A chat with... "Daff" Hulme

Our "Chats with Old Footballers" articles have aroused a tremendous amount of interest, and this week we include Mr. "Daff" Hulme, the well-remembered half-back, who was one of the smartest players in the days when the old Aspull club was carrying all before it. "Little Daff," as he was always familiarly referred to, was recognised in his day as a wonderful half-back, and many are the matches which have bee won as a result of his cleverness.

Seen by a representative of the "Examiner" the other day, "Daff" was comfortably ensconced in a seat in the bar parlour of the Queen's Head Hotel, Aspull, of which hostelry he has been the highly esteemed landlord for a period bordering on seventeen years. He was agreeably surprised when asked if he could recall some of the best deeds of his football days, and proudly pointed to a photograph, hanging on the wall, of himself and his former colleagues who won the West Lancashire and the Wigan Charity Cups. On the same photograph there are "Ned" Bullough, Pilkington (full back), Johnny Roberts, Dicky Seddon, Tom Monks (now in India with Mr. Trotman), Haydock, and Lawson (both dead), Baxendale, Jim Lindsay, Bramwell, Jim Cartwright, Hesketh, John Lindsay, and George Croston. (click the links to see their tales)

Hulme was twenty-one years of age in 1885 when he first played the Rugby game with any success, and he then appeared at half-back for a junior team known as the "Aspull Stars," who sported on a ground near the Crawford Hotel (the licensee of which as his father-in-law). Only part of a season had gone by when "Daff" felt he would do well in better company, and he threw in his lot with the Aspull team, and for part of a season he appeared with the second string. But there was no keeping him back, and he quickly found his way into the seniors, having as his partner Jim Cartwright. "We stuck together wonderfully," said Hulme, "and we had no desire to go anywhere else. I played until 1895, and I've got three gold medals and three silver ones which we won, and I'm very proud of. We won the West Lancashire Cup and the Wigan Charity Cup."

In his first season for the Aspull Club, "Daff" played in the final for the West Lancashire Cup, and Warrington won by a dropped goal. The following year he assisted Aspull to win the Cup at Fairfield, Wigan being heavily defeated. In this match Hulme took a memorable part, his unselfish work behind the scrummage enabling his backs to play a clever combined game. By this time he had fully established himself as a great artist, and with the football crowds at Aspull he was quite a favourite. He was on the light side, as can be imagined from the statement that his playing weight was 8st. 10lbs. His present weight is not much more than 9st. In this connection Hulme tells a funny story. His fame had reached the ears of "wellington" (a platelayer of the name of Gregory, but who was more familiarly known by his nickname), who happened to know very little about football. Strolling into the Crawford Arms he remarked to Hulme's father-in-law, "Hello, 'Mas,' where's that strapping son-in-law as gets all these big 'uns deawn?" Hulme was waiting on at the time, and when he was pointed out as the footballer, "Wellington" was astounded. "Is that him?" he asked, "Why, I thowt he were a chap of ten or eleven score. He is a sammer." Then calling Hulme to him he said, "Here, lad, I'll gie thi a 'awp'ny."

Asked which game he remembered more, "Daff" remarked, "It was one time when Wigan borrowed me. They were playing Swinton, at Swinton, and in those days they were the 'Lions'. Neither side had been fully beaten, and I was asked to partner Billy Halliwell. I did so, and we were in the game. I went round the 'blind' side of the scrummage and I beat 'em all and scored. In the match Arthur Paul, the well-known cricketer, was Swinton's full-back, and besides him there was Joe Mills, half-back, Walter Bumby and Valentine, three-quarters. I think that was one of the best games I ever played but I had some very good seasons. I remember playing well when we met Wigan, at Liverpool, in the Cup final, by 24 points to 1 point."

We touched on the subject of amateurism, and Hulme was asked if he had read the [piece] made by Jimmy Walkden about the pay of the Wigan players. "Well," he said, "we never got any money. We were real amateurs; we paid for the honour of the game. We only got travelling expenses paid. Our 'gates' were normally about a thousand spectators and sometimes fifteen hundred, so that it would not afford a thing."

"How would you have liked to have played in the present game?" was the next question.

"Well, it is faster than ours was, and with forwards as they are it gives the half-backs a good deal better chance than we had. I think that it would have suited me down to the ground, because I was very fast for thirty or forty yards. In [the old] days the wing forwards used to break up play so you could get the ball away, and if they caught you they nearly crushed you to death. At this time, a half-back like Johnny Thomas - and I think he is as good as any half-back I ever knew - has every chance of opening out for his backs. I was little, and I couldn't bring the big 'uns down by their 'wings' I always had one wing on if I could (meaning a tackle by the legs) and there was no distinction then between the half-backs like there is now. Cartwright and myself used to take the scrummages in turn. In one season Bullough scored about 24 tries when playing behind us at three-quarter."

"Did you ever play for Lancashire?" I asked.

"No, I did not, but I played a good many for the West Lancashire team against Cumberland and others. I also played against Swansea and Penarth in 1889. About that time there were splendid men knocking about, including Jim Valentine, Dicky Lockwood, "Buff" Berry, "Curly" Farrell, and Plumpton, whilst I think "Billy" Halliwell was the best half-back as you could wish to have in [the team]. I was never captain of Aspull, but I was captain when Johnny Roberts had charge. Then I had my shoulder broken at Widnes, and he and I had my hand badly smashed against Wigan, at St. Helens."

These, however, the subject of our sketch says, are part and parcel of the game. He is still an admirer of the handling code, and when time will permit he goes to watch the principle team at Central Park. In any event, he reads the "Examiner" for his information, and has done for many years. As the unassuming head of the Queen's Head Hotel, he is well-known and respected in the Aspull district, where that of "Daff" Hulme immediately calls up his collections of the glorious football days and flies the banner of the Aspull club proudly in the breeze. The game is defunct there but its admirers are legion.

The photo alluded to by "Daff" Hulme

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