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Official Opening of new floodlights on 1st XV
Official Opening of new floodlights on 1st XV

Welcome from President & teams.

Courtesy of John Gillespie

Flood Lights Chambers Park
Flood Lights Chambers Park

Programme for offical opening of floodlights.

Courtesy of John Gillespie

1961 - CHAMBERS PARK COMMITTEE
1961 - CHAMBERS PARK COMMITTEE

Photo courtesy of Rotary.



Official Opening of Chambers Park
Official Opening of Chambers Park

Note the Railway Station & Station Master''s House in distance.

Photo courtesy of Rotary.

Chambers Park Appeal for Funds-1960
Chambers Park Appeal for Funds-1960

The Appeal had the support of the Mayor of Portadown & many other dignatories as indicated.

Courtesy PRFC 1989 Yearbook.

Chambers Park Captain's Report 1960-61
Chambers Park Captain's Report 1960-61

The PRFC Captain's Report for the 1960-61 mentions the progress being made with the new playing fields at Chambers Park.

Courtesy of PRFC 1989 Yearbook.



Chambers Park named after Jimmy Chambers
Chambers Park named after Jimmy Chambers


Chambers park was named after Jimmy Chambers. He was a teacher in Portadown College, when the School was in Edenderry.

Jimmy’s grandmother, had been a Spence and before Enlisting, during The First World War, he worked briefly in Spence Bryson’s Linen Factory, in Belfast.

It was almost three years after the Armistice, at a meeting in the Young Men’s Institute on the 25th November 1921, that the Rugby Club was re-constituted. Jimmy’s 50 years association with rugby in Portadown, began with his over age selection on a Carleton Collegiate side, which played Dungannon Royal School on 10-2-23.

His personal contribution to Rugby, between the Wars was total and unique, despite having a small playing panel, in a small School, Jimmy personally checked each player’s availability for Saturday’s Match--not by telephone, but on his bicycle!!

He was a Teetotaller, always fit and played until he was almost 50 years old. His playing days over, wife Ruby and him, involved themselves in every aspect of the club, in the late 50’sand 60’s.

Mrs. Branyan, whose small Grocery-Confectionery Shop, was at the top of James Street remembers Jimmy bringing into her shop, dozen’s of empty lemonade bottles, he had dug out of the Town Dump in Edenderry, to collect the 2d per bottle, for the Rugby funds.!!



Small wonder then, that the Clubs own ground was unanimously named Chambers Park.

Chambers park is the Clubs Memorial to one of its Greatest Servants.

Reference J Gilpin.

Photo courtesy PRFC Yearbook 1989






Chambers Park
Chambers Park

Chambers Park.

Johnny Hegan had a dream of a “sports arena for youth” on the swampy land he had purchased and towards the end of the war, he donated it, at a yearly rent of one shilling to Portadown Council of Social Services, a body of socially minded people of the town, chaired by Dr. Winnifred Hadden, an exceptional woman, to whom Portadown is greatly indebted.

Realising that the land required development, the above council leased it to Portadown Borough Council, as a dump site and dumping continued on it well into the 1950’s, It was described at that time, as a swampy rat infested waste.

In 1958 Dr. Winnfred Hadden, realising, that the Council of Social Services, was getting nowhere with the site, asked Harold Thompson, the local solicitor, to convene a meeting of interested parties.

Billy Cinnamon attended on behalf of the Rugby Club as this Club, then playing at Woodside, had been pressing George Magowan, Town Clerk, by way of its successive Secretaries in the 1950’s, to have proper playing fields provided for its use, but without any success. The Borough Council also sent a representative to this meeting, but felt that it was to committed to providing any development of the site.

The Rugby Club alone felt it could take up the challenge, having to climb up the poles to insert light bulbs for training and having to convey visiting teams to the undulating puddle pitch, often in the boots of their cars, from which afterwards the clinging black mud had to be scraped in large quantity.

The Club was developing a post- war enthusiasm and energy under the leadership of men like T.C. Wells. Frank Henderson, Billy Stewart, Raymond Long, Ronnie Wilson and others, which was to carry it to success in the Town’s Cup of both 1957 and 1959. At the A.G.M. held on the 2nd May 1958 Frank Henderson, then Captain, expressed dissatisfaction with the Woodside pitches.

