In our second instalment of VP stories we hear from Neil Pirie, who played for Sarries between September 1980 and April 1998.
“I’d finished my technician apprenticeship at Rosyth Dockyard and fancied a change for a couple of years so I volunteered to go to “MoD Headquarters” in Bath. I walked into the T23 design office at Foxhill and was confronted by a certain Mr Danny Avery. For those of you who don’t know this man, he was probably the best captain this club has ever had, and a more committed rugby player you’ll never meet. He asked if I played rugby, and did I want to join Bath Civil Service? I said I wasn’t sure, so he invited me to watch a cup match on the Sunday at Walcot. I duly turned up at Lambridge for the first round of the Somerset Cup and watched as this group of what could only be described as a band of ragamuffins, trooped out. Most of them in the dirty kit that they’d played in the day before and last two guys even limped out of the changing room, one of whom, I think it was Malky Burns could hardly walk!
Nevertheless it was a promising start and within a minute Civil Service took an early lead with a John Cooke penalty. (He wasn’t a bad kicker I suppose!). I was impressed. However that lead was to be short lived. Remember it was 4 points a try in those days, – the final score? 104 – 3!!!!! I’ll never forget it. But I have to say, The Civil Service never gave up and that spirit was the one thing that convinced me to join. That and the fact that I thought – even I could do better!
My first game was an away game playing for Bath Civil Service II versus Birmingham CS III. We’d taken a coach up with two teams and I remember meeting Tom Doughty for the first time. I think he was probably 40+ at the time, but he was a still a class player and he was still turning out when he was 50. I think we lost, but the comraderary and the piss-up afterwards was brilliant.
I have many great memories and I have met some brilliant people over the years and remain great friends with them and hope that I always will. People who stood out were many, but I’ll mention a few. There was Terry Brien, another great ex-Captain and stalwart of the team, who taught me the song “The Holy Ground” and was renowned for his rendition of the “Shaggy Baggy Arabs”. John Cooke (JC – “Has anybody seen JC”?) known for his speciality tackles and his outrageous dummy whilst having his back to the opposition! Cloughy, a front row specialist who was known to play a mean game at scrum half on toor (Isle of Man – mid eighties). John Carling, who I remember for running on to the pitch still wearing his glasses and smoking his pipe, oblivious to both! Lastly, there was Merve the Swerve – our very own bus driver, who lived up to his name, and when on toor used to drink a concoction of raw egg and milk whilst the rest of us tried to keep down a cooked breakfast after a heavy night.
The memories go on and on, especially all the toors that I went on. My first was Plymouth 1980-81, others were Jersey, Isle of Man, Leeds, Edinburgh and Morecombe, Amsterdam (twice), Brecon, and I’m sure there were more that was just a blur from start to finish. I must give a special mention to Andy Pike, who had an even weaker bladder than me. We hadn’t even left Bath on the coach going somewhere on toor when Andy was first to christen The Piss Bucket.
For anybody who’s reading this and doesn’t know who I am, and is perhaps starting playing for Bath Saracens, remember the rich history of the club and the tremendous spirit in which rugby has always been played. When your playing days are over hopefully you’ll have as many warm and cherished memories as I have.”
If you have a Sarries story you’d like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org