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Arthur Edward Hudson: A Yorkshire Pioneer

Rugby in Yorkshire owes a great deal to the early endeavours of Arthur Edward Hudson.  Born in Leeds in July 1854, Hudson was a pioneer in the early development of Rugby Football as it started to take root, then grow in the County. However, short-sightedness prevented him from playing all bar the odd game, but he was far-sighted off the field.

Reverend Francis Marshall in ‘Football, the Rugby Union game’ explained, “his enthusiasm for the game dated from his stay in Manchester in 1874-75, when he took an interest in the Manchester club. On return to Leeds he took an active part in Yorkshire football.”

A founding member of the Leeds club who, together with the football clubs of Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull and York, were to form the Yorkshire County Football Club, the forerunner of the Yorkshire RFU.

Athletic News in November 1876 wrote, “The Leeds Football club, under the singularly energetic and well-directed efforts of its honorary secretary, A.E Hudson, is fast taking a lead in matters intimately concerning the game in its relation to the county of Yorkshire.”

H.W.T Garnett, both President of Yorkshire and RFU said of Hudson, “It was he who did a great deal to establish close relations between Lancashire and Yorkshire. He had resided in Manchester in the early seventies, and though not a player himself was most enthusiastic in following and assisting the Rugby game.” Marshall explained, “Whilst in Manchester he had observed that the Lancashire county players were mainly from the Manchester club. He came to the conclusion that the combination of the team arising from this circumstance in the team run of success which fell to Lancashire (seven wins in eight games over Yorkshire).” Accordingly, he conceived the idea of founding in Yorkshire a club on the same principles – the Yorkshire Wanderers. This was to evolve from the Leeds club, Hudson expanding the fixture list from local teams into games against leading sides from London, Edinburgh and further afield.

Garnett also recounted a tale of Hudson returning to Leeds after a game at Manchester on an earlier train than the rest of the team “and so half a dozen of us were left without tickets, as he had taken them with him.” Despite explaining this to a “conscientious collector” at Stalybridge, and offering to “make matters right at Leeds”, the conductor “seized one of us” and the players had to explain the matter to the Station master in Leeds. “We heard nothing further about the matter, so presumed that the inquiries made were found to be satisfactory to the railway authorities.”

Club wise he was to have his distractors.  An anonymous letter (but sent by a writer from Bradford) printed in the Athletic News in April 1887 said, “Who is this Mr A.E Hudson? A man who never played football in his life as far as my recollection serves, and I have known the Leeds football players…. since September 1873. A man who never now or previously mixed with football players, except such as he might meet on the County Committee or in the Leeds St John’s club is not “in touch with them “, nor able to judge of them by a proper standard.”

Hudson had been a member of the County Committee since its formation in 1874, initially as representative of the Leeds/Yorkshire Wanderers club, and remained so after the club’s dissolution in 1884.  He was to be the County secretary, taking over from the unrelated J.G Hudson, and treasurer before accepting the post of Yorkshire President in June 1884 and then was re-elected every year until his death. From June 1884 to 1886 he combined the roles of treasurer with President before “calls upon his time in other directions, however compelled him to be relieved of the role of treasurer.” He was also on a committee of the Rugby Football Union looking at drawing up laws defining professionalism.

He was an advocate for the reorganisation of the closed shop Yorkshire County Football Club into the more open Yorkshire RFU, and although originally being in a minority he persevered to see the situation change.

Hudson inaugurated the Yorkshire Challenge Cup, which was to play its part in rapidly growing the game in Yorkshire and raise funds for charity. [Hudson and Garnett were guarantors for the sum of 50 guineas which the trophy cost.] Although in June 1881, he supported a motion to withdraw the Yorkshire Challenge Cup from further competition, explaining, “that this annual competition has done all the good which its promoters anticipated in spreading the game through the shire, until now, every village – in the West Riding , at all events- has its one or two clubs; but I also think that it has done and is doing a vast amount of harm in converting football clubs into organisations for the collection of very large sums of money (which, there is reason to fear, is not always disbursed in the best manner) , and converting football grounds into the recognised haunts of betting men. The friendly rivalry which used to exist between clubs has now in some cases given place to unconcealed animosity, and certain players have in the cup ties behaved in such a brutal manner that they have not only disgraced the clubs which still tolerate them as members, but have brought the game into disrepute. During the last two seasons also, we have seen gentlemen who have kindly acted as referees hooted at and even mobbed by spectators to whom their decisions have been disagreeable.” He finished with other clubs would have to decide “…as to whether the best interests of the game will be forwarded or not by the continuance of these competitions.”

Upon his marriage in 1882 he was presented with a “handsome silver salver” a gift from the Yorkshire clubs and a pair of silver epergnes from the Yorkshire Wanderers. The Leeds Mercury explained, “Mr Hudson’s administration of county affairs has secured for him the esteem and respect of players of the Rugby game throughout Yorkshire, and one and all will be glad that the present opportunity of testifying to the appreciation in which his services are held has not been allowed to pass by. The gigantic strides made by the game in our county, from this time when a county match was a cause of expense to the club on whose ground it was played, until now when it has reached a state of unprecedented and almost unparalleled prosperity, are in no small measure attributable to the energy and capacity Mr Hudson has displayed in using every effort to elevate the position of Yorkshire in the football world. “

Hudson died on 28th December 1887, aged 33, whilst still Yorkshire President. He had been suffering from acute rheumatism for two weeks. The Hull Daily Mail upon his death wrote, “Few of the most ardent devotees of the increasingly popular game of Football in Yorkshire and the North of England have exercised a greater influence in advancing the interests of this pastime than the deceased. An authority equally judicious, disinterested and thoroughly competent, his opinion upon the many difficult points incident to a due regulation of the game was seldom questioned.”

His funeral was attended by Mr A.J Budd and Mr G Rowland Hill, Vice-President and Secretary of the RFU respectively and members from many of the leading clubs of the County including Barron Kilner of Wakefield Trinity, a future Yorkshire RFU president.

He is buried in Roundhay Churchyard. A memorial was erected in Leeds Parish Church by the partners and workpeople of Hudson, Sykes and Bousfield, his employers. The inscription in part reads, “this brass was placed here by his fellow workers as a tribute of their respect for the untiring energy and perservance with which he devoted himself to everything tending to their welfare and advancement.”

Richard Lowther