Tynedale Rugby Club began almost by accident, following the arrival in Hexham of a letter addressed to the "Captain of the Hexham Football Club". There being no-one in the town answering to that title, a group of people decided it was high time there was. On 11 October, 1876, a meeting was called in Hexham Town Hall at which Tynedale Football Club was duly formed and a captain, officials and committee appointed.
In 1880, Tynedale became one of the six founder members of the Northumberland Rugby Football Union and, by 1883, found themselves in the final of the Northumberland Challenge Cup, introduced two seasons earlier. But they lost to Tynemouth - and lost again in the following year to Northern.
It was third time lucky, however, in 1887 when Tynedale beat Northern before a crowd of 5,000 in a pulsating final at Jesmond to bring the Senior Cup back to Hexham for the first time. To the strains of the Mechanics Band playing "See the Conquering Hero Comes", hundreds of jubilant supporters greeted the club captain, Tom Robson, and his team on their return to Hexham railway station, and the celebrations went on long into the night at the White Hart Hotel, with a packed crowd gathered outside in the darkness.
Such was the enthusiasm that this victory generated that, three weeks later, at a momentous meeting in the White Hart, all the rugby clubs in the Hexham area decided to merge under the common banner of Tynedale Football Club. Nowadays Hexham Excelsior, Heart of All England, Hexham Wanderers, Tyneside Rovers, Parkend Rangers and Hexham Violets may, alas, be no more than colourful names from a distant past. Without them, however, there would have been no Tynedale club as rugby men know it today.
The famous victory of 1887 notwithstanding, it was far from being roses all the way in those early years at Tynedale. At the beginning of that very season, indeed, the club all but folded, the secretary being instructed at one stage to cancel all fixtures for the season. Then, in 1890, six leading members of the club, including the chairman, secretary and treasurer, resigned because of the non-fulfilment of an Easter fixture with Percy Park.
Playing performance was also patchy, and, after the 1st XV had won just two of their 18 matches in the 1900-01 season, with total income for the year amounting to a mere £32, members decided at their annual meeting that there was no other option but to disband the first team. It meant that, in the county cup, Tynedale had to move down the ladder into the Senior Shield competition, where they reached the final at the first attempt in 1902 and, two years later, carried off the trophy.
It was a victory which automatically entitled them to rejoin the three other senior clubs in the Senior Cup competition the following season and, the financial situation having improved and a new ground at Dene Park having been found in 1902-03, to replace earlier pitches at the Sele, Tyne Mills and the Brewery Field, all connected with the club breathed a sigh of relief. The tide had turned; tynedale's days of crisis were over.
The Northumberland Senior Shield victory of 1904 heralded the dawn of a "Golden Age" at the club, now officially called Tynedale Rugby Football Club. During the decade up to the outbreak of the First World War Tynedale won no fewer than 15 trophies, including the Senior Cup on three occasions and the Senior Shield four times in a row between 1909 and 1912. It was a run of success which, during this period, saw a score of Tynedale players being honoured by selection for their respective counties.
The first of three Senior Cup victories came in 1906, when the 11-0 defeat of Percy Park in the final sparked off scenes last witnessed two decades earlier, with supporters harnessing themselves to the team's brake at Hexham railway station and hauling it up the hill to the Market Place where the captain, George Spencer, triumphantly displayed the trophy to a cheering crowd.
In 1911 a tremendous second half rally brought "Tyne" the cup - and again at Percy Park's expense. Trailing by two tries to nil at half-time and down to 14 men through an injury to wing three-quarter Braidford, they pulled back to win by a single point. It was a fitting climax to Tynedale's magnificent performance in the semi-final when a last minute try, converted by 1stXV captain Willie Robb, gave them victory over a Northern side containing five internationals from England, Scotland and Ireland.
The third Senior Cup victory came in 1914, with Percy Park yet again providing the opposition. This time it took a replay to settle the issue, Tynedale winning 9-6 following a scoreless draw first time round.
Sadly, five of that cup-winning side, captained by Sid Newman, were never again seen in a blue and white jersey. They were among 49 Tynedale players, past and present, who were soon to give their lives for their country in the First World War. A golder era was over.
By now a great milestone in the club's history was approaching. On 13 March, 1926 Tynedale's golden jubilee was celebrated with a match at Dene Park against Waterloo, which Tynedale won 12-3. The game was followed in the evening by a jubilee dinner in Hexham Hydro under the chairmanship of the club president, Mr Harry Robb, who had himself played in Tynedale's first ever game against Elswick in 1876.
