A chat with... "Daff" Banks

The name of David Banks was for a considerable time very familiar among thousands of enthusiastic supporters of the Rugby game in West Lancashire, and more particularly among those who followed the game in Wigan and its immediate precincts.

Mr. Banks will be chiefly remembered for his association with the Wigan club, which he joined as half-back in 1883, having migrated from Blackrod, a club which was responsible for bringing out many prominent players. An "Examiner" representative had a most interesting chat with Mr. Banks at his residence, 11, Hope-street, Blackrod, recently, and gained for him some interesting facts relative to his career as a footballer.

Mr. Banks was born at Haigh in 1861, he is 53 years of age, but his parents removed to the adjoining township of Blackrod in Bank's early life and with that district he has been connected all his life. He commenced his football career at the age of 19 years, when he played for Blackrod, of which club he was one of the founders. Among those who were associated with him were James Hampson, John Orrell, Tommy Gidlow, and Bob Turner. In the club's early days many difficulties were experienced, but the landlord of the Red Lion Hotel, who took a keen interest in the lads, lent the a field adjoining the hostel. It was necessary to take out a hedge to increase the playing space, and Banks recalled with amusement how he and his pals worked very energetically to accomplish the task. The first match Blackrod played was against a local club, and Blackrod suffered defeat. After that he was a participant in many stern struggles, but he thinks the hardest game he ever played was against Pemberton, when Blackrod met them in the second round in the Wigan Charity Cup competition. These games were played on neutral grounds, and Aspull was the venue. So evenly were the respective teams matched that two draws took place, and on the third occasion the teams met at Wigan. There was what was in those days regarded as an enormous crowd present, and Banks was able to recall the progress of the match quite easily, and, as events turned out, with an amount of pardonable pride. Half way through the contest nothing had been scored, and excitement among players and spectators ran very high. Tom Moorfield was the skipper of Pemberton, and he devoted all his skill and energy to keeping a watchful eye on Banks. For some time his efforts succeeded very well, but Banks altered his tactics. In about five minutes Banks had crossed the Pemberton lines twice, and the match was won. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed, and the supporters of Blackrod carried their hero shoulder high all the way from the ground at Dicconson-street to the Legs of Man Hotel. At the end of that season Banks was eagerly sought after by many leading clubs, but he yielded to requests made to give his services to Wigan, and in 1883 he became associated with them. He had played very regularly for Blackrod, and always at half-back. In fact, during his entire football career Banks never figured in any other position.

Mr. Banks could not recall who were the opponents of Wigan when he made his initial appearance with them, but his partner was Tommy Morris, and they played two seasons together, and were never dropped during that period. He was afterwards a partner of Jack Hunter's, and altogether assisted Wigan for six seasons. The subject of our sketch recalled an amusing incident which happened after he had been associated with Wigan for a season. On one Saturday he took with him as a lad to watch the match the late "Billy" Atkinson, who developed into such a splendid forward. "We were playing Mossley," he continued,, "and when we landed there we found we had only twelve men. A good deal of fun was made at 'this big rough lad,' 17 half years old, I had with me, but he turned out, and we won the match by a dropped goal to nothing (this being scored by Jack Anderton). In my opinion, "Billy" Atkinson ultimately became one of the finest forwards ever produced."

Banks represented West Lancashire on many occasions, notably once at Widnes, when "Curly" Farrell and himself were the half-backs. They played against Batley, when the "gallant youths" were the Yorkshire Cup-holders, "and," added Mr. Banks, "they just beat us, though only by a narrow margin." Among other big events in which Banks took part was in a game between teams representing North Lancashire and South West Lancashire. Banks, of course, was on the latter side, being partnered by Sam Simpson, of Broughton Rangers. It was a great game from start to finish. As to the matches played with Wigan, those against Aspull recall the liveliest recollections to Mr. Banks. Aspull were victorious in the season that proved to be Bank's last. In connection with one of those games, in which Aspull were the conquerors, Mr. Banks recalled that the excitement was so intense that the crowd broke on to the field of play. This, he believed, was in 1886-7, and Aspull were leading comfortably. When the crowd appeared n the scene Banks and two other Wigan players "bolted," and did not return that afternoon. The Wigan forwards were hopelessly beaten - "run to death," as Mr. Banks put it, and Aspull won very easily. On the same occasion a wall gave way, and several spectators sustained serious injuries. He believed that 17,000 paid for admission, and many were unable to get on to the ground.

