FALLEN HEROES OF THE NORTHERN UNION
By Jane and Chris Roberts
They were among the sporting elite of 1914 – the stars of the Northern Union – idolised by thousands of enthusiastic men, women and children up and down the land.
Yet despite their heroic status in what was soon to become known as rugby league, these warriors of the playing field were willing to sacrifice their careers – and then lives – on the World War One killing fields, for King and Country.
Other sports have honoured their Great War fallen over these past 100 years, producing Rolls of Honour to ensure that their ultimate bravery is never forgotten; not so rugby league – until now.
The Greatest Sacrifice – Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union – rights that wrong. It tells the story of talented sportsmen who, when war was declared on 4 August 1914, duly departed for France, Belgium and beyond, never again to see the rugby league towns and grounds they once so famously graced.
Among those who fell were three members of Great Britain’s 1914 summer tour to Australia and New Zealand. A number of other former internationals died too, as did many more who had earned top domestic honours with their clubs. Some of the youngest players were just embarking on professional careers and therefore never able to fulfil their potential.
Each player featured has a different tale to tell – from childhood to rugby stardom to enlistment into the British Army and, finally, the greatest sacrifice of all.
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.