I joined Uxbridge Rovers A.S. in 1956 as a 13-year-old lad. My guardian in the club was Uncle Harold Hughes who was the Club Secretary in those days, as my father had no interest in fishing.
I can remember finishing my paper round and walking up to the Lees Road junction on the Uxbridge Road to get on the coach, where I would meet fellow travelling anglers, Jim Sargeant, Uncle Harold, Ray Bentley, Alan Johnson and others. Already on the coach were Joe Harris, Roy Fergusson and Terry Brazil, we would then proceed to Royal Lane, pickup Harry Randall, his wife Pat and their two sons, next stop Mahjacks roundabout to collect Norman Dyer, then on to the final stop at the Dog and Duck to collect the Stokes family and other participants. By the time we had left the Dog and Duck the coach was full of anglers and their tackle.
I can remember sitting on the coach with the Randall boys listening to the stories being told by the senior members regarding the venue we were going to, getting more and more excited all the time.
Everything was done on the coach, the coach fare and minimal prize money were collected and the walk off number drawn so that when you arrived and collected all your tackle, you were ready for your walk off as your number was called out.
During those early days we were affiliated to the LAA (London Anglers Association) and were part of the original group of clubs that formed the association. We were proud of our association with the LAA and for a long time we competed in the Thames Championship and the LAA Shield and were a force to be reckoned with on our day.
We used to go to what we thought were fantastic venues in those days-;
The Severalls at Ringwood,
The river Avon at Ibsley to be met by Colonel Crowe who instructed us how to treat his beloved salmon parr,
The Bettle and Wedge stretch on the Thames noted for its big shoal of bream,
Wargrave Southall Pisc/Norwoods stretch on the Thames, quality chub and roach,
Mapledurham Elthorne stretch on the Thames, noted for its roach and chub,
Tadpole Bridge River Thames as above,
Radcot and Buscot River Thames as above,
The matches in those days were fished to size limits and measuring was undertaken by the weigh in steward at a designated point, all fish had to be carried there in canvas water buckets, they were great days and it was obligatory that the coach stopped at a pub on the way back home.
We continued walk off matches for a long time, but we did drop the size limit rule as part of our conservation philosophy. Also weighing of catches now took place where you caught the fish which eliminated the use of buckets to transport them. We did for a while allow multiple net locations, but then we moved forward making our matches pegged down.
During my time with the Rovers, I have met so many people that have served this club well in all aspects, of course I include those mentioned in the introduction.
I can remember Ron Chenery (later referred to as the Neanderthal), arriving at the Denham pick up, dressed in his suit and a nice pair of winkle picker shoes, getting on to the coach, he had just finished a gig somewhere singing under his stage name of Clyde Burns (when you look into the local Rock & Roll history archives he is mentioned often under his stage name), he was an exceptional angler in those days and immediately struck a good relationship with those in the LAA Squad.
Also joining us in those days were Dave Swaby, Alec Groves, Bill Parker, Steve Horn, Colin Ambrose (the Emperor), Big Frank (the Bank) Bursnall, Ian and Doris Anderson, Alan and Mavis Taylor, Steve Martin, Doug Boothroyd (Redfin), Bob Ash (Captain), Phill Ellard, Doug Bloodworth, Dave Allen (the Sponge) and a very young and extremely competent lad called Glen Briggs. Also, Dave’s son Mark Swaby joined us, (he could tell some stories, one of the best was when fired some maggots out and hooked one in mid air) Laurie Dalton, Dave Powell, George Rice, Clive Gingell, Martin Salter, Mick Edge and JW (I will only use the initials). Then we had an influx from Barnes and Mortlake/Watney’s, Mick Catten Snr with a very young Mick Jnr, Gary Bloomfield, Bill Peare, Bill Hoppin, Brian Green, Doug Read, Alan Bright, Ron Brockwell, Roy Bush, Dennis Day with his young son Richard. Soon after those Ron’s son Darren joined along with Scott and Adam, and Bill’s son Bobby. Our coach outings were still very enjoyable, and the new young blood certainly brought the average age down.
