Lawkholmers to Cougars - A Rugby League History

On the 12th of April 1900 the Members of Keighley Rugby Union Club held a
meeting to discuss the lack of interest in Rugby Union in the district. They decided
to apply for membership of the Northern Union, as Rugby League was called in
those days. The Original 22 Clubs who formed the Northern Union, had broken
away from the Rugby Union in 1895, at the famous meeting at the George Hotel,
Huddersfield.
By 1900 there were 30 Clubs in the Northern Union, in the Premier Division, which
was split into a Lancashire Senior Competition of 14 Clubs, and a Yorkshire Senior
Competition of 16 Clubs. A lower division for Junior Clubs began in 1898 again split
into Lancashire Second, and Yorkshire Second Competitions, and it was into this
Yorkshire Second Competition that Keighley were elected, at the A.G.M ,on July
14 th 1900. The meeting held at the Little Bull Inn at Wakefield, also elected Bingley
and Otley into the same competition. The competition was split into two sections,
Western and Eastern, but the composition of these sections caused many
problems, with some clubs being switched from one section to the other, and further
changes continued, even during the season. The geographical splitting by having
two sections, helped the small clubs with the enormous problem of travelling to
away games, and as separate leagues were formed in these sections, clubs only
played league games against other clubs in their own section.
Two days after deciding to change to Rugby League, Keighley played Manningham,
a Senior Northern Union club, in the first ever game of Rugby League at Lawkholme
Lane. Manningham won by 5 points to 2. The Keighley team on this historic
occasion was F.Kendall; O`Donnell, Cullen, Jennison, Saunders; Myers, Caine;
Wigglesworth, Tillotson, Kilby, Jacques, Blades, Ackroyd, Routh, Whittingham.
The new season began on September 1st 1900, and the first competitive game for
Keighley was a Yorkshire Second Competition match, at Lawkholme, against
Sowerby Bridge, which Keighley won by 5 points to 0. Before the season started the
Rothwell club disbanded leaving the Eastern section with only 10 clubs and it was
decided to refer the matter to the County Committee for a decision. The Northern
Union County Committee duly met to consider the unwieldy 15-10 club ratio and
was not impressed by it. York Melbourne had also appealed to the County
Committee about their exclusion from the Second Competition and with a rare
example of common sense, both problems were solved by the County Committee
suggesting that York Melbourne be admitted to the competition, and that there be
13 clubs in each section. The composition of the clubs in the two sections was
intended to be as follows :-
WEST: Bingley, Birstall, Elland, Heckmondwyke, Hebden Bridge, Idle, Keighley,
Luddendenfoot, Otley, Sowerby Bridge, Shipley, Todmorden, Windhill.
EAST: Alverthorpe, Dewsbury, Eastmoor, Featherstone, Goole, Kinsley, Kirkstall,
Normanton, Ossett, Outwood Church, Pontefract, York, York Melbourne

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The Elland club, who were due to start in the Western section, as they had done in
the previous season, were in a state of bankruptcy. They had tried, unsuccessfully,
to merge with other clubs, but on the 5th of September 1900, their effects were sold
by Auction. Turnstiles, Grandstand, Pavilion, Goalposts and other appliances
realised a total of £25! Rothwell, who had played in the Eastern section in 1899-
1900 season had been disbanded and so Kirkstall who had started in the Western
section, were moved into the East, even though they had played, and won, their
opening game in the West, away to Windhill. This result was expunged from the
record. Other clubs were also struggling, Idle were in debt, and after playing only
three games of the new season,
Luddendenfoot decided to withdraw from the competition, as they were having
difficulty raising a side.
On the playing field Keighley had a very successful start to the season, winning
seven of their first eight games in the Western section, with home wins over
Sowerby Bridge, Otley, Shipley and Bingley plus away victories at Bingley and
Birstall, with the solitary defeat away to Heckmondwyke, plus a home victory over
Shipley in an "Ordinary" game. This was a Friendly match and was not included in
the League competition. There were quite a number of these games played by all
clubs, as Leagues were a relatively new thing.
Following the Luddendenfoot`s withdrawal, Otley were allowed to return to the
Western section. They had been moved to the Eastern section to make the balance
between East and West more equal, but were most unhappy with this arrangement,
and were pleased to return to the West.
At the end of October, Keighley were in second place in the league table with 12
points. Heckmondwyke led the table with 16 points from 9 games. Keighley only
played one league game in November, a home victory over Bingley, and played 3
ordinary games at home, of which two were lost. Bingley were desperately short of
funds and when they were due to play Shipley on December 8th, both teams arrived
at the Cottingley Bridge ground, to find the goalposts had been taken up by the
owner of the field, a Mr John Pickles, because they owed him rent. Perhaps this
was when the famous Rugby League tradition of moving the goalposts began. In
December, for Keighley at home, there were league wins over Dewsbury and
Hebden Bridge, plus a draw in the ordinary game against Morecambe. In away
matches, there were two defeats at Sowerby Bridge and Shipley, plus a victory at
Todmorden. So at the end of the year Keighley were in Fourth place in the league
table, 4 points behind leaders Shipley, but with a game in hand.
Early in the New Year, the Western Section decided to expunge the records of
Luddendenfoot and Birstall "As both clubs were to all intents and purposes
disbanded". All points won or lost against them, would be struck from the league
table, so that the new Eleven team Western Section now read: –
P W D L Pts

