The 1866 Blog vol 1: The birth of Harlequins and Wasps

Tuesday, 13th January 2015 @ 14:15

As part of their initiation into the Quins, new Members use to be told that the Club came into being under a gas street lamp on Hampstead Heath at two o’clock one foggy morning.

A group of ‘Champagne Charlies’, the predecessors of the City Slickers of the next century, returning from a night on the town decided that as none of them came from Hampstead it was time to rename Hampstead FC, the club they played for.

The hour and their evening’s entertainment gave rise to the new name, the club colours and the motto ‘Nunquam Dormio’.  Some more sober Members on hearing this decided to form another club using the Hampstead F C colours, black and gold. They called themselves the Wasps.

A most unusual birthday story and quite untrue, the real story is more prosaic. What is true is that the ‘Mother’ of both Harlequins and Wasps was Hampstead FC, who played for the first time in 1866. A season later, the first child flew the nest.

In the autumn of 1867, William Alford and other former scholars of Merchant Taylors School, students at University College Hospital, decided to form Wasps Football Club. They held their first formal Club meeting at the Eton and Middlesex Tavern, in Adelaide Road, North London. They used the same colours, black and gold, as Hampstead FC.

At the beginning of the 1869-70 season, Hampstead F C held a meeting at which they decided they should change their name as the membership was no longer local. At the same time, they decided that they wanted to keep the ‘H F C’ monogram and the motto  ‘Nunquam Dormio’. So a dictionary was produced and the Club Secretary was asked to read out the ‘H’s’. When he got to ‘Harlequin’, he was stopped and all present agreed that that was the right name.

At the same meeting new club colours were chosen, the quartered shirt we wear today as the previous ‘black and gold’ did not suit the new name. The change of name attracted several new members and the Club ‘took on a new lease of life’.

I prefer the legend.

by Graeme Roberts

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