We have attracted a lot of really nice guys to go fishing with, those that I have mentioned previously plus., Mark Radcliffe, Mike (Lord Lucan) Smith, Fred Fairman, Keith Gibson, Roy Cadden , Dave Cook, Perry and Ryan Fairclough, Jon Colman, James Fletcher, Simon Pavey, Stuart Pollmer, Declan Kelly, Graham Fox, Martin Smith, Celine Lowe, if I have omitted anyone I apologise for my senior moment.
There are many things that I remember from the matches with the Rovers-;
Always the journeys in the coach to and from the venues were full of stories about the fish caught and lost.
(1) When using the coach for our outings. stopping at a pub afterwards was essential. We had a coach driver and member called Doug Bloodworth, he knew all the pubs that did a Happy Hour, he certainly knew how to down the rum and blacks quickly during our one hour stop
(2) The coach getting stuck on the bridge after the match on the way to the pub, (my fault as I was directing Phil Ellard our coach driver), we had to all get off and push the coach clear.
(3) How we got so much gear in the coach was amazing, there was a time when the rear storage doors were not shut properly, and gear fell out and we only knew this thanks to a vehicle behind flashing his lights.
(4) We had the coaches that were near the end of their working career, there was an instance where we had an engine fire.
In the end coach companies hiked their prices up as they did not like muddy boots and gear in their coaches, so we had ended up having to use our own means of transport.
During the mid-1980’s we were advised that Bucks CCC had sold the lease of the Denham Court to the Japanese brewery Kajima Corporation and we were notified that we would no longer have any fishing there, as chairman with the support of the committee, we contacted Kajima and subsequently I along with Colin Ambrose (the Emperor) met the project contracts director Brian Morgan at their offices near Baker Street. One thing led to another, and we the club fully endorsed their planning application, they also attended our Ladies Nights as guests.
After they took over the facility, the beautiful John Jacobs golf course was created. Doug Read and the fisheries management team assisted in the stocking of all the lakes, and we had hoped to use the lakes as stock ponds, but the waters became infected with KHV. Since then, the carp have grown on well and I always take time to stop and look at them when on the golf course
We as a club have always been part of the major angling organisations, TAPS, LAA, NFA now superseded by the Angling Trust, Thames Valley Consultative, I was on the TAPS committee for a number of years, attending meetings at County Hall and then I became our representative at the southern region of the NFA. Because I had a little knowledge on building bookkeeping, I was elected as the auditor for the southern region. It was there one evening I met up with (JW) noted for his study of cormorant predation. He was seeking nomination to become a VP of the NFA, but
what he had overlooked was that I knew he had left our match squad with it funds no longer available. I along with Doug (Redfin) Boothroyd went to the conference at Torquay, and there I on behalf of URACS formerly objected to the nomination, he was not elected. He (JW) also met up with Dennis Day and Doug Read in a pub in Isleworth one evening to repay a debt which he handed over to Dennis. Doug went to the bar to get (JW) a drink, when there was a thud, Doug turned around and on the floor was (JW) knocked out! A surprised Doug asked Dennis what had happened, and Dennis replied, ‘the debt was a year overdue.’ We never saw (JW) again, he migrated up north.
We have had good and some bad moments on our matches and a few are worth a mention-;
(1) A very cold and bitter Mapledurham on the Thames, Harry Randall was so cold that he instructed his wife Pat to join him in the local church so that they could seek refuge within, they returned after the morning service, Harry obviously got divine help as he caught some chub and won the match…
(2) A snowy Radcot on the Thames, Doug Boothroyd caught a sizable roach, and thinking it was enough to win the club championship he decided to visit the local pub. When he returned, he fell asleep in the snow and was beaten by John Harris or Ken Stokes.
