|We have pleasure in publishing the following account of the sporting days of Rushden many years ago, which has been written by Mr S B Allen, now of Toronto, Canada, and formerly of Rushden, where he was a prominent sportsman, and especially footballer, in years gone by.
Mr Allen was prompted to write these interesting reminiscences on reading, in the “Echo and Argus” the account of the golden wedding of Mr and Mrs William Freeman, which they celebrated recently. An old friend and fellow sportsman of Mr Freeman, he wrote sending his congratulations, and enclosed the following account.
The first time I saw a cricket match was at Higham Station, and I must have been very young at that time. Then they had a Rushden club in Pightlesand what grand struggles they had with Wellingborough. John Tom Colson was a fine bowler, and I remember the hat-trick he once did against Wellingborough.
There was John Claridge, with his wonderful fast underhand bowling, and I can hear his shoe strike the ground even now as he delivered the ball. When he hit the wicket there was no appeal to the umpire, for the stumps certainly flew about. Then what a mighty hitter he was; how he could send them over the trees, and how we used to sheer. Then there was Bill Chettle, whom we thought the finest long-stop in the world.
Cards and Cricket
The next thing I remember was the move Wymington-road, the wonderful cricket we had up there, and how they stopped the card playing which had been general up to then at all cricket matches. You know it was not always elevating to the other spectators. The ban made quite a difference to the gates, but cricket survived.
We had the best players, I think, in Rushden during the time they played up Wymington-road that have ever been in Rushden. George Denton was a very stylish bat, worth a century any time he went to the wickets. Then there was Fred Knight, and when things were going badly I think he was the hardest man we ever had to get outat least, that’s what his opponents thoughtand he was good for fifty; but to my mind where he shone most was as captain. He was the best Rushden ever had, and I am not belittling G S Mason in saying so.
John Mason was a good bat and fielder, but he was the mainstay in the bowling department, and undoubtedly the finest as well as the fastest bowler Rushden ever had. Some people may have a different idea as regards the fastest, but you must remember that he had not the heart to bowl his fastest when the wicket suited him, as he did not like to hurt anyone. You know how he could make them kick to go over their heads. I think I am a pretty good judge, as I have tried to stop all the fast bowlers we have had behind the wickets, but I never stood up to him.
Then there was Sam Robinson, a fine bowler, a wonderful slip and good bat. Will Claridge was as good a wicket-keeper as any captain could wish for, and probably the only good-class man Rushden ever have had behind the stumps. I must not leave out Charlie, who could both bat and bowl, and the excitement we have had when he and Will were together. It was simply impossible to stop them stealing runs; they were much quicker between the wickets than Joey Challen and Fryer or Henfrey. Then the Bulls; “Mate” was a grand bat and field, and “Purge” was both a fine bat and fielder.
The matches we had with Luton, Wellingborough, Northampton, Kettering, Kimbolton and G Hill’s team we all remember. About this time Herbert Colson and George Willmot were coming alongthe best bats for opening a match we ever had. Herbert was probably the best bat Rushden has ever turned outin the last fifty years, anyway.
Then you remember the change to the Newton-road ground and the wonderful games we had there, Bob Knight and the Dentons being very good players; but when the old captains and others dropped out it is no reflection on anyone to say we had no-one to replace them, for captains, I think, are born and not made.
I guess times have changed, and the young generation don’t take the game as seriously as we did. I confess I’m sorry to see Rushden get down to the pass they have apparently done.
Turning to Rugby football, Mr Allen says:
I remember them first playing in Nippendale (back of the Fire Station), and Fred Knight played back. He sure was a wonderful drop kick and place kick, and in my opinion the best back we ever had. He was the best dressed man, both on and off the field, in Rushden, and the way he put his clothes in his bag was a lesson for anyone, but you bet we got a kick when he was floored, for he alkways went on the field spotless, and was rarely thrown.
Then there were Mate and Spaddy (Charles and Henry) Bull, two of the most wonderful three-quarter backs I have ever seen. You remember how they used to run their fastest with the ball and then, when opponents went to tackle them, dropped to earth. The poor fellows would go yards over their backs, and in the meantime the Bulls were on their way over the goal line for a try. The fact is that some of their opponents would not face them. I remember Wade of Leicester, probably one of the best three-quarter backs in England, and you can imagine the shock he would receive when he went over Mate.
For half-back Willie Burgess and Page Hanger were the mainstays, and Willie particularly was a splendid half. I never saw one better, though Leicester in Porter had one about the same stamp. In my opinion Willie was the finest all-round man we ever had in Rushden good at Rugby, Association and cricket. Among the forwards were W Brudenall, G Linnitt, G Baker and Keep, of Wollaston all wonderful in the front line.
After Fred Knight gave up, Linnitt was given the job to take the place kicks, and if ever any man deserved it, he did, for I never saw anyone practice more than he did. Of course there were wonderful matches with Rugby, Leicester, Leamington, Bedford and Northampton, and you remember what wonderful players the Kingston family were, both at cricket and football.
David and Goliath
By the way, do you remember that tall player of Leamington going after Purge Ball, making two or three grabs at him, and missing each time, Purge getting in for a try near the post at the orchard end of the field? Talk about David and Goliath! I don’t think I shall ever forget it.
Others coming on included George Mason, and what a marvel he was with dodging and swerving, and how he used to screw out of his opponents’ arms! Sammy Denton was another fine player at either half or three-quarter back.
After a time Rugby began to decline, Association making headway rapidly, but one thing I shall always remember was that the worst team Rushden ever had won the only cup at our place. The first match was with Bozeat on the Newton-road ground. I had five jerseys torn off, and I guess they had no short finger nails either. Then we played Olney, and you remember Church getting that first try. But did we give up? No, for G Mason got over and they asked me to take the place. I managed it all right, and we won by three goals to one goal. One thing which struck me was that Albert Chettle came up to me when I was going to take the kick close to the touchline and behind the 25-yard mark, and remarked that I would have to run to kick the ball that distance or it would not get there. The reason was that I did not exert myself like some of the others, for I always stood still, just turning my leg and foot. Anyway, it went over the goalposts, and I believe it was the best kick I ever made.
We played Wolverton for the final, and you know what happened there, and how they got Dr Thomas to permit me to play, he agreeing to let me if they would play me back. As you know, we won, and that was about the last of Rugby football in Rushden; at least not many more games were played.