Lawkholmers to Cougars - A Rugby League History


The 1949-50 season saw Keighley achieve two cup victories over Workington Town – a 5pts to nil win at Workington in the first leg of the Rugby League Challenge Cup and a 4-3 home win in the second leg.


These two fine wins brought some unwelcome criticism. There were suggestions from some quarters that Keighley’s successes were the result of the over-robust methods adopted by their forwards. One Cumbrian Press man went so far as to describe the Keighley forwards as, “lions carted round in a cage, fed on raw meat, and released for each match”.


Such allegations were far from the truth. The Keighley pack of Brereton, Britton, Callaghan, Mulhall, Bedford and Ivor Davies, were a superb combination who could give any outfit in the league at that time a good run for their money.


Perhaps there was a touch of “sour grapes” about the criticism, for Workington were the only one of 32 sides in the competition who failed to score in that first leg, and it was the first time in two years that they had failed to score in a match on their own ground.


No doubt the Cumbrian side had felt they had been favoured with a cushy first round tie when they drew Keighley, and defeat was to them perhaps something of an indignity.


The Keighley pack of those days was certainly a tough one, and perhaps the football they played was not the most entertaining. But it proved successful, and such a pack of forwards today would probably be welcomed if it had the same success rate.


Like Mel de Lloyd a few years earlier, Brereton had less memorable milestones in his career. On November 24th 1951, he was sent off for a second time in successive weeks and was suspended for 12 matches.


For the second time in their history, Keighley reached the final of the Yorkshire Challenge Cup in 1951. In reaching the final they defeated Castleford, Halifax and Hunslet. Fartown was selected as the venue for the final and until the interval Keighley appeared to be reasonably well placed against their opponents – Wakefield Trinity. But in the second period Trinity played some fine football and gained success by 17pts to 3 pts.


And when Keighley returned to Fartown to play Huddersfield in a league match on November 17th Australian winger Lionel Cooper achieved a personal triumph by scoring ten tries in Huddersfield’s 48-3 win. He also kicked two goals making his points tally 34.

That Yorkshire Cup defeat seemed to have adverse effect on the Keighley players, for they won only one of their 20 remaining games up to the end of the 1951-52 season and they finished third from the bottom of the league.


Another landmark in Keighley’s history was reached when the 1952-53 season opened on September 6th. The eighth Australian Rugby League touring side opened their campaign with a game at Lawkholme – for the first time in front of the television cameras.


Unfortunately Keighley were on the wrong end of a “good hiding” with the Aussies in attacking frame of mind. They topped the half-century and in the process beat the previous best score for a touring side in an opening match.


Also in September of that season Keighley made an important signing Harold Palin from Halifax. Formerly with Warrington and Swinton as a loose forward, Palin was one of many Keighley players who moved to the fullback position and made a success of it.


Palin was a fine goal-kicker and in his debut match against Castleford at Wheldon Road on September 27th kicked four goals in a 17-11 win. And by the end of that season he had eclipsed the club’s 46 year-old goalkicking record. He beat Bob Walker’s best-in-a-season in dramatic fashion, for after landing his 81st goal in the final match of the season at York he was later sent off by the referee.


Palin did not stay to improve on his record, for he had played only eight games the following season when Keighley signed full-back Bert Cook from Leeds. Palin decided to call it a day with his record for Keighley standing at 31 appearances, 112 goals and one try – a total of 227 points.


Besides the signing of Bert Cook, Keighley made several more acquisitions about this time. These included a contingent from Wigan, which included Neville Black and his halfback partner Albert Rowlands, prop George Woosey, second-row man Rod Raines and fullback Eric Johnson.


It also saw the introduction into the professional game of local product Terry HoIIindrake. Hollindrake developed into probably the best local man ever in terms of scoring points and achieving honours. He was signed from Keighley Albion in December 1951, and made his start as a fullback, though later he excelled at both centre and wing.


