Yokel Harum – The best of Englishness on show as Wurzels delight on West Country’s day out at Twickenham


Match Report: Bath 26 : 19 Bristol Bears – Bears dominate possession but can’t get out of the woods

In previous years, Bath Rugby have played Leicester on their annual outing to Twickenham, billed as #TheClash.

With the Bristol Bears being up in the Premiership, the home fixture against Bath’s local rivals was chosen in 2019, and the game, the fixture and the occasion provided a very special atmosphere.

Although Bath came into the game two places ahead in the table, they had lost the return fixture 17-10 at Bristol’s Ashton Gate in front of over 26,000 so unlike the other sporting highlights of the weekend the Grand National, the Boat Race and any game involving Manchester City, here there wasn’t an overwhelming favourite.

The rivalry needs no hyping and is one of the biggest in English club rugby as one fan explained:

But #TheClash2019 was about more than 80 minutes of absorbing club rugby. It was about a West Country invasion of south west London and all the cultural aspects that brings.

It’s hard for anyone not to appreciate the beauty of those West Country accents. More than that, the match was attended by young and old; families, groups of young men behaving with dignity and with respect for others, occasional Welshmen, rugby players and those who have never played in their lives.

The partisanship was left until fans were inside the stadium and abandoned before they left it. Professionalism has not brought everything bad that exists in association football to the club game. In short, those attending were a credit to their part of the world and the sport they follow.

“For over 50 years … the Wurzels have been playing songs about life in Somerset, Gloucester and beyond, mostly (in their own words) around the themes of cider and dung.

And those are just the love songs.”

Twickenham’s West Stand opens out onto some space in which several stalls and cafes provided a variety of food and of course on this occasion cider.

Gareth Chilcott played 373 games for Bath and 14 for England at prop forward. A native Bristolian however, he was the subject of an article in the matchday program about his love for the Bath rugby club. He is also a massive Bristol City football fan and indeed went to school within a drop kick of Ashton Gate, home to City and now the Bristol Bears.

He spoke to us about what the day meant for rugby fans and the West Country:

Much cider had been consumed by 4pm when finally the musical legends took the stage.

On it stood the West Country’s answer to London’s ChasN’Dave, Scotland’s Proclaimers and Wales’ legendary Max Boyce.

On it stood, the Wurzels.

The Wurzels came into existence in 1966 when Adge Cutler, who had been jazzman Acker Bilk’s manager, decided to form a novelty band who sang comic songs about life in the West Country and additionally sung in its distinct dialect.

For over 50 years since, the band has been playing songs about life in Somerset, Gloucester and beyond, mostly (in their own words) around the themes of cider and dung. And those are just the love songs.

Tommy Banner is still enjoying performing West Country tunes after a career of over 50 years

The band line-up has of course changed over the years but one face remains from the glory days of Top of The Pops’ appearances, that of Tommy Banner.

Tommy is originally from Penicuik, Scotland and speaks with a Scottish accent heavily overlaid with a West Country twang.

He was in fine heart and health when he spoke to us after the gig, still humbled by the band’s recent resurgence in popularity.

Earlier he had answered for the band in an interview and talked about how, amongst other things, the band took such joy in entertaining a new generation of fans.

[Wurzels interview: Do you think Donald Trump would like the Wurzels?]

Other members are newer of course but not all are younger with John ‘Amos’ Morgan, still drumming at an incredible 80 years old sharing Banner’s longevity. He though is a mere seedling of a Wurzel having first joined in 1981. Lead singer Pete Budd will turn 79 this year. Sedge Moore and Louis Nicastro provided the younger blood – on the stage.

The audience who stayed behind after the rugby were mostly young and in the main seemed well acquainted with the words and the songs. The whole gig provided a way of unleashing a gentle West Country pride with massive smiles on faces ranged from eight weeks to eighty years.

The band regularly tours the West Country and about roughly half the 3-4,000 or so who stayed to watch them had seen the band before. Some of the songs are now well known outside the region such as “I am a cider drinker”, Blackbird” and of course “Combine Harvester”.

 Youngsters in the Twickenham crowd enjoy ‘Cider Drinker’

In an era where much of small town and rural England is portrayed in the media as growling jingoistic Little Englanders, #TheClash2019 put many things that are good about England on show.

Players of all nationalities were equally cheered, supporters of both sides minglied amicably, and a pride in one’s region without rejection of others reigned. Best of all, a new found respect for a band that have kept a piece of English culture alive in a global era propelled only by the sheer joy of entertaining, contributed to a wonderful day out at the headquarters of English rugby.

As the burr dissipated around Waterloo Station to be replaced by London’s international voices, it was hard not to want to plan a trip to the West Country to spend more time around the people and see the Wurzels play live in their hood on their 2019 tour.

They, their fans and the rugby people could not have been a better advert for the area.


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