The new Clubrooms at Levaghery School-house were in process of being purchased and the new Intermediate Schools At Clounagh and Killicomaine were teaching rugby. Something needed to be done to provide suitable facilities. When the Club moved to its new Clubrooms at Levaghery, this burgeoning spirit developed even further and at the A.G.M. of 1960 a strong interested Ladies Committee led by Mrs.W.North attended for the first time and served supper afterwards to the equal to at least £4,000.

It was reported that a scheme was planned for two Rugby pitches, two Hockey pitches and a Cricket square, on the dump at Bridge Street, expected to cost £5,000 and that Robert Heathwood, the contractor of Edenderry, would donate soil from the site of the new Unidare factory at Seagoe. Patron William A. Mullen, President Bill North and chairman Jimmy Chambers must have been very excited men- Tommy Wells even more so!

Two Committees for the development of the new grounds were established in 1960. The Appeals Committee, May 1960, was composed predominantly of Rugby Club Members- Sam McGredy, Cecil Mullen, David Robinson. Dicky Vaughan, Bill North, Billy Stewart, Harold Thompson, Charlie Wright, Jimmy Chambers, Billy Cinnamon, Kenny Irwin and Jack Gilpin. Martin Stevenson and George Bond represented the Men’s Hockey Club, while Dean May and Brenda Pentland spoke for the Ladies Hockey Club. This Committee set a record of hard work, difficult to equal, meeting 46 times over the following three years, at the Levaghery and controlling all the Park, advice being given by Willie Irvine, Organiser of the famous Clabby Donkey Derby in Co. Fermanagh.

The Ladies Committee had been organising Whist Drives, all winter at the Levaghery. Rugby Club, members were called upon to man the stalls of Miss Barry’s Amusements, in the Fair Green for a percentage of the takings and to lend a hand with the Jumble Sales, held in the Municipal Markets.

The Grounds Committee established some time earlier, was chaired by Harold Thompson and included Kenny Irwin, Jimmy Chambers, Billy Cinnamond, (Treasure) Sam McGredy, Cecil Mullen, Tommy Wells and Charlie Wright. The same Stalwarts of the Men’s and Ladies Hokey Clubs served on it and the Council of Social Services was represented by Carl Bell.

This Committee dealt with the multitude of both large and small problems involved in the actual construction of the grounds from dealing with the main contractors, A.J. Hall & Sons of Seagoe, to liaison with the Sports Turf Research Institute of Bingley over drainage, sowing and maintenance. At the conclusion, they had to make arrangements for preparing the grounds and many a player young and old will recall gathering lorry loads of stones, at their behest from the pitches.

The project took three years to complete, the cost being met in many ways. The Watson Charity Trust donated £1,500 and the Ministry of Education a 50% grant, while the National Playing Fields Association gave £105 and a loan of £400. An Appeal held through out the town ,raised £4,000. The total cost had by the end risen to £14,000 typical of the usual difference between estimates and reality. In modern terms representing a figure of around £150,000.

Chambers Park was opened on the evening of Wednesday 4th September1963, when several hundred spectators turned up excitedly to witness a top-class game, between Portadown under Raymond Stewart’s Captaincy and an Ulster XV containing such famous names as Raymond Hunter, Mike Gibson and Syd Miller.

Portadown’s team contained such well known players as Brian Gordon, Freddie Richardson, George Douglas, Bill Morrow, Derek Logan and the late Gordon Graham, after whom our Member’s Registration Board is named.

Those who saw the match, still recall the brilliant try scored by Raymond Hunter just before half-time and also the relief, when Gordon Graham scored for Portadown, his try converted by outstanding kicker Brian Gordon. Victor Elliott, recalls this game, as one of the swiftest and hardest-played games he has ever Refereed. Ulster won 21-5

Chambers Park was a reality. It was later to have the Mullen Pavilion added and the extension of two further pitches, with a Social Centre.

Reference G Hampton

Official Opening of Chambers Park - 4/9/1963
Official Opening of Chambers Park - 4/9/1963

Title: Official Opening of Chambers Park
Comments:
Wednesday 4th September 1963 will go down in gold-lettering in the annals of Portadown Rugby Club, for it was the greatest night in the club’s long history.

