Diary of John Counsell

1937 ~ 1938


May 10th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting. Jim Sullivan's demands were deferred to a later date.

May 19th - Special meeting of Wigan Football Club directors and decided not to grant Jim Sullivan a guarantee of five years' employment on re-signing.

June 14th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting and went through players' register and compiled the retained list and struck some players off.


June 15th - Witnessed an agreement between Wigan Football Club and Jim Sullivan for three years' guarantee of a position as trainer-groundsman including during his playing career and after to the extent of above term.

June 22nd - Attended annual meeting of Wigan Football Club. Large attendance. Wilfred Hodder, Eddie Conroy and T. Brown elected. Harry Ball and Johnny Thomas off.

June 29th - Attended Special Sub-Committee of the Wigan Football Club to define the duties of the groundsman, McCarty, and Jim Sullivan, the trainer-coach.

July 8th - Received cable from New Zealand asking for permission to play Holder in a friendly match. Withdrew £80 for players' wages and for deputation to meet a player and secretary of Newcastle club at Blackpool to-morrow.

July 10th - A wet morning at Blackpool, Alderman Walkden and George Hesketh came, and with G. Taylor interviewed the Newcastle footballer. The result was deferred.

July 14th - Went to Manchester Royal Infirmary to see Crockett, a New Zealand footballer, who was on Wigan's register.

Aug.6th - Left Wigan at 2 o'clock with directors and a few players of the Wigan Football Club for the crematorium where Mr. Ian Crockett's body was cremated. Several New Zealand footballers attended.

Sept. 8th - Two representatives of the Hunslet Football Club came re O'Sullivan (below), with a view to his transfer from Wigan


Sept. 9th - Went to Central Park and heard that O'Sullivan would not sign for Hunslet unless he got £50. Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting. O'Sullivan decided to go to Hunslet.

Sept. 10th - Transferred Jim O'Sullivan to Hunslet for £125. To go there on Monday.

Oct. 4th - Messrs. Platt, Hesketh and T. Brown to go to Wales on Wednesday re new players.

Oct. 21st - Mr. Hornby, of Bradford Northern, came to get transfer of Harrison, a New Zealand forward. Wigan directors agreed to same.

Oct. 22nd -Several clubs, including Wigan, after the signature of Belshaw, the Liverpool Stanley player.

Oct. 27th - Rugby League Finance Committee meeting in Leeds. Had to write to Bramley, Bradford Northern, Featherstone, Hunslet and Leigh re loans. Money owing to the R.L.

Nov. 3rd - Australian footballers at Central Park. One of the best football matches played was the opinion of the spectators. Spectators 9,800, gate £694. Result: Wigan 5 tries 4 goals, 23 points, Australians 7 tries 2 goals, 25 points. Mr. A. Clarke presented manicure sets to both sides.

Nov. 5th - In the papers it was stated that Francis Gregory, although selected to play to-morrow for Wigan against Widnes, was not going to turn out.

Nov. 6th - Went with R. Gardner to Swinton to observe and report on the manner L. Thorpe refereed the match. He was satisfactory.

Nov. 8th - W. Highton sent his resignation as a director of the Wigan Football Club.

Nov. 9th - Went with T. Brown, a director, to Hindley re a junior football player, and signed a full-back named Pendlebury. Two others also had to be seen.

Nov.11th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting. We had difficulty in fixing teams through injuries etc.

Nov.18th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting. There was an inquiry re charges made by Francis Gregory (below) against Jim Sullivan. We found them not proven.

Nov.21st - Harry Lowe informed me that he was not filling the vacancy on the Football Board occasioned by the resignation of W. Highton.

Nov. 24th - Attended League Management Committee and Finance Committee in Leeds. Hull K.R. ground ordered to be closed for two weeks. Appointed J. Wilson to visit Leigh and assist that club to fulfil fixtures. Another £500 guarantee to Newcastle club.

Nov. 25th - Went to Leigh and met J. Wilson, the League secretary, and arranged with the Leigh secretary, H. Prescott, for the Leigh team to go to Batley on Saturday.

Nov. 27th - Sullivan had his ribs damaged in the game at Rochdale and did not play in the second half.

Nov. 29th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting. The secretary was not well and intimated his intention of resigning.

Nov. 30th - Went to Leigh with the Leigh secretary, H. Prescott, and addressed the players re their matches with Newcastle next Saturday and following matches.

Dec. 3rd - Went with Tom Brown and met Williams, the footballer, of Ford Works, London. He came on the train arriving in Wigan 3-33. Took him to Central Park. He plays in the "A" team tomorrow.

Dec. 6th - Went to Leigh to attend League Management Committee re the Leigh Football Club and attended public meeting later.


Dec. 9th - Attended Wigan Football Club directors' meeting and decided to offer Mr. Harry Sunderland the post of secretary-manager of the club at £400 a year and bonus of £3 per match won and £2 for draw and 10 per cent. bonus of profits at end of season.


Dec. 14th - Went to see Alderman Walkden regarding George Taylor and his resignation as secretary. We discussed a £1 a week pension and made him a life member.

Dec. 20th - At a meeting of the directors we granted George Taylor a £1 a week pension and made him a life member.

