A chat with... Ned Bullough

"A most consistent and reliable forward, and does not go in for showy play at the expense of hard work." This is what the Football Annual, edited by Mr. C.W. Alcock, Secretary of the English Football Association, said of "Ned" Bullough, in commenting upon the international game between England and Scotland in the season 1892. The subject of our sketch this week learned his football with the Haigh School team, which was a notable local club in the eighties. He joined it in 1882, and having a good turn of speed, somewhere about eleven seconds for the hundred yards, and being of wonderfully fine physique, he rapidly developed into a very useful three-quarter back. In five years he scored over 70 tries, and then in 1886-7 he threw in his lot with Aspull, for whom he scored 27 tries in one season.

"I was one of the Aspull team when the Moorites won the West Lancashire Cup. In the first round we met Tyldesley, on the Frog-lane ground, Wigan, and beat them by three dead balls to nothing. After that we opposed Wigan, on the Cattle Market ground, Stanley, and it was then 'that we ran Wigan off their feet'; the colliers, in the blue jersey, frightened Wigan that day. We won by 20 points to one, and I had a hand in two or three tries. There were in the team that day Daff Hulme, Dicky Seddon, Johnny Roberts, Pilkington, Tom Monks (now in India), Brooks (father of the lad who played or Wigan a few seasons ago), Baxendale, Ralph Lawson, Bramwell, Cartwright, the two Lindsays, and Croston. Dick Seddon received the cup from Sir James Poole."

"In 1889-90 I joined Wigan," proceeded Mr. Bullough, "as a three-quarter, but had a spell of disappointing experiences., which led me to tell our captain, Mr. Slevin, that I would either go into the pack or give up playing. He let me go into the forwards, and there I found my right place."

"It was in this year that I was selected to represent Lancashire. On the 23rd November, I played against Yorkshire at Bradford."

"In 1892 I got my international cap for playing against Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. We won all three games without a point being scored against us, carrying off the championship, a feat which was not repeated for twenty years. The result also bore with the Calcutta Cup, which was annually played for between England and Scotland."

"There were some good lads in those days who would have been quite capable of holding their own in the Northern Union game. There were Donald Jewett of Heckmondwike, who was taller than I am, and very near as fast; Dicky Lockwood, J.H. Alderson, Tom Kent, Pyke (of St. Helens), Ashworth (of Rochdale), Haydock (of Aspull), Billy Atkinson, Tootil (of bradford), who was considered one of the best forwards of his day."

"Which was your hardest game?"

"Oh, against Scotland, at Edinburgh. It was a terrific game all through, and England won by a goal to nothing."

"The most sensational try I ever witnessed," prompted by a friend, "was that you scored at Salford."

Asked to explain the circumstances, Mr. Bullough remarked that "Wigan were a try to the bad, and for 45 minutes had had to defend stubbornly. Salford were pressing them on their own line. Walsh, their half-back, made a swinging pass to one of the wings; I intercepted the ball ad made for the other end as fast as possible. I handed off Billy Mainwaring, the Salford back, as he was going for my legs and scored under the posts. Jack anderton kicked a goal, and we won the match. A well-known Wigan butcher came to me after the match, shook hands, and said: 'Ned, that try of yours has meant a tenner difference to me. What will you have two penn'oth of?' Other incidents recalled that try were the rough handling meted out to Wiganers who had the temerity to rally their lads on, 'sodding' being indulged in as the players left the playing pitch. Times have changed, rather. Adam Knowles played full-back for Wigan that season."

"I occasionally assisted Swinton and Oldham, as there were no rule then binding anybody or debarring one from playing what club he liked. I played about half a season with Oldham as a three-quarter, and was offered a business to join them permanently, which I declined."

"Incidents? Well, they were not as particular in those days as they are now about the offside rule. In one of the matches against Tyldesley I was told off to do nothing else but watch 'Buff' Berry. I simply went for 'Old Buff' whenever the ball went to him or in his direction. 'Why dussent' thoo play on thi own side?' asked Buff, in his picturesque North country accents. 'Because I've been told to watch you,' I answered, and he replied, 'An' thoost dooin' it, too.' I had a hand in a try on the Oldham ground similar to that at Salford, but the distance I had to travel was not quite so far."

"You have won a few medals?"

"Yes, I have the West Lancashire medal for playing with both Aspull and Wigan, and the Lancashire Champion County medal, which was only issued that year, 1890-1. I have often been asked why I gave over playing so soon. The answer is that I had my ankle broken on the Frog-lane ground against Wakefield Trinity, in September, 1892, Paul Booth, a heavy forward, falling on my ankle with his knee. I played about eleven years altogether."

"What do you think of the players of to-day?"

"They do not play any harder, but they are better trained. The forwards, however, I think, are prone to make the game too open; they are speedier men compared to the general type of forwards that used to play, but do not pack as well. I would dearly like to see Wigan win the Northern Union Cup for the good old town this season, but they have something to do, in my opinion, to beat Huddersfield, though that is not impossible."

"Did you meet with any success on the running path?"

"Tom Sutton once returned me as doing 208 yards in 23 2-5th seconds, on a heavy, wet track. I used to take part in amateur athletics, and the Swinton footballers asked me to run in their Prize Band Sports. I won two or three heats, and the final, and this quite suited my friends over there."

Mr Bullough was for 29 years on the staff of the Haigh Brewery, but gave this up about eight years ago, and is now interested in cotton concerns at Chorley and Atherton, and lives at the latter place. He is keenly interested in the success of the Cherry and Whites, and rarely fails to attend first team fixtures at Central Park, where he is a persona grata, whose deeds of derring do even now excite illuminating debate of past players and methods.

...Put into Context

Ned Bullough was Wigan's only England Rugby union representative and earned three Caps. Some more on Ned elsewhere such as here

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

Ned spent many years working at the Haigh Brewery, where his employers were very good with him asking for time off to play rugby.

Haigh Schools, or St. David's School, Haigh is just to the left of this photograph, where Ned first started playing rugby.

Bullough in England dress.

Bullough in action, 1892, somewhere within the scrum in this photograph.