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.
When Hull Invaded Wembley
By Vince Groak
With an introduction by the Rt Hon Lord John Prescott
Hull, 1980. The fishing industry is in terminal decline, the Humber Bridge still unfinished. A depraved killer is on the loose and Hull City FC look doomed to relegation. But, on a long Bank Holiday weekend in May, all thoughts turn to Wembley … chance for ultimate bragging rights.
Against a backdrop of a dramatically changing city, Last One Out… traces the story of how Hull’s two rugby league teams emerged from mid-seventies gloom to take their place at the very top of the game – exerting a dominance over the sport that others would follow.
Featuring first-hand interviews with players, officials and supporters, this is the definitive history of the ultimate rugby league derby; the early rounds and the draw that kept them apart, the clamour for tickets, the divided families and that famous sign on the road heading south. It tells of Roger’s joy, Sammy’s despair and the story behind ‘that try’.
Later, there was the pride and emotion of the homecoming. Later still, the game entered history, spelling joy for one side, despair for the other and encapsulated in a song the losers were taunted with until another dramatic Wembley victory more than three decades on.
More than just a derby, more than just a cup final, this is the story of an exodus: the day Hull invaded Wembley.
The eagerly-awaited sequel to The Woman Without A Number
Iby Knill is remarkable. An Auschwitz holocaust survivor from Bratislava, she married a British army officer and set out to make a new life in England, arriving in Cornwall in 1947 to set up home.
After struggling to integrate as an immigrant in post-war Britain, she went on to raise a family and carved careers in civil defence, education, textile design and as a linguist, before gaining an MA, aged 80. The loss of her beloved Bert prompted thoughts of writing, but there was a stumbling block: 60 years of suppressed memories.
Now in her 90s, Iby has since overcome several breakdowns but remains determined to share her experiences with future generations. This eagerly-awaited sequel picks up where her best-seller, The Woman Without a Number, left off. It tells the stories of her brother, father and mother – whose indominability she has inherited – and evokes changing times through a life that has embraced challenge and opportunity.
Poignant, moving and searingly honest, The Woman With Nine Lives is confirmation that the past cannot be avoided but, when the very best of human nature is on display, a brighter future can always lie ahead.
Recollections of Batley RLFC
By John Roe
With a foreword by Batley chairman Kevin Nicholas.
John Roe was born and raised in Batley and taken to see his first match when he was eight years old. Now, the life-long fan has gathered together reminiscences and recollections from former players, fans old and new, administrators, volunteers and directors of the famous rugby league club.
One of the oldest clubs in the game and founder members of the Northern Union, Batley were the first-ever winners of the Challenge Cup in 1897 and still play at their Mount Pleasant home with its sloping pitch into the famous ‘nine ‘ole’.
Sermons from the Mount is as much a record of the changing social history of the sport from the 1950s onwards in one of its most traditional towns, as it is a look at the characters, facilities and memorable matches at a proud, ever-defiant outpost.
The book charts the setbacks and successes, triumphs and tribulations, changing training methods and transport to games from the part-time days of Wintergreen and shifts at the brickworks through the near-death of the club in the mid-1990s, to its current resurrection that saw victory in the Northern Rail Cup and them reach a Championship Grand Final.
This is the warts and all tale of the journey and constant struggle told by those who are integral to it, as the Gallant Youths of folklore became the Bulldogs.