(3) Also at Radcot, just on the upstream bend above the bridge on the main river, one of our senior members Bill Little decided to pick that as his peg for the day, what he forgot about was how the river had undercut the bank, there was a mini landslide and Bill and all his gear went into the river. Some was salvaged and we got Bill into the pub where the landlord let him sit in the warm whilst they got his wet clothes dried.
(4) At Buscot on another coloured water day on the Thames, I had the pleasure of being next to Ron and Darren. All was peaceful, there was a kingfisher at his favourite spot opposite me enjoying the odd minnow when suddenly there was a major incident at the next peg. Ron (the Neanderthal) had got off his box and stood on Darren’s brand-new landing net handle and the air turned so blue that I lost track of time laughing. What Darren called his Father you could not repeat, for us that get pegged next to Ron even nowadays know that at some time the entertainment will arrive in some unexpected form.
(5) Doug Read catching that 24lb 7oz mirror carp on the tidal Thames at Kew during a club match. It was a warm sunny day and Doug was pegged outside the City Barge pub. Doug got a standing ovation from the onlooking crowd who were enjoying a lunchtime drink outside the pub when he eventually landed the fish, which is still the biggest carp caught in a club match to this day.
(6) We ha
d a match on the Thame at Wheatley, a noted stretch renowned for quality chub and roach. It was bitterly cold, and the ground was covered with so much frost you would have thought it had snowed. Everything proceeded in its usual URACS pre-match system, with Ron serving bait and collecting money when yours truly spotted his tackle box, so I carefully placed a rubber snake within the box (knowing Ron does not like snakes and is even scared of lobworms as he has to hook them without touching them). With the draw complete we went to our pegs, Ron followed shortly, placed his box on the ground, surveyed his peg, commenced unpacking, he spots the coiled snake nestling in his box, panic strikes and he commences a tirade of abuse and starts kicking his tackle box! Those of us that were lucky to be in the proximity were in stitches of laughter, what he called me cannot be typed.
(7) There was the time at Shabbington. We had all arrived on a very frosty morning, but Ron our star entertainer had not. We were wondering what has happened as he only just picked up his first and only ever brand-new car a deluxe Datsun. Eventually he arrived looking very disgruntled with a reshaped Datsun, in his eagerness to get to the venue he forgot about a sharp bend and got stuck in a ditch, luckily, he got pulled out by a farmer.
(8) Again at Shabbington, during the Xmas match there, was another incident on the fast flowing river that Doug Read advised he was on a bend upstream of me, he heard a noise, turned quickly and went straight into the flowing Thame, he was waist deep in a torrent frantically clutching the bankside vegetation, when a bucket sized hand appeared and grabbed hold of him. He initially thought God had arrived and then realised it was me. With all my effort I pulled Napoleon out, and when we got to the pub, he spent the evening in his undergarments enjoying the evening meal whilst his clothes were being dried.
On the same match Doug reminded me of the exploits of Mick Catten Snr who had a friend that owned a restaurant. Mick’s sole objective was to catch as many crayfish as he could, and he certainly achieved his objective.
(9) On an evening match on the Colne, I was pegged at the top end of Cyanide just above the bridge near the 10th green of the Buckinghamshire GC, catching plenty of roach on the bread, when this diminutive well-dressed lady appeared on the bridge looking extremely distressed. She asked if I could help her husband get their stranded West Highland Terrier our of the mud. I got up grabbed my landing net and around I went. I retrieved the dog quite quickly, the owners were over the moon and they could not thank me enough, they were Sir John Mills and his wife Mary the noted film stars. I returned and continued fishing and ended up with about 20lb of roach, but the result of the match I have forgotten.
(10) We have had a number of married couples out on our matches. First there was Ian and Doris Anderson, they always supported our Ladies Night, they were magnificent dancers and were always first up to get things going, they were an integral part of the club, before they emigrated to Canada, Ian sadly passed away many years ago, but Frank (the Bank) and I are still in dialogue with the wonderful lady who is now about 90yrs old.
