Hackney RFC owes much of its origin to now sadly deceased Jim Smith. Jim was an ex-army man, a prop for Saracens, and games teacher at Woodberry Downs Comprehensive school. It was Jim’s idea to form a rugby team comprised of the Old Boys of the school, all of whom Jim had coached. Thus, in 1965, the Old Griffins team was born.

John Grimmer, an early Old Griffin, who went on the play for the Griffins & Hackney RFC for 30 years, and was a committee officer and President of the Club, remembers Jim fondly:

“He was a phenomenal character…tough, disciplined but inspirational. Jim’s view was you played rugby at school, then you went on to play for the Old Griffins. Few argued with him, and it was an accepted route for many of us.”

Thus in the Autumn of 1965, the first ever Old Griffins side lined up on Hackney Marshes to play their inaugural game.

For those too tender in years to have experience Britain in the 1960s, 1965 was quite a year:  The Death Penalty was still in force at the start of the year, only being abolished in the UK in November 1965. The Beatles had just finished their last UK tour and released Help at the cinemas. As the rugby season started, I can’t get no Satisfaction became the Rolling Stones’ first UK number 1. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, and the Country was still recovering from the shock of losing Winston Churchill, who died early in the year.

The Old Griffins lined up against North East London Polytechnic for that famous game, and won 40-3…a cracking result bearing in mind a try was worth only 3 points in those days. The side was captained by Dennis Jarvis: “We fielded a side containing the three Caution brothers and the two Jacobs brothers…so five players from two families! I remember we had 16 players on our books -the only one who didn’t get picked was Alan Leader! (Leader became a future Club President and Captain). Beer and sandwiches afterwards at the Lord Cecil pub  - happy days!”

The Club played in the Old Griffins V-shirts, featuring the three colours of Woodberry Downs school, which they retained though into the 80s, when, after becoming Hackney RFC, the Club’s current four-quarters were adopted. The additional colour came from French side Suresnes, who the Griffins/Hackney are twinned with.

Below is a rare picture of the great Jim Smith (2nd from right) in the early 80s, shortly after the Club adopted the Quarter shirts, and the original team line up from that first game.

Jim Smith

The Griffins first game was not the only rugby event of 1965…in December of that year future England Captain Will Carling was born. However the Old Griffins first run-out surely stands as the most momentous rugby event of the year!

If you have any Golden Memories of your own- send them to tickets@hackneyrfc.co.uk





Old Griffins 40 -  3 North East London Poly

1. Bob Paige

2. Keith Jones

3. Alan Mansell

4. Eddie Caution

5. Peter Bland

6. Dennis Jarvis (Capt.)

7. Peter Laverack

8. Jekyll Jacob

9. Michael Wyatt

10. Peter Linwood

11. Jimmy Caution/ Joe Jacobs

12. Ray Pym

13. Keith Mayo

14. Dennis Salador

15. Norman "Nobby" Jacobs

16. Alan Leader