The Shanghai Rugby Union Football Club (1904) was one of the premier clubs in the Far East prior to the end of the Second World War. Sadly, the advent of Communism and the Cultural Revolution wiped away all traces of elitist sports in China, such as rugby and golf. Fifty years later a group of enthusiasts formed a new all-sports club under the banner of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club. A further fifteen years on, today the SRFC have marvellous facilities at Pudong, covering just about every ball game apart from golf.
To celebrate the official opening of the new pavilion in 2012, John Rigg (1955-59) and his brother Tony ( 1961-65) donated the rugby shirt worn by their father Bill Rigg when he represented Shanghai in 1939, to the Club. This not only hangs in pride of place in the Clubhouse, but also is now a fashion item. The SRFC in conjunction with the Hong Kong based fashion house, Shanghai Tang, have issued a series of rugby shirts from the pre-war Interport Clubs who had annual matches against each other. These matches were of a standard equivalent to top level clubs in Britain and it was not unusual to find ex-internationalists from the Home Nations playing for the teams. The Shanghai team would be selected from a number of clubs in the area such as the Shanghai Scottish and others, travelling by ship to places such as Hankow, Hong Kong and other Treaty Ports.
The first to be issued by Shanghai Tang is the Shanghai shirt. In short sleeved and long sleeved versions, this all black shirt carries the iconic Chinese Five-Toed Imperial Dragon badge as seen above. Shanghai Tang will make a donation upon the sale of each shirt in support of the SRFC and the charities they contribute to in Shanghai.
In the photograph above, Bill is seated far right and behind him (white jersey) is James Martin, whose son Barrie was born in Shanghai on the same day and in the same hospital as John and the two infant boys were in the same two prison camps together, interned by the Japanese. To this day John and Barrie still keep in touch on a regular basis. Prior to being posted to Shanghai Bill had represented Hong Kong at rugby, as did Tony some forty years later. Working for HSBC, Bill was renowned as a fast, hard tackling full back at rugby, a good cricketer and a fine low handicap golfer. His golfing claim to fame was in the 1936 Empire Trophy whilst home on leave, receiving a prize for the lowest round on the final day -one shot better than the overalll winner, a certain Mr Bobby Locke.
As a result of the connection and the bridges built by John over the last two years, he was invited to be the guest of honour in Shanghai for a double celebration. Firstly, the newly re-formed Shanghai Scottish Sports Club -social (football, rugby and golf) -not the old Defence Volunteers Corps, entertained John to dinner at the Mansion Hotel -once the home of one of China's most powerful criminals of the I 940' s. A group of members, a representative of the HSBC and also the Coach to the China Ladies International Golf team -all the way from Lockerbie! After being presented with the Shanghai Scottish Tartan club tie, John was given the honour of becoming the Club Patron. Secondly, the SRFC had a special day of celebration of John's visit, comprising a talk by Simon Drakeford, the Club Historian, on the Interport matches from the early to the mid 1900's. This was followed by a DVD made up by Tony from the original 8mm black and white cine of Bill and Felicity's wedding at Shanghai's Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Shanghai then hosted Seoul to a rugby match, winning comfortably by 51-17. John was then presented with some of the new Shanghai rugby shirts for himself, his family, Barrie Martin and Andy Irvine. In response John presented the Club with two programmes from the 1930's and a Lions 2013 rugby shirt kindly gifted by Andy Irvine, with not only his signature and that of Warren Gatland, but also another fourteen Scottish Lions of yesteryear. The day concluded with an excellent dinner in the Shanghai Tang Cafe attended by around 50 members and wives. After presenting the club with SRU programmes signed by Andy Irvine and our own Roger Baird (1973-78), John was made an Honorary Life Member of the Club and presented with a Club Distinction Award Blazer. In thanking the members of the SRFC John said, "I feel very humble and hugely honoured to be a guest of both the clubs in Shanghai. Of course it is not really about me, it is about my father and all the other expats who, as far back as 150 years ago, brought their sports to China and developed the playing and the social side of their respective clubs. I suppose I am one of the few remaining links between now and then, but for me it will also be an emotional time, visiting the internment camps and thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves, who didn't make it to the end of the war. I am delighted that I have been able to contribute to the memorabilia of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club and indeed, of the new version of the original Shanghai Scottish Volunteer Defence Corps, now the Shanghai Scottish Sports Club. I also hope that my host in Shanghai, Simon Drakeford, is making some progress to encourage the RFU to hold an exhibition of rugby in Shanghai, at their Rugby Museum at Twickenham."
"All in all," says John," it was a fantastic experience to go back to the city of my birth, of which I had no childhood memories, and to learn and see so much. As one of the few Real Shanghailanders left from pre-war times, there could be nothing more thrilling than walking the length of the Bund-never, ever refer to it as the Boond, which is an offensive word in some parts of the World -seeing the famous sights and dreaming of the wonderful memories my parents must have had. Now I too, have at last, memories of my own."
Submitted by John Rigg (55-59)