Sure-sponsored Vagabonds (Isle of Man) Rugby Union Football Club – “Vagas”, celebrate their 50th Anniversary !! They were formed in 1965 as Douglas High School Old Boys by John Timson, a teacher at the High School. The side was originally made up of current and former High School pupils and the name Vagabonds was quickly adopted as befitting a club which had no ground of its own and that took to the field in a variety of kit before adopting gold and black hoops. This was changed in the 1968/69 season to gold, black and white shirts.
During the early years fixtures were played courtesy of Douglas R.U.F.C., mainly at Kirby Park and Port-e-Chee. From 1974 to 1978 the club played at Castle Rushen High School and in 1978 played at Noble’s Park. Over those years Vagabonds’ headquarters were many and varied but mainly public houses! Fixtures were against either Douglas, Ronaldsway or King William’s College, with only the occasional touring side. During the mid-70s to mid-80s, Vagabonds built up a big touring side fixture list. This fixture list was added to by the newly-formed local clubs – Peel (now Western Vikings), Ramsey, Nomads (now Southern Nomads) and Pacemakers.
In the mid 70s Vagabonds 2nd Team was formed and Vagabonds 1st team had their first foray in to the Cheshire Cup Competition.
In the early days, without their own clubhouse, Vagabonds had to raise money by organising many social and fund-raising events, such as dinner dances, jumble sales, Tynwald Fair stalls and sponsored events.
In 1980, with the invaluable assistance of the IOM Sports Council, Vagabonds’ new pitch was created at Glencrutchery Road. An Isle of Man invitation XV, including three British Lions Internationals – club member Dave ‘Piggy’ Powell, guests Mike Burton and John Spencer, played Vagabonds in the presence of a large crowd, including the Lieutenant Governor of the day, Sir Nigel Cecil.
Vagabonds moved to their first clubhouse in 1986. They agreed an arrangement with the Mike Hailwood Foundation for the extension and use of the Mike Hailwood Centre at the back of the T.T. Grandstand and spent many happy years there.
A few years later, in 1988, Vagabonds 3rd team were formed, which successfully ran for 18 years. 1989 also saw the Club’s 1st XV accepted in to the bottom Division of the Courage League and, despite having to play all its games away from home, were promoted as Champions. Following a series of successful promotions Vagabonds achieved the heights of playing in the North West 1 Division (the highest level by any Manx side to date ). The season 1998/99, however, saw Vagabonds demotion to North West 2 again. The leagues were reorganised for the 1999/2000 season and Vagabonds then played in South Lancs/Cheshire 1.
In those days, the winners of the Manx Cup had automatic entry in to the main Cheshire Cup Competition as the representative of Manx rugby. In 1996 Vagabonds reached the semi-final of the Cheshire Cup losing to Chester in extra time.
In 1996/97 Vagabonds Ladies team was formed and their first match was against Ramsey Ladies. They entered the RFU ladies league in 2008/09 and won the league undefeated, they also won the IOM Sports Team award that season. They are currently playing in NC North 1 League.
The 2000s saw Vagabonds 1st XV continue to play in South Lancs/Cheshire 1 with varying success and the 2nd and 3rd XVs continued to be successful in local competitions. In the mid 2000s Vagabonds started a Youth and Junior Section which continues today.
In 2011 Vagabonds, with the help of the Manx Government, Sports Council, Lottery Trust and the RFU, moved to their new facilities at Ballafletcher which has 2 rugby pitches, cricket square, changing facilities and a new clubhouse. These facilities are considered one of the best in the Island and the North-West of England in rugby terms. Vagabonds are indebted to the many people who helped to raise funds for this and who also organised this project.
From Vagabonds’ humble beginnings to the brilliant facilities we now have at Ballafletcher, it has been a great challenge, adventure and fun for all the club committees and members over the last 50 years. Each President, Chairman and committee member has added their expertise to move the club forward. It is a nigh impossible task to list everyone who has contributed their time, effort and money to help the Vagabonds cause over the years. Included are all the players, patrons, life members, members, sponsors and other friends of the club who all deserve the Club’s thanks. Let’s hope the next 50 years are as successful as the last!
To celebrate the Club’s 50th Anniversary, Vagabonds are holding several events during the season, starting with a big party at the Clubhouse which was held on Saturday 12th September 2015 and will concluding with a Gala Dinner at the Palace Hotel with a guest speaker on Saturday 30th April 2016. Vagabonds have a range of merchandise containing a specially designed 50th logo. More details can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .