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Dicky Lockwood: Yorkshire’s First Superstar

Dicky Lockwood: Yorkshire’s first Superstar

Richard Evison Lockwood wasn’t the first Yorkshire player to play for England but he was the first rugby ‘superstar’ to emanate from the broad acres. Dicky, as he was known, was born on 11th November 1867 in Crigglestone, Wakefield to a working-class family.

He told the Clarion newspaper in 1892, “I was very fond of football when a lad, and used to play in smocks. I first played with a regularly constituted club in Earlsheaton. I had a brother-in-law called Arthur Collins, who used to play three-quarter for the Dewsbury club. He asked me if I would join Dewsbury – to play with Dewsbury’s second team. I played three matches with Dewsbury seconds, and was then selected to play with the firsts against Huddersfield. They thought at that time I was too little and I was put in the first reserve for the week after against Ossett. One of the team was away, and I took his place as centre three-quarter. Afterwards I played with the first team in almost every club fixture – first as centre and then as wing.” He was sixteen at the time.

Rugby historian Tony Collins described him as “the complete footballer, brilliant in attack, deadly in the tackle and precise in his kicking, with the knack of being in the right place at the right time”.
These skills are more impressive given Lockwood’s stature. He was only 5 foot 4 and weighed eleven stone. This earned him the nickname of ‘Little Dick, the World’s wonder’. The 1893 ‘Athletic News Football annual’ said “We don’t know a more popular or unassuming player than Lockwood, and it is pity that there are not more of his class.”

Five days short of his nineteenth birthday, he was selected to play for Yorkshire against Durham, the first of his 46 appearances for the county. Selection for the North for their game against the South, which acted as a trial for the England team followed. A month later, January 1887 saw him win the first of his fourteen caps for England. He captained his country twice – in his last two international appearances in 1893/94. In 1894, he was selected for the England game against Scotland in Edinburgh, but was unable to play as he was tied up at work. England selected a replacement and Lockwood applied for permission to play for his club in a Yorkshire Cup game, being able to spare a couple of hours, rather than the weekend that the International would take out of his schedule. His request was refused, although a season earlier the RFU had allowed a housemaster at Eton (Cyril Wells), who had been selected for England but gave back word in similar circumstances, to play for Harlequins. This is generally seen as an example of the RFU’s bias towards the Southern gentleman at the expense of the working class

In 1887, crowds gathered in Dewsbury to hear the news about Lockwood, after rumours spread that he had been seriously injured or, even worse, killed whilst playing for England against Ireland in Dublin. After the game, the newspapers had to clarify that Lockwood wasn’t “lying dangerously ill in Dublin, owing to concussion of the brain”, but had travelled back with his team mates and was likely to play for Yorkshire the following Saturday.
In 1888, he was asked to be part of an English touring side to Australia and New Zealand, which was later declared to be the first British (and Irish) Lions side. He turned down the offer, explaining, “My parents were against me going, and so I stayed at home.”
In 1891, Lockwood was overlooked for the captaincy of the County; the position going to the Oxford-educated William Bromet. The ‘Yorkshireman’ complained that there was no reason for Lockwood not to captain the side, adding that “[i]t is simply a case of pandering to social position, nothing more nor less.” However, the following year Lockwood was appointed captain.
Dewsbury members and supporters showed their appreciation of his services by presenting him, with the consent of the RFU, with furniture of the value of £50-£60. (He later sold some furniture to cover his debts for £13).
In 1889, the Yorkshire RFU investigated claims of professionalism against Heckmondwike, a club that was starting to attract some notable players, including Lockwood who had moved them from Dewsbury. Dewsbury officials complained that Lockwood had only transferred his affections as a result of promises of payments. One witness, a neighbour of Lockwood, reported at the that “Lockwood had said he had got all he could at Dewsbury and he was going to get what he could at Heckmondwike. He added that he was going to be paid £1 a match for playing for Heckmondwike. Mr France, president of the Heckmondwike Club, had promised him the money.”
The York Herald reported “Lockwood explained that he left Dewsbury because the committee of the club were dissatisfied with the manner, he played during the late season. One member in particular was said to be displeased and when told that Lockwood was going to join another club, he said that they were to let him go, as they did not want any more matches “selling”. He had been previously accused of selling matches, and particularly the one against Wakefield Trinity.”
At another meeting, Lockwood was questioned by the Reverend Frank Marshall. He explained that, when he joined Dewsbury, he was employed as a piecer at Britannia Mills Dewsbury and getting 9 shillings a week in wages. He denied being paid for playing rugby or that he asked for payment to join Morley. He said his testimonial funds were £40 and not £70 as claimed by his
detractors. He added that he had received expenses only, and not the £1 that Reverend Marshall claimed he had information of Lockwood receiving, for playing in exhibition matches. Lockwood explained that he went to Heckmondwike because he was acquainted with the captain and when he had occasionally played with them during the summer months, he had been very successful. Was it a co-incidence that Lockwood, who, up to his moving to Heckmondwike, had been a manual worker, was now the landlord of a pub in Heckmondwike?
Eventually, the enquiry cleared Lockwood, who carried on playing for Heckmondwike until his move to Wakefield Trinity in 1896, where he served as captain for four seasons. He re-joined Dewsbury in November 1900, where he spent the final three years of his career. He was not to regain his former glories whilst playing in the Northern Union and retired due to injuries – his knees had particularly suffered during his career.

