ONE of the largest gatherings of Taunton Rugby Club Former Players turned out to enjoy each others' company and relive past memories before watching the current team convincingly beat Hull 73-18 in front of a crowd of almost 800 spectators.

It was a special afternoon in so many ways for the 100 or so former players present, who enjoyed a hearty two-course carvery lunch, before being regaled with a few stories from bygone times, when the changing rooms and bathing facilities were not as sumptuous as they now are.

Taunton Rugby Club Former Players Association was initially mooted in the early 1980s and thanks to the likes of George Babbage, Bill Pearse, Curly Gunter and David Baker the first gathering was held in 1981, since when it has become a regular fixture on the club’s calendar.

For many years the running of the organisation was undertaken by Mike Wilkins who captained the side in 1958-9 and John Beer, who captained in 1963-4, while Richard Walford, who joined the club in the early 1970s and has acted as the secretary/treasurer throughout has taken an increasingly prominent role in more recent years.

Among those who attended were former club captains Julian Holloway(1982-83), Jack Matthews (1966-68), Roger Farthing(1972-73 and 1974-75), Peter Robinson (1994-95), Sean Hemburow (1987-88), Rob Weaver (2001-02), Andy Jones (2002-04), Mark Shirley (1998-2000 and 2004-06), Jerry Winter (1980-81) and Mark Winter (2008-09), Mike Wilkins  (1958-59) and John Beer (1963-64).

Another special guest was Gerard Leloup, a Frenchman who has been coming to Taunton since he first played for SLR Lisieux at the age of about 17 50 years ago.

Former president Jack Matthews said: “Gerard is an ever-present at the former players reunion and a leading figure as interpreter when we visit Lisieux.

"I met him the first year he came and we have been friends ever since.

"He was a fine back row forward in his day.”

The lunch marked the end of an era as John Beer and Mike Wilkins were stepping down from their honorary positions of president and chairman of the Former PlayersAssociation, handing over the reins to Neil Symons, who played for the club from 2000-2008 and is still heavily involved.

Neil is the overall Taunton RFC club captain and runs the Veterans XV as well as performing a number of other duties including the maintenance on all the tractors and the buildings.

Richard Walford will continue in his administrative position as secretary/treasurer and social media liaison.

Neil said: “It is really fantastic what the club has achieved and the Former Players Association is such a key part of that.

"Everything went together really well and it was a good day all round.

“I’m as interested in the vets team, the seconds and the junior section as I am in the Titans and the Former Players is the only thing that connects us back to all of those groups, so it’s vital that we keep that going.

“It’s so important that we remember the heritage of the club and those who have played over the years and it’s key that we embrace the whole community of Taunton RFC and the Former Players is one aspect of this.

“Taunton is a rugby club and is open to everyone and all standards.

"It’s not just about the Titans, although of course that is the side that most people know about and which brings in the revenue.

“We want everybody who comes to the club to have a good time whatever level they play at and it’s important that we don’t lose that.”