Dec. 22nd - Meeting in Manchester of the Rugby League Council. Mr. H. Sunderland attended. We discussed the question of imposing the ban on Colonial players. I was the only one who objected to it on instructions of the Wigan directors.


Jan. 4th - George Taylor (below) resigned his position as sec. after a long association with the Wigan club.

Jan. 5th - Attended Northern League Management Committee meeting in Manchester and dealt with a large number of players for misconduct on the field. G.W. Banks, a Wigan player, was suspended for five matches. The unanimous feeling of the committee was that longer suspensions would be given in future.

Jan.6th - Attended Wigan Football directors' meeting and came to terms with Francis Gregory to re-commence playing for Wigan, although alderman Walkden and myself had to see Jim Sullivan on the matter.

Jan. 7th - Went to Central Park and met Jim Sullivan and spoke to him re Francis Gregory starting to play for Wigan.

Jan. 8th - Went to St. Helens Recs. football ground with Mr E. Howarth to observe how E. Houghton, of Warrington, refereed the match. He only made a few mistakes and we considered him quite satisfactory.

Jan. 9th - H. Platt and George Hesketh signed on Teddy Ward (below), a centre, from Llanelly.


Jan. 12th - At a special meeting of directors it was decided to take F. Gregory off the transfer list.

Jan. 13th - Negotiations were entered into with Warrington re transfer of F. Gregory.

Jan. 18th - At a meeting of the Rugby League Management Committee Gregory's transfer fee was fixed at £350.

Jan. 27th - Attended directors' meeting and verbally agreed with Warrington to transfer Francis Gregory, the forward, for £300.

Jan. 30th - Meeting of the Wigan Football Club directors re new players and decided to negotiate with Leeds for the transfer of H. Woods, and also to negotiate with Oldham for the transfer of Gordon Innes from the Wigan Club.


Jan. 31st - Went with Messrs. Hodder ad Hesketh to Leeds to meet the Leeds club directors and agreed to transfer Harry Woods from Leeds to Wigan for £450. They received us very well and entertained us to lunch. Gordon Innes wanted his wife's fare back to New Zealand before he would sign for Oldham. The Wigan directors refused same. Heated words between two directors. The meeting decided to rescind the minute offering Mr. Harry Sunderland the post of secretary-manager.

Feb. 1st - Gordon Innes transferred to Castleford for £300. Wigan to pay £75 to his passage although they are not liable. We were satisfied with the £225 for his transfer.

Feb. 15th - Addressed the players at Central Park prior to their starting special training. They went for a long walk with R. Hough and Jim Sullivan in charge. They dined at the Grill Room.

Feb. 16th - Wigan Football Club directors and players went by train to Southport as part of the training for their cup-tie with Leeds. The party dined at the Scarisbrick Hotel. On arrival back in Wigan we all went to the Hippodrome first house.

Feb. 17th - Decided to give the players a £5 bonus to beat Leeds in cup-tie next Saturday.

Feb. 19th - Went with directors and players to Leeds for cup-tie. The play of Wigan was poor in the extreme. They were too slow and could not get the ball in the scrums. We offered £5 bonus to win. At half-time an extra £3.


Feb. 28th - Alderman Walkden rang me upand told me he was resigning from the Board of Wigan Football Club directors. I was deputed by the Board to see Alderman Walkden with a view to him re-considering his decision. wigan's share of the gate from the Leeds cup-tie was £845 0s. 3d., including thirteen players' train fares.

Mar. 1st - Went to see Alderman Walkden but he told me he had definitely decided to retire.

Mar. 3rd - Occupied chair at Board meeting. Deputation was appointed to go to Newport, Wales, and another to see Old Boys' match at Standish to watch Lawrenson, a young player (below). Messrs. Brown and Hesketh were deputed to go to Salford to see Emlyn Jenkins.

Mar. 4th - T. Brown, who was at Salford, 'phoned me to say he had signed Jenkins for £700.

Mar. 7th - Appointed chairman of Wigan R.F.C. in succession to Alderman Walkden.

Mar. 16th - At Central Park the football secretary told me that Banfield refused to be transferred to Leigh, and we had arranged the price with that club.

Mar. 17th - The secretary told me he had transferred C. Banfield to Leigh. The player had refused to sign yesterday. I presented Alderman Walkden with a silver tea service to mark his retirement as chairman and director.

Apr. 18th - Went in the afternoon to Salford with directors and players. Result: Salford 13, Wigan 2. The play of the Wigan team was most disappointing.


John Counsell died two weeks later after this final diary entry on May 1st, 1938, aged 75 years. Mr. Counsell had been associated with the Wigan club since 1886 making his association with the Wigan Rugby Club lasting around a remarkable 52 years.

Alderman James Walkden died a year later on November 27th, 1939, aged 69 years. He too was for a long time associated with the Wigan Rugby Club since the mid-1890s, joining as a player, committeeman and eventually acting as Chairman.

George Taylor died on 3rd October, 1938, aged 72 years. Like his two friends, Taylor had been associated with the Wigan club since the 1880s.

These men built the Wigan Rugby Football Club. I hoped you like this feature.