SPORTS NOSTALGIA: And they said it would never last ..

  Posted: 29.06.20 at 16:36 by Philip Evans

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By Dick Sturch

"They won't last five minutes let alone seven days." "Axminster doesn't need two teams." "They won't even finish the season."

These were some of the comments that were made at the time of Millwey Rise Football Club's formation.

What the people who made these comments failed to understand was the people of Millwey Rise at the time never considered themselves to be part of Axminster.

The majority of them had moved into the vacated 315th American Hospital just after World War Two as 'squatters' and became a self sufficient community, reliant on themselves with little assistance from elsewhere and identified by others as coming from the 'Camp.'

When new houses began replacing the original hospital buildings of Nissen huts and converted dwellings, the name Millwey Rise became more common.

The nucleus of players who eventually formed Millwey Rise FC had been kicking footballs around the old hospital buildings for several years previously. Many games were played with the goal posts chalked on the large wooden doors of what had been the hospital's fire station.

The first grass pitch, which was shared with Suzanne's goats, now lays under the houses of St Andrews Drive. The posts and crossbars were cut from the copse that ran behind the top of the estate. Then, having dug the holes and planted the posts, Henry Trenchard, who was much taller than any of us, tied one to the other and we were ready to go.

This was at the time of National Service and gradually as they reached 18 several of the regular participants disappeared as did the spaces on which we played as new houses were erected.

The only club in town back then was Axminster Town FC and several of us cut our teeth playing for them. I played for them as a 14 yea -old in their Reserve team. I can remember this was when low cut continental boots were replacing the old leather boots with nailed in studs.

Unfortunately at that time I was playing in the latter without any hope of affording the new ones. I decided to replicate this new style and painted my boots black with white stripes. It didn't improve my footballing ability but drew some interesting comments from players and spectators alike!

During the early months of 1958 news went round that Millwey Rise were going to form their own football club. Being only 16 I was too young to go into the Trout Inn where this was being planned, but one of those involved was their new secretary Fred Sweetland, our next door neighbour, who kept me informed of its progress.

Landlord and ex-Royal Marine Bernard Hiscox, who had previously played in goal for Axminster, became the club's first chairman and provided some valuable assistance in getting Millwey Rise FC up and running.

Other members of the committee were Aubrey Lee, John Tiller and Fred Sweetland. Stan Trenchard was elected president. He, together with his wife Daisy, became major fundraisers for the new club and woe betide anyone who wouldn't buy a draw ticket from Daisy on match days.

The field between Beavor Lane and the cemetery (where the Redrow Estate now stands) had been loaned to them by Mr Diment, the local farmer. Changing facilities were a trek away in the Social Hall together with the regulatory tin bath.

The club's kit comprised of short sleeved royal blue shirts with white v-necks. Socks were blue and white hooped. There was a competition for the team mascot, the winner to be whoever sold most penny tickets.

Geoff Avery was declared the victor after being adjudged to have sold the largest amount. His challenger, Barry Huntley, who is still a regular supporter, lost out by two tickets (tuppence) and is still certain some skulldudgery took place before the final decision was announced.

Millwey played their first match on a sunny August 30th 1958, away to Thorncombe. The line up was Bernard Hiscox, George Willets, Cyril Dickson, Dave Mitchell, Henry Trenchard (captain), Dave Thorne, Perce Downton, Pete Stevens, Sam Branker, Skip Willey and Dave Hawkins.

It was not an auspicious start. The match finished 1-1 with Perce Downton netting for Millwey only to see the lead snatched away by a controversial own-goal attributed to Dave Thorne, although to this day he swears the ball never crossed the line. It's not recorded what keeper Bernard Hiscox had to say about it.

The next match was home to Drimpton, their first on the new pitch at Beavor Lane. A new name was introduced to the team, 16 year old Dick Sturch at left-back, a position he didn't relinquish for the rest of the season. Millwey won 4-0.

Their next match was again at home against Perry Street, which they won 7-2. The crowds that watched these matches were incredible in comparison to today's games, anywhere between 100 to 300 would pack into the ground having paid their threpenny (2p) entrance fee.

That is except for a young Jane Cawley (now Jane Bostock) whose parents owned Axe Vale Laundry and lived in one of the posh houses on the opposite side of the lane to the pitch. She recently told me that she would sit on the roof of their garage and watch the matches.

Millwey went on to win the next 10 matches; 9-0; 5-2; 7-1; 20-0, 7-1; 5-0; 6-1; 10-2 and 7-2. Their 12 winning matches had amassed a phenomenal 92 goals.

The 20-0 was at home against a struggling Whitford side who they later went on to beat 15-2 on their own pitch. Another high scoring game was the 11-0 defeat of Kilmington.

There was one blemish on the season at Drimpton where they were beaten 3-1. The only other defeat was at Beer in a Devon Junior Cup game where they lost by a single goal after finishing the game with only nine fit players after both Henry Trenchard and Perce Downton succumbed to some eager tackles.

They then went on to win nine and draw two of the remaining games following the defeat at Drimpton.

Their last league game of the season at home saw them beat Thorncombe 6-1 and become Division Two Champions with Thorncombe runners-up. They also won the Division Two Cup with a 2-1 victory over Thorncombe.

Thorncombe were again the opponents in the semi-final of the Arthur Gage Cup which Rise won 2-1 before going on to win the final 9-0 against Merriot Reserves in what is still a record in any final played for this coveted trophy.

By this time Thorncombe must have been well and truly sick of the name Millwey Rise but they did have the league's top scorer, the big and powerful John Davies who went on to play for Yeovil.

Pete Stevens was Millwey's top scorer with 61 goals. Sam Branker (50) and Perce Downton (35) were other major contributors in this successful season.

As a 16 year old it was exhilarating to be part of this success. On some Saturdays I would play for Colyton Grammar School's football team in the morning and for Millwey in the afternoon and, once or twice, was frowned upon for putting the club before the school. For me there was only one winner.

A few things still stick in my memory from those times. The majority of the team smoked so the ref's final words before he blew his whistle to start the game included “right lads, fags out”. When we were playing away I can remember driving around various pubs collecting players for the match.

The half time orange quarters, why did they always taste so sour? Drinking alcohol from the first cup we won and a little later after the celebrations feeling extremely unwell. Being chosen to play for the Perry Street League XI but the game called off through bad weather and never being selected again. Finishing the season with three winners medals which I still have.

Many of the original team are no longer with us but those of us left will always remember them and that fantastic first season.

I thought the late sports reporter Gerald Gosling summed up those heady days for Millwey Rise FC when he wrote: "Even now players who have not kicked a football for years will stick out their chests and say 'I played for Millwey Rise.' It is a pride born, one suspects, out of the breadline years and the satisfaction of telling those waiting to gloat ‘we told you so’.”

*If you have a sporting memory from the Axminster area you would like to share, contact Philip Evans on 07796 951 991.

Millwey Rise footballers are fundraising to pay for repairs to their dug-outs at Cloakham Lawn. The dug-outs were recently targeted by vandals who ...