Win the amazing story of Exeter Chiefs
Exe Men, the brand-new book by Robert Kitson, charts the story of Exeter’s extraordinary rise to the pinnacle of English and European rugby. You can read a review of the book here.
At the foot of this article, we’re giving you an opportunity to win one of six copies in a competition. First, here’s a short extract from the book about one of the central characters in the Chiefs’ amazing narrative – chairman and chief executive Tony Rowe…
By now anyone who had encountered Rowe knew better than to dismiss his ‘hunches’ out of hand, writes Rob Kitson. Perhaps the most extreme example was the hobby he had chanced upon prior to getting involved with rugby.
Driving up the North Devon Link Road towards Barnstaple one day en route to a business meeting, he found the carriageway blocked. To pass the time, he pulled over at a local garage for a packet of fags. With time to kill, he wandered idly around the back of the building and came across a big fire engine with a bush growing out of it.
Suddenly he was the five-year-old Tony again, standing on the street corner in Gosport and watching a similar fire engine, bell ringing, with a big wooden ladder and a big wheel on the back. Fire! Fire! His reverie was shattered by the voice of the garage owner behind him.
“Do you want to buy it?”
“The fire engine. It’s for sale.”
“Why would I want to buy that? No, thanks.”
The abandoned fire engine with a bush sprouting out of it, however, became lodged in his consciousness.
Just over a year later, by sheer fluke, he found himself back at the exact same spot, stuck in traffic with the link road shut because of an accident. Once again he decided he needed a smoke.
Walking round the back of the garage, he fully expected to find the fire engine had gone. But no. There were now three of them. The garage owner, recognising a possible sales opportunity, popped out to say hello.
“Do you want to buy it?”
“Well, if you do you’ve got to take those other two as well.”
The siren call could be resisted no longer. By the time he’d returned to his car, Rowe had bought himself three wrecked old fire engines.
Back at work everyone thought he’d lost his marbles. It required a friend with a big low-loading lorry to make three separate journeys simply to pick them up. Stripping them down and doing them up again was also going to be a major job, requiring dedication and effort.
Shortly afterwards his fleet was further increased: popping down to a car auction in Exeter to buy a van, he returned with another abandoned fire engine which, it turned out, had previously seen service in Ottery St Mary. Two of the smaller fire engines he had originally purchased were also from Ottery, with one dating back to 1765.
Before long it became an obsession. His collection grew to 16 full-size antique fire engines, with another 350 miniature models lining the walls of his office. Given his other lifelong interest – collecting British stamps – it was a wonder he found any time for rugby, let alone a relationship with Sharon, now his third wife.
Sharon, by coincidence, grew up in a house which had backed on to the County Ground, looking at the rugby and speedway out of her bedroom window. How many people end up living with the person who sold their childhood view for housing?
Now enter our competition to win this brilliant new book on Exeter or buy it here
Exe Men is published by Polaris, RRP £17.99, and comes highly recommended. You can buy it by clicking on the link below.
We also have six copies to give away. For a chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Friday 22 January.