‘The Birds’ to flock together for Swifts’ 127th year

2018-02-15 06:00
The twin windows depicting the Good Samaritan perpetuates the memory of Rev Charles Jecks who formed the St Katharine’s Church Choir Boys’ Football Club which later became the Swifts Rugby Club. Photo:HEILIE COMBRINCK

The twin windows depicting the Good Samaritan perpetuates the memory of Rev Charles Jecks who formed the St Katharine’s Church Choir Boys’ Football Club which later became the Swifts Rugby Club. Photo:HEILIE COMBRINCK

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Where in the world will you find stained glass windows in a church - dedicated to the glory of a rugby club?

This is unique to St Katharine’s Church in Uitenhage, where the Swifts Rugby Club was founded in 1891 by Reverend Charles Bloomer Jecks. For sure the only rugby club in the world established by a Reverend.

In its heyday, Swifts’ rugby games were spectacular, so much so that Uitenhage shops closed, as most of the town’s residents trooped in a gala mood to the rugby field.

There will once again be some trooping, this time as former Swifts members from across South Africa will head towards St Katharine’s Church in Uitenhage for the rugby club’s 127th thanksgiving service on Sunday, February 25th.

According to Swifts member and coach, Clyde Scheep-ers, Swifts Rugby Club achieved records that no rugby club in South Africa to date has been able to surpass.

“During 1906 Swifts won the Eastern Province’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th team trophies. An EP and South African record which still stands,” said Scheepers.

“The 1962 1st team won 18 consecutive 1st league matches. They also scooped all the league’s trophies and set an EP record which also still stands to date,” said Scheep-ers.

Swifts administrators also set records. Dr C.L. Steyn was president for over 20 years and Toddy Simpson represented Swifts in the EPRU for 40 years.

In the 70s a former Swifts wing and full-back, Len Killeen, who then played for St Helens (UK), was rated the second best kicker of a rugby ball in the world, with Don Clarke an All Black player 3rd.

Another Swift to become an international household name, playing world class rugby both in the UK and Australia was Poensie Griffiths.
Swift players Ray Griesel and Dirk Albertyn locked the EP scrum together for 125 games. Griesel went on to become an EP U/20 as well as EP senior selector and coach. He played a record 13 consecutive seasons for EP, over 80 games. Swift Fanie Cloete played 90 odd games for EP!

The oldest surviving president of Swifts is Buck Coates, a former EP and Swifts hooker. He turned 97 during January 2018.

Thanksgiving

& braai

The thanksgiving service will be at 11:30 and refreshments will afterwards be served in the church hall. The traditional Swifts Bring & Braai will be at the Skillicorn Club House (Uitenhage Cricket Club).

  • Enquiries: Clyde Scheepers at 079 502 4572 or Trevor Sunton 081 473 3320.

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