Several hundred spectators turned up to see the local side take on Ulster, in the first match on Chambers park, the town’s magnificent new playing fields on the Bridge Street/ Lurgan Road.

That Ulster won 21-5 did not matter in the least. That the match took place at all was due only to the tremendous work, that the Rugby Club has done over the past four years in converting, what was only a dump into a playing field, that is the envy of many towns in the Province.

Chambers park is a credit to the town, a memorial to the foresight and ingenuity of the men of the Rugby Club, who turned drawing board plans into reality, in what can only be regarded, as a remarkably fast time.

No longer do rail passengers on the Belfast line look out on a mountain of refuse. They see an expense of lush green grass, a playing field second to none. They see the field, that will provide healthy recreation for hundreds of people all over the Province in years to come.

Wednesday night was certainly a night to remember. Everybody that is anybody in rugby was there and many people who have no interest in the game, were there. They all wanted to see the first match on Chambers Park.

When they look back on it, the spectators and the Portadown team, will remember one thing in particular, Raymond Hunter’s brilliant try, scored just before referee Victor Elliott blew his whistle for half- time.

Hunter raced from well inside his own half, fought off the challenge of three Portadown players, left another three trailing at his heels and placed the ball almost nonchantly between the posts. It was a wonderful try, the highlight of this showpiece.

Hunter had earlier opened the scoring for Ulster. They had six full inter-nationals in their side, but afterwards, Gordon Graham warmed the hearts of the local supporters on a rather cold night, by scoring a try which Brian Gordon converted. The score came after good work by Fred Richardson, but it only acted as a spur to the strong Ulster side and it was no surprise, when Sid Miller got a try, which Brian Marshall converted. Then came the Hunter try that I was talking about.

Portadown, rallied by their captain, Raymond Stewart, whose tackling was particularly good, tightened their covering in the second half, but they could not prevent Ken Quinn from scoring a try which Michael Gibson missed. Gibson made amends, however, near the end, when he scored a fine try just between the posts, He converted it easily.

Following the match, Portadown entertained the Ulster team and other guests, to dinner in the Savoy.

Tommy Wells one of the stalwarts of the club, chaired the function and introduced Mr.Jack Magowan, president of the local club, who in turn welcomed the Ulster team and thanked them for an entertaining match.

Other speakers included Mr. H.M.Thompson, a member of the Chambers Park committee, Mr.H.Mc Kibben, President of the Ulster Branch Rugby Union, and Mr.C.Harte, next year’s Irish President. Raymond Stewart spoke on behalf of the Portadown team and Sid Millar replied.

Ulster Team -

R.Agnew. B.Marshall (C.I.Y.M.S.)

A.Sloan. (Lurgan) W.R,Hunter (C.I.Y.M.S)

K. Armstrong (Dungannon) S.D.Johnston (Instonians)

R, Stewart (Captain) W.McKee (Dungannon)

A.Jardine, K,N.Quinn (C.I.Y.M.S.)

B.Gordon, C.M.H.Gibson (N.I.F.C.)

F,Richardson. J.Buckley (Dungannon)

E. Mc Cann (Ballymena) S.Millar (Ballymena)

D.Myles K.W.Kennedy (Q.U.B.)

G.Douglas J.Birch (Q.U.B.)

D.McKeen (Dungannon) W.J.McBride (Ballymena)

W.Morrow K.Wilson (Q.U.B.)

D,Logan J.Kane (C.I.Y.M.S.)

R.Saunders (Dungannon) J.A.Donaldson (Collegians)

G.Graham E.J.Dick (Ballymena)


Referee.W.V.C.Elliott (Portadown.





Portadown Team -

Back Row. D.McKeen, R.Saunders, R.Agnew, A.Jardine, K.Armstrong, E.McCann, G.Graham, W.Morrow.

Front Row. G.Douglas, A.Sloan, B.Gordon, R.Stewart, F,Richardson, D.Logan, D.Myles.

Photo courtesy Mr Fred Richardson






Submitted By: Ellen A Roney
Submitted Date: 14 April 2006

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