“Hunslet’s darkie one of Britain’s heroes”

Palebluenews: – “…At six feet tall and fourteen stone at his physical peak, Thompson was regarded as a relentless ball of energy by opposition and coaches alike and quickly became a firm fans favourite with the terraces at Hunslet. The Yorkshire Post at the time memorably called him “Hunselt’s living bronze.” He was not the typical rugby player, even for this era. Thompson was a shy pacifist who didn’t drink or smoke and admitted in his later years that he had been “terrified of girls” as a youth. In 1951, the great BBC rugby league commentator Eddie Waring, wrote: “If Cec Thompson is not chosen for the Great Britain squad, the selectors must be racists.” –such was the young man’s stature within the game. He was selected for the Great Britain side and the British Empire XIII and The Daily Herald trumpeted the occasion with the headline: “Hunslet’s darkie one of Britain’s heroes” It is worth noted that Thompson was nicknamed –with warm regards- “darkie” for much of his rugby league career. Such was the social climate at the time, I suppose. Thompson played two matches against New Zealand and was on the winning side each time. Britain won the first Test, during which Thompson was concussed, 21-15, and the second 20-19. Alfred Drewry, the Yorkshire Post’s lyrical rugby league correspondent, wrote about “an athlete poised with one foot on a ball needing only wings to be too good for this earth”…In an era decades before the over-inflated wages of sports stars and the cash injections of Sky Sports, Thompson had supplemented his earnings by working as a window cleaner, a grim living in the cold and often wet north of England. However, it was on his round that he found inspiration for the next stage of his life. “I used to go to schools to clean their windows and I would see teachers at work and imagine how pleasant it would be if I could do their job,” he recalled. “Window cleaning is cold, harsh work. Playing rugby is a brutal occupation. Put the two together and you have my life.” Self-financed by his window cleaning business, Thompson went to night school in his mid-30s, taking a course for 14-year-olds who had failed their 11-plus. At 39 he won a place at Leeds University, graduating four years later with an honours degree in Economics and a teaching diploma. While there, with typical enthusiasm and aplomb, he co-founded the Student Rugby League along with Andrew Cudbertson and Jack Abernathy: another part of his legacy that flourishes today. On leaving university he taught economics, first at Dinnington Comprehensive School and then at Chesterfield Grammar School, where he ended his career as head of economics and master in charge of rugby…” (Cec Thompson, Hunslet’s “Living Bronze”)

Cec Thompson (12 July 1926 – 19 July 2011) was a British professional rugby league footballer of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. He was born in County Durham, the son of a mother from Durham and a Trinidadian father. His father died when he was very young and his childhood was spent in a succession of orphanages. Thompson took up rugby league when working near Hunslet. He turned out to have a natural talent for the game. He went on to play for Great Britain and Ireland and was transferred to Workington Town in Cumbria after which he was manager of Barrow. All Cec’s games for Hunslet and in representative matches were as a Second-row. For Workington he played 164 games at Second-row, twenty-two at Loose forward/Lock, and six on the Wing. At Barrow, with the side plagued by injury, he played two games as a Second-row against Bramley and Blackpool Borough, to make up the numbers. He was one of the founders of the Student Rugby League in the UK, when along with Andrew Cudbertson and Jack Abernathy, he founded a team at the University of Leeds in 1967. Thompson built up his own window cleaning business, and then qualified to teach Economics with a degree from the University of Leeds and a teaching diploma at the age of 39, initially at Dinnington Comprehensive School and then at Chesterfield Grammar School (Wikipedia).

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