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H.J.C Brown

British Lions Rugby International & Great Britain Olympian

A sunny afternoon at Twickenham, rugby’s headquarters, in 1963 during the second half of the Calcutta cup match between England and Scotland, still, in these days of professionalism that most charismatic of fixtures. There are other matches of course, which claim a greater importance, notably the tri-nations series in the southern hemisphere between South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but of all rugby’s annual meetings, infused as it is with the inherent and unique charm of the six nations, it is the Calcutta cup that stands apart.

A scrum near the right hand touchline saw England win possession and the ball spun to the English fly half Richard Sharp. The next 20 seconds saw Sharp enshrined forever in Twickenham folk law.

A deft show of the ball to his centre before slicing majestically through the Scottish inside backs to take him clear, and up to the Scottish full back with a man spare on his outside. Here, we thought was going to be a superb try for England’s left wing, only for Sharp to hold the ball back with a delightful dummy and swerve, and cross unopposed half way out.

It was an English try that has been recalled often with a wistful nostalgia given to few in Twickenham’s history. Among others, one thinks of the impossibly romantic Russian prince, Alex Obolensky, on England’s right wing, crossing diagonally from one touch line to the other to score against New Zealand in 1936, and Andy Hancock’s meandering run from deep within his own territory in the last minute of injury time to rob Scotland in 1965, but for the panache of its execution, and its sheer mesmeric beauty it is surely Sharp’s that is the best.

Twickenham, then of course was the bastion of amateurism, and rugby at the highest level in its officialdom and infrastructure was still clinging largely to being the preserve of the public schools.

God was in his heaven, and all was well with the world therefore, when Sharp, charming and articulate with flaxen hair flowing and reading geography at Oxford made his memorable mark. He was, it seemed rather fittingly, given the eras prevailing mindset the right type of man to score a splendid try at headquarters.

In Time and the Conway ’s, J.B Priestley writes of those seminal moments, some seemingly unimportant, which, given the juxtaposition of place, time and circumstance can change ones life and destiny. Such a moment was Sharp’s at Twickenham and its indirect impact on John Brown, destined to be Sharp’s replacement on the British Lions tour to South Africa in 1962.

It was Browns misfortune, in place, time and circumstance, to be around when Sharp and others were playing at their best, and to be injured at one of those moments, when he was worthy and capable of playing for his country.

H.J.C as he was to become affectionately known was born on the 4th December 1935 and first gained junior representative honours for England Schools against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1953. Others honours followed, for Somerset , before he captained St. Luke’s College Exeter in 1958. In 1959 he joined Blackheath, still in this day and age an establishment of Corinthian values and the most famous and historic of names, who share with Guy’s Hospital and Neath the honour of being one of the games oldest clubs.

Brown had become one of the most gifted and robust young centre three quarters in the English game. He had joined the RAF in 1960 and continued his rugby career with appearances for the combined services before joining the Harlequins in 1963. In 1962 he had toured South Wales with the Barbarians on their Easter tour, a long established and fondly remembered tradition that was a cornerstone of the amateur days and famed for its lavish hospitality.

On each Good Friday they played Penarth, then Cardiff on the Saturday and Swansea on Easter Monday before finishing with Newport on the Tuesday and then recovering both physically and mentally from their exertions.

It was one of those seminal moments, before a trial match for England which was to prove the undoing of Browns dream of playing for his country. He had scored two memorable tries at Banbury in the first of the trials and was selected for the second at Exeter, after which it was confidently expected that he would be awarded the cap that many Englishmen believed was rightfully his, only for his ankle to be broken whilst playing for Middlesex, the county of his birth, against Surrey some weeks before.

Undaunted, he recovered and pursued his career with enthusiasm, to be rewarded later by being called up as a replacement for Richard Sharp his bête noire, on the 1962 British Isles tour to South Africa during which he made six appearances, typified by the wholehearted approach which had become his hallmark.

It is to his eternal credit that, as his rugby career entered its twilight years, his resilience and determination was to lead him to represent his country in another sport, requiring another discipline.

