WHEN Bhomdat Mahraj joined White City’s Christopher Wren school in 1966, the PE master was a Welshman, John Powell. Pupils had to play rugby in the first year and it was a novel experience. “None of us knew about rugby, we all had a football background,” says Mahraj, who came to England from British Guyana. “It was, ‘This is the ball, this is the pitch, this is what you do’. I loved it.”
Home matches were in Southall, entailing arduous travel, but Powell enthused the boys (of all age groups) with tours to Wales or Germany. Some became footballers. “Dennis Wise avoided rugby like the plague!” he recalls.
Mahraj played rugby for 32 years and in 1977 was part of a group of old boys who, in tandem with alumni and teachers of Fulham’s Henry Compton school, formed Hammersmith RFC – later Hammersmith & Fulham after council boroughs amalgamated. The inaugural game was against Wasps, Powell’s former club.
For years, the two schools supplied most of the players, providing a friendly home for people of every race and social class.
Today the club runs five sides, a vets, ladies team and mini-junior section – the works. Led by prop Mark Blyghton, the firsts top London Two North-West. Cam Beveridge and Henry Tanner lead the try list, Nick Wheatley bosses from fly-half, and Bart Casagrande is a tower in the Hammers lineout. Club chairman is Terry Alleyne, another pupil of Powell’s.
Powell is retired and living in Cowbridge. “I wouldn’t swap anything for the time I had at Christopher Wren. I still call them my kids but they’re 50-year-olds now. They invite me to reunions and make me feel special.”
H&F are our Team of the Month and win 22 kitbags from Canterbury.
This article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine
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