The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Dewsbury Celtic Rugby League Club

FROM time to time I complain that not enough people are researching the history which is right on their doorstep, in the places where they work, the churches where they worship or the clubs of which they are members.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 12:00 pm
Up for the cup: The Celtic squad and officials prepare to leave for their first-ever appearance in the first round of the Challenge Cup at Workington in 1955.
Up for the cup: The Celtic squad and officials prepare to leave for their first-ever appearance in the first round of the Challenge Cup at Workington in 1955.

Sadly, when these places close down, which many of them are doing, their history is lost forever because no-one had the foresight to start researching it and putting it down on paper.

This coming Saturday Dewsbury Celtic Rugby League Club will be celebrating its 140th anniversary at a special reunion at Dewsbury Irish National Club.

Fortunately, the history of this particular club has been assured, thanks to the years of research carried out by the late John Maloney, who was researching it from its birth.

Margaret Watson.

John, who died earlier this year, was passionate about local history and devoted years to searching through archives and visiting old players and collating their memories.

We spent many hours together going through old Dewsbury Reporter files on Saturday afternoons, and it was like finding gold when his eyes alighted on a piece of information hitherto unknown to him.

Former journalist Dougie Hird, is another local historian who was determined that the history of the club he helped form – Shaw Cross Boys’ Club – would not be lost. He spent much of his spare time writing books about it and safeguarding photographs.

And, because John and Dougie rolled up their sleeves and set about putting their stories together, we will always know where Shaw Cross Boys’ Club and Dewsbury Celtic came from.

Four of the Celtic greats (from left): Johnny Harpin, Trevor Walker, Peter Kaine and Mick Doyle.

But there are many other sporting clubs, football, cricket, and swimming clubs from Dewsbury whose histories have not been told.

And as a local historian, who knows little about sport, it would be pleasing to me to hear from stalwarts at such clubs, so that their history will be preserved.

From time to time, some readers with interest in a particular sport have contacted me with information, including Dewsbury Moor Rugby Club and the old Westtown Boys.

But there are many more which have not been researched.

This I know because in the old days every village had its own sporting clubs, rugby, football and cricket teams, and every pub as well.

This Saturday Celtic celebrate their 140th year as a rugby club, which I understand started some years before the game became rugby league following the great split of 1895.

I have always had a particular affinity with Celtic, coming as I do from Irish immigrant stock of which the club was formed. Also, two of my grandchildren played with them as youngsters.

As with many other clubs in this area, Celtic has also produced a distinguished list of players for the professional game.

Only recently, we saw on television the appearance of a Celtic product, Alex Walmsley and also ex-Dewsbury Moor man Tom Burgess, on the recent Great Britain Tour.

Rivalries among the Heavy Woollen Clubs have often been intense but many life-long friendships were formed, and no doubt this Celtic get-together this coming Saturday will produce many fascinating stories of matches won and sometimes lost.

It is fair to say these games will be replayed long into the night at Dewsbury Nash where the celebrations are being held.

It would be easy to list some of Celtic’s great former players but there is the obvious danger that some other really deserving names would be omitted.

Far better for the former players, who meet up on Saturday, to pay tribute in their own way.

Happy 140th birthday to an outstanding club.

○ Send your memories of past times in the Dewsbury area to me at [email protected]