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Wellington’s Ghost Clubs: Stop-Out Rugby Football Club – (1919-1925)

In March 1922, attempts were made by the Wellington Rugby Football Union to stamp out another new “mushroom club”, this time connected with St. Peter’s Mission on Taranaki Street. It was felt by the Union’s Management Committee that a better policy would be for this “young new Club” to join with an “older Club”, as in the past other such clubs had “fizzled out.”  However, it was pointed out by the appellate Club’s delegate to the Union, Hector Sefton Kenney, that as it was connected with St. Peter’s Mission, there was no likelihood of it becoming defunct.

The Reverend Thomas Fielden Taylor, President of the “Stop-Out Rugby Football Club” recalls that the Rugby Union was not convinced. He recounts “the Rugby Union, did not [want to] register the name; they called it immoral. They said we would have to change the name. “What are Stop-Outs?” they asked. But they did not know how obstinate I was. People are very stupid when they ask what it means, because it means nothing. We did not want to be the Y.M.C.A., and God preserve us from being the Boys’ Institute. “Stop-Out” was the only name that would not stop-out of my head, and we intended to stay “Stop-Outs.”

Perhaps a little disingenuously, the Reverend Fielden Taylor, while fully aware that the expression “Stop-Out” referred to men who stayed out late at night, was happy to use the label as a badge-of-honour for the boys who had fallen on hard-times and who were under the Mission’s umbrella of care.

The Stop-Out Rugby Football Club was first formed at St. Peter’s Mission on Taranaki Street in 1919 by Fielden Taylor and eight boys from St. Peter’s Mission (which was originally founded in 1904). The Club was for boys and young men aged 12 upwards, to “promote the spiritual, moral, physical and social welfare of its members” and over time fielded teams in cricket, harriers, and soccer, as well as rugby union.

By 1922, the Club had 172 members.

St. Peter’s Mission, 168 Taranaki Street, in 1925.

Remembered by some as “T.F.T.,” by some as “Tommy,” by others as “The Boss,” and by many more as “Padre”, before coming to New Zealand Fielden Taylor was a lawyer’s clerk in London and entered the London Missionary Society’s College with a view to studying for work overseas. He was rejected as unfit for the role and apparently carried a chip on his shoulder upon emigrating to this country.

Nonetheless, on coming to New Zealand, he commenced work as a layman in the Nelson diocese before being ordained as an Anglican Priest by Bishop Mules, whose daughter he then married. He subsequently he became Canon of Nelson Cathedral. Fielden Taylor went to Egypt in 1914 as a Chaplain and was severely wounded on Gallipoli.

It was reported that “while rescuing a wounded man from the trenches he was shot in the back, the bullet striking three sovereigns in his belt, and glancing from them into his back.” Fielden Taylor saw further service in France and on his return to New Zealand in 1916, suffering from rheumatism and pleurisy, he underwent treatment at Rotorua.

Once recovered, he was appointed Missioner to St. Peter’s, Taranaki Street, in 1919.

Affiliated to the Union in 1922 (and raising funds through produce sales at the Mission Hall on Taranaki Street), the Club fielded a team in the Intermediate Grade coached by G Clarke, comprising Keddell, Kenny, Pratt, Gillespie, Reddell, Thompson, Hill, Wilson, Wells, Thessman, Simpson, McLellan, Smith, Foggin, and Isaacs.

There was also a Seventh Grade team, comprising W. Canham, A. Larsen, J. Essen, H. Goth, J. Dunn, J. Walker, C. Walsh, R. Holey, D. Davis, J. Dunn, H. Poulter, J. Coghlan, H. Rather, J. Lawson and G. Pichi. In 1923, the Club had teams in the Intermediate, Fourth and Sixth grades. By the following year, due to a lack of training facilities, the Club had reduced to two teams, in the Intermediate and Fourth Grades.

The Club did not record a great deal of success on-field, with the Club finishing third to last in the Club Championship Competition in 1924.

Before the Club was finally forced to totally withdraw from competition in 1925, Fielden Taylor said in an appeal for 50,000 pounds to build a new gymnasium.

“Who does the Club cater for?”

“It caters for the boy of Tory Street, the boy of Taranaki Street, and the boys in the back streets, who have no college ground, or swimming pool, and who are not well-off in this world’s goods. Plead the cause of the boy who can join no club because of his lack of financial means. Every boy should have the opportunity of the sports so thoroughly enjoyed by the college boy. I’m jealous of the college boy.”

“I want to carry on, but we have shut down our subscription list because we cannot take any more. We want to take the boy who won’t or can’t pay his subscription; the rougher he is, the more we want him.”

While Fielden Taylor’s vision of a mighty Rugby Football Club were not fulfilled, a hostel for boys was erected on the site of the original St. Peter’s Mission, in 1940 to provide full board and lodgings for 50 boys and a daily hot dinner for over 100 old age pensioners.

In 1925, the Club withdrew from all Rugby Union competition, citing a conflict with Soccer and no training gymnasium as the primary causes. The Stop-Out Club survives to this day, still playing football in the Hutt Valley, but rather sadly, only of the Association kind.

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