has been added.

The Fifties

The facilities at the training shed had long been regarded as inadequate, and as the building fund grew plans for a two­ storey frontage were formulated.

A carnival -  the forerunner of many -   was jointly organised by Northcote Ramblers League Club, Calliope Harrier Club and the Northcote and Birkenhead Rugby Club. Staged at Stafford Park, it was a roaring success and provided the necessary funds to allow the building project to commence.

Chum Arblaster was the technical adviser and the practical overseer of the voluntary labour that saw the club's headquar­ters steadily take shape. To speed up construction two club members, Rod Taylor and Bill Setters, were employed for a short time. The  bottom floor provided much-needed dress­ing rooms while the upstairs area created, for the first time in the club's existence, an area for social activity.

The early fifties saw a rapid expansion in the number of boys playing rugby, no doubt due to the baby boom of the immediate post-war period.

As a suburban club, Northcote Birkenhead always catered for junior divisions and no one gave greater service in this sphere than Jack Blake, whose memory is perpetuated by the Jack Blake Memorial Cup competed for by the junior teams. After serving as president for eight years, Alex McLeod stepped down, being replaced at the 1953 annual meeting by Vince Paltridge.

Realising the growth and importance of junior boys foot­ ball, Vince promoted the idea of a sub-committee to administer exclusively this section of the  club's activities. Early members of this committee were Len Jones, Lockie McQueen, Roy Moorcroft and Ray Malone. The wisdom of creating such a committee is evidenced by the strong position junior rugby holds today, administered exactly as it was 50 years ago.

Having said that, the first couple of years were not without their problems, as the senior and junior administrators jostled over what these days would be identified as demarcation lines. It took several meetings and much diplomacy before the two bodies achieved a harmony that has continued through to the present time. The junior boys committee has produced players and administrators of note and is still the nursery for the club's grade and senior players.


The Newman Family

The Newman family have played a major part in the club, none more so than Doug Newman for whom Northcote Birkenhead virtually became his life.

After joining the club in 1952 he became a junior boys coach but is more fondly remembered for the 21 years he operated as barman.

He operated from a slide about 3ft wide. He took up about half the bar, with the crates neatly fitted around him!

Many will remember the grog truck arriving on Saturday afternoons and the chain gangs formed to get the beer up the stairs. A young Brian Newman was always handy to help Dad store his brew. His sons, David, Gary and Brian, all played for the club and his wife Elsie kept up the , smooth operation in the kitchen for almost as long as Doug was barman.

The family are still actively involved in the club. Gary spent five years as delegate to the North Harbour RFU while Dave is a current board member.

Vintage 1951
They must have been playing league it appears only 13 finished the game! An unidentified team, vintage 1951.
Back row: Owen Gravatt, unknown, Brian Culpan, Graham Stott, Norm Williams.
Middle row: Unknown, John Lydiard, Tubby Hart, unknown, unknown, Merv Caughey.
Front row: Duncan Taylor, Vince Paltridge, Ken Macleod, Herb Quintal.

It was in 1953 that 'Snow' White was selected for the All Black tour of Great Britain and France, becoming the club's second international. Rugby was fearfully amateur in those days but rumour has it that the club presented 'Snow' with a travelling rug in which was hidden £100 ($200). The club's generosity would have been hugely appreciated by 'Snow' who must reflect wistfully on the six figure sums paid today's inter­ national players. 'Snow' appeared in 12 matches on tour, including the tests against Ireland, England and France.

Community involvement has always been maintained through the willingness of members. One such notable association was with the Auckland Blood Transfusion Service with two visits being made annually to the clubrooms. Northcote Rotary was also associated with this venture, the first collection being made in July 19 55. Prior to this, a small group of club members used to go to the city to  make their donation. In 1955 after 26 years of functioning as an organisation in which annually elected committee members were personally responsible for club debts it was decided to incorporate the club and legalise its position.

A constitution was drafted and matters dealing with the ownership of the property, which to that point had been vested in the club's two trustees, Jack Lethbridge and Jack Fletcher, was resolved.

