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Joseph Goodworth Hudson: Yorkshire’s premier organiser

Joseph Goodworth Hudson was amongst the pioneers of rugby within Yorkshire. In 1864, aged approx. 25, he replied to an advertisement in the Leeds newspapers asking for footballers to meet on Woodhouse moor in Leeds.  The advert was placed by Mr H.I Jenkinson, who was a clerk in the goods department of the North-Eastern Railway company. Many years later Hudson explained, “We adopted a strict rule to play every morning at 6.30, and late comers were fined 6d, a penalty that was strictly enforced for a time. In the evening the hour for commencing play was 7.20. I have seen 60 playing football before breakfast on a summer’s morning, and quite 150 at night. “

He was soon to rise to the forefront of organising these games, together with R.O Berry and W Dixon and Jenkinson in enrolling members and arranging practices.  Hudson later recounted, “Broom handles, with flags improvised from slips of cotton, constituted our goals, such restrictions as cross bars being then unthought of.”

Hudson played in spectacles, yet he claims he never met with an accident, though on one occasion his spectacles were broken in a collision in one of the Woodhouse Moor functions.

When asked about rules, he replied, “I am afraid we did not trouble much about them. All I can remember is that we had on-side and off-side, but we did not adhere strictly to either. How could we, with so many players engaged together? Referees, umpires? No, we had needed neither. The age of the cup-tie and competition had not then been born. Disputes? Why, we never had any.”

The assortment of players were to form the Leeds Football Club, later known as Leeds Athletic.  Hudson explained, “I was the secretary, Treasurer and committee combined. It was I who arranged the first match between Yorkshire and Lancashire and for a few years afterwards until something like a representative committee for the county was formed, I had practically the entire management of the so-called county business.”

[This first Yorkshire game will be covered in a future article on this blog.]

No formal records of these early days of Yorkshire rugby exist. In an interview in 1900, it was explained, “Mr Hudson has no minutes or correspondence relating to the early affairs of the county club, as arranged on the primitive basis set forth in this article. Formal meetings and resolutions were not much in vogue and it will be seen that a happy-go-lucky, match-of-any-sorts principle dominated the earlier days of Yorkshire football.”

He was to remain as honorary secretary until 1876 when he was replaced by Arthur Edward Hudson, who despite the name, was no relation.

Joseph’s organising abilities were not restricted to just rugby.  He organised the annual Leeds Athletics Sports festival and the first regatta held at Roundhay Park.

He was also a keen bowls player and a member of the Leeds Bowling club.

He was in partnership with Sir Edward Gaunt in Gaunt and Hudson Limited, hat and cap manufacturers of Leeds. He married Gaunt’s daughter and they had three children, a son and two daughters.

He played an active part in local Liberal Party politics and was a member of the Mechanical institute and Congregational Chapel.

In 1896 he suffered an apoplectic seizure, which curtailed his interests and activities. He passed away in December 1904, aged 66, of heart failure.  He his buried in Woodhouse Cemetery, (now St George’s Fields, part of the University of Leeds), a short kick from his old stomping ground.

Richard Lowther