More significantly in the long term, the club decided to mark the jubilee in the most tangible way possible by taking up a long-standing option on Dene Park and buying the ground, which it had rented for the past 23 years, at a cost of £1,550. For the first time in half a century the Tynedale club had a home it could truly call its own.
Following the second team's five year run of success in the Senior Shield competition and the fourth team's even more impressive record of six Junior Shield victories in a row between 1923 and 1928, the return of the Northumberland Senior Cup to Hexham was now long overdue. And return it did in 1927 when David Forster's 1st XV beat Northern 5-3 to crown a cup run which surprised everyone but Tynedale.
That cup victory of 1927 was to prove the prelude to the great years of the 'Thirties during which Tynedale carried off the Senior Cup four triumphant seasons in succession between 1933 and 1936.
The Tynedale sides were captained in all four finals by wing-forward David Hodgson, games master at Hexham Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, with international trialist fly-half Angus Brogdon as his vice-captain. Six other players appeared in all four finals: Tommy Bland, Teddy Blench, Rex Graham, Ronnie Herron, Basil Liddle and Jack Suddes.
Great players all - and great days for Tynedale. Sixty years after its formation, the club was at the very pinnacle of its power. Who could foresee that another terrible war was just around the corner?
For the second time in less than three decades the ravages of war took a dreadful toll of the Tynedale club. In the Second World War another 27 players and members laid down their lives for their country, among them several of the heroes of those great cup-winning sides of the 'Thirties.
Nevertheless, when club rugby resumed in earnest in Northumberland, a newly-fashioned Tynedale side led by international trialist wing-forward Will Rutherford soon picked up where Hodgson's men had left off, defeating Northern 15-13 in a thrilling final at the County Ground to win the Senior Cup of 1948.
The 75th anniversary year of 1951 brought a commemorative match on 11 October 1951, which Tynedale lost 23-12 to a South of Scotland XV containing several internationals. Four years later another invitation match, against a County President's XV, marked the official opening of the new clubhouse at Dene Park. It replaced the old ex-Army hut which had done yeoman service ever since the First World War.
There were other developments too. Broad Close, adjoining the first XV pitch, had been acquired in 1948 as a memorial to those Tynedale men who had died in the war: and in 1966 the clubhouse was extended to incorporate a new bar lounge.
Finally, after a period of consolidation and steady development in the 'Sixties Tynedale took the boldest step of all when it acquired the former Tynedale Agricultural Society showfield at Corbridge to be its new headquarters, and sold its ground at Hexham to Northumberland County Council and its clubhouse to the NCB Opencast Executive.
On the threshold of its centenary, the club thus expressed its confidence in the future by embarking upon the most exciting and imaginative project in its hundred years of existence. That group of enthusiasts who founded Tynedale Rugby Football Club a century ago could never have guessed what it was they were starting.
Phil Belgian (Captain, Back)
Simon Allen (Stand Off)
Gavin Beasley (Stand Off)
Matthew Bolam (Winger)
Scott Breerton (Back row)
Aaron Charlton (Hooker)
Mark Clark (Second Row/Back Row)
Alistair Day (Winger)
Ben Duncan (Back)
Keith Dungait (Scrum Half)
Matthew Fieldhouse (Hooker, Back Row)
Neil Graham (2nd Row)
Alistair Gray (Back)
Rupert Harding (Prop)
Jack Harrison (Back)
Jamie Harrison (Centre)
Dan Herdman (Prop)
Robbie Herdman (Back Row)
Ed Holmes (Back)
James Johnson (2nd Row)
Stewart Johnson (Flanker)
Cameron Johnston (Winger)
Douglas Jupp (Prop)
Mark Laycock (Back)
Stephen Lumley (Raiders Captain, Back Row)
Ben McNeil (Centre/Full back)
Ben Marshall (2nd Row)
William Massey (Back)
Jonathan Mock (Full Back)
Andrew Murray (Back Row)
Jamie Murray (Back Row)
Colin Murphy (Centre)
Rupert Neville (Scrum Half)
Adam Newns (Back)
Edward Parker (Hooker)
Richard Parker (Loose Head, Assistant Coach)
Grant Rastall (Flanker)
Stephen Ridley (Hooker)
Ross Samson (Scrum Half)
Hamish Smales (Back)
Jack Smales (Back)
Graeme Smith (Second Row)
Peter Southern (Prop)
Stewart Weir (2nd Row)