A meeting was held on 6th October 1890 at Methodist College for the purpose of forming a new club to replace the old club called "Rugby" which had ceased to exist. Those attending were former pupils and several members of staff of the College. It was resolved that the club be named 'Methodist Collegians" comprising former pupils and present masters.The uniform would be a blue jersey with a red star, blue shorts and blue stockings.Home matches would be played on the College ground known as Eglantine near where Eglantine Avenue is today and then on the College "Rugby-Lacrosse" pitch at Tate's Avenue for which use the college was paid £3.
The first game was played on 25th October 1890 against North of Ireland at their ground at Ormeau. North won but Methodist Collegians surprised their more experienced opponents by the manner in which they played. The first victory was gained against Armagh on 8th December 1890.
In its initial years the club progressed in a satisfactory way reaching the final of the Senior Cup in 1894 1895 and 1896 and the final of the Junior Cup in four successive seasons winning it in 1892 and 1894.The first senior success came in 1901 by winning the Charity Cup defeating Albion 23-0. The Senior League was captured in 1903 and the Senior Cup for the first time in 1906.
The season 1903-04 was marked by the opening of a new ground at Rosetta by H.S.Mclntosh the headmaster of the College. The admission was 6d schoolboys 3d stand and enclosure 3d extra with ladies being admitted free except to the stand and enclosure!!
A number of profitable years followed the Senior Cup success of 1906. The Senior League was won in 1908 1911 and 1913 and the Senior Cup in 1910 and1913. However these matters became much less significant during the Home Rule crisis when rugby matches were cancelled and at a meeting of the Emergency Committee of the Northern Branch (IRFU) the forerunner of the modern day Ulster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union held on 29th January1914 it was officially notified that Collegians would play no further matches that season and the meeting decided to abandon the Senior Cup and League competitions.The first season after the end of the First World War was 1919-1920 and it saw Collegians with the permission of the College have use of the College grounds at Deramore Park. The following decade brought mixed fortunes in terms of results although the Senior Cup was won in the 1925-26 season.
The years between 1920 and 1930 contained two early milestones in the history of the club. One was the first annual dinner held at Thompsons restaurant in Donegall Place on 12th April 1924 and the other at the 1927 AGM in a decision to close the club and restrict membership to former pupils, staff of the College and to non MCB personnel who were already members of the club in 1927.
The 1930s proved to be a fairly unexceptional period in the history of the club. Nonetheless the final of the Senior Cup was reached on three occasions in 1931 1932 and 1937 and the Second World War broke out on 3rd September 1939. During the six years of the war rugby continued to be played at Deramore Park although not on a competitive basis and the club like many others suffered by the absence of members who joined the Forces. Rugby in Ulster and Ireland generally began again on a normal basis at the conclusion of the war and Collegians was about to enter the most outstanding and successful period of its existence from 1946 to 1962. The Senior Cup was won in 1952 1961 and 1962 and the final reached in 1947 and 1953.The Senior League was won in 1952 and 1962 and shared in 1951 1954 and1956 and as well the Junior Cup was brought to Deramore twice the McCrea Cup twice and the Junior League once in the 1960s The 1st XVs of 1951/52 and 1961/62 joined the 1st XV of 1912/13 as the only "double" winners in the history of the club.
Unfortunately the achievements of the 1950s and early 1960s were not repeated in the seasons following up to 1980. Little was achieved at senior level during that period and performances were disappointing. One of the principal reasons for the decline was the departure of a substantial number of boys leaving Methody to go to universities in England Scotland and Wales and consequently not being available to play at the club. However the junior sides attained considerable success in that the 3rd XV captured the Forster Cup in 1970/71 and 1974/75 the 4th XV the Harden Cup in 1978/79 the 4th Division Championship in1973/74 (to add to their same Championship wins of 1951/52 1952/53 and 1959/60) and the 6thXV the McCambley Cup in 1977/78.
