Orrell RUFC was officially founded in 1927 at a meeting held in the stables
of J C Simpkins home in Chapel St, Pemberton, Wigan. John Simpkin was a
student, and along with fellow students Jack Gaskell and Charlie Holt,
travelled daily by train to Liverpool. They were joined at Rainford by other
students and eventually challenged them to a game of Rugby Football. Two
games took place at Walthew House Farm, using soccer posts with wooden
clothes props tied to the posts to form uprights. The results are not known,
but must have gone well as two more games were played against Wigan
Collegians, and Wigan Old Boys 3rd team, both games being played on the
Donkey Field at Billinge. Captain for the day against Wigan Old Boys was
Bill Liptrot, who reported that the game was abandoned by the referee, Mr
Peter Gore a Wigan school master, when rioting broke out between the players
and spectators just before half time. So no change there then.
Among the founder members were J C Simpkin, Bill Liptrot, Charlie Holt, Joe
Gaskell, Jim Parker, Jack Gaskell and Frank Gaskell. Squire G H Banks of
Winstanley Hall accepted the invitation to be club President, J C Simpkin
was appointed Chairman and Secretary, whilst Bill Liptrot was elected
captain. In 1927/28 season 18 games were played, mostly away, the few home
games played were either at Lamberhead Green Council School off Loch St
Orrell, on a field off Orrell Road where the Premiere Travel Inn now stands,
or on the Donkey Field near Moss Rd Billinge. Due to this nomadic existence
it was a common sight to see the players carrying the posts through the
streets on match days, erecting them on the field, before marking the pitch
out with sawdust.
A tragedy during season 1930/31 occurred which could have put Orrell out of
existence just as it was getting started. On Saturday 21st Feb 1931 Orrell
hooker Ernest Derbyshire was injured playing against Blackpool Old Boys, he
was taken to hospital where he died the following day. At the inquest it was
reported that Ernest fell on a loose ball and was accidentally kneed in the
back by a Blackpool player, resulting in spinal injuries from which he died.
After a special meeting held the next week, it was decided to cancel the
next two fixtures as a mark of respect but to continue to play rugby, with
the players wearing a black diamond on their jerseys for the remainder of
the season. At Wigan Old Boys annual dinner in March, the chairman drew
attention to the fact that a shilling fund had been set up by Orrell, Wigan
Old Boys and Wigan Collegians RUFCs in aid of Ernests dependants, and asked
all to support the effort.
During these first seasons Orrell played its home games on quite a few
different pitches including the afore mentioned Lamberhead School field, the
Donkey Field off Moss Rd, and just off Orrell Rd at the Mount. Also used at
various times were the fields behind the Abbey Lakes Hotel and at Alma Hill
Up Holland, where the Old Dog Inn was used to change in. However in 1937 the
club obtained the lease of a ground and hut in Winstanley Rd Orrell as
tenants of Orrell YMCA at a rental of four pound per annum. Orrell played
here until in 1949 land was purchased off the Glover family of Edgewood Hall
Farm, and Orrells long association with Edge Hall Road began.
From the early 60s to the mid 70s Orrells main source of revenue came from
the annual carnival, held on the Whit Bank holiday weekend. It grew from an
idea by Eric Smith, and comprised of a dance held in a marquee on the Friday
night, a carnival day on the Monday, and the famous Orrell Draw. In November
1965 the committee received an offer from Bob Nicholson on behalf of
Pemberton Caravans, of the gift of a caravan to be used as the first prize
in the carnival draw. In order to sell as many tickets as possible, a watch
was wound up and locked away, with the winner being the one who estimated
the time the watch would read when it stopped. Sports clubs and
organisations all over the UK sold tickets, with them keeping a percentage
of the income. The money raised was used to improve the facilities at Edge
Hall Road, including levelling the First Team pitch and installing a
drainage system, making it one of the best pitches in the North of England.
It was at Edge Hall Rd that Orrell started to improve its fixture list,
which in the days before league rugby was very hard to do. Floodlights on
the 1st team pitch enabled Orrell to play teams midweek, whose fixture lists
were full on Saturdays. Then in the early 70s the Lancashire Cup competition
was re introduced, success in this gave Orrell entry into the national cup
competition, giving the opportunity to play the top teams in English rugby
and over the years many a top side came and went away empty handed. League
rugby came in with Orrell entrenched in the top tier of British rugby, and
in 1991/92 season only the width of a goalpost at Wasps stopped Orrell being
crowned English champions.
Professional rugby followed, but this resulted in the Club being put into
Administration and Edge Hall Road being sold to Developers, who leased only
the First Team pitch and the Club House back to the Club, before Dave Whelan
and his JJB empire purchased the lease and invested heavily in the team.
When he pulled out after three years, Orrell was always going to struggle to
pay players. Three of the four pitches at Edge Hall Rd have now been built
on and the clubhouse and 1st team pitch is the training base for Wigan
Sadly in 2007 Orrell said goodbye to Edge Hall Rd, and is now playing at
John Rigby College as amateurs, while we search for some land in the Orrell
area to lease or buy.
Orrells history is littered with great characters both on and off the pitch.
To name them all would be impossible but here are a few of those who have
contributed to Orrells success over the last eighty years, (with apologies
to the thousands of others who have helped in so many ways).
Founder member John Simpkin was first chairman and secretary, Bill Liptrot
another founder member, first captain of the club and president in 1977/78.
Other members who worked tirelessly behind the scenes in various roles are J
C Millar, Tom Shore, Jack Carrington, Les Farrimond, Alf Swift Jack Benson,
Eric Smith, John Hilton, Arthur Fisher, George Southworth and Bob Gaskell.
Members who helped on the various fund raising schemes are Geoff Taylor, Jim
Ashcroft, Jim and Pauline Lloyd, Frank Jameson, John Buchan, Graham
Winstanley, Fred McDowell, Dai Harrhy, and Kevin Dooney (did he ever play a
game without busting his nose?)
Former Orrell captains who are still members are, Alec Hurst, David Jones,
Des Seabrook, Peter PhiIIips , Peter Bayman, Bill Lyon, and Sammy Southern.
In 1946 Alan Ackers was Orrells first county player; Frank Anderson became
Orrells first international, and John Carleton Orrells first British Lion.
Many outstanding players have worn the amber and black of Orrell, in recent
years players like Dave Gullick, Simon Langford, Nigel Heslop, Brian Ashton,
Steve Bainbridge, Dan Luger, Dewi Morris, and Nick Easter. These mixed with
such home grown players as Eric Lyon, John Carleton, Peter Williams, Frank
Anderson, Jim Waring, Frank Littler, Barry Fishwick, Bob Kimmings and Dave
Cleary, to name just a few who came through on the conveyer belt of talent
from the lower teams. With these players, together with the various captains
and the many others who played, it is not hard to see why Orrell had so much
Orrell has had many very successful sides at all levels of rugby, none more
so than Ken Taberners 7s squad in the 70s. Over a period of around 10 years
they won 30 major tournaments all over Britain
What the future holds nobody knows, but we will need that same spirit and
drive of those thousands of unnamed volunteers of the past if Orrell is to
have a chance.