Richard Williams was born in Bromborough Pool, Cheshire on 17 August 1866 the son of Richard and Margaret Williams. Richard and Margaret (nee Hayes) met in Liverpool when Richard was working as a Hotel Porter in the city and were married at St. Nicholas Church, Liverpool on 2 January 1854. Margaret originated from Lancaster, where she was born about 1824.
The couple made their home in Bromborough Pool (Richard senior. was born in Bromborough about 1833) and raised family of at least 4 children.
Bromborough Pool sits on the Wirral Peninsula across the River Mersey from Liverpool and was established as a “model village” in the mid 1850s for the workers at the factory of Price’s Patent Candle Company. It predates the nearby model village of Port Sunlight established by the Lever Brothers to manufacture soap.
The various census returns from 1861 onwards show the family established in Bromborough Pool and like the majority of the villagers in the employment of Price’s. The 1881 census return shows Richard senior employed by the company as a Pressman and Richard a Soap Packer.
Richard married Sarah Jane Brocklebank, also a native of Bromborough Pool, on 18 July 1889 at Bromborough Parish Church. They stayed in the area after their marriage and the 1891 census describes Richard as General Labourer living at 11 South View, Bromborough Pool. Richard and Sarah Jane started their family in Bromborough Pool (they would have five children). The five children were Richard James (born 1894), Gladys (1896), Lucy (1898), Lily (1900) and George Frederick (1904). By 1901 they had settled in Hope Street, Leigh, Lancashire where they would remain for their rest of their lives. Like most footballers of the era, Richard had another job. This could be hazardous as the clip below from the Liverpool Mercury 11th July 1892 shows.
Richard’s sporting career began in his home village of Bromborough Pool where he established himself as both an excellent footballer and cricketer. We are able to trace Richard’s career in detail with the benefit of two articles that appeared in the Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser on 3 August 1900 and 4 August 1905. There is a degree of duplication across the two articles but are both worthy of inclusion in his story.
In the first article Richard takes time to remember his football and cricket careers and the FA Cup Final of 1893 between Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers when Richard kept goal for the Merseyside club. He also speaks in glowing terms of James “Punch” McEwen who was a teammate at Luton and later Glossop.
A LOCAL CRICKET CELEBRITY
R. WILLIAMS, THE LEIGH PROFESSIONAL
“In the Manchester Evening Chronicle of Saturday last, under the heading of “Local Cricket Celebrities”, the following account of the career of Richard Williams, the Leigh Professional, is given:
“Who is the tall man?” is a question invariably asked by strangers at Leigh Cricket Club’s ground for, whether batting, bowling or fielding, Dick Williams’s skill, no less than his commanding build, makes him as a rule the most conspicuous figure on the playing sward. It is rarely, if ever, that he has failed to come off in all three departments of the game in the same match, and more often than not he annexes both premier bowling and batting honours, in addition, makes a catch or two, for his is the safest pair of hands in the Leigh eleven. To see his lithe, agile form roaming the boundary at square-leg when his club mate, J.W. Turner, is bowling curly under-hands, is a sight for the gods, for as fate ere long the batsman is tempted to hit out, and then woe betide him, for just when the willow-wielder thinks another boundary has been secured up darts Williams, from all sorts of unexpected places, and makes yet another of those famous catches which have become almost an every day occurrence with him. In the slips too, he is marvellously quick and clever, and his height – he stands about half an inch over six feet – enables him to take chances that other fieldsmen would be compelled to let go by. But although his fielding is of such service to his side it must not by any means be assumed that this exhausts his capabilities. Indeed, as previously hinted, he is a veritable “admirable Crichton” in cricket, and one can well believe his assurance that he has “played cricket ever since he was born”.
