The Siam Cup is the second oldest rugby trophy in the world (2nd to the Calcutta cup) and its existence is steeped with an interesting and chequered history. It is the annual challenge trophy played for between Jersey Rugby Football Club and Guernsey Rugby Football Club at the end of the season and the venue alternates between the islands.
It was during the German occupation of the islands that the cup was at its greatest risk, because the Germans wanted it to be sent to their homeland to be melted down and used as funds to support the Third Reich. Strangely enough the cup ‘disappeared’ and was not rediscovered until after the end of the occupation. To this day, there is no record of the whereabouts of the cup during this period.
The Siam Cup is a large circular rose-bowl made from Siamese (Thai) silver. It is beautifully decorated in traditional Siamese style, with figures of dancing girls and elephant heads. It stands on an ebony base and is engraved with the cup winner’s names, dating as far back as 1920.
Results to date are 60 wins for Jersey, 16 wins for Guernsey and one draw and Guernsey are the current holders (as of summer 2018), having won back the Siam for the first time in a decade. It is always a fiercely-contested match, and the form book may not be an accurate guideline for this game.
The Siam is a raw local derby rugby, passionately played with no quarter given and can at times be very difficult to referee, which is why an independent, highly qualified official is flown in from the UK to officiate. Prior to the league system, the referee was appointed by Twickenham and was usually someone from the international panel – names like Johnny Johnson (England) and Jean-Claude Yche (France) were two of the many that have taken charge. In more recent times, the Siam was refereed by Irishman Donal Courtney – who took charge of 22 internationals – in 2005 and English referee Luke Pearce, now one of World Rugby’s elite officials – in 2009.
The Cup was brought to the Channel Islands by a Lieut-Colonel C H Forty, an officer based in Siam with the Durham Light Infantry. A fellow officer in his regiment was the son of the King of Siam. He was befriended by Forty and his fellow officers, and on eventually becoming King he instructed that the Cup be made from Ticals (silver Siamese dollars) by the royal silversmiths. He presented the cup to Forty and his fellow officers as a token of their friendship.
Forty donated the cup to the islands to be played for annually between Victoria College in Jersey and Elizabeth College in Guernsey (These are the CI equivalents to UK Public Schools). When rugby was no longer played by the two colleges it was decided that the cup should be contested between the two island rugby clubs each season, thus began the annual ‘battle’ for the Siam Cup.
The original cup is now displayed in the museum at Rugby HQ in Twickenham and a replica that was made by renowned Guernsey jeweller, Bruce Russell, is the one used and kept in the trophy cabinet of the successful island.
PS – Rugby has subsequently been reintroduced to Victoria College in Jersey.