James Rhoades (1841-1923)

Sherborne School’s first rugby football song came from Uppingham but, as the game became increasingly popular, it was decided that Sherborne should have a rugby football song of its own.

The words of Sherborne’s ‘Football Song’ were written in 1884 by the housemaster of Abbeylands, James Rhoades.  Rhoades was already a published poet when he joined the teaching staff at Sherborne in 1880.  Having been educated at Rugby School he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for English verse.

During the twelve years he was at Sherborne, Rhoades collaborated with the Director of School Music, Louis Napoleon Parker, in writing fourteen of the School songs, including a ‘Song for Commemoration Day’, ‘King Christmas’ and ‘Football Song’.  Parker also wrote the scores for over sixteen of the School songs, although today ‘‘The Carmen’ is the only song still sung at the School.

Louis Napoleon Parker (1852-1944)

Rhoades’ verse for ‘Football Song’ was first published in The Shirburnian in April 1884, but it took four years for Parker to write the score, with the result that it did not receive its first public performance until April 1888, when it was claimed ‘a distinct success’ and was shouted ‘con spiritu by the choir, and effectually roused the audience’ who applauded ‘with a furious joy’ and required it to be repeated.

It became a tradition for the School XV to sing the ‘Football Song’ every year at Lists, with the School XV singing the verses (seldom in tune) and the rest of the School joining in for the chorus to redeem the musically indifferent performance.  Visiting teams were also at one time regularly regaled with its strains at small informal concerts held in their honour on the evening before a match, though its poetic lyrics are hardly likely to have had the same effect on their opponents as the All Blacks’ haka.

The ‘Football Song’ was published in 1890 in Twelve Songs of Sherborne School.  In a copy of the volume owned by Charles Ransford (School House) who was a member of the 1st XV in 1894 and 1895, Ransford has scribbled, rather dejectedly, ‘Very rarely said!’ beside the chorus of ‘Well played all!’

 

Football Song lyrics by James Rhoades (1841-1923):
When on the Autumn slopes beech trees are browning,
When the short summer has passed from the south,
Tingles our blood with the wild joys of winter,
Swells a glad cry from each jubilant mouth,

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

Brave leather bubble that laughs at our buffets!
See how his windy soul, yearning to rise,
Slips from our fingertips bounding above us,
Scorns the low grovel and mounts to the skies!

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

Like meeting billows we clash and commingle,
Limbs locked together, so sharp is the strain;
While the ball, caught like a waif in our eddies,
To and fro bandied, seeks outlet in vain.

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

How the heart throbs, when, the prize in his arm-grip,
Some peerless runner sheers forth and away,
Outspeeds the swiftest, or, baffled by numbers,
Still with his burden stands stoutly at bay!

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

See fierce assailant and gallant defender!
Close ‘neath the cross-bar together they roll!
Hark! ‘tis a touch,’ they cry; ‘now please it deftly!’
‘Charge!’ ‘never heed him: hurrah! ‘tis a goal!’

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

‘Conquer or die,’ growls the Viking within us,
‘Ay,’ quoth the Saxon, ‘but keep the nerves cool’;
‘Fight, but with chivalry,’ chimes in the Norman,
‘Each play for honour, and all for the School!’

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

Prate not, fond sceptic, of peril or passion;
Self’s the soft football we flout to the sky;
While there’s a goal left to kick towards and try for,
English lads ever will rise to the cry,

Follow up briskly, boys! Make for the ball!
Collar him! Down with it! Well played all!

Football Song score by Louis Napoleon Parker (1852-1944) (pdf).

Further reading:
The early days of rugby at Sherborne School
Playing Fields & Pavilions
A.B. Gourlay, A History of Sherborne School (Sherborne, 1971).
D.F. Gibbs, A History of Football at Sherborne School (Sherborne, 1983).
Robert Hands, Rugby Football at Sherborne School  (Sherborne, 1991).

For further information about the Sherborne School Archives please contact the School Archivist.

Return to the School Archives homepage.