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Shipley 12 10 0 2 20
Sowerby Bridge 11 9 0 2 18
Heckmondwyke 12 9 0 3 18
Keighley 12 9 0 3 18
Dewsbury 14 8 0 6 16
Hebden Bridge 11 6 0 5 12
Otley 14 5 1 8 11
Todmorden 12 4 0 8 8
Idle 11 2 1 8 5
Bingley 11 2 0 9 4
Windhill 14 2 0 12 4
In January Keighley had mixed fortunes in their games, with home wins over
Todmorden and Windhill, plus an away win at Otley, but with defeats at home to
Heckmondwyke and away to Dewsbury. February provided three victories, all away
from home at Idle, Hebden Bridge and Windhill. These games proved to be the final
games of the league season, due to the withdrawal of clubs from the league.
Some clubs were unable to fulfil league fixtures, and if these games affected the
Championship, the points were awarded to their opponents. In other games, which
did not affect the Championship, no points were awarded.
The games, which did affect the Championship, were: –
Bingley v Shipley (2 Points to Shipley)
Heckmondwyke v Todmorden (2 Points to Heckmondwyke)
Todmorden v Heckmondwyke (2 Points to Heckmondwyke)
Todmorden v Sowerby Bridge (2 Points to Sowerby Bridge)
Yorkshire Second Competition West Final League Table Season 1900-1901
P W D L F A Pts
1. Hckmndwyke 20 17 0 3 263 49 34
2. Keighley 20 15 0 5 195 49 30
3. Shipley 20 15 0 5 144 61 30
4. Sowerby Br 20 15 0 5 130 51 30
5. Dewsbury 20 11 1 8 105 95 23
6. Hebden Br 18 8 0 10 92 119 16
7. Otley 18 7 1 10 97 97 15
8. Idle 17 4 1 13 39 257 9
9. Todmorden 18 4 0 13 100 73 8
10. Bingley 14 2 1 11 24 134 5
11. Windhill 19 2 0 17 38 243 4
Two more Ordinary games were played before the end of the season, both resulted
in home victories, over Otley and Morecambe.
In March 1901 Keighley entered the Rugby League Challenge Cup (or Northern
Union Cup as it was called in those days) for the first time. In Round 1 on March
2nd, they were drawn at home to Kinsley of the Second Competition East and won
by 13 points to 0. Round 2, on March 9th saw Keighley drawn at home to Second

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Competition East Champions elect York, who had beaten Senior club Halifax in
Round 1. Keighley refused £120 to transfer the tie, and despite the sending-off of
the legendary Harry Myers in the game, earned a 5-5 draw in front of a crowd of
5293. In the replay York had a player sent off but with halfback Grace in brilliant
form won by 12 points to 0.
It was a very successful first season in Rugby League to finish in second place in
their only appearance in the Yorkshire Second Competition, as in the following
season they were "promoted" to the Yorkshire Senior Competition. The reason for
this was that fourteen of the leading clubs broke away from the two County
Leagues, to form a new Northern Rugby league. History repeated itself in 1996 of
course when Super League was introduced but this time Keighley were not so
lucky!