Club History
History 3 of 3

3. Club History

IRUFC History

Part of the folklore of the club is founded on myth.

Out of the mists of time comes the story of an Anglo Saxon warrior, Elkfroth Udderhands, who settled in the area in AD520. This combative challenged Anglo Saxon, wearing a green and white hooped tunic with the emblem of an elk on his shield, is reputed to be a direct descendant of the forefathers of the club and has his picture hanging in the clubroom to this day.

You can believe this story if you want (we love it!) or the one that says the club as formed by a group of local worthies in 1926!

The original team played on a ground provided by the local colliery (mining being one of the main industries in the area in those days) and after match refreshments were taken at the Brick and Tile pub. The annual subscription was 10/6d (just over 50p in today's money) and match tax was 6d. The players were expected to provide their own kit with a shirt costing 6/8d and socks 3/3d, they also had to provide their own white shorts. In total this was quite a lot of money when the average wage was in the region of just £2 per week.

The club regularly fielded two teams and sometimes a third. The only competition then was a 7-a-side tournament in Chesterfield, considered to be a very long way when most people did not have their own transport.

The club's close association with the town of its name was evident from its inception; the IRUFC Ball and Supper was one of the four main social events of the area and was held in the Town Hall itself.

One of the most notable original players was Johnny Johnson who was later to become a very famous World War Two fighter pilot ace.

Indeed the outbreak of World War Two saw the club put on hold as the young men were called away. It was not continued until 1950. The pre-war secretary had come through the war and had retained the Club's funds and together with three other worthies held a meeting in The Rutland Cottage to revitalise the club and the journey continued.

The post war President was an Australian called Eric George (his father-in-law built the present clubhouse as the Stanton and Staveley Iron Works Sports and Social Club - it's a small world!) who retained his strong links with the club right up until his death in 1998.

The team played in emerald green and white hoops as it was the cheapest set available!

For their first game back half the Ilkeston team had never played rugby before but they managed a resounding 39-0 victory at a time when the tries were worth only three points. They played on the same ground but the colliery building was allowed to be used as the changing rooms.

It was definitely a time of DIY rugby. The 1st XV had to mark out the pitch themselves and erect their own goal posts and you were the most popular person in the team if you had a car for away games.

After a few seasons the Club was offered a 1st XV pitch at Stanton Ironworks where there were, for the first time, hot shower facilities; a great luxury!

The 2nd XV stayed at the original colliery ground but after their respective games they all met at The Stanhope Arms at Stanton-by-Dale, which became the headquarters.

In 1962 the council owned Gallows Inn Playing Field became available and, with the help of The Playing Fields Association, the Club moved there building its first ever clubhouse, which the Mayor of Ilkeston opened.

The pitches were regarded as being the finest in the Three Counties (Notts, Lincs and Derbys).

This clubhouse was extended 10 years later and in 1976 the Club held its 50th Anniversary Jubilee Dinner Dance; the guest speaker was John Taylor, the Wales and British Lion flanker.

The Club then built its own changing rooms next to the clubhouse and in the early 80's extended these, converting them into a new clubhouse reverting back to using the council changing rooms, which by then had been updated.

The new clubhouse was opened by Brian Moore of Nottingham, England and The British Lions. The old clubhouse was pulled down, some say only just before it fell down! It is still sadly missed by those whose miss-spent youth took place in it!

In 1987 the Clubs 60th anniversary celebrations included a match against a Presidents XV captained by Fran O'Neil, a well-respected figure in Derbyshire and Three Counties rugby circles.

The club spent the early part of the 90's looking for additional facilities as it continued to expand. It was now turning out four senior sides, sometimes a fifth and had a thriving youth section which met on Sunday mornings. In 1996 negotiations began with Stanton PLC with a view to moving to their Sports and Social Club, The Stute and the 1st XV played their first match there in September 1997 and the new clubroom was opened by the Mayor of Erewash in September 1998.

The clubs facilities have achieved national fame through the BBC series 'Playing The Field' an everyday story of a ladies soccer team. They have also provided players for Nottingham Rugby Club, who play in the National Leagues and several members have served the world of rugby football in the administrative field and have been elected to the presidency of Derbyshire and the Nottinghamshire Rugby Football Unions.

Ilkeston’s phenomenal National NPI cup run in the 1999 season, when they reached the semi-finals, brought another accolade. They had a beer named after them! The 'Elks Head' beer is brewed by Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham.

Ilkeston RUFC has a deserved reputation as an extremely friendly and hospitable club. In the 1998/99 season they were awarded the Whistler's Trophy (for making referees feel welcome) from the NLD Referees Society and the Tigger Price Award from Derbyshire RFU for being the club that did the most to promote rugby football in Derbyshire during the 1998/99 season (this the second time that the club was been presented with this award).

The Elks won the Derbyshire Cup for the first time in their long history the same season when they beat Derby and repeated the process the following year when they beat Glossop. They have also won the Derbyshire Annual 7-a-side tournament for two years in succession.

In 2000 the Three Counties won the Inaugural Plate Competition in the Tetley's Bitter County Championship and the Elks had the distinction of providing four of the side, two of whom scored all of the points.

The 2nd XV, 3rd XV and the occasional 4th XV continue to go from strength to strength. We have now formed a Colt’s structure and the Junior Elks turn out 11 sides from the under 7's through to the U17's and have almost 200 youngsters training and playing on Sunday mornings under their qualified coaches.

In recent seasons the Elks have been promoted four times and have regularly supplied players for Derbyshire and the Three Counties, both at U21 and senior levels.

Full details of the 1st XV league playing record since the 1998/99 season can be found on the club website.