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News > Archives > Worksop rugby greats: Ian Pinkney

Worksop rugby greats: Ian Pinkney

Had it not been for the outbreak of World War II, Worksop College would likely have had two members of the England XV in the 1940s.
1 Jul 2020
Written by Simon Langley
Archives
Worksop College 1st XV 1936-1937, Ian Pinkney is front left (cross legged)
Worksop College 1st XV 1936-1937, Ian Pinkney is front left (cross legged)

As part of my research into Worksop College rugby for the upcoming centenary, I will share some of my research along the way.

Nim Hall is Worksop's finest rugby exponent, of that there is no doubt. However, Hall was at the tail-end of a golden era of Worksop College rugby. Rugby first took place at Worksop in 1921 and as early as 1925, Worksop was widely recognised as the top school side in Nottinghamshire and second only to Denstone in the Midlands. With Herb Jacob (Cambridge Blue and England) at the helm, Worksop quickly attracted quality players and the school sides were regularly beating all-comers; Denstone included. The sides of the mid to late 1930s (Nim Hall's formative years) were exceptional; Worksop were amongst the top school sides in the country at the time. To put into context how good the school actually was at the time, consider the following extract from the Worksopian in 1939:

“In holiday games organized at Christmas, the School were more than usually well represented, thirty-two players in all coming from Worksop. The more outstanding selections were those of J. S. Pinkney, who played for the Scottish Public Schools XV against the English Public Schools XV and also for the Durham Public Schools XV; A. J. A. Ferguson and H. E. Bradshaw, who also played for the latter; G. C. Buchanan for Northumberland Public Schools XV; T. H. Elsom and N. P. Kingston for Roslyn Park Public Schools XV;. while A. L. Evans and R. W. J. Naismith were picked as the two Yorkshire centres against the Welsh Schools. The annual North vs South Public Schools match takes place at Blundellsands on April 8th, and the selectors have again shown the esteem in which they hold the school's rugger by picking P. E. F. Rhodes, A. L. Evans, J. S. Pinkney and E. W. D. Paul, with A. J. A. Ferguson as, first reserve. It will be remembered that last year four of the school XV represented the North Public Schools XV which defeated the South, but eight in two seasons must be a unique record”.

Such was the standard of rugby at the time, inevitably some of the above-mentioned players couldn't break into the College first team - a Times journalist noted that the Worksop first team must be beyond exceptional if second XV players are occupying county places. There are a number of players mentioned above worthy of further study, but today I am going to provide some information about J.S. Pinkney – in the author's opinion, Worksop's second-best rugby exponent.

J.S. (Ian) Pinkney hailed from Hartlepool and arrived at Worksop in 1934. He quickly established himself as a fine games player and played for the College 1st XV for four seasons (extremely unusual at the time). He was also an athlete of distinction and held College records at 100y (10.2), 220y (23.0), 440y (53.4) and long jump (6.46) concurrently – quite exceptional for a schoolboy in the 1930s; such was the quality of his jumping, his long jump record lasted until 1980. It was rugby where Pinkney really shone though and he was selected for many representative sides during his time at Worksop. He was selected for both national schoolboys sides in the 1938 Scotland vs England Public Schools match (the former because his mother was Scottish) but opted to represent Scotland. He was also playing first team rugby for Hartlepool Rovers when back home during the school holidays as early as 1937; scoring his first try in 1938. In rugby reports of the time, Pinkney was highly regarded: “On the right wing, I would have J.S. Pinkney the English Reserve, of Hartlepool Rovers and Durham County fame. His superb running and clean fierce tackling must have thrilled many Worksopians of his day”.

After Worksop; War service called and Pinkney joined the Anti-Aircraft Command. During the War he represented the Anti-Aircraft Command XV vs South Wales, Headingly Old Boys, Cardiff, Gloucester and finally the British Army (a team containing nearly all international representatives) against South Africa and New Zealand Army XVs. After the War, he returned to Hartlepool where he was elected captain of Hartlepool Rovers and in 1946 played in an England trial at Sunderland on the same team as Nim Hall. He was a regular member of the North East representative sides of the time and played for Durham and Northumberland against Australia in 1947.

Pinkney left the North East for London in 1948 and no further record of his rugby can be found. Had it not been for the war, he would have almost certainly been a regular for the England rugby XV; his international trail in 1946 (there was no proper international rugby played during the war) probably came a bit too late for him to showcase the skills for which he was famed. His son was listed as entering Worksop College in the 1960s, but no further evidence of the Pinkney name can be found on the College roll.

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