HJC, now flight lieutenant, had become a parachute instructor at Aldershot, and had previously met, as a colleague in the RAF, a fellow officer called Mike Freeman who was a leading figure in the British winter Olympic bobsleigh teams preparation for the 1968 event in Grenoble, and who saw in Brown, a man whom he considered to be ideal in build and temperament for the physical demands required in forging a successful team.  Thus it was, that Brown, after many months of training and dedication took his place in the British four-man bobsleigh team for the European championships at St. Moritz in 1968 in which they won the bronze medal, the highest position ever attained by a British four-man bobsleigh team, before he competed at that pinnacle of sporting endeavour, the Olympics at Grenoble in the winter of that year.

HJC Brown will remember his sporting life with justifiable pride, and we can only imagine that sometimes, like each of us, he will lie awake in the darkness of the small hours and take stock.

In the armed forces he had served his country with honour and dignity. In rugby it was one of those seminal moments of fate, so redolent of Priestley, and not form, the bitch goddess which had betrayed him, and he never did play for his beloved England, but he had represented this nation with distinction, at the highest level in two different sports, an honour achieved by very few. 

text by Alan Hughes  

 

 

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The memorabilia and career of HJC Brown

TEAMS PLAYED FOR AND REPRESENTATIVE HONOURS

Somerset Schoolboys

England Air Training Corps 1953 (v Wales at Neath)

England Schools 1953 (v Wales at Cardiff, v France at Exeter)

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England Schools blazer badge 1953 

 

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Wales v England Schools 11th April 1953 - HJC is representing England at this schools international, he was educated at Crewkerne School in Somerset. The dinner was held at the Queen's Hotel, Cardiff 

Somerset County

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Somerset cap - this is John's Somerset cap, dated 1954-55. Made by RW Forsyth of Edinburgh the cap is in excellent condition

 

Middlesex County 1959 - 1963   

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Middlesex blazer badge 1959-60

 

Western Counties (v Australia 1957)

57-W-Counties.jpg (37438 bytes) Western Counties v Australia 13 Dec 1957. HJC was on the winning side against the touring Wallabies at Bristol. The West won by the narrowest of margins 9 - 8. 

 

London Counties (v South Africa 1960, v Paris 1960, v New Zealand 1963)

54.jpg (44477 bytes) 08.jpg (21646 bytes) Programme & Dinner Menu - London Counties v South Africa, 12 Nov 1960. Played at Twickenham, the South Africans defeated HJC's London side by 20 points to 3. 

 

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London Counties blazer badge 1962

 

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London Counties & Combined Services boxing day dinner in honour of the touring 1963/4 All Blacks. A fold over menu card and a fold out 6 page seating plan for the dinner.

 

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London Counties & Combined Services boxing day dinner in honour of the touring 1960/1 Springboks at Draper's Hall, Throgmorton Avenue, London. A fold over menu card and a fold over seating plan for the dinner, together with an invitation to HJC .

 

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London Counties v Paris 3rd September 1960, London Counties Jubilee match, fold over dinner menu card for the function at the Waldorf Hotel.

 

Northampton 1953 - 1957 

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Northampton 75th anniversary celebration dinner menu card, includes a short club history and individual player photos with HJC featured, small amount of surface damage on front cover. 

 

St Luke's College 1957 - 1959 (captain 1958)

80.jpg (108646 bytes) 1959 Middlesex Sevens programme, the guest teams at the tournament were Leicester & Bristol. HJC captained the St Luke's team 

 

Blackheath 1959 - ????

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Blackheath v Barbarians 4 Mar 1959, programme, match played at White City Stadium, London, this was a Blackheath Centenary fixture. 

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Blackheath v Neath 28th November 1959 - Due to an extremely strange numbering system HJC is playing full back in a number 3 jersey. Blackheath triumphed against Neath on this occasion winning 6 - 3.  

Reserved

Harlequins 1963 - ????

Royal Air Force 1960 - 1966

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RAF Rugby Union blazer badge.

 

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Royal Navy v RAF - 3rd March 1962 programme

 

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Army v RAF - 24th March 1962 programme

 

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RAF cap - This RAF cap is dated 1961 and has N. A 1961 embroidered to the peak, (Navy, Army 1961). Made by RW Forsyth of Edinburgh the cap is in excellent condition. 