Then we had Alan and Mavis Taylor, Alan was a great competitor and Mavis was certainly in a nice way one of the boys. Alan had his own joinery workshop in Maidenhead, it was at the time when the old-style tackle boxes were being redesigned. Alan had an inspiration to design his own unique box, of which he also made several to order for other club members. Boy did they look good when they arrived, they had everything on them but what was missing was a crane to lift them, and by the time Alan and Mavis got to their pegs the rest of us had been fishing for some time. That design did not last long.
(11) I had forg
otten my fracas, which Doug Read had reminded me of at Chiselhamton on the Thame, be it one sided with Craig Little and was over very quickly.
We have had a number of other notable incidents at our matches and on club waters;
(1) The Battle of Winkwell… The Battle of Winkwell occurred on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, a lovely scenic venue noted for its bags of quality roach. The only let down is that the towpath area is quite restricted in width. A prime method of fishing was the bread punch. All was going well until a dog belonging to walkers pinched Dennis Day’s only piece of bread and started to eat it. Dennis got off his box and started to chase the four-legged fiend waving his bank stick and threatening to put it in the dog’s orifice. Dennis’s actions did not go down well with the owners but someone pacified Dennis and gave him another slice of bread. An hour later a group of walkers come along the towpath. Ron’s pole was shipped back behind him momentarily obstructing the towpath. Ron advised the walkers that he wouldn’t be a second and would move the pole shortly, but this was not taken on board by the walkers. They grabbed the, pole moved it and one of the group – a “lady” trod on one of the pole sections deliberately breaking it. There was an altercation, the woman lunged at Ron and fell over, nearly falling in the canal. Her husband went for Ron and Ron defended himself by clenching his fist which connected with the man’s chin, sending the attacker sprawling. They asked who was in charge and some wag directed them in my direction, they approached me as Chairman after the incident to ask what I was going to do about it and I politely told them to go away. They contacted the police and Ron was later summoned to attend the Crown Court where the case was heard. Ron was acquitted by the jury and the walker and his wife were ordered to pay to replace Ron’s broken pole and court costs.
(2) There was the time on the Colne at Rickmansworth (bear in mind The Colne is a non-navigable river). We had a club match in progress, a canoeist is paddling away when he gets to where Dennis Day is fishing, Dennis advises the canoeist that canoes are not permitted, canoeist totally ignores Dennis (not a wise decision). This does not go down well with Dennis who pursued the canoeist downstream. When the canoeist reached the shallows, in went Dennis followed by young Richard, they stop the canoe, take one end each and they lift canoe (with the canoeist still in it) and walk him a couple of hundred yards away from the river, where they carefully place canoe on the ground. There Dennis explains in simple English you do not paddle in the Colne, the canoeist by now has probably messed himself after being berated by Dennis.
(3) I had an incident with a trespasser on the Colne at Denham (bear in mind that I was 38 yrs old and built like an Ox), one evening around 1980, following a number of calls from our friendly lockkeeper at Denham about people trespassing on our waters. I was with my dear old Springer Ben patrolling the area above what used to be called the Eagles Nest at Cyanide, when this individual comes out of the undergrowth with a 12 bore under his arm, I politely advised that he was trespassing and his response was, what are you going to do, well somehow he and his gun ended up in the
Colne, he got out muttering and minus his gun, we never saw him again.
(4) Redfin reminded me of the call he had received from the police regarding a mini that was dumped in the Colne near the A40. We loaded the punt onto his truck and met the police where the vehicle had gone in. They asked if we could have a look at the vehicle to see if anyone was trapped inside. Once we confirmed that nobody was in there, they departed without saying thank you.
