of the loan received from the Rugby and
Lancashire County Unions. Prospects for 1939/40 were favourable, but
once again war put a stop to playing activities.
Most of the players
were in the forces, and the ground was requisitioned
as a gun-site
Club's interests being left in the hands of its Trustees, Messrs.
F.J.Applebee, W.B.Croxford and H.A.Munro
[Fred was evacuated to Wales with his schoolkids in Operation Pied Piper
After the end of the War, prolonged
resulted in sufficient
space being secured on the ground for one pitch, and in 1945/6, with a
few of the pre-war players, a fresh start was made. Despite the
handicaps of a ground, which, from a playing point of view, had been
rendered almost impossible by the requisitioning, and the advent of
"squatters" in the pavilion, reasonable, if slow, progress was made.
Membership has increased, and although the results have not been good
in the three seasons since the war, a good club spirit has existed, and
the latter half of 1948/9 season, playing results were much improved.
Difficulties have by no means disappeared, but negotiations for the
restoration of the ground are being carried on, and, it is hoped, will
be successfully concluded in the near future. The Club is now, however,
as it has always been in the past, in the hands of its playing members
and of those former players who have continued their active interest.
It can only continue to exist if every player fulfils his obligations
by turning out regularly for whatever team he is selected, by paying
his subscription and by doing all he can, financially or in other ways,
to support all the activities entered into for the benefit of the Club.
[Fred's retirement in 1947]
Fred was an ardent newspaper reader
and often had his letters and
Echo 18th May 1964
Echo 5th Jan 1965
Echo 11th Oct 1966
Echo 25th Nov 1967
In the 1950's Fred's son David
followed in his footsteps and also played rugby,
at first for Hightown and Sefton, then on to St Helens (before they
merged with Liverpool).
He was also a spirited distance runner for Waterloo Harriers.
C. Applebee b.1924 d. 2017]
Dave Applebee was guest of honour at
the Presidents Honours Board ceremony in 1996