 

Combined Services 1960 - 1966

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Rhodesia v British Combined Services 19th May 1962, match played at the Police Ground, a rare programme with some discolouration from smoke. John almost lost his complete collection of memorabilia at one time when his house was partly damaged by a fire

 

The Combined Services team in Rhodesia, HJC is seated third from the right in the front row.

BUY THIS PHOTO  -  Ref: ph-brpy62-hjcb-cosv62 - CLICK HERE

 

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Combined Services blazer badge

 

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Scotland v Combined Services 14th December 1960, a fold over menu card for the after match dinner where the Services XV took on a full strength Scottish side

 

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Irish XV v Combined Services programme & post match dinner menu, some discolouration to the edge of the programme. Pilot-office HJ Brown was playing in the centre in this match, Tom Kiernan led a full strength Irish side which included Ronnie Dawson, Andy Mulligan & Syd Millar, the match was played at Ravenhill in Belfast

 

Barbarians 1962 - Easter Tour

 

BUY 1962 BARBARIANS PROGRAMMES AT www.rugbyrelics.com - CLICK HERE

 

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Barbarians 75th Anniversary Dinner menu card & invitation. The dinner was held at Quaglino's Restaurant SW1 on 7th December 1965

 

Barbarians Easter Tour of Wales 1962 - tour party - HJC 2nd from right in the back row

 BUY THIS PHOTO  -  Ref: ph-brpy62-hjcb-bbtrwa62 - CLICK HERE

 

British Lions 1962 tour of South Africa  

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British Lions 1962 dress blazer badge 

 

 

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Illustrated above is the Agreement/Contract issued to British Lions players on the 1962 tour of South Africa. Please click on the thumbnails above to view each individual page. We are looking for a volunteer to summarise the above contract picking out points covered and any interesting snippets. Can you help ?

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(WRM 0706)

 

England Trialist

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RFU Centenary Dinner Guest List, 24 pages, HJC was on table 77 at the dinner 

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Represented Great Britain at the 1968 Winter Olympics

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British Olympic Team cloth badge, sold together with the 24 page official team handbook of the Great Britain team 

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A 24 page official team handbook of the 1968 Great Britain Winter Olympics team 

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Most of the above items of HJC's memorabilia have been found a good home by our sister website www.rugbyrelics.com . Each item was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by John. For items still available to purchase please visit the HJC Brown page on www.rugbyrelics.com - To visit this page please....... CLICK HERE

   

  

COA - front with HJC info and WRM item code 

  

COA - reverse with authentic HJC signature

  

  

Almost another statistic...................... 

It was on  Friday 22nd February 1972 that HJC almost became a victim of the IRA terrorist campaign. In a so called 'revenge' attack, coming just 3 weeks after after 'Bloody Sunday' a bomb was placed in a Ford Cortina car outside the 'Officer's Mess' at Aldershot Barracks, headquarters of the Parachute Regiment. John arrived at the mess just two minutes before the bomb went off, 6 people died in the bombing which was the largest attack by the IRA during the 'Troubles'. 'Thankfully I was at the back of the building and only received cuts from the flying glass' John's remark about the bombing when I quizzed him as to how he fared, he continued 'otherwise I would have become just another statistic.

 

  

HJC 

If you are on first name terms then he is plain old John Brown but as a sportsman he prefers to be known as 'HJC'. But what of HJC, what does it stand for. That learned of Bristol & Somerset historians Mark Hoskins was delighted that the World Rugby Museum were finding good homes for the collection but he along with other historians were baffled with what HJC stood for. So was I ! but a quick look at the 1968 Olympic handbook told me that it stands for............

HAROLD JOHN CATLEUGH    

  

 

We hope you have appreciated reading about the life and career of HJC Brown, if you are able to add any stories, pictures or information relating to John's career or the matches in which he played, please CLICK HERE to email us.

Contributors - Alan Hughes  -  HJC Brown  -  Dai Richards (World Rugby Museum) 

 

 

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