The Glory Years
The club finally had a fine place to play and Mondays were forever the training night at Sutherland Park. The bar would be open and it was the night that any Old Novo would come up for a drink and chat. It was also the night that the selection committee would pick all the teams for the coming week. Selection would take place on a round table in a room that is now the Ladies bathroom! A late night ‘Advice Card’ would be sent off in the post and it would arrive on a Tuesday morning, for the player to confirm attendance for Saturday’s game. It is also around this time that Old Novos began their fierce rivalry with Gosforth. Once Gosforth were established as the top team in the North East then it was the big game of the season, with big crowds and fantastic bar takes. Old Novos would play Gosforth at least twice per season with one always on New Year’s Day.
Sutherland Park was now our ground and another huge boost to Old Novos was that of W. Alexander, who had played for England vs. France in 1927. Other prominent players in the twenties and thirties for the Club were Arthur Norton, J. W. Martin, H. F Clements, J. I. Ayre, Hugo Jacobs, G. A. Clough, W. S. Paulin, E. K. Ferry, D. R. Cawood, W. L. Patterson, A. R. B Polsen, E. Paulin, A. C. Barker, G. H. Bailey, and H. Bewick. The 1930’s alone saw thirteen Old Novos represent their county.
With the coming of G. H. ‘Bill’ Bailey, Cambridge Blue, as a master to the Royal Grammar School in the mid 1930’s, the club took on a new and exciting lease of life. Bailey inspired not only the Club but the Northumberland County and gave them several fine seasons. The 1936 season taking the Northumberland side to the Counties Championship Final. With Bailey on that side were E. Paulin and A. C Barker. Old Novos too were playing better Rugby, and in 1933 reached the final of the Senior Cup against Tynedale, as they did again in 1934. Novos once more marched into the final in 1938 but lost to an aggressive Percy Park side by eight points to three. The 2nd team had perhaps more luck, winning the Challenge Cup in 1928 and 1931. The 3rd team winning the 3rd competition once and the fourth team winning the No. 4 competition four times.
E. Paulin and E. P. Wilson had the honour of playing for combined Counties sides against international touring sides, E. Paulin, probably the Club’s greatest forward played for Northumberland 28 times. September, 1939, found us at war again and just as great a percentage of the players were into the services almost immediately. The Club closed shutters and opened up again in 1945. Walter Dix called a meeting of all the old committee who were available and the club started up again in a very raggy state just fielding one side. The strength of the club slowly gathered again seeing the Club fielding four sides again by 1949.
It is fair to say that the driving force behind this upturn in fortunes after the Second World War was down to both Eddie Watson and Walter Dix. Watson was President from 1925 to 1948, whilst Dix was Secretary from 1926-1950. Some stints both and it was obviously difficult to change the President such that in 1948 the position of Patron was established to which Eddie Watson was promoted, and the bye law brought in that no President could serve more than two consecutive years. In 1949 the club celebrated their 50th Anniversary at the Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle.
One of the most prominent players of the post-war era was P. B. Reeve. Brian had the honour of playing for the Army, Combined Services, Cambridge University and the Barbarians. He donated his jerseys to the club and still feature in the original bar of the club house. Brian was also very close to being capped for his country after trials for England. Unfortunately, he had to retire from playing at an early age, otherwise what a centre combination the club would have had when his contemporary and fellow Barbarian John Elders joined in 1959. Brian however was still a tower of strength to Novos until his death, as he personally ran the bar on a voluntary basis for many years rarely missing a Monday, Thursday or Saturday.
Above: O.N.R.F.C 1st XV- Northumberland Senior Cup Finalists- Saturday 1st April 1933- Phtograph taken at County Ground, beneath terracing. County Clubhouse presumably not yet built.