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Bully Off!

The origins of hockey at PGS
3 Dec 2021
Written by John Sadden
OP updates

A young Denys Hibbert had played in both the cricket and hockey first elevens at Radley College and Oxford University. He was appointed Head of PGS in 1954, and in his annual report three years later he expressed his intention to extend the range of “minor games”, including hockey.  

The game had been played by some PGS sixth formers during the Second World War following evacuation to Charterhouse, which had taken in some of the school's scientists. After the war, one pupil, M C Arber (1945-48), gained the distinction of playing for the Hants Schools Hockey XI. A  makeshift, indoor game caught on amongst pupils at the school boarding house in South Parade in 1950. The Portmuthian reported that “basements were searched for pieces of wood to form L-shaped sticks, which unfortunately never held together.”  

Sixth formers on a Geography field studies course at Juniper Hall, near Dorking, in 1951 challenged girls to a game of hockey using odd implements like “a broomstick and the decapitated stump of a yew tree”. The boys complained that the girls had an unfair advantage as “they had played the game before and had some knowledge of the rules”. Nevertheless, old-fashioned notions of chivalry went out the window and PGS was victorious in all four games. 

Hockey was formally introduced by Mr Hibbert as an alternative to rugby for boys in the upper school in the autumn term of 1957. He was fortunate in having an enthusiastic member of staff to coach the boys and organise matches- Mr Hitchcott,  a former Flying Officer in the RAF who joined the school in 1952 to teach Chemistry. The Civil Service Sports Association ground in Copnor Road was used for practice on Wednesdays, and a fixture list arranged.  

Among the opponents in the team’s first season was the Civil Service 2nd XI, and a PGS masters’ side, who trounced the boys with a goal from Mr John Hopkinson and a hat-trick from Mr Peter Barclay. According to the Portmuthian, in spite of the relative inexperience of most of its members, the team “developed into quite a useful side” Regular players in this, the first known PGS pupils’ hockey team, were Harwood (goal) Hunter, McBride (backs), Jones A. F., Stonebridge, Barnes; (half-backs), Rayner, Wise N. B.,Smith I. H. B., Foreman. (forwards).Davies E. G., Porteous, St. John, Calder,Cobbett, Hoare, Latchem and Pavey also played. 

In November 1959, the Southern Grammar School for Girls was added to the annual fixture list. Mr Hitchcott umpired and disallowed over half of the PGS goals, though he was unable to prevent the school winning 9-0. By the 1990s, PGS girls were playing on equal terms in mixed house hockey matches, and the first all girls’ 1st XI played in the 1991-92 season. 

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