Hollindrake first played for Yorkshire in 1955 and in October of the same year he won a Test cap when he played on the left wing for Great Britain against New Zealand to become the first ever Keighley born Test player.

Hollindrake ran up some notable achievements with Keighley. He notched 100 points in 12 games by October 22nd in 1955 and 100pts in 14 games by October 13th in 1956. He had 23pts in a match against Liverpool (October 9th 1954); beat Joe Sherburn’s career record of 787 points on September 1st 1959, and went on to become the first Keighley player to score 1,000. And, by kicking seven goals against Bradford Northern, (August 1960) he broke Jack Mill’s record of 327 goals.

“Holly” had 337 goals and 109 tries (1,001 points) to his credit when he was transferred to Hull after 233 games at a fee of £6,000 on October 5th 1960.

He joined Bramley from Hull on January 31st 1964, but returned to Keighley in 1970-71 and in five games scored another 12 points from 3 goals and 2 tries.

Another wingman who joined Keighley in September 1952 as a youngster was Roy Bleasby. He moved to Keighley from the Leeds area and in ten seasons scored 124 tries in 235 games.

Bert Cook joined Keighley from Leeds on September 21st 1953, as player-coach, and after only a month the New Zealander equalled the club record of eleven goals in a match set up by Bob Walker in 1906. He did it in a 49-10 win over Hull K.R. And during his first season at Lawkholme Lane he kicked 77 goals.

There have been countless changes in the Keighley Rugby League Club over the years – in the boardroom as well as on the playing side. Probably the most important changes on the administrative side came in December 1953, when an entirely new board of directors took over. It was on Wednesday, December 9th of that year that the announcement was made that the existing members of the board, Mr P. W. B. Beadman – he had been acting chairman since the earlier resignation of Mr T. W. Bell – Mr A. Nelson (a nominee of the Supporters Club) and Mr Tom Lund, had all resigned. In their place came an entirely new board comprising Mr J. N. Smallwood, Mr Andrew Holroyd and Mr Albert D. Driver. The changes came after a major financial crisis. Mr Beadman continued to represent the club on the Yorkshire County Rugby League Committee.

Conscious of the fact that shareholders had no say in the election of the new board, an extraordinary general meeting of the club was held shortly afterwards.

It was the largest attendance of shareholders since the club was formed into a limited company, and the new board obtained the unanimous approval of the meeting. The meeting also gave approval to the increasing of share capital from £3,000 to£10,000 through the issuing of an additional 7,000 shares at £1 each.

One change which the new board made was to discard the old playing colours of blue and white in favour of the present colours of red, green and white. The team was strengthened by the signing from Leeds of Australian halfback Ted Verrenkamp.

A fund was launched for the erection of a new stand, new dressing rooms, and other ground improvements. The response was great, with more than £3,000 being contributed in the first season. The target for the fund was £8,500. Local tradesmen were approached, collections were taken at matches and the Supporters Club arranged money-raising efforts.

In 1957 the new board did a fine stroke of business – they negotiated the purchase from the Duke of Devonshire for £10,000 of the Lawkholme Lane Football ground, cricket ground, bowling green, and cottages. And so far as the ground was concerned it was agreed that Rugby League football should continue there for all time.

The 13 acres of land was paid for in sums of £2,500 a year, and with the new Hard Ings Road by-pass being built the astute Keighley directors recouped a good deal of their outlay by selling off a piece of land where cottages had once stood, for the erection of a petrol filling station.

All this sort of financial dealing went down well with the fans, but they were less pleased with the departure in October 1960 of Terry Hollindrake to Hull for £6,000 and Fred Ward to York for £2,250.

There were other players on whom Keighley could have cashed-in at that time, with Leeds and Wakefield Trinity in particular having made approaches for such players as David Smith but Mr Smallwood said then that “fantastic amounts” would have to be offered before Keighley parted with any more players.