THIS week Kerry Miller’s series on the sporting scene in and around Bridgwater reaches the summer of 1909, where once again there is some discussion whether to continue running Bridgwater AFC.

With the new golf course on Durleigh Road, cricket and bowls booming just a few yards away and both senior rugby clubs enjoying big crowds, there were precious few scraps for the soccer clubs to feed on.

Despite success in the Weston & District League, Bridgwater AFC’s annual general meeting was sparsely attended on August 12 at the White Hart Hotel, where important questions about the upcoming season were addressed.

The meeting was reported as “far from enthusiastic” and the adverse bank balance was down to heavier expenses in the Weston League and an almost total absence of gate money.

Both the treasurer and chairman resigned and, with no nominations, it was adjourned for seven days, which was not a good sign as the club disbanding was an option on the table.

Remarkably, the second meeting a week later was far more upbeat, presided over by Reg Davis, and joint secretaries came forward in Reg Fursland and Oliver Temblett, with nobody predicting how one half of that appointment would implode with such force a few months later.

The club made it clear to the league that they wished to remain in Division 2, but instead they were promoted to Division 1 - a big mistake.

The club were still at Redgate but making little progress in developing, with competition from the likes of Huntspill United, Highbridge Rovers and Burnham Albion, although all three would be superseded by other clubs in those towns in due course.

The season did not get off to a good start, and when several did not travel to Wells City in October warning signs were already there.

By then a new Highbridge & District League had been formed, with Bridgwater AFC elected, but that too caused problems when the club had first team home games on the same day.

That further diluted the already meagre support, with one game at Redgate and the other across town at the Malt Shovel.

Burnham were beaten in the Somerset Junior Cup, and when the team were drawn to go to Wells again, this time in the Churchill Cup, it was by motor coach from the Bridgwater Motor Company.

A much stronger side won 4-3 but the euphoria only lasted a fortnight, as Street came to town in the Weston League and thrashed them 11-3, after which the club were rarely heard of.

Meanwhile the rugby code’s success had continued unabated, and its strength and popularity was such that the professional Northern Rugby Union, or the Rugby League as it is now known, came calling in the new year.

Having impressed in the regional and national trials, 29-year old Walter Roman, known to all as ‘Rattler’, became disenchanted with the selectors.

Convinced of his right to an England cap, he was enticed away to join Rochdale Hornets along with another Albion man in Tommy Woods.

Roman’s reported signing-on fee of £200 was huge and he supplemented his income by taking over the Beehive pub in Rochdale.

On the field he won county cup medals and was finally capped by England, against Wales at St Helens, which led to his place in the second ever Lions squad which toured Australia and New Zealand.

Later on, Roman was in the front line on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, his 36th birthday.

He suffered extensive injuries and was transported back to England where he sadly died four weeks after being injured.

He is buried in Wembdon Road cemetery.

Rattler’s friend and colleague Woods was three years younger and had been given a cap at union before moving up to Rochdale Hornets and becoming a dual international for England and Great Britain.

He played until he was almost 40, staying in that town until his death there in 1955, aged 72.

Back in Bridgwater, the new year had come and gone and with a number of Bridgwater AFC men turning out for the likes of Bridgwater Athletic and Amateurs FCs it was assumed that the original club had folded, as a league table in February showed that both the firsts and reserves had lost every game.

There appeared to be more interest in Thursday football, with Bridgy Thursday FC and Rovers FC playing alternately on the Albion rugby ground.

The truth was that the club had been sporadically playing matches, but behind the scenes there had been a major incident which had shocked the brick town.

A smoking concert was held by the town cricket club to raise funds but it was also in aid of both the Bridgwater AFC and the Amateurs Cricket Club, who were both seriously in trouble due to what was euphemistically called ‘an incident’ which had left both with debts of around £30 - a huge sum for the largely unfunded clubs.

Reg Fursland, who was secretary for both clubs, had absconded to Bristol with the club’s funds and had also stolen from his lodger as well as using false pretences to gain food and lodgings in Bristol, Cardiff and Fishguard before being arrested.

By then the town had begun to recover from the death of Edward VII, which brought much of normal life to a standstill, but things were soon up and running again, as were Rochdale Hornets - who once again came south to snatch scrum-half Ernie Jones from Albion’s rivals Bridgwater RFC.

Jones joined his Somerset mates in June 1911 and enjoyed a similar career, being capped by England and Great Britain and playing in front of crowds of 20,000 plus.

What had been an unremittingly bad year for soccer in the town sadly got no better at the football club AGM in August, when another very poor attendance heard that the club’s seventh season was ‘not successful in any way’ - something of an understatement as they had lost every match in both Weston League Divisions 1 and 2, and were down a small fortune due to the former secretary.

Somehow subscriptions and generous creditors cleared the debt and an energised committee again entered two clubs in the Weston League, plus the Churchill Cup and Somerset Junior Cup, under new secretary Henry Temblett.

They moved across to a new ground behind the docks in Chilton Road which was shared with Camden United and summer cricket, with Bridgwater Rovers moving into Redgate.

The successful Bridgwater Thursday FC had no such qualms in playing their league football in Taunton, as they enjoyed good support from the early closers and had begun to build a team which would enjoy honours.

One member of that side was a young man who had recently moved to North Petherton from a sleepy Warwickshire village and had begun work as a gentleman’s hairdresser.

His name was Reginald Morris and he would find success and medals, which would find their way back to Bridgwater via his granddaughter 110 years later.

Readers are welcome to email with any memories or pictures from this sporting era. Kerry is especially eager to pinpoint exactly where in Chilton Road - now Chilton Street - the new sports ground stood.