Mr. Banks went on tour with Wigan once. Occasionally he played Association football to assist local clubs, including the old Horwich team. Referring to Johnny Roberts, he ventured the opinion that the old Aspull and Wigan three-quarter had not forgotten him, because it was in the final against Aspull, when Wigan were successful, in 1884-5, that Banks showed so much attention to Roberts, and prevented him from doing the damage he usually did to opposing sides.

Respecting players whom he considered were really first-class men, Mr. Banks said he considered among half-backs J.H. Payne, of Broughton, Sam Simpson, of Broughton Rangers, and "Curly" Farrell, of Widnes, were all great men in their day. Among three-quarters, Fred Shaw, of Tyldesley, little Simms, of Batley, and Tom Gidlow, of Blackrod, were fine exponents, the first named being a particularly good lad.

The case of Mr. Banks having represented the Wigan team, and now having a son who regularly plays with the Wigan club ("Billy" Banks), is only equalled so far as the Wigan club is concerned by Elijah Prescott and his son John, who is a playing member of the Wigan club. "Billy" Banks plays with the second team, but has also appeared with the League thirteen, and is a forward of great promise.

Mr. Banks was quite as well-known on the running track as a footballer, if not better. He competed in many sprint matches, and recalled one against Lofthouse, of Adlington. It was a big match, and his opponent was a good man, in fact, it was "any price" against Banks. However, Banks ran a miraculous race, and conquered Lofthouse. His next great race was against A. Holland, who was generally known as "the little wonder," and Banks also "put him to rest," as he described it.But quite the most important event in his athletic days was his running a match against Tom Fairhurst, of Ince, the stake at issue being £70. In the old days a successful athletic meeting used to be promoted at Blackrod, and Banks competed i the sprint race of 100 yards on seven occasions, and was the winner six times.

Since retiring from taking part in sports, Mr. Banks has continued to evince a keen interest in the winter pastime and all sporting matters. He spends a good deal of his time in training young lads for various sprinting matches. We might add that just before going into retirement he challenged any collier in England rto run him in a sprint race, but no response was forthcoming. He also trained Wigan "A" when they beat Warrington in the final for the Lancashire Shield a few seasons ago. Wigan were very anxious to win this match, and included the New Zealander L.B. Todd, in their ranks. Jack Fish also played for Warrington on the same occasion.

Old Wigan football enthusiasts have the kindliest recollections of "Daff" Banks, and wish him a long life and prosperity.

...Put into Context

Mr. Banks actually made his debut at the start of the 1884-5 season, not 1883. His first game was at home against Ulverston at the end of September, 1884. His last game for Wigan, before re-joining for a couple of matches now and then, was again against Ulverston in 1886! How weird is that!?

In the 1907-8 season, Hunslet won all that was on offer to the with the help of the Goldthorpes. Wigan did indeed win the Lancashire Shield, which was proudly on display at the end of season AGM. Such was the desperation to win silverware, Wigan took advantage of a loophole in the rules to allow Lance Todd, and other new recruits, to participate in the final against Warrington. It is good to know that "Daff" had a hand training those fellows. Of course, the following year Wigan won four trophies themselves.

"Billy" Banks, David's son, played for Wigan between 1915 and 1925, separated of course by The Great War. He played a total of 92 games for Wigan in the front row.

Blackrod was quite a stronghold of rugby back in the early 1880s. A keen football fanatic wrote to the Wigan Observer seeing whether it would be possible to have a Cup competition, similar to those found in Yorkshire, with proceeds benefiting the newly built Wigan Infirmary. This turned out to be the Wigan Union Charity Cup.

For those of you who know the geography of Blackrod, it isn't a flat space. It is perched upon a drumlin and overlooks Horwich on one side, Haigh on the other. To have a football field anywhere near the Red Lion pub must have been madness!

Hope Street, Blackrod. Residence of Daff Banks (the house at the end). In the distance the air shafts of Haigh and Aspull looking towards Wigan. Situated between Green Barn and Scot Lane. Of course, these buildings were not here in the time Banks played but were built in the late 1890s. Scot Lane (The 'Poacher' pub) had a very successful junior side back in those early days. Billy Atkinson, mentioned in the conversation, hailed from here. Ned Bullough, another fine Wigan forward of the mid-1880s early 1890s, lived just to the to of this photo in Haigh. Small world eh?

The Red Lion Hotel, Blackrod. As you can see, not much room for error once the ball started to roll downhill!

...and if you're interested, an OS map from 1849 showing the bowling green behind the Red Lion from whence Blackrods first ground appeared by removing hedges!

A few years later when Blackrod moved ground, september 1887, (still up for debate where it was), Wigan were invited to open the ground. Blackrod won, although it was, I suppose, pre-season for Wigan.

With utmost thanks of course to Mike Latham for the source material from the Wigan Examiner