Hunslet’s hard-working General Manager Peter Todd had a pleasant email exchange recently with a descendant of a member of the side that won the inaugural Yorkshire Cup competition – one of the Parksiders’ many `firsts’ – back in 1905.
Lorraine Pickles of Bristol had got in touch, stating: “I am hoping you can help me. I am trying to research my great-grandfather’s rugby career.
“I know he played Rugby Union for Bristol in 1901-02. He was also in the England squad but apparently his caps were lost. He then moved to Hunslet to play Rugby League, and my grandmother was born in Hunslet in 1908.”
She added: “Both my sons, and my two grandsons, were and are rugby players and it would be lovely if you could give me some information about him. His name was Harry Wilcox.”
We certainly could! Research conducted by several historians, notably Martin Stewart and Steve Calline, reveals that Harry (whose heritage number is 303) made his debut for Hunslet on Monday 1 September at Runcorn in the first fixture of the 1902-03 campaign; the match ended in a 15-5 defeat, the legendary Albert Goldthorpe scoring a try and a goal.
Harry spent four years with the Parksiders, playing 117 games and scoring one try, which was registered in a 12-0 league win at Batley on 17 February 1906.
Just a couple of months earlier, on Saturday 2 December 1905, he had been part of Rugby League (then Northern Union) history as a member of Hunslet’s pack in the 13-3 triumph over Halifax, at Bradford Park Avenue, in the first Yorkshire Cup Final.
Harry Wilcox’s last match for the south Leeds club was on Monday 16 April 1906, in a 10-3 league reverse at Hull KR.
The Parksiders had, during the previous three seasons, finished ninth, fourth, and ninth again of the 18 teams in Division One. The two division system was then scrapped and the 31 member teams played in a single league, arranging their own cross-county fixtures. Yorkshire-based Hunslet closed that campaign as championship runners-up to Lancastrians Leigh, who somewhat controversially topped the final table through having arranged what many observers felt had been an `easier’ fixture programme for themselves. The Northern Union ensured that there would be no repetition by arranging fixtures centrally from the following season. And in 1907-08 Hunslet became the first club to pull off the incredible `All Four Cups’ feat of Challenge Cup, Championship, County Cup and County League.
Bristol RUFC official Mark Hoskins says: “Harry Wilcox played three seasons for Bristol from 1899 to 1902, making his debut at Wellington on 9 September 1899. He came to the club from Bristol North, which should not be confused with the current North Bristol club. He was a forward, but in those days there were no specified positions in the pack such as prop or hooker.
Mark continues: “Harry Wilcox was a key member of Bristol’s pack during his time at the club, and these were successful years for the team. He was obviously good enough to attract attention from Rugby League scouts because in the summer of 1902 he signed professional forms and `went north.’ His final game was at Llanelli (Llanelly in those days) on 19 April 1902.”
Harry Wilcox’s record with Bristol RUFC was:
- 1899-00 29 games, one try
- 1900-01 28 games, four tries
- 1901-02 19 games, no tries
Career record: 76 games, five tries; he was awarded his first team cap at the end of the 1899-1900 season.
Late news: Lorraine Pickles has unearthed that Harry Wilcox was a direct descendant of William Tyndale, the first Bible translator, who was executed in 1536 after having opposed Henry V111’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Tyndale was strangled at the stake and his body then burned.