My final solution to the situation I experienced was to do a complete RH9 clean install, post a simple web page with a phpinfo/cgi/mySQL setup to prove Apache was serving and interacting to the other services/daemons correctly.
Well I had originally used synaptic to update my RH9 build but I suspect that that had changed my default config in some strange way that had contributed to my "forbidden by rule" situation. Certainly it made no difference by any chmods I made and my httpd.conf was working ok on a default RH9 install elsewhere.
On IRC I spoke to a guy who said he had had better experience in updating his RH* configs using yum. Having proved my clean install config was ok and then my virtual hosts setup, I then updated with yum and all is still ok.
I shall be staying with yum in preference to up2date or synaptic.
By the way, to those reading this; where do folks usually place their mySQL databases on RH linux platforms for Apache interaction please?
Good luck checta!