A chat with... Joseph Hodgkinson


The Old Brigade



Like Tom Hilton, whose football career we sketched last week, Joseph Hodgkinson, of Boothstown, is one of the little band of players who were associated with the Tyldesley club in the earliest days of its existence. Along with such well-known veterans as Fred Shaw, Tom Hilton, Joe Hampson, and Tom Mather, Hodgkinson migrated from the Boothstown to the Tyldesley club when the last named began its career at Garratt Hall, and he remained with the club for a fairly long period, during which he saw it rise from a position of comparative obscurity to a leading place in the football world. As a player, Hodgkinson's reputation stood high. His sphere of operations was among the forwards, and alike in the pack and the loose he was a capable performer, his play being always characterized by unwonted pluck and doggedness of purpose. He was endowed with great physical strength both in defence and attack, and his keenness in following up raiding movements by his side often enabled him to take opposing defences by surprise. His chief claim to fame rests on the fact that he registered the point which gained Tyldesley their great victory in the final round of the West Lancashire cup competition in 1888. Before this, however, he had scored the deciding point which gained Tyldesley their success in the final round of the Worsley Charity Cup competition, and he can claim to have played a leading part in securing two cups for his club.

In the course of a brief chat with our representative Hodgkinson remarked, "I started my football career with Boothstown about 35 years ago. We played on a ground off Rosin-lane, Ellenbrook, and amongst my colleagues at that time were James Lyon (Roe Green), Frank Lyon, Jesse Short, and Jesse Clare. We had a good team, and we generally gave a fair account of ourselves in the matches we played with such clubs as Hulme, Littleborough, Brackley, Barton, Eccles, and Walkden. I remember Fred Shaw and Tom Hilton joining Boothstow. They were put on the second team, but shortly after this, viz., in 1881, the Garratt Hall club was formed, and Shaw and Hilton went over to the new organization and took Joe Hampson, Tom Mather, and myself with them.

"I had always played forward for Boothstown, and when the Garratt Hall club was formed I became one of their pack. One of the earliest matches played at Garratt Hall was against Hulme, and during the game, one of the visitors met with a severe injury to his leg, which, I rather think, turned out to be broken. After the accident, I asked Shaw to finish the game without me, and I carried the injured player on my back to the Red Lion at Sale-lane, and thence he was removed to his home in a cab. In our first match against Leigh at Garratt Hall, Jesse Short, of Boothstown came and played for us, and he scored a try. Boothstown paid a visit to Garratt Hall after this, and Albert Rawlinson kicked a goal for them and won the match. Eventually we removed to the ground at Sale-lane, but when we had been there some time I went back to Boothstown owing to a little bother that had occurred. I played with Tyldesley when we beat Boothstown at Sale-lane, and shortly after that I had the satisfaction of helping Boothstown to avenge their defeat.

"It was whilst I was playing for Boothstown against Tyldesley at Sale-lane that I had my famous wrestle with Mr. J.W. Clegg, who was then one of Tyldesley's best forwards. I have often been chaffed about this incident, which caused a lot of fun both at the time and afterwards, and I dare say Mr. Clegg ha not been allowed to forget it either. It came about in this fashion. Tyldesley had got a try and were leading, then the ball came my way during an attack by Boothstown, and I ran, I should think three yards over the Tyldesley line and touched down. I scored without a doubt, but Mr. Clegg either thought that I had not, or else he wanted a rough and tumble, for he came and got hold of me and tried to take the ball off me. We both went down and we set to and had a ten minutes wrestle for possession, with the players standing round us in a ring and egging us on. Mr. Clegg kept trying to get a fresh hold, but I butted him off with my head, and he could not get the ball. I was always on the top, and I told him he should not have the ball, that he would have to have my "yed first".

