A chat with... Tom Hilton


The Old Brigade



Almost from the beginning to within a short time of the end of its career, the old Tyldesley Football Club was fortunate in having a good set of forwards. Unlike the backs, whose form ebbed and flowed, and whose clever performances one season were sometimes off-set by very mediocre displays in the next, the forwards maintained a good general level of excellence throughout, and their consistent play had a good deal to do with the many and notable successes which the team achieved. They were often described as the backbone of the team, and the tribute was well deserved. Even in the days when the club struck what is known in football parlance as a bad patch, when everything seemed to go badly with the backs, and when a dis-heartening series of reverses in the field befel the team, the forwards rarely showed any slackness of effort, and it was seldom indeed that an opposing set got the better of them. Many old supporters of the club still recall with evident delight the superiority which the Tyldesley "pack" showed over the famous Swinton men on the occasion of the Lions' first match on the Well-st. ground. The Swinton team came with a great reputation, and whilst their backs were undeniably more skilful at that period than the Tyldesley "threes," their forwards were hopelessly outplayed. One of the Swinton men, indeed, is credited with having stated after the match, that the Lions had never previously in their history been so well "shoved about."

One of the oldest and most consistent performers in the forward set which gained this warm eulogium was Tom Hilton. Hilton was a regular player with the club rom the time of its formation in 1881 down to 1894, and during the whole of that time he was known as a keen, hard-working forward who did his utmost to gain new laurels for the team.

His story of his football days is as follows:- "Fred Shaw and I joined the Boothstown club a short time before Tyldesley was formed in 1881. Boothstown was then a good club, the best in fact in the neighbourhood, and when we joined them Shaw and I were not considered good enough for the first team, so they put us in the second team. Then Tyldesley formed their club - Garratt Hall it was called at first, and they made Fred Shaw captain, and I was appointed vice-captain. That same week Boothstown put us both on their first team, and it was a question as to what we should do. Fred Shaw discussed the matter with me, and I said, "Let us play with Tyldesley; there will be more doing there some day." So we decided to throw in our lot with Tyldesley.

"We played in the first game on the Garratt Hall ground, and I believe our first match there was against Boothstown. I think Boothstown beat us. Amongst those who were members of the Garratt Hall team at that time were Tom Mather, Fred Shaw, Tom Parkinson, Fred Porter, Da Williamson, Arthur Eckersley, Noah Warburton, Jim Warburton, T. Hampton, Joe Hampson, Jack Leach, Tom Warburton, W. Rigby, and myself. Frank Wright, who was playing regularly with Manchester in those days, also took part in some of our games. We removed to the Sale-lane ground in the following season, and we had some good games there. We met Boothstown again, and we beat them at Sale-lane. Messrs. Robt. and JW. Clegg joined us, and it was the first-named who really brought the forwards out. He was the leader of the pack, and a good leader too. Cain Hardman also came into the team, and he turned out a fine player for us.

"We played more matches after we removed to Sale-lane, and on the whole we did very well. It would be abut this tie, or shortly afterwards, that we met Durandu's team, which included about six internationals. We beat them, and they didn't like it. Durandu was a Liverpool full-back, who played for England. That was one of the best matches we ever played, and we played some good ones at Sale-lane.

"We had a very good team and we were never beaten by very much. Our chief fixtures were with Manchester "A," Broughton Rangers "A," and Broughton. The three McNiven's played with Manchester "A" and I remember one of them saying that to attempt to cut through Tyldesley forwards was like going through stone walls. Whilst we were at Sale-lane a number of other well-known players joined us, amongst them being: George Woodward, Jack Fearnley, Will Sutcliffe, Pilkington, J. Brown, J. and W.H. Ramsden, Peter Eckersley and Willie Eckersley. Arthur Eckersley had left us before this owing to ill-health. He would have turned out a fine half-back had he had luck. As time went on the team steadily improved, and we made even more rapid headway after we removed to Well-st.

"After we won the West Lancashire Cup in 1888, we got fixtures with all the best clubs going. I played regularly with the team up to a short time before they won the Lancashire Cup in 1894. After I retired from play I continued to knock about with them both in home and away matches, and then when they joined the Northern Union, I became a referee and touch judge. I had about three years at this work and then my health broke down and I had to give it up.

"You have had something in your previous interviews about our clubs tours, but no one seems to have said anything to you about an incident which happened on the Newcastle tour in 1888. I remember when we landed at our hotel at Newcastle, the landlord watched our fellows enter, and then said to two of us, "I thought Tyldesley were a fashionable sort of team." I replied "They have no come up to-day; these are only some lads we have picked up." The landlord had evidently expected the team bringing a lot of heavy luggage. whereas they only carried small Gladstone bags.

"After Rockcliffe had beaten us in the first match of the tour, he said to me: "From the way you have played against Rockcliffe to-day you cannot beat any team Newcastle way." I told him we could beat any team going. I reminded him that Rockcliffe were due at Oldham in a few weeks, and we would show them a thing or two. When this match came off Joe Worthington and I went and played for Oldham, who won all right. After the match I brought the Newcastle landlord to Harry Varley, of Oldham, and said: "Here, this chap thinks Tyldesley are not up to much." Varley returned to him and said: "Well, they are the only team we are afraid of." I began to lay on after that, and I told our Newcastle friend that we could beat any team in Lancashire or England. "We shall win the Lancashire Cup," I added; "you can write that down." My words came true, for we won the cup that very season.

"There was a time when Tom Sutton, of Manchester, used to take teams out to play matches. On one occasion Fred Shaw and I went to play with his team against Wigan, and our side lost by about a try to nothing. Arising out of that game the Pemberton club challenged Fred Shaw and me to take a team down, and we accepted the challenge. We chose a number of Tyldesley players for the match, and it was a game which we did not forget for some time afterwards. Pemberton beat us, but they did not play football. They "marked" us from the beginning, and it was a case of going for the man every time. Fred Shaw got a black eye, and half our team were crippled. We heard afterwards that Pemberton chose a team specially to lay us out.

"Our Easter tours were always lively outings. "Buff" Berry was famed for his tricks and practical jokes on these occasions, and he never let an opportunity slip of "doing it on" someone or other. You would get up some morning and find a brick in your coat sleeve, and I will defy anyone to get a brick out of a coat sleeve in a hurry unless he has seen it put in. Another time we would find that all the laces had been taken out of our boots, or that our foot gear had been filled up with water. These and other jokes were all taken in good part. We could guess pretty well who had done them, because we knew our man."

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