The Early Years…
A recollection by:
Bill Flynn 1973 – 1975
Pitch Secretary 1973/74 1974/75
Bill Flynn 1973 and 2022
I arrived in Saudi in the second half of 1973 and initially lived in a flat in Al-Khobar until our compound was ready nearby. I can’t remember how I first came into contact with the rugby team but my wife, Joy, tells me that Bruce Drowley, who played and was subsequently Captain for the 1974/75 season, lived in the same block of flats with his family.
Rugby was played on the softball diamond in the Aramco compound with twenty-odd blokes having a run around with a rugby ball. Obviously, some of the players were from Aramco but most worked for British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) who were supporting the Royal Saudi Airforce with Lightning fighters. It was fun, and when it got dark, we all went home. I have the impression that even with such poor facilities they had sent a team or teams to Bahrain in the past.
I was employed by Laing Wimpey Alireza (LWA) – a British/Saudi consortium working on the construction of a second runway at Dhahran International Airport. I was initially a sub-agent in charge of quarrying etc. but in April or May 1974, I was promoted to Project Manager.
This gave me control over the earthworks team and it was easy to grade an area of desert for a pitch. The main thing was to water it before each session to make it firm enough to play on. Lime dust from the crusher was used to mark it out. Someone at Head Office in Riyadh heard what I was doing but instead of sending a reprimand they sent four lighting poles as goalposts originally destined for the Royal Saudi Airforce but had become “surplus to requirements”. They went up easily at one end but at the other end, the rock was very close to the surface, so we had to drill and blast to get them in.
We played there every Thursday; more people joined in, and it grew somewhat. After what turned out to be the inaugural May Ball at the Al-Ghosaibi, we had some cash in the kitty and a new strip was bought. We looked very smart and more like a Rugby Team, although I am unsure why I was the only one not wearing one of the new tops.
I managed to purchase 24 tins of Mannah Syrup Bread Improver in a supermarket. Each tin could improve 2,000 loaves of bread. My wife Joy managed to be creative enough to allow us to “have the lads round” every other Thursday.
And so it went on until I left in May 1975. I left the remaining Mannah Syrup to the Club. My successor at LWA was Mike Musgrave who also played.
I don’t know if the pitch was ever used in anger. John Kates (Part 2) worked very hard to get a team down from Kuwait but was thwarted at the last minute by visa problems. I know a Royal Navy ship visited while we were there, but I cannot remember playing them.
During my time, we did have two very successful trips to Bahrain and one to Qatar. It was sometimes a struggle to get a full team as the BAC men were on a defence contract and, we were told, they had to have a certain proportion of staff on call at any time. What with scheduled leave and sickness etc., their system couldn’t cope with eight or ten people suddenly wanting to leave the Kingdom for the weekend.
To jog my memory, I looked up Al-Khobar on Google Maps. What was Dhahran Airport is now the King Abdulaziz Air Base so it would appear that the posts went back to their rightful owners.
About The Author
Arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1976 was like coming home, as Richard had been brought up in Kuwait as an “oilbrat” during the 1950s and 60s where his dad was Chief Health Officer for the Kuwait Oil Co. As a Chartered Accountant, Richard worked for Aramco in both Internal Audit and Contract Cost Compliance, but despite his father’s prowess as a golfer and his mother as a tennis player (Persian Gulf Oil Companies Lawn Tennis Association Ladies Champion in 1956), his social life gravitated to the Dhahran Rugby Club and amateur dramatics. He used his organising skills to become a representative on the Aramco Employees Association, Treasurer for DRUFC between 1976/77 and 1978/79, and then Chairman in 1979/80 before leaving in 1980. He continued with a varied finance career in shipping (Japan) automobiles (Guam) and dance education (UK).
Finally retiring in 2015, Richard and his husband live in London and he has used his time not only to continue travelling, but also to write Dance into Business for dance students wanting to start a business.
About this Article
The Unofficial History was produced to mark what would have been the approximate 50th Anniversary of the Dhahran Rugby Union Football Club (DRUFC) 1972- 2022, depending on what year you believe the club to have been established.
The Editor: Richard Thom first started playing rugby as a young boy in Scotland playing for the 1st XV at prep school, and then the Colts and 1st XV at Strathallan. He rediscovered rugby in Saudi Arabia, and not only played for the 1st and 2nd XVs on the wing but helped to keep the Club on track as Treasurer and Chairman. Moving to Japan after Saudi, Richard continued to play for the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club (YCAC) as second row for the 2nd XV, a far cry from the wing in Saudi.
Coming back to the UK in the mid-80s, it was the camaraderie among those in the club who played, supported or just joined in that helped to bond us all together to meet regularly and to mark the occasion with a "Not the May Ball," the third for which this booklet was produced.
- John Bailey 1975 - 1980
- Mike Galbraith 1971
- John Kates 1973 - 1975
- Bill Flynn 1973 - 1975
- Martin Watson 1974 – 1977
- Stan Peters 1974 – 1978
- Mike Sullivan 1978 - 1984
- Graham Vizor 1977 – 2007
- Carolyn Coles 1977 - 1985
- Lesley Williams 1979 - 1986