"The referee was Mr. Henry Yates, of Boothstown, and the Boothstown touch judge was Sam Fryer, of Worlsey. They argued the matter out, but eventually went off the field. Then Mr. Frank Wright, who was playing for Tyldesley, came to me and said, "Hodgkinson, are you going to give in?" and I answered him "No, not unless we get this try given us." We went on wrestling again, but we got no nearer to a finish, and then in the end Mr. Wright led his men off the field, though we had still 20 minutes to play, and the game was abandoned. That was the end of the wrestle, which I claim to have won, for Mr. Clegg started with the intention of getting the ball off me, and he never managed it. Tyldesley were afraid that if the try was allowed, we should kick a goal off it and win the match. I saw Mr. Wright afterwards on Tyldesley-square, and he admitted that I had scored a fair try. I think Mr. Clegg's idea was simply to have a rough-and-tumble. He knew I was a rough sort of a chap, and I believe he wanted to have a wrestling bout with me.

"A short time after that I joined Tyldesley again, and we removed from Sale-lane to Well-st. I believe it was in our first season at Well-st. that we won the Worsley Charity Cup. We met Walkden in the final round on the Swinton ground, and we beat them by six minor points to three. When only minor points were scored in these cup-ties, the winners had to have a lead of three points, and we only just got them against Walkden. At one stage of the game, when we were leading by five points to three, the ball was kicked towards the Walkden line by our side. I followed up and was on Tommy Price, the Walkden fullback just as he got possession. I ran him up to the line, and made him give a touch in goal. That gave us our three point lead, and won us the match.

"Did you ever hear how we trained for the West Lancashire Cup final? The week before the match was played, a number of us went in for long walks, in order to get into perfect condition and we finished up with a ten mile run from the Star and Garter Hotel on the Thursday afternoon. We started some time after dinner, and we took off down Moss-lane, through Blackmoor, along the canal side to Morleys and then right across country Leigh way, and home again. Fred Shaw and Hampson went with the paper, and "Buff" Berry led the running. Some of our chaps tried to take short cuts to head off those who had got the lead, but old "Buff" would not have it. He stopped them and threatened to give up if they did not run properly. "Buff" landed home first, Alf. Lowe was second, Tom Hilton third and I was fourth. I don't remember how the others, Jack Leach, Alf. Smith, Will Healey and Jim Brown finished, but some of them were a long way behind. We were all thoroughly done up, however, and I was glad of a stick to help me home after the race was over. Leach knocked himself up so completely that he was unable to play in the match.

"The final tie was against Widnes at Warrington. It was in the first half that we scored and won the match. "Buff" Berry kicked towards the Widnes line and I followed up, got the ball about six yards off the line, and scored. George Woodward and Peter Eckersley were close behind me, and one of them would certainly have scored if I had not done so, for they fell over the top of me when I grounded it, both of them being afraid I should miss it. Jack Fearnley got another try after this, but it was disputed, and it was not allowed for some days after the match.

"Our supporters chaired "Buff" Berry and Shaw after the match, and I heard they wanted to do the same with me, but I crept out of the road and did not show myself at our Warrington headquarters until the streets were something like clear. We drove round Tyldesley streets in a wagonette after the match. Fred Shaw had the cup, and I was seated just underneath him. A woman in the crowd on the Square called out to her neighbour, "It's quare; why, that's 'Nonny' (my nickname) howding t'Cup." Her companion replied, "Aye, and 'Owd Rodney is at t'back." "Owd Rodney" was Will Healey, and it was his mother who made the first exclamation I have quoted and my mother who replied to it. I gave up playing for Tyldesley soon after this. I joined Boothstown again, and then went to assist Walkden, for whom I played in about nine matches. After that I gave up play altogether, though I made one final appearance in Tyldesley's team when they played Leigh Shamrocks on a Good Friday. I often used to watch Tyldesley play after my retirement, but I doubt if they were ever a better side than that which played for them in the season that they won the West Lancashire Cup. We beat four teams in the Cup competition, and we beat each of these clubs on two occasions besides that during the same season."

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