The Belfry Sporting Club – A Potted History
The club was born in 1978, co-inciding with the creation of the famous Brabazon Golf Course and the completion of the Belfry Hotel – augmented by the move from the Oval Cricket Ground Offices of the PGA to their purpose built office of Apollo House close by the 18th. Green.
The prime mover in the creation of the BSC (and its mentor) was the larger-than-life character of Peter Robbins – former Oxford Blue and England International Rugby Union forward. His boundless enthusiasm and lust for life were infectious qualities, and his brainchild of creating a club for gentlemen to appreciate fine dining and entertainment from sportsmen of stature was to find exactly the right location at the exciting new golf and hotel complex at The Belfry Joined enthusiastically by the chief executive at the new golf complex – Brian Cash, and by fellow sports fans Roy Thompson, David Parmenter, Joe Stainer, and the PGA secretary Colin Snape, plus soon-to-be Treasurer Tim Whiteway – this team soon had the Sporting Club show on the road.
In our opening year 1978, Members were entertained by four giants of their respective sports – Cliff Morgan, Colin Cowdrey, Derek Dougan, and Henry Cotton – whilst for good measure, Henry Cooper commentated on a spirited session of amateur boxing – staged on a ring erected in the centre of our regular “home” The Warwick Suite.
Bursting at the seams on most dinner evenings, the club went from strength to strength under the lively and watchful chairmanship of Peter Robbins. There were so many highlights to recall – and “PGD’s” reputation as a sportsman and host ensured that a steady stream of the great and the good of the entire sporting spectrum graced our top table.
Equally, the high standards of behaviour, proper respect for our guest speakers, excellent cuisine and wines were foundation stones of our club that were laid in those early days, and maintained right through to the present time.
To mention but a few – football fans enjoyed a treat with the much-loved Joe Mercer and Jackie Charlton in ’79, golf had its turn with Alex Hay in ’80, two superb performers in Peter Parfitt from cricket and the impeccable Gareth Edwards from Rugby wowed us in ’81, whilst
motor racing and horse racing took their turn in ’82 with John Surtees and Dick Pitman.
Dan Maskell and the great Fred Perry were our world of tennis stars – but just when it all seemed like plain sailing, one rumbustious eve in ’84 the former champion jump jockey Terry Biddlecombe reeled out of a taxi clutching a bottle of vintage port, delivered the most forgettable speech in Belfry history, and then slumped back in his chair to the obvious disgust of fellow speaker F.S. Trueman. As you would expect, fiery Fred did not let the matter pass unobserved – and in an absolute tour de force address, tore several strips off one T.Biddlecombe, who was by now on his second bottle of port and more or less past caring!
We progressed from one boyhood sports hero to another – Denis Compton had us star-gazing in ’85, whilst the footballers had a field year in ’88 with Nat Lofthouse (the “lion of Vienna”) , Frank McLintock and the wisecracking Tommy Docherty.
1992 was a sad year for all of us – and a watershed for the club – with the untimely death of our chairman Peter Robbins.
Things would never be quite the same, as Peter was an unforgettable character who stamped his inimitable style all over our club. But as a tribute to his memory, in a way, we carried on – hopefully in a style which would meet with his approval.
The cheeky Scouser and boxing great John Conteh, cricket’s supreme entertainer Geoff Miller and jump racing’s greatest personality Johnny Francome got us back on track that year – and then “Broon from Troon” (not to be confused with our current Prime Minister!) would have certainly been on our late charman’s approved list.
Peter’s Rugby chum Graham Creed took on the unenviable task of following on as our chairman – and was immediately tested by one of those nights. Principal guest speaker Alan Minter is a “no-show” – but makes a late appearance through the exit doors of the Belfry kitchen wearing a light beige suit and a tie with a painted nude on it. His meandering journey towards top table is painful to observe from the chairman’s viewpoint – and even more painful for a number of members on the receiving end of a series of clips, uppercuts and left-hooks. All this accompanied by gymnasium language of the basest variety – and when our teetering guest finally arrives at his seat, by equally appalling table manners.
A speech constantly punctuated by threats aimed at anyone who dared mutter their disapproval of our swaying middleweight champ then ensued, with the entertainment element of the evening then rescued by Hockey international Roger Dakin, for whom grateful thanks!
TO BE CONTINUED!