BUILDING A GREAT TEAM IN THE 1930’S
It was during the 1930's that Keighley began to make some real progress. The late
Major Harrison, backed by an energetic board, was the man -responsible for signing
a side that was to reach great heights. Spillane was the player round whom this
improvement developed, but in addition to those I have already mentioned there
were the likes of Tommy Davies, Hal Jones (first Keighley player to tour Australia),
George Dixon and Jimmy Gill.
Keighley were in very low water in the 1920’s, and that state of affairs continued
until season 1932-3. Even the conversion of the club into a limited company in 1929
failed to effect any immediate improvement.
But there was a glimmer of hope. Under the chairmanship of Mr J. W Booth
supporters could detect in the new order of things a more businesslike handling of
the club's affairs. Gradually – very gradually the team was strengthened by better
players and there came the big coup in 1932, when Major Norman Harrison, the
club secretary/manager, secured Ted Spillane, the Wigan-New Zealand halfback.
From that moment the club definitely turned the corner. That season saw the record
improve tremendously, and before many weeks had passed the whole of the Rugby
League was buzzing with excitement over Keighley's astonishing recovery.
Hundreds of lost supporters returned and gates reached hitherto unprecedented
heights. The result was that the directors launched a big scheme of ground
improvements. Up to this point Keighley had no covered accommodation and the
only appointment was an open stand on the Stockbridge side of the ground, and
which afforded no weather protection whatever.
The ground was developed on first class lines. The playing area was widened; the
turf and appointments were improved, and a spacious covered stand was erected.
The new stand and improvements were opened on September 9th 1933 when
Leeds were the visitors to Lawkholme, and though that particular match was lost the
season was to be a notable one.
For the first time for 26 years the victories exceeded the defeats, and for most of the
season Keighley were virtually flirting with the possibility of a top-four spot.
Spillane's influence was tremendous and Keighley's football interest was on the
crest of a wave. When Warrington visited Lawkholme in the Rugby League Cup
there was a huge crowd of 14,000 who paid £761, the receipts setting up a new
record for the ground at that time.
With such fine forwards as Hal Jones and George Dixon from Wigan, and Jimmy
Gill from Leeds, already having been induced to join Keighley during their period of
revival, there came more important signings in the letter half of the 1930's.
Fred Talbot (1935), Dai Davies (1936), Towill (1936) and Cyril Halliday (1935) all
came from Huddersfield, and these four ex-Fartowners played an important part in
shaping the team which in 1937 took Keighley to the Rugby League Cup Final at
Wembley for the first and only time.
Before that memorable day others who joined the club were Gwyn Parker from
Leeds, Len Mason from Wigan and a 17-year-old wingman – Reg Lloyd who was to
become the youngest player ever to appear in a Wembley final.