Old Anselmians’ RUFC was formed in 1947 by a group of former pupils of St. Anselm’s College, a Catholic grammar school in Birkenhead. Early fixtures were played against well established old boys’ teams in the Wirral and Merseyside by a small but dedicated band of travelling players before a temporary home was secured at “Solly Rec” in Birkenhead.
Playing facilities and amenities were primitive and it wasn’t until the mid 1950s that the club relocated to its present home in Eastham village.
Thanks to the far-sighted and generous provision of a few members, the freehold of the pitches at Eastham was secured and a rudimentary clubhouse was begun using the expertise of local businessmen and players. There are numerous stories told of the piecemeal construction of a building that still serves its purpose nearly sixty years later.
By the 1960s Old Anselmians was a well established and thriving club running three sides. At this stage, it was a “closed” club in RFU language, meaning its players were drawn from “The School” but it was recruiting soccer players from the town presumably attracted by the promise of a more active social life than the football clubs could offer. An annual Eater tour began, invariably involving misadventures in the Lake District.
Further expansion in the 1970s meant that by the end of the decade Old Anselmians could field six teams playing “friendly” fixtures all over the north-west of England.
Entry to the RFU Cheshire Cup competition meant several “senior” clubs visited Malone Field (named after a Christian Brother teacher at the School) with Sale the most frequent opponent. In the 1980-1981 season the club became the first “junior” club to reach the semi-finals losing narrowly to Birkenhead Park.
In the 1990s, the club’s profile was greatly enhanced by the success of several alumni on the international stage. Austin Healey, latterly of “Strictly Come Dancing”, would go on to win fifty-one England caps at scrum-half, full-back and wing and tour with the British and Irish Lions in 1997 and 2001. In the 1995-96 Five Nations competition, Simon Mason (currently Club Coach) and Christian Saverimutto were capped three times for Ireland. More recently, in 2002, Ben Johnston, the Nottingham player/coach, was capped twice by England. The Newcastle Falcons scrum-half, Chris Pilgrim is the most recent graduate of “The Saints.”
With the advent of first merit tables and, now, league rugby, many of our traditional fixtures have lapsed. The “Old” was dropped from the name and “Anselmians” 1st XV now compete in the South Lancashire/Cheshire Division One. The 2nd and 3rd XVs play in Division 3 South and the Wirral Merit table and the thriving mini and junior section is the envy of many clubs. Ambitious plans to build a new clubhouse are well advanced and the club became incorporated as a “Company Limited by Guarantee” on 5th October 2010.
Entering the second decade of the 21st century and approaching its 63rd birthday, Anselmians remains a friendly and forward thinking club true to the vision of those young men who began it with the simple wish “to play rugby with a smile.”