The decade from 1980 to 1990 the centenary year of the club in its early years produced success. The Senior Cup was won in1983 and the final reached in 1981. In addition the Senior League final was contested in 1982. These indications of revival were short-lived and the period ended with relegation to Division 2 of the Senior League.
In 1988 the I R F U introduced an All Ireland League competition in which all the senior clubs in Ireland participated. Collegians played in the League until relegated in 1998 and there followed in 1999 a merger between Collegians and North the result of which was the creation of the club known as "Belfast Harlequins"
Developments at Deramore Park
At the outset of the Second World War Charlie Neill purchased the grounds at Deramore. He had long been the club's generous benefactor and his benevolence was again shown when shortly after his purchase on 17th May 1941 he conveyed and assigned the grounds to six members of Collegians R.F.C as trustees namely Charles Gordon Neill, Cecil Victor Smylie, John Capper, Henry Gerald Crawford, John McConnell Calvert and Oswald McMullen. Subsequently W. Smyth W.E. Bell W.S.H. Lavery D.K. Pollock J.A. O'Neill and H.F. Minion were appointed.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
A.S Pollock (President Ulster Branch), W.D McKee (N.I.F.C Captain), Frank Caldbeck,C.S Neill, F Jones, R Gilliland, C.V Smylie (President), M Gibson
After the conclusion of the war the club carried out a major scheme of improvements in the course of which the grounds were drained and levelled. On 30th September 1950 Charlie Neill performed the opening ceremony which preceded a match between Collegians and North. He died within a few years and to honour his memory and acknowledge his immense contribution to the club a fund was established with a view to building a pavilion. This was erected and opened by his daughter Mrs Moya Woodside in September 1962. lt was appropriately named "The Charles S. Neill Memorial Pavilion".
The early 1970s marked further significant developments at Deramore. The 1st XV pitch was re-laid and a cricket square established as well as the pavilion being extended to allow larger indoor facilities. The completion of these improvements was celebrated on 26th August 1972 when Billy Lavery performed the opening ceremony followed by a Festival of Sport comprising a rugby match between the club and an International XV and a cricket match in which the participants were the club and a Representative X1.
Formation of Collegians Club
As can be seen from the historical background above the rugby football club was formed in October 1890 and from the end of the First World War Deramore Park has been the home of the club.
Collegians Cricket Club was founded in 1932 and continued until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 when it ceased to operate. The club was resurrected in the early 1950s and thereafter played at Deramore.
Post the Second World War Collegians women and men's hockey clubs were established and ultimately played their home games at Deramore. The formation of basketball and athletic clubs completed the sports which operated under Collegians.
In 1954 it was recognised that a form of central control was required to embrace the various clubs and on 13th May1954 the Collegians Club was inaugurated. The principal purpose was to centralise and to oversee the general finances, as well as the maintenance and use of the grounds at Deramore. Affairs of the club were governed by a council comprised of representatives from each of the clubs and the trustees under the leadership of a president elected annually.
The following occupied the presidency.
1963 W Smyth
1966 Dr G.A.Donaldson
1967-68 Dr J.A.Smiley
1969 J. W.Brownrigg
1974 W.H.de F.Smyth
1976 W.E. Bell
1982 E.G. Bell
1983 E.W. Mulholland
1984 G. Clarke
1985 C. Sinclair
1986 G. Ferrett
1987 P.F. Jones
1988 R.S. Robinson
1989 R.G. Bell
1990 W. Finlay
1991 B. Caruth
1992 J.C. McQuoid
1993 R. Coulter
1994 A. Millar
1995 T. Pollock
1996 P. Wood
1997 G. Lyons
1998 I. Montgomery
IRFU www.irishrugby.ieUlster Branch www.ulsterrugby.comMethodist College Belfast www.methody.orgHarlequins RFC www.belfastharlequinsrfc.com
Collegians ClubFormerly - Deramore Park, Belfast,County Antrim, Northern IrelandE: email@example.com