Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club celebrates its centenary by publishing stunning hardback book packed with stories, facts and photographs
Supporters may be missing cheering Bishop's Stortford RFC on from the sidelines at Silver Leys due to the pandemic, but the hard work of a dedicated team means they can reminisce in a century of great tries and good times.
It is hoped things will get better in 2021 and the club will be allowed to celebrate its centenary year in a fitting manner.
And those first 10 decades are celebrated in a beautiful 215-page hardback book called Bishop's Stortford Rugby Football Club: 100 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers.
The book charts the club's history from its formation in 1921 and its first practice match in the September of that year – an 8-3 win over RAF Duxford – to the present day and its rise up the divisions to National League 1.
It was in late 2016 when talk of producing a book to mark the centenary first began. The starting point was a pamphlet, of which some forgotten copies were discovered in drawers and attics, that had been produced to mark the club's 50th anniversary.
'Volunteers' were nominated and Rod Homer was designated project leader with support from Paul Maxfield, John Robinson and Squin Clarke to which Jan Zelezinski was quickly added to be followed by Douglas Young.
The first project team meeting was held in February 2017. It was agreed that summarising the first 50 years in a single short chapter was the best bet, with it rapidly being discovered that the club did not have records of events or matches between the 1920s and 1960s.
An experimental visit to the Hertfordshire Archives by Paul, Jan and Rod revealed that County Hall held local newspapers in hard copy, on fiche and electronically. Jan volunteered to research this library and extract information, which led to Jan spending two-and-a-half days a week for the next three years in County Hall, making notes, copying and printing articles and providing them to the designated authors.
Notes from interviews with club stalwarts were added – not everything discussed made it into a family publication – and the chapters began to take shape as chief editor John Robinson put in many hours formatting them in the layout required by the printers.
It then became apparent that some professional expertise would be required to transform the word-processed documents of text and images into the format required by the printer's software. Fortunately, former player and member Peter Dobie came to the rescue and his team at brand consultancy Designhouse worked their magic.
Sadly for the project team and everyone involved with BSRFC, Paul Maxfield died in September before the finished book was published. The former club president, who had been a stalwart for almost half a century, had been diagnosed with Parkinson's and had significant heart problems. He was 77.
Despite his health, Paul was unfailing in his commitment to the project and brought creativity and imagination to the task along with his wry sense of humour.
With the book now available to buy, fans have the chance to reflect on a glorious 100 years as well as look forward to many more exciting times over the next century.
"As you read and marvel at the history of the club, from the players and characters who moulded us and the 'facilities' of the past, it seems incredible that we now play our rugby at the dizzy height of Level 3," said president Mick Coleman. "Punching above our weight? Maybe, but our secret is that, over many seasons, we have created an environment whereby our players want to play here.
"We truly are committed to staying a community club. We value new players and their families joining us, we work hard to keep our social teams playing, we've encouraged and supported our ladies' section and, of course, our minis and youths continue to thrive.
"Whereas we used to play in front of 50 spectators, we now sometimes manage up to 1,000, and pre-match lunches that used to be 30 have now topped 400, magnificently boosted by our loyal and generous sponsors.
"Let's celebrate our centenary in great style as we look back on a fascinating past. Let's enjoy our present and look forward to an equally rich future and, without doubt, the next 100 years."