(5) Our matches were always competitive and some actually stretched the rules… We had the issue on the Colne when Bill Hoppin scooped a dead bream up that was floating past and put it in his net, he was later disqualified. In same match our secretary Chris Gadsden, latterly known as Crispy Duck or Pre-Bait, was seen throwing in bait before the designated match start time, he was disqualified
We also had some fantastic non club fishing trips with club members, The Neanderthal arranged trip to the Longworth Hall Hotel so we could fish the Wye and the Lugg. Proprietor Gill and her husband looked after us very well, about 20 of us would attend, they would go to bed and leave us with an open bar. Most of us behaved and did not abuse the facility, Mick Mac dealt with those that misbehaved. Glen reminded me of the time when we went to the Wye, when I managed to get 6 of us in my Jeep Cherokee, with all our fishing gear and luggage. How we managed it is still a mystery.
I did visit Longworth about 3 years ago, it is now a magnificent private home, I met the owner who showed me round, great memories
We also had fantastic times fishing the National Championships all over the country, The Trent was one of my favourites, I practiced on our local rec casting a feeder the length of a football pitch, remember spending time with that precocious young angler Mick Jnr showing him the technique, he made the team and came 4th in his section of 84 all on the Feeder
We also entered the West Middlesex Winter League and attracted some of best anglers around, including Clive Gingell, Martin Salter, George Rice, Dave Powell and (JW). After a few years I joined the squad, by that time some of the stars had moved on, I became league representative, then Chairman of the league, eventually filling all positions at once from Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Match and Venue Secretary, at the same time, the League in the opinion of many of the local angling stars was the best run league and the envy of other leagues as the team captains actually made the decisions, I was just the guy who did all the paperwork.
Sadly, we at URACS were generally the wooden spooners, despite me winning 120 pegger at Kingsland Road which is something I am proud of, beating many of the star anglers of that time. Bill Parker won one of the first to be held at Gold Valley which the team enjoyed, but the one that gave me the most pleasure was our success at Radley, another 120 pegger. I won the Match with a low weight, Mick Jnr was second overall, and we had a total of 7 section winners, certainly our best team performance.
The club matches over the years have been very enjoyable, and I have had my fair share of successes. My first victory came when I was about 15 years old at the old LAA stretch on the Thames at Gatehampton. The river was hammering through and just within its banks. I did not have a good draw number as I remember and those before me in the walk off went to the fancied lower swims. I found a reasonable peg with a slack and set myself down. I caught a roach and a reasonable bream and the news from those that were walking the bank was that no one else had caught. The word soon got around and within a short while, Ken Stokes and John Harris (both front runners for the club championship) appeared with all their gear and plonked themselves as close as they could to me, hoping they might also catch some fish. Sadly, nothing else was caught that day and I had won my first club match.
I can always remember the well-respected George Rice stating in a conversation ‘to become a championship winner with Uxbridge Rovers is tough.’ Thankfully my name is on that prestigio
us trophy a number of times.
I still enjoy the club matches that I attend, although some of the match dates conflict with other interests outside angling but being out with your mates from URACS is always enjoyable.
Other memorable moments on club matches were;
(1) The time I volunteered to transport the members fishing gear across the Thames to the island stretch at Clifton Hampden in the punt. All a bit scary but nothing was lost, and it saved a long walk for some.
(2) The punt was used for fishing the island stretch at Maidenhead, which gave us good access to some quality roach fishing with the occasional chub and some huge bream. We got there on one trip to find that the outboard engine was still in the garage at Iver. The Thames was up and raging through, we knew there were some fantastic slacks behind the island so I thought we could paddle across. Halfway across we ran out of manpower and luckily, hanging from scaffold on the bridge was a heavy rope which we grabbed hold of giving us time to regain some energy and re-assess the situation as below us was the weir at Bray and we didn’t want to head in that direction. Energy regained, we headed for the far bank below the bridge to a landing stage belonging to one of the big houses, thank goodness we made it and secured the punt and got off. I went up to the house and asked if we could carry the punt through their garden to which the householder agreed. Absolute madness.
(3) Redfin reminded me of two events in our club matches involving past President Norman Dyer. Firstly, at Buscot, Redfin was pegged below Norman and every time he looked round Norman was playing a perch. He thought that Norman had won the match only to find out at the weigh in that Norman only had one fish in his keep net. It appeared he couldn’t remove the hook and kept returning the fish so that it could revive.
