Research reveals RL history links

Sue Allen
Sue Allen

MORE and more people are researching their ancestry and, when Brighouse resident Sue Allen started looking into her family history, it unveiled some rugby league roots here and down under as well as more family discovered in Australia.

Sue, a retired support co-ordinator for Calderdale Council lives with husband Rodney, also retired, but is voluntary part-time magistrate.

They have two children Richard and Catherine and three grandchildren Joseph 14, five-year-old Abigail and Daniel, aged three.

“It all began when I started researching my family history on ancestry.com and this led to me finding out about my great uncle Fred Longstaff, who played for Halifax and Huddersfield at Fartown from 1911 to 1915,” she said.

Born in 1891, Fred was actually a Halifax lad and was signed by his local club from a team called Victoria Rangers.

They must not have seen anything in the goal kicking second-rower but he went on to win every honour in the game for Huddersfield, who snapped him up - League winners medal, Championship medal, Challenge Cup medal and Yorkshire Cup.

He was in the Huddersfield team with the likes of the “prince of centres”, Harold Wagstaffe and flying winger Wilf Rosenburg that in 1912 was named “The Team of all Talents”.

He also played for England and went to Australia on the famous 1914 Rourkes Drift tour, playing in the first Test and kicking goals before being injured and missing the next two played on the Monday and the following Saturday, despite complaints from the England camp.

The Aussies, apparently, just saw it as a chance to win the Ashes.

He went on to play in New Zealand but when they returned home to England war had broken out and he joined the Bradford Pal’s Regiment.

Following the Battle of the Somme his battalion was called to arms and served in France until July 21, 1916 when he was hit by a flame thrower and died six days later in a field hospital.

He is buried at Blighty Valley Cemetary, Authuile Wood, Somme, Northern France.

Sue said: “When I was researching it turned out that someone else was looking for details on Fred Longstaff and this person has turned out to be my cousin, Jackie Owen, and we didn’t know she existed for 37 years.

“She recently visited from Australia and the family resemblances were uncanny.

“There were some medals in a museum in Australia and he did have a cap which was in the Rugby League museum, in a Whitbread public house at Oulton, but when it shut down the cap went missing.

“I came across a book called ‘Missing in Action’ which is about eight players, including my great uncle, who had died in the war and I contacted the author Tom Mather.

“I informed him that the rugby league tradition was being carried on through my grandson Joseph Armytage, who is playing in the service area set up for the Bradford Bulls Academy.”

Sue has purchased two copies of the book, one of which will stay with her family history findings and the other is to be sent on to her cousin in Australia.

In the meantime she is hoping Joseph can go on to emulate Fred and play for his country.

Tom Mather’s book can be bought from him at 20, Chandler’s Rest, Lytham St Annes, Fylde, FY8 5AL for £9 including postage and packing.