A ‘sketch’ of Lockwood written in April 1892 stated that Lockwood’s principal achievements had “been in county and international matches, for he does not shine particularly in club fixtures, being one of those players who seem to require a great occasion to being out his powers. Probably his best feats were those against Somerset at Wakefield in 1887, when he scored all three tries and against the Maoris on the same ground, when he simply played with Madigan, the opposing wing. Yorkshiremen, however, remember best two of his deeds against Lancashire, the one the placing of a penalty goal in 1891 and the other a try against the same county at Whalley Range in 1886. Lancashire were leading by a goal and the last minutes of the game were passing away, when, from a scrummage on the opposite side of the ground, Hotchkiss of Swinton foolishly kicked the ball out. In a trice, Lockwood dashed up, snatched the ball up and by a brilliant run got in near the posts. Against Somerset, he also scored a try, travelling so fast in the sticky mud that he seemed to fly past his opponents.” At club level, he once scored four tries against Bramley in the 1892 Yorkshire Cup whilst playing for Heckmondwike.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph noted, “He is a queer little fish, but a shrewd, clever fellow, and possessed of an intimate knowledge of the game, able to take advantage of every opening made for him.”

In 1897, he was made bankrupt. It was heard that his liabilities were estimated at £281 12 s 10d and his assets were £15 10s. At the time he was working as a labourer at Cradock & Son’s wire rope manufacturers. He explained that his liabilities were the result of debt occurred running two public houses in Heckmondwike – the Royal Albert and the Queen’s Hotel. He claimed that the brewery would not supply him at the Royal Albert, a tied house, and, after the Brewery lost a court case against him, they sent him a writ to leave.

When asked what profits he was making, Lockwood replied “None. I was losing all the time.” And he explained that he did not keep any books. The receiver replied “So we have only your word for it that you lost this money and have not put any away somewhere?” The newspaper’s report Lockwood’s response “(with a smile) Yes.”
Lockwood explained that he had been playing for Wakefield Trinity’s second team and receiving ‘broken time’ payments, and “(with much emphasis) I didn’t make anything by [playing rugby].” He also explained that he sold some of his prizes whilst out of work.

He died of cancer of the tongue in Leeds Infirmary on 10th November 1915, a day before his 48th birthday. He is buried in Wakefield. Other than his county and international exploits, his obituaries remembered him as the player who introduced the ‘four three-quarter’ game into Yorkshire rugby. Using this system, Lockwood led Yorkshire to a hat trick of County Championship titles.

Richard Lowther