One aspect of Moseley’s history that is not very well known is the part that the club and some of its members played in the early days of the Barbarians.
During the 1880s and 1890s rugby tours of more than one match were almost unknown. One of the earliest ventures was undertaken by Jesus College, Cambridge in December 1884 when four matches over five days were played in Yorkshire. One of the members of this early touring party was W.P. ‘Percy’ Carpmael.
The tour obviously made a favourable impression on Carpmael for in 1889 he helped organise another tour, this time by Clapham Rovers, when five or six games were played in Yorkshire and the Midlands in the space of eight days. Carpmael had now been bitten by the touring ‘bug’ and decided to organise his own team to visit the Midlands and the North at Easter 1890. Games were played against Burton, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Moseley. The team was described differently at each venue and when the side played Moseley it was called ‘Blackheath’ because that club provided the majority of the tourists.
The game at The Reddings, on 5th April, ended in a draw and the correspondent of The Birmingham Daily Post was distinctly unimpressed, commenting that ‘the play of both sides at Moseley was scratchy in the extreme, and but for a few individual dashes would have been positively dull.’ He also thought that ‘Mr. Carpmael’s collection of celebrities’ would find it hard to gain any distinction. How wrong can you be! One of these ‘celebrities’ was none other than J.H. Rogers, the first Moseley player to win an international cap, which he had achieved earlier in the season. Whether or not he played against his club is not known. During this pioneer tour Carpmael’s side had played imaginative running rugby and before the players broke up at the end of the tour they resolved to form a touring club that would continue to play this style of football.
In the summer months Carpmael and his closest associates in the venture, including W.N. Mayne of Moseley, drew up the first set of rules for the Barbarians and once the club had been officially formed Mayne served as assistant secretary, a post he held for two seasons. J.H. Rogers also served on the committee during those two years. Fifty members were elected to the Barbarians for that first season, 1890/91, three of whom came from the Moseley club. These were the aforementioned J.H. Rogers and W.N. Mayne together with Rogers’s brother Alfred.
Having played Carpmael’s pre-Barbarians side in 1890 Moseley had to wait 84 years to play the real Barbarian side. This the club did during the centenary season, in 1974. when Moseley emerged victorious by a score of 25 points to 22.
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