"Don't Let Me Die Before the G & P"

Rhodesians Had a Capacity to down a Lion or Castle or two
Rhodesians Had a Capacity to down a Lion or Castle or two

The Globe and Phoenix Club, 2010.  The exterior essentially unchanged fifty five years on.

“Don’t Let Me Die Before the G & P”

Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor at the Cape of Good Hope established the first brewery at the Castle in 1658.  Castle Breweries sprung up in 1895 on the Witwatersrand.  Within two years it was the first industrial company to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. In 1910 they launched their first international venture with Rhodesian Breweries just as the first rugby games were being played at Princess Park in Que Que.

“Don’t Let Me Die Before the G & P”

In these early days, the Que Que and District Rugby Club played against Bulawayo, a hundred and fifty miles away.  It might be a week long trip, depending on the train services.  Selukwe, the Surprise Mine and Gwelo teams were closer to hand.   To play at Gwelo the club would leave on Saturday evening, and arrive in Gwelo about 10 pm to play the following afternoon.  After the game the players would adjourn to the Horse Shoe Hotel until the Mail left for Que Que at 7 pm. when they would take charge of the dining saloon.

The premier rugby trophy, the G & P Shield, was presented by the Globe and Phoenix Mine in 1926, with the stipulation that the semi-finals and finals be played in Que Que.

Before the new Sports Club was built off Rhodes Highway in 1954, the games were played on the Globe and Phoenix Field in the veld between the Gwelo Road and road to Gokwe.  A few spectator bleachers would be set up for the officials and dignitaries. Everyone else drove up to the field in their cars and lorries and climbed onto their bonnet, boot or roof.

Thornhill Airforce Base was set up outside Gwelo to train aircrews in WWII.  It produced over eighteen hundred pilots. Of course they were fine rugby players and beer drinkers and pretended the war was a game and they were school boys.

Neville Mare remembers when Len Puttick coached Thornhill in the 70’s when they won the Midlands league, which qualified them for the G & P Shield.  In keeping with tradition, Len’s glass was filled with Castle Lager to be downed in a gulp while the team players sang Down! Down! Down!

Len was breathless.  Blue in fact.  The bottle cap had lodged in his throat.

Like any true rugby coach or player, he claimed his only prayer was “Don’t let me die before the G & P!”

A rugby slap on the back dislodged the cap.

Is that why sportmen insist on drinking from the bottle to this day?

Thanks to Neville Mare (RhAF) for this yarn http://www.ourstory.com/orafs. and to my son Jonathan Davis, jondavisphotography, Marina del Rey, Los Angeles, for the photo http://www.jondavisphoto.com/

Ken Connelly:  Update on Rugby.  The Globe & Phoenix Shield was the annual end of season competition featuring the top teams from each of the four provinces, Masonaland, Matabeleland, Manicaland and Midlands, the winner considered the champion club of the country. In the 80’s a “super league” was introduced whereby all the top clubs played each other regularly so the tournament fell away. You may be interested to know that I actually played in the last one in 1980 for Zisco, we beat Harare Sports Club 25-7 in the final.
Rodney Tapson played for Rhodesia and more recently Peter Albasini and Gary Muller represented Zimbabwe.