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Len Laigan

Len Lanigan recalls the club's early days

I joined the club in its foundation year, 1929, as a 13-year-old and enjoyed informal games with other youngers. We played mainly at the newly opened Stafford Park in Northcote, although sometimes I would walk along Lake Road and College Road to the football field at St Peters Maori College (now Hato Petera College), run by the Mill Hill Missionary Group.

These fathers, mainly of Dutch background, trained at the Mill Hill Seminary in London and came to New Zealand because they had a great flair for learning the Maori language, which helped them to teach the young Maori men.

Dean Alink, who was the college principal, served on the first club management committee and helped foster our club by ensuring that all students played rugby. He also made the college fields liberally available to the club.

Sadly, there are few of my fellow club members of the early 1930s about now, Frank Fielder being the exception.

In 1930 our team played in the Auckland Union's seventh grade and won the championship. It was a time of great excitement and we were presented with championship caps and ties. I donated my cap and team photo to the club.

Alex Grant was our coach. His son Barton was a great player who stuck with the club right through the grades to senior level.

After several years playing in the lower grades I quit, being considered too small and light to continue in the game. Far better to become a supporter, which I have been ever since.

When World War II came along, I served with the Royal New Zealand Navy, later marrying and rearing a family. My two sons, Anthony and Philip, played for six years in the junior grades when I assisted as a coach and manager. We travelled to remote fields, sometimes with nine youngsters in the car. Couldn't do that now! There were often no parents there to support me.

Donnie Arblaster was a permanent supporter of my 13th grade team because his big brother Robbie was in that team. I enjoyed the five years I served on the junior boys committee from 1958 when Vince Paltridge was club president.

Other happy memories include providing the music with my dance band for club functions and, on many occasions, the annual ball.

During my 18 years on the Birkenhead Council, I helped waive playing fees on council grounds, for which I was personally thanked by Auckland RFU secretary Link Warren. Birkenhead was the first council in the Auckland area to waive the fees on sports fields.

In 1970, I was made a presentation (by Keith Weber) for being the most consistent supporter of the club's premier team. I hope I can keep this support going for many years yet.

Return to the clubs history of the 1930's.