‘High five’ as unusual game returns

The now demolished Fives courts at March Neale-Wade Community College.
The now demolished Fives courts at March Neale-Wade Community College.
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A UNIQUE sporting facility is set to make a welcome return to a Fenland school thanks to the efforts of a hardened group of enthusiasts.

But the public’s help may still be needed to fund the rebuilding of the Fives courts at March Neale-Wade Community College.

The three courts at the March school were demolished last summer as part of the Building Schools for the Future project and at one point looked as if they may be lost forever.

But thanks to the determination of a band of volunteers the courts are set to be rebuilt later this year with school Principle Jason Wing confident they will be up and ready for use by late autumn.

Jason, a former Neale-Wade pupil himself has memories of playing the game, which is like squash with players hitting a ball with their hand.

As a result he is keen to see the courts rebuilt and has managed to secure £20,000 worth of funding as part of the Building Schools for the Future.

The Neale-Wade is thought to be the only non-public school in the country to have Fives courts and they have been a part of the school’s history for nearly 100 years.

There were courts at the old Grammar School site in Station Road but when the school was relocated to Wimblington Road in the early 1960s the courts were not included.

However, local builder Josh Taylor, whose firm built the new Grammar School, provided three courts at the cost of around £1,600 as a gift to pupils.

And since then generations of Neale-Wade pupils have enjoyed a game of Fives in their breaktimes, and also regular inter-house tournaments.

A few dedicated ex-pupils have also kept up the game forming the March Fives Club and playing regularly - although membership has dwindled in recent times.

Among members is Gary Melnyk of Manea.

“Some of my happiest school memories have been on those courts. I regularly missed the bus home because I got caught up in a game,” said Gary, who was one of the group behind the move to get the courts reinstated.

Leading the way was Pat Case and her brother Geoff Taylor, who are the children of Josh Taylor.

Pat was determined the courts would be rebuilt to the same high standards as her father provided and considers them part of the town’s heritage.

“We are not sure how the original courts in Station Road came about, but we think it is possibly through a past headmaster who had links with the public schools.

“There are three variations of the game: Eton, Winchester and Rugby and our courts are considered non-standard as they are a cross between Eton and Winchester,” explained Pat.

Geoff has managed to source the same type of bricks as the courts were originally built with and he estimates the cost of the rebuild could be at least £25,000.

It is hoped that former pupils who have memories of playing the game might be willing to help plug the funding gap by making donations towards the cost.

“I think it would be a real tragedy if the courts were to be lost forever, they are part of the town’s heritage and I feel it’s a very unusual thing for the school to have and something to be proud of,” added Pat.