Death certificates had to be produced before the property title could be registered in the name of Northcote Birkenhead. (Up to now the club was called Northcote and Birkenhead.) The rather complicated legal work and advice was provided by Jim Ryan, who had held the office of honorary solicitor for many years.

The necessary special general meeting was called on 14 February 1955 when the official name of the club became Northcote Birkenhead Rugby Union Football Club inc, a mouthful that has rarely been used since, being most com­monly abbreviated to Northcote or, even more familiarly, 'the 'Cotes'.

From time to time, this has induced questions from mem­bers who do  not live in Northcote, but the service given to the club in all areas in which it operates has, to some extent, quietened these doubters; that, plus the fact no one has come up with a suitable alternative that embodies both Northcote and Birkenhead.


In the late fifties Northcote was drawn to play Otahuhu on Eden Park No 1, a big thing for the club in those days.

So coach Dave Solomon invited former All Black 'Brushy' Mitchell to take the Thursday night training, which he did, giving the squad their hardest run of the season.

On the Saturday, a little to Dave's surprise, Brushy walked into the dressing room, attired in Barbarians' blazer and tie.

The atmosphere was electric as he spoke to each player: 'Snow' White, Bruce Robertson, Keith Weber, George Grey, Bruce Cole, Bernie Bowerman, Jock Cribb, Norm Mcleod, Grahame Stott, Ian Menzies, Russell King, Laurie Woodgate, and others, all got the message.

The sweat poured off Brushy. Off came the jacket, then the tie and lastly the shirt sleeves were rolled up and the shirt-front undone.

Northcote was the underdog, as always, but beat Otahuhu that day. An outstanding achievement given that the Oats XV included such celebrities as Waka Nathan, Mac Herewini and Frank McMullen.

Devine Inspiration

It should be recorded that in the 26 years leading up to the incorporation of the club, no committee member was ever called upon to cover an outstanding liability, which speaks vol­umes for the wisdom and business acumen of the committee members who steered the club through that period.

Five Northcote players represented Auckland in the fifties. Besides 'Snow' White, who was a regular throughout the decade, halfbacks Ron Lidgard and Norm McLeod, prop Peter Bevin and five-eighth Vic Pratt all won favour with the selec­tors at various stages.

As the fifties drew to a close it became obvious that far more space was required in the social area than was available at Stafford Road. And the condition of the training shed was deteriorating.

The original training shed comprised corrugated iron clad­ ding on a wooden frame. Up till the end of the war, the floor was covered with tan but changes in the tanning industry in­volving the chemical treatment of hides meant no further supplies of tan were available. For 15 years, sawdust was used, but this proved so dusty that it became common practice to hose down the floor. This repeated wetting of the floor sur­ face took its toll and the plates began rotting.

The call to establish a building fund was soon answered and fairs, quick-fire raffle stalls at the birthday carnival and major raffles were responsible for allowing building extensions to commence.

In the fifties and sixties, you never went on a trip or played a Sunday social match that Henry and Arthur Smith did not attend, after which Arthur would sing 'Marry Anne'. Colin McKnight, who was known as 'Old Yucka-tuck', used to strum his banjo from time to time, too.

Bruce Robertson 1962
In his 17 seasons of senior rugby Bruce Robertson appeared in every position for Northcote except fullback. On this occasion, against University at Eden Park, he scored two tries as a winger.
Northcote five-eighth and goalkicker Graham Stott is challenged by Navy's Rata Harrison in senior action at Eden Park in 1958. Stott, who later served nine years as Mayor of Birkenhead, was among the competition's leading points scorers in '58.
Graham Stott 1958

Of the fifties, Northcote could lament that it was the only period in the club's history when no championship successes were recorded. However, since its earliest days the club has maintained a strong sense of loyalty which has prevailed at all levels on the playing field and this was reflected on several occasions by teams winning 'best behaviour' trophies.

The intermediate schoolboys team had the distinction of winning the Jordan Rose Bowl in 1957 and again in 1959 when it shared it with University.

For some years there had been a trickle of home builders moving across to the North Shore in anticipation of the Harbour Bridge opening (which took place on 31 May 1959). Northcote and Birkenhead were suburbs with large amounts of land available and it followed naturally that these areas de­veloped rapidly. Early in the sixties the surge hit the club.