KEIGHLEY MAINTAIN RUGBY IN THE 40’S
During the war years many young players were naturally called into the armed
forces. But the Rugby League decided to continue competitive football at the
beginning of the 1939-40 season and Lancashire and Yorkshire Emergency
Leagues were formed.
A system of "guest" players was introduced the following season, and this solved
many difficulties – not in the least for Keighley. One of the players who 'guested' for
Keighley was the famous Wigan full-back Jim Sullivan who played in three games in
1942 – against Wakefield Trinity on April 4th against St. Helens on October 31st and
against Halifax on November 28th. In all he kicked eight goals.
Keighley secured a whole contingent of "guest" players from the Warrington club,
and prominent among these was another fullback Les Jones. He played in almost a
hundred wartime games for Keighley, and when he retired from football in 1950 the
Keighley directors did not forget to express their appreciation for his past services.
Another notable player who "guested" with Keighley from Warrington during the
war, and who later signed for the club, was stand-off Mel de Lloyd. In 86 wartime
appearances with Keighley he kicked 95 goals and scored 13 tries (229 points), and
from 1947 to 1952 he played in a further 100 games and added another 30 goals
and 1 5 tries to his scoring record.
He had one particularly memorable game during the war years – on November 13th
1943. In the first leg of the Yorkshire Cup semi-final at Lawkholme Lane against
Huddersfield on that date de Lloyd dropped three goals, landed another three goals
from place kicks, and scored a try – a personal tally of 15 points in Keighley's 21 -0
Joe Flanagan scored the other Keighley points with two tries, and although Keighley
lost the second leg of the semi-final at Fartown by 13pts to 4pts they duly qualified
for the final on aggregate.
Keighley played Bradford Northern in the final. This as well, was a two-legged affair
with Northern just coming out the better overall. They achieved a slender 5-2
advantage in the first leg at Bradford, and held Keighley to a 5-5 draw in the return
encounter at Lawkholme Lane a week later. That second leg attracted Keighley's
biggest wartime 'gate' of 9,487 (£694).
The Keighley team for the Lawkholme leg of the final was Les Jones, Caldwell,
Towill, Ken Davies, Lloyd, de Lloyd, Goodall, Harry Jones, Cotton, Miller, Flanagan,
Farrar, and Foster.
Keighley and Bradford Northern became regular cup-tie opponents during the war
years. In season 1941-42 Keighley lost both legs in the first round of the Rugby
League Cup, but got their revenge a year later when they triumphed home and
away in the second round of the same competition.
Then, following the 1943 Yorkshire Cup final defeat, Keighley again met Northern in
the second round of the Rugby League Cup later the same season. They lost both
home and away. And in the 1944-45 season the sides met in the third round of the
Rugby League Cup when Northern comfortably won on aggregate (35-8) after
Keighley had established a 5-0 advantage in the first leg at Lawkholme Lane.
While the scoring of 15 points against Huddersfield in that Yorkshire Cup semi-final
was one of the more memorable moments in the Keighley career of Mel de Lloyd,
he also suffered at the other end of the scale. On January 7th 1942, the Rugby
League Disciplinary Committee suspended him sine-die. In the game four days
earlier against Hull (away) de Lloyd was ordered off after disputing a decision by
referee Mr L. Dolby who alleged that de Lloyd later struck him. The suspension was
lifted in October 1942, and de Lloyd resumed playing on October 17th after missing,
in fact, only 14 games.
Guest players Who had given such valuable help to Keighley during the war years
returned to their own clubs when the Northern Rugby League Competition was
resumed in season 1945-46 -the jubilee of the formation of the Northern Rugby
This meant that Keighley were called upon to do a lot of recruiting and prominent
players who joined the club were Donald Burnell from Hunslet, Jack Mills from
Halifax, Stringer from York, McManus from Dewsbury and Marklew from Bradford
There were also a number of local players who had joined the club during the war
years who blossomed into notable members of the senior side. Outstanding among
these were Fred Barrett and Joe Flanagan.
Burnell was with with Keighley for only a couple of seasons before moving on to
Batley, but while at Lawkholme Lane he twice was selected for Yorkshire and once
he was reserve for England.
