Penryn Colts Rugby player, who drowned in a boating accident
The impressive, swirly iron gates of the Penryn Rugby Club are dedicated to the memory of David Blake, a playing member of the Colts team, who tragically died aged 16 as the result of a boating accident, in November 1960. Made by Mr Dickie Dunstan, a blacksmith who had lived all his life in Penryn, and served as the town’s first Mayor, the gates were dedicated by Rev. Perry-Gore, Vicar of St. Gluvias, in February 1961.
David Blake was a talented player in the Colts team. He had won County Colours, and had gone far in the area trials towards a place in the England team; he was also the recipient of a County Rowing medal and the School Athletic Prize during his time at Penryn County Secondary School.
As the younger son of the publicans who kept the Three Tuns Hotel in Penryn (now The Thirsty Scholar), he had left Penryn County Secondary School in July 1960 to take up a position as an electrician's apprentice. On the Sunday of the fateful accident, David called for his friend, Neil Winnan, a shipwright's apprentice, to go out in Neil's new
sailing dinghy. Sailing down from Penryn bridge mid-afternoon, the boys went down to Falmouth Harbour, with David steering and Neil in charge of the sails. Turning from the shelter of the harbour, they entered Carrick Roads, but soon realised that the wind was too strong and decided to turn back. As they turned, the boat filled with water and the boys jumped clear, about 150-200 yards from shore.
Initially, both boys hung on to the upturned boat, but David decided that he would be able to swim to shore, and set off: Neil followed him, feeling it was better to stay together, but after 30 yards or so, David shouted for help, and Neil went to assist him. The boys continued swimming, but twice more Neil needed to go to David’s aid, and a short time after this, David disappeared from view.
As Neil looked around for his friend, a tug-boat appeared close-by, and eventually Neil was able to be pulled aboard. By this time, David was nowhere to be seen, and a search party was sent out. His body was recovered floating near to Trefusis Point later that same day.
David’s funeral was held on Tuesday 6th December 1960, at St Gluvias church, Penryn, and the gates to the Rugby Club were dedicated just over 2 months later, on 20th February 1961, before a senior Home game against St Ives. The event was well-attended, and the unveiling of the plaque at the side of the gates was performed by David’s father, Mr R Blake, who sincerely thanked the Club and all those who had been connected with the organisation of such a beautiful tribute to his son.
The enduring presence of the gates at Penryn Rugby Club is testimony to the integration of the Club with the local community, both now and during its long 150 years of history.