In 1991 two Celtic missionaries Hugh Paterson and Gwyn Morgan (one Scot, one Welsh) on a dad and lads cub weekend in Lancashire struck upon the idea of setting up a junior rugby team within the rural parishes of West Lancashire. With assistance from Peter Buckton, one of the RFU's pioneer development officers, a come and try it session was organised at the local secondary school and within weeks the first "Tarleton Terriers" mini team took to the field against Sefton RUFC.
The priority and driving force in 1998 was junior rugby and, whilst still playing their home matches 8 miles from Tarleton at a local university campus, Lancashire RFU awarded the club 'The Ian Sinclair Lancashire County Youth Award'. This was in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the development of junior rugby. With assistance from a variety of grant aiding bodies such as Sport England, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, Community Landfill monies, Lancashire Playing Fields Association, not to mention numerous self-help fund raising schemes, the club has developed its own purpose-built facilities on land granted to them by the Lilford Estate on a 35 year lease.
In real estate terms, the club had a three-phase development plan which embraced creating two pitches and a floodlit training area as a first objective and then the first phase of a clubhouse comprising four changing rooms, showers, toilets and referees' rooms. Phase One was duly achieved, enabling them to transfer their matches from Edge Hill College for the first time in season 2003/04. The second phase of the clubhouse was opened when Bill Beaumont did the honours in September 2003. The official opening of the Phase Three extension was by local MP david Burrows in 2006. The facilities now include an 8 team change clubhouse, dedicated pitches and floodlit training area - all achieved through the determination of the members and support from the RFU.
Tarleton is unique in that it has developed it's senior and junior rugby sections "back to front" i.e. senior rugby evolving out of the already established mini and junior sides. The inaugural Tarleton "nomads" side was originally made up of dads and junior coaches, many of whom should have known better. Hugh Paterson explained that the idea of setting up a Senior side was "to show our youngsters how the game is played. Unfortunately age and ability dictated that the opposite was actually the case. Hugh has now retired back to 'arm chair viewing and junior coaching".
Tarleton RUFC has developed its links with 20 local schools, offering taster sessions and more structured arrangements with club coaches in attendance. Many 'after school clubs' have been set up based around the very popular TAG rugby format. Inter schools competitions have been hosted by the club with over 20 primary schools taking part. School staff members have expressed their astonishment at the success of these tournaments, especially when it is a 'mixed gender sport'. "We've come a long way from the idea being formed at a cub weekend where two rugby enthusiasts started to think about giving their children an introduction to the game," says Hugh Paterson. "Initially we simply wanted to get some youngsters together to give them a start in the game. We had support from the local high school, changed in a portacabin and called ourselves Tarleton Terriers. It was predominantly a football area, but we sent a flier round the schools and around 40 kids turned up for our first taster session. The rest, as they say..... " The club boasts a full mini structure, 4 junior teams and both junior and senior colts.
With seniors included, the club now boasts an overall registered membership of about 250 members, and a volunteer workforce of over 50 driving the club forward. A testament to the vision and hard work of the people involved is that Tarleton RUFC has achieved the second phase of the RFU Seal of Approval quality assurance kite-mark in respect of its management arrangements, with particular emphasis on its policy and procedures around child protection. Stuart Urquhart, the RFU'S Rugby Development Officer for North Lancashire stated at the time: "This is a well deserved and creditable achievement by the club. They are one of a handful of clubs in the North West to have obtained the second stage and have come through what is an extremely rigorous and demanding process. They have over 50 adult volunteers involved in the club delivering an extremely high standard of sporting service and care to young people" Discussions have been held with a view to obtaining additional land for further pitches and car parking - all a far cry from the humble target Messrs Paterson and Morgan set themselves.
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