Recent history of Jersey Rugby Club
Rugby has been played in Jersey since 1879 with breaks for war and the Nazi occupation but the modern era started when the club acquired the land for a permanent home in Saint Peter near Jersey Airport in 1961; the original wooden clubhouse was built in 1964, its approximate location was in the middle of the Jersey Bowl carpark. From the early 1970s, when tourism in the island was at its peak, Jersey attracted many of rugby’s top clubs who could combine a break from their regular fixtures with a game against the Jersey Rugby Football Club.
The current clubhouse was opened in September 1994 and corresponded approximately with the start of the leagues. Jersey could not rely on random visiting sides and had to join the league in Hampshire. The first team worked its way up to the National League 2 South. In 2011, Jersey were promoted to National League 1.
The following year saw further promotion to the English Championship, the second tier of club rugby in England. In a difficult first year, Jersey just managed to avoid relegation, by finishing in penultimate position in the league table.
They are getting a growing number of fans coming to see the islanders as they rise through the leagues. Their greatest attendance was 3,100 against Loughborough Students. Jersey R.F.C. have asked for planning permission to build a club shop and flood lights.
The Siam Cup is one of the oldest rugby trophies in existence, with an interesting and chequered history. It is the annual challenge trophy between the Jersey Rugby Football Club and the Guernsey Rugby Union Football Club (not the island inter-insular challenge).
During the German Occupation of the islands the cup was at great risk because the Germans wanted it to be returned to their homelands to be melted down for funds for the Third Reich. The cup then mysteriously disappeared, but was safely hidden, and resurfaced after the war in 1947. To this day, there is much speculation about where it went during this time but the truth is, nobody really knows.
The Siam Cup is a large circular rose-bowl made from Siamese silver, beautifully decorated in traditional Siamese style, with figures of dancing girls and elephant heads. It stands on an ebony base and is engraved with the cup winners names, dating back as far as 1920.
The cup was originally brought to Guernsey by a Lieut-Colonel C H Forty, who was serving in the Durham Light Infantry in Siam at the early part of the 20th century. Forty, along with four other colleagues, donated the trophy to encourage interest in the game of rugby, on hearing that the game was no longer played between Victoria College in Jersey and Elizabeth College in Guernsey.
The story goes that Vajiravudh, son of the King of Siam, also served in the Durham Light Infantry and was befriended by Forty and Capt S P Groves, another donor of the cup. Vajiravudh later became King Rama VI and it seems certain that it was he who instructed that the cup be made from Ticals (Siamese silver dollars) by the Court silversmith.
It is this chequered history and its age that makes the survival of the Siam Cup so important to the people of Guernsey and Jersey. So much so that at the request of the English Rugby Union, it is now safely kept at the Rugby Union Museum in Twickenham. The clubs agreed to this, provided that a replica was made which could be displayed each year by the winning side.
Using moulding techniques developed following the fire at Windsor Castle, a Guernsey jeweller, Bruce Russell, created the replica which is barely distinguishable from the original. The original was presented to a vice president of the Rugby Union at a formal handing over ceremony during the Siam Cup weekend in 1997.