(4) There was also the time on the Avon at Salisbury when Norman presented a net full of dace. He asked Redfin for help to get the net out for the weigh in only to be told that all the dace were in fact grayling…
Also, I organised
trips to Spain and Ireland. Initially when going to Spain we would fly, but then we realised we could not purchase certain items of bait and tackle out there as there were not many tackle shops and our knowledge of the Spanish language was limited. So, we would load up my trailer with all the tackle and put the luggage in the back of the 4×4 and use the boat ferry from Dover or Plymouth to Bilbao which meant we could enjoy the onboard facilities. We also used the trailer for the trips to Ireland, attending was Frank Bursnall, Mick MacCleaster, Dave Powell, Doug Boothroyd, Bob Ash, Dave Mustoe plus my youngest son Russell, and in Spain we would meet up with Mike Smith when fishing the Ebro from St Carlos de Rapida to Flix. In Ireland we were fishing the Shannon from Loch Derg down to Inniscarra, we certainly acquitted ourselves regally with the black stuff.
There was the time in Spain when Redfin, Bob Ash, Dave Powell and I went into a bar in San Carlos de la Rapida. The locals were watching the bull fighting on television but not drinking. I do not like bull fighting so I switched off the television. Redfin was crapping himself as he thought there was going to be an overseas incident, but the Spaniards got up and walked out and we continued drinking. Also, in Spain Redfin heard a croaking noise in a ditch behind us. He began filming with his video camera and called me to have a look at this snake with a frog in its jaws. I was off… I don’t like snakes either.
Another time in Spain with Redfin, Captain Ash and Dave Powell, we met in our hotel, a husband and wife who were also there for the fishing. They strolled about in a very dignified, austere dead pan manner. We were enjoying a drink or two with them and when speaking to them it was only their heads that moved. I asked, ‘do you mind if I ask you what you do for a living’? They replied, ‘you will never guess.’ I replied you are funeral directors and I was right! That evening was very enjoyable as the stories they told were brilliant. They could have been script writers for Only Fools and Horses.
Redfin also reminded me of how we used to support the Uxbridge Bed Race, which raised a lot of money for charity. What we did not know was that the money raised was for building houses. These were sold on and all profits went back into the charity pot, close on a million pounds! We eventually got some for our disabled section. Also there was the Ladies match that was held annually at one of our waters where we put on a superb BBQ and there was copious amounts of wine of which the ladies enjoyed.
During my time with the Society, I have had the privilege first to serve on the committee for two years as the Entertainments Team representative and then for 34 years as Chairman and the last 4 years as President. But more worthy of praise is the time Ron Chenery has spent on the committee, as Assist Secretary, then Secretary, Venue Secretary, Match Secretary and now Chairman, he has given terrific service to the club.
Also, Ron and I have worked with some great senior officers (Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretaries) of the club. Joe Harris, Roy Fergusson, Ian Anderson, Colin Ambrose, Frank Bursnall, Laurie Dalton, Mike Robinson, Mick Catten Snr and Gary Bloomfield. I also remember those that have served as Match Captains, Mike Smith and Fred Fairman, they are always first to arrive at the venues to do the pegging whilst we are in the café enjoying our breakfasts.
One of the big moves forward, is with the Match Reports, we are using technology at last and promoting the club match results to the media, all bodes well and a personal thanks to Glen.
Sadly, many of my revered colleagues have got off the bus and are now looking down on us… some will never be forgotten, to name a few from recent times-; Dave Swaby, Ron Brockwell, Ian Anderson, Colin (the Emperor) Ambrose, Laurie Dalton, Mick Catten Snr and of course Bob (Captain) Ash, I say thank you to you all for the time and effort you have given the club.
Now we move to the next 50 years, the present committee is well structured, led by Ron, supported by Gary Bloomfield with a very capable Secretary Graham Raven and a team of enthusiastic officers.