FALLEN HEROES OF THE NORTHERN UNION
Published 31 August 2018 – pre-order now
By Jane and Chris Roberts
They were among the 1914 sporting elite. As professional rugby league players competing in the Northern Union (the forerunner to the Rugby Football League), they were idolised by tens of thousands throughout the northern heartlands.
But even though they had earned hero status and were at the height of their rugby league powers, these brave sporting warriors were ready and willing to sacrifice their privileged professional careers and fight for King and Country in the First World War – and then make the ultimate sacrifice by losing their lives.
Yet while other sports have honoured their Great War fallen over the decades and produced Rolls of Honour to ensure their players’ sacrifices have never been forgotten, it’s never been done in rugby league – until now. It’s finally time to pay homage to those known players who were senior Northern Union stars when war was declared on 4 August, 1914, but threw it all away to move from the sporting fields of the north of England to the killing fields of France, Belgium and beyond, and never returned to resume their rugby league careers.
Among those who fell were three members of the Great Britain 1914 summer tour to Australia and New Zealand, as well as a number of former internationals and many others who had earned top domestic honours with their clubs. Also honoured are players who were just embarking on their professional careers but were never able to fulfil their potential because of the unimaginable horrors being faced during the bloody battles that raged between 1914 and 1918.
Each of the players honoured has a different tale to tell, although so much at the start of their short and highly-talented lives had been so positive, beginning with their childhood, the journey they made to become a member of the elite Northern Union club, their experiences at the top level of the game and finally their enlistment into the British Army which would ultimately lead to their death as they all made the Greatest Sacrifice.
Britain’s Forgotten Reality Superstar
by Tim Hogarth
In the north of England there was a put-down for women who had ideas above their station: “Who do you think you are? Lady Docker?”
Through Britain’s post-War years, scarcely a day went by when Norah Docker and husband Sir Bernard didn’t dominate the newspapers. The Dazzling Dockers, as they became known, were on everyone’s lips. Rubbing shoulders with royalty and the era’s Hollywood stars, the pair caught the imagination of a public hungry for frivolity.
They were the pioneering reality superstars of their age, controversial standard-bearers for our own celebrity-obsessed 21st century. Yet of the two, there is no doubt whose star shone brightest. Born over a butcher’s shop in Derby, Norah Docker went on to enjoy a level of fame second only to a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Brash but always fun, Sir Bernard was her third millionaire catch in a row.
Antiques expert Tim Hogarth, star of ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal and Secret Dealers, re-tells a tale once familiar but now almost totally forgotten featuring excessive spending, posh furs, diamonds, gold-plated Daimlers and terrible behaviour, such as when Norah got the couple banned by Prince Rainier of Monaco and saw the jewel that inspired the Pink Panther films stolen, thereby becoming involved with the London underworld. The Dockers sailed the Med on their own superyacht, owned castles and country estates.
It couldn’t last, of course, and didn’t, but what waves this working class girl made en route from rags to riches and back again. From the Bright Young Things of London’s Roaring Twenties to their equivalents in the Swinging Sixties, the adventures of Lady Norah Docker are a dazzling treat.
Rugby League, Rock’n’Roll, The Road and Me
by Steve Mascord
Steve Mascord – born Andrew John Langley – was obsessed with rugby league and rock’n’roll. Long after almost everyone he knew, he clung to these things like twin teddybears, turning at least one of them into a career and making a bit of money out of the other.
At the age of 47 he owned precisely nothing aside from hundreds of records and CDs and almost every edition of Rugby League Week ever printed. He was unmarried, had no car or property and was the proud owner of $50,000 of credit card debt. Then one day he discovered the truth about himself.
He always knew he was adopted but it turned out he was part of a bohemian family, his mother forced to give him up after suffering a mental breakdown. She searched for him until her dying day. Steve met uncles and cousins and aunties he never knew existed and for the first time in his life he felt whole. And he looked around that storage room full of CDs and football magazines and felt sad; a sense of loss. He appeared in newspapers and on radio and television and people thought he was successful but had he really created a life for himself? Or was he living in a childhood fantasy, compensating for what had been missing, ready to fall down on top of him as traditional media imploded?
Steve thought ‘enough of being Steve Mascord, who is not a real person. Time to finally be Andrew John Langley’. Having figuratively thrown all his toys out of the cot, he decided to conduct an audit. Which ones to pick up off the floor and keep in his new life, and which to leave laying there forever.
A Ninety Years Statistical and Pictorial Record
By Ian and Roy Garbett
In memory of Len Garbett
This exhaustive statistical compendium of one of British rugby league’s most popular clubs is a must for every Castleford Tigers supporter and anyone with an interest in the history of rugby.
Providing a record of teams, scorers and results in every single match played since the birth of the club in 1925-26 and over the subsequent ninety years, it is an unmissable treat for any sporting bookshelf.
There are player statistics too for every season, including total career records and over five hundred photographs.
In the Footsteps of Laurie Lee
By Dave Hadfield
It was the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler’s Ark, Thomas Keneally, who described Dave Hadfield as ‘The Poet of Rugby League’. True enough, though the man who has also been called Bolton’s answer to Bill Bryson has equally revelled in other subjects, like music and travel.
Lost in Spain is the result of the dying wish of his oldest friend’s wife, Barb, to have her ashes scattered along the route traced by Laurie Lee when he walked from Gloucestershire to the Mediterranean in the 1930s.
That original journey provided the material for As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, the book upon which, as well as Cider with Rosie, Lee’s glittering reputation rests.
Lost in Spain is a story of friendship and late-flowering love that is by turns informative, poignant, elegiac and laugh-out-loud funny.
These days freed from the constraints of daily journalism, Hadfield has no plans to stop writing. Of his ten books so far, five have been written since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008.