George Perraton Mayne was born on 28 December 1885 and grew up in Penzance, Cornwall.
His family seems to have been struck by the loss of the male figures in the household, as both his grandmother Frances Perraton and mother Frances Mayne are already widowed by 1891. He and his younger brother William grew up in their care, with George attending Penzance’s Higher Grade School between 1891-99 and the Mining & Science School from 1899-1902.
Education was clearly his chosen career pathway from an early age. He moved to London to gain additional certificates and qualifications at the South Kensington institute from 1904-07, then returning to St Luke’s Training College, Exeter, to complete his Bachelor of Education certificate. During this era, he held teaching posts around the country in Poole, Penzance and Northallerton including a role as P.T. teacher at the Wesleyan School in Penzance between 1900-03.
He is recorded by ORG Williams as playing at three-quarter and full back during his time in Cornwall, and also represented St Luke’s College during his time there. His commitment to his sports is clearly illustrated in ORG’s anecdote “On leaving college for Northallerton he found no Rugby being played there, so he played for the local hockey club for two seasons before coming south and joining Saracens in 1911”
On 19th September 1911, he was recruited by the recently-opened Southgate County School in North London to teach ‘Drawing and Drill’ , where his principal duties assigned were “Drill and assists with Art and Singing” in exchange for a salary of £120 per annum. So, a Cornish rugby-playing gymnastics teacher with a creative talent for singing had just moved into the Saracens’ backyard….perfect!
It didn’t take long…GP Mayne is captured in the 1912-13 1st XV photo, looking strong and confident. The team’s results that season, however, did not reflect George’s disposition with the side losing 13 of their 20 matches. He is named in the side that lost to Walton RFC on October 26th 1912, playing in the back line with Duncan McMillan, W.A. Andrew, V. Clancy and K.D. Chisholm.
He also appeared for the ‘A’ XV that season and is listed as one of the side’s try scorers. In the pre-war season of 1913-14, he seems to have appeared mainly for the ‘A’ side, helping them to 11 wins out of 20 and being one of the team entrusted with goal-kicking duties.
The summer of 1914 was a significant one for George in a number of areas. During the summer, he returned to Cornwall to wed fellow Penzance local Henrietta R Richards.
Thereafter, the outbreak of war resulted in both the cancellation of all rugby fixtures, as we know, plus significant changes to school life at Southgate County.
The December 1914 school newsletter offers belated congratulations to Mayne and two of his colleagues, all of whom had wed their respective fiancees that summer, before moving on to cover some of the more relevant war-time issues facing the co-educational school at this time. The introduction of a new Rifle Club for the training of pupils’ shooting skills was announced, and a full list of the 77 former pupils who had already volunteered for the armed forces was published.
Hugely indicative of a major debate that was raging at the time, as we have seen, is that the magazine published the summary of their English Debating Society’s first meeting of the term on October 29th, at which the motion was “That professional football be suspended during the War“.
Whilst one pupil-speaker, Benjamin, “emphasised the fact that professional footballers are the best and fittest of our men and should, therefore, find better sport in serving their country than in ‘kicking a ball about’.” many of his fellow pupils disagreed, with Jacob stating he “did not see why professional footballers should make better soldiers than men from other trades“. In a school where no rugby was played, but football, hockey, netball, cricket and swimming all were highly valued and clearly essential parts of school life, the motion was “lost by a large majority”
Mayne continued to teach throughout 1915 and 1916 at the school, which maintained its sporting curriculum as much as was possible in wartime. Sports Days were harnessed to raise money for the Middlesex Regiment by the sale of programmes and other activities. By 1916, the school newsletter reported that the number of former pupils serving had now risen to 158, sadly with 6 fatalities already recorded.
By March 1917, however, the pressure on recruitment from even the protected professions such as teaching was proving too much. The school magazine reported that 3 of their remaining 5 male teachers had left the school to join the Anti-Aircraft Service, with Mayne being assigned to the Royal Engineers for the remainder of the war. The school noted that his contributions were going to be missed by the football team, who had an “excellent coach in Mr Mayne“.
George was to survive the war, and return both to Saracens and to Southgate County School. However, 51 former pupils and one member of staff – his colleague John Swallow – lost their lives in the conflict and were commemorated on the school war memorial, unveiled in a moving service on 29th October 1920.
George rejoined the Saracens for the first post-war season in 1919-20, and was one of a number of former players elected to the club Committee for this season of rebuilding. ORG Williams records in his 1926 history of the club that “At first there were few players (left) over after filling the (1st) XV, but towards the middle of the season G.P. Mayne took charge of the ‘A’ side…and did his utmost to keep to the programme of matches as arranged“. It was a fitting tribute to his efforts that the Club awarded him with his ‘Honours Cap’ at the end of the season.
In the 1920-21 season, Mayne’s talent and commitment was fully recognised, as he was nominated as 1st XV captain for the season. He led the team to 10 wins and 3 draws out of their 23 recorded fixtures and was recorded as being “a safe full-back, an accurate place and drop kick, and could be relied upon in any position outside the scrum, where his tactical cross-kicking was productive of many scores” An additional Honours Cap was his reward at the end of this season.
George Mayne was to continue to support both the Saracens and Southgate County School with his enthusiastic approach to sports and education. He became Hon. Secretary of Saracens in 1921-22, and served the club faithfully in this administrative role. However, his contribution to Southgate School is equally impressive, teaching there as he did until his retirement on 31st December 1945, after 34 years of continual service!
His WW1 story is now here for rugby fans to read and enjoy – a ‘Saracens Survivor’ from the First World War.