Visiting Wigan on Christmas Day in that first post-war season Keighley suffered a
crushing 52-0 defeat when they fielded a side which included forward Mick Foley at
full-back and another forward Flanagan – in the three-quarters. A feature of the side
that day was the inclusion for the first time since he had played in the 1937
Wembley side of Welsh forward Fred Talbot. The side was Foley; Caldwell,
Flanagan, Towill, Woolley; Howell, Barrett; Fuller, Lockwood, Cooper, Talbot,
It was not a very successful resumption of peacetime football for Keighley and they
finished sixth from the bottom of the league table.
Three years later Keighley were the victims of one of the biggest Rugby League
Cup upsets for years. On February 14th 1948, they were defeated 2-10 by
Cumbrian junior club, Risehow and Gillhead. Fortunately for Keighley they had
established an 11-0 lead in the first leg of first round at Lawkholme, though they
only scraped home on aggregate by a matter of three points.
But in the second round Keighley themselves pulled off something of a surprise.
They travelled to Barrow and won 6-2.
The Keighley side, which was on duty in that game at Risehow and Gillhead was;
Mills; Thurling, Thatcher, Rule, Elias; Barrett, de Lloyd; Childs, Pritchard, Gibson,
Farrar, Sykes, McManus.
Keighley almost went on to win a semi-final spot that season. For in the third round
tie against Rochdale Hornets they held a 4-3 lead with only five minutes to go. But a
late Hornets rally brought them a winning try to give them a 6-4 success and a place
in the last four.
Keighley's points in that match came from two goals by Mills. Before joining
Keighley he had played nine years with Halifax, but between January, 1944 and his
retirement in 1951 he turned out for Keighley on 240 occasions, kicking a total of
327 goals and scoring 13 tries – a tally of 693 points. He was given a benefit in
Mentioned earlier were the two local men who had been recruited into the Keighley
side during the war years- Flanagan and Barrett. And both of them are worthy of
Joe Flanagan, who had made 104 war-time appearances since joining Keighley in
1940, went on to play a total of 200 games in which he scored 16 goals and 57
tries. From 1947 to 1949 he was first with Leeds and then with Whitehaven, before
returning to Keighley and then moving on to Bramley in 1951. While at Headingley
he won a Yorkshire cap.
Flanagan was Keighley's top scoring forward of all time. He claimed 13 tries in one
season and twice – in 1941-42 and again the following year – he was the club's
leading try scorer.
Barrett found his way into the Keighley side in 1940 through the medium of junior
rugby with Silsden, Victoria Park Rangers and Ingrow. He was captain of the
Keighley side which was defeated in the Yorkshire Cup final in 1951 – his benefit
year. That was Keighley's first appearance in the final of that competition.
In the 14 seasons he was a senior player with Keighley he made 299 appearances
and scored 46 tries and kicked one goal.
Unlike many players he did not leave the club when his first team days were over.
He continued to lead the "A" team who had such a successful run about that time –
including the Yorkshire Senior Competition Cup final – and then he went on to coach
the senior side for a time.
June 15th 1948 saw the arrival at Lawkholme Lane of prop-forward Chris Brereton.
He was signed as player-coach from Leeds, and there are many stalwart Keighley
supporters who regard him as the best prop-forward to don a Keighley shirt.
He helped to fashion a 'new look' Keighley side which had a tremendously
successful run from December 17th 1949, until the end of the campaign which saw
them win every league match except one against Huddersfield. Their final league
placing was 13th.
Brereton had some fine players under him, notably Len Ward, a former Keighley
Albion junior wingman who had joined Keighley in 1944; Martin Creeney, a forceful
centre signed after trials in March 1948, Mel de Lloyd and another ex-Warrington
man Alex Mullhall who signed for Keighley in October 1948.
Ted Bedford (Hull), Bill Ivill (Wakefield Trinity) and Ivor Davies (Warrington) also
joined Keighley about that time.
Mr Percy W. B. Bradman, who had succeeded Major Harrison as club secretary in
November, 1936, retired at the end of this happy season, and the directors decided
on the appointment of a full-time secretary Mr Ernie Thomas, who had been a
Rugby League referee for a spell.
Mr Thomas stayed with Keighley in that capacity for two seasons before he moved
on to a similar position with Wakefield Trinity.