This first section of the history of Shedfield Petanque Club is heavily reliant on Maurice Abney-Hastings excellent book entitled The Pernod Book of Petanque, Published in 1981, ISBN 0-04-796058-2.
In early 1974 Maurice Abney- Hastings, his then wife Susan and some friends from the village of Shedfield (in Hampshire) went to Southern Brittany for a camping holiday. As with so many campsites in France, not only was the petanque terrain the centre of activity but it was continually surrounded by French families throwing around their steel boules. Fortunately the ‘natives’ were especially friendly and they very soon found themselves playing petanque. Such was their enthusiasm they unknowingly purchased sets of practice (dog-boules) which they brought back home.
Arriving back at Sam’s Hotel (now Samuel’s Rest) in Shedfield for their Sunday morning pint they got into the habit of playing their new found sport on the gravel drive of the cricket ground (Shedfield recreation ground) opposite the pub. Naturally, many locals would watch this strange spectacle until the pub opened. Over the next few weeks Shedfield Petanque Club was born and the drive was soon replaced by a purpose built terrain.
Enthusiasm amongst this group was such that they soon unilaterally formed the British Petanque Association (BPA) with Maurice as the Founder President. This somewhat upset the members of the Braintree League who had been playing since the 1960s. Ambassadors were sent to Braintree and ruffled feathers were smoothed.
Not content with forming the BPA, Maurice and his compatriots decided that they wanted to organise twinings with French teams. They contacted the French Embassy in London who put them in contact with the Federation Francais de Petanque (FFP). The FFP informed them that they could not play against French teams because the BPA was not a member of the Federation International de Petanque et Jeu Provencal (FIPJP). Not daunted, Maurice and his compatriots successfully presented the BPA credentials to the FIPJP AGM in September in Alicante in 1974.
One of the outcomes of the BPA becoming accredited by the FIPJP was that they had to commit to sending a team to Quebec for the 1975 World Championships. To aid team selection for these World Championships the first British Petanque Triples Championship was held in April 1975 at Shedfield.
Picture of the 1975 BPA Championships held at Shedfield (Courtesy of The Pernod Book of Petanque)
The final was between a Shedfield team consisting of Maurice Abney-Hastings, Bill Taylor and Ray Tilling and a team of Frenchmen from Norfolk Square in London (pictured below).
The Norfolk Square team went on to win the final.
Interestingly, Bill Taylor was the Captain of the Shedfield Cricket Club and Ray Tilling the village policeman.
Ray went on to become the landlord of Sams Hotel when he retired from the constabulary. At this time the National Umpire was Jamie Hartridge another founder member of Shedfield Petanque Club.
In theory both the winners and the runners-up would represent the BPA in forthcoming World Championships. The winners could not play as a team in the Championships as only one foreign player could play in each of the representative triples team. Also, Maurice Abney-Hastings stood down as he would be attending the Championships as the BPA President. Bill Taylor also stood down as he was about to embark upon teacher training. Therefore, the ‘Shedfield’ triples was Ray Tilling, Charles Deane, a founder Shedfield member and one of either Andre Aracno or Jean-Marc Constantini. The other team consisted of Peter Towell from Lincolnshire, Dennis Smith from Essex and one on the French players. It is fair to say for the British teams the Championships were a good learning experience.
Again for the 1979 World Championships Shedfield were well represented in the Great Britain team. Great Britain 1 were captained by Shedfield member Pip Cledwyn who was joined by Philip Deane and Chaka Thacker. The team was also managed by the Shedfield Petanque Club Chairman Lou Watkins. Pip’s team did extremely well and came 8th overall, only losing to the eventual winners Italy 1. Great Britain 1 pictured below receiving their trophy
(Courtesy of The Pernod Book of Petanque)
From the above it can be seen that the early history of Shedfield Petanque Club and the BPA was very entwined during the second half of the 1970s. However that was only the beginning of Shedfield Petanque Club’s great journey.