Though exceedingly reluctant to be interviewed, he favoured an Evening Chronicle representative the other day with a few facts concerning his career, from which it may be gathered that Bromborough Pool claims the honour of being the place of his birth, that auspicious event taking place in 1866. In his early youth Williams proved a tower of strength to the village cricket and football clubs, and he soon became known as one of the best amateurs in both branches of the sport in the Liverpool district. He played with the Mersey C.C. for a season, and then commenced his professional career as Saturday afternoon pro with the Stanley organisation. Here he stayed for three seasons, and it is unfortunate that he has never preserved any records of his batting and bowling averages. His top score, however, was 119, compiled at the expense of Birkenhead Victoria, and since joining Leigh, now four or five seasons ago, he had made some rare good scores. Only so recently as last Saturday week he made 64 at the expense of Newton, and one season he was playing football on one Saturday and the very next turned out for Leigh against Worsley, and almost without any practice whatever made 87 at the expense of the villagers.
He had a bit of a run of ill-luck at the commencement of the present season, but now that he has succeeded in getting thoroughly going he promises, as usual, to be near the top of both the batting and bowling averages of his side. He frequently comes off when the majority of his colleagues fail, as was evidenced in the matches at Wigan and Tyldesley this season, and his opponents are always glad to see him on his way back to the pavilion. Though not professing to be a “stylist”, when he gets set Williams plays pretty cricket, and, moreover, can lay the wood on to some purpose, sixes for drives out of the ground being no uncommon items on the Beech Walk enclosure. A fast bowler, able on his wicket to make the ball nip back a bit, he has also accomplished some notable feats in this department, the one he looks back upon with the greatest pride being performed at the expense of Leigh’s keen rivals Tyldesley, three seasons ago, when on the neighbouring club’s ground he secured six wickets for twelve runs and gained the Sunday Chronicle guinea prize.
His career on the football field is perhaps better known to his admirers, he having for about ten years been associated with League football. Serving his apprenticeship at Bromborough Pool to the full back position, it was not long before he realised that his proper place was in goal, and it is as custodian that he has become famous. Whilst with Bromborough Pool he secured three Wirral and District League medals, and played so well that he attracted the notice of the Everton Executive, who ere long promoted him to what has been designated as “the post of honour” in the crack Liverpool organisation. Here his smart and fearless work won him the highest encomiums and many more medals, including two Liverpool and District Cup trophies, one final and one semi-final. Williams is also the proud possessor of a Lancashire Cup final medal, and three others secured during his connection with Everton, one being reminiscent of that great English Cup final at Fallowfield a few seasons ago when Wolverhampton Wanderers won by a goal to none, a match that appeared to be a gift for the Evertonians. The subject of our sketch smiled ruefully as that day was recalled, and though he on that occasion manfully did his duty and saved his side – who altogether played below form, as was admitted – from a heavier beating, but was afterwards consumed with regret for having allowed himself to be beaten at all. Like certain other personages “he refused to be comforted, and would only reply to all comments upon the historic game “Ah! but it was a soft shot too!”. Five years ago Williams migrated to Luton, and for three seasons assisted that Second Division club. Amongst his trophies annexed whilst at Luton were the Kettering Club and the United League Championship medals, and he has pleasant recollection of his association with the “straw plaiters”.
To come to history of a more recent date, last season but one saw him at Glossop, with what was then known as the North End Club, that appendage, however, seeming to have since been dropped by mutual consent. Everyone knows how the Derbyshire team gallantly won its way from the Second Division into the charmed circle of the First League clubs, and in the obtaining of that honour Williams had no inconsiderable share, his “keeping” in some of the matches that season being wonderfully fine. In common with the rest of the team he received a handsome medal when the Glossop people feted their football heroes on their accession to the premier division, and his list of football trophies was made into 15 by winning an Ashton Charity Cup medal. Last season Williams was in very modest health, and on the comparatively few occasions that he was his old self, had the mortification of almost always playing behind a well beaten team. The bulk of the work fell upon the defence, and in this connection it is interesting to note that Williams considers Jas. M’Ewen, the left full back, whom Bury has signed on for next season, “the best little full back playing”. Williams now avers that he intends to retire from football, but he has yet several more years’ service in him, and it will be a pity if he sticks to his determination. However, in a very few weeks now the thing will definitely settled, for when the “little ball” will once again have been laid aside for the big one, and Williams will probably have added yet one or two more to his plethora of cricketing trophies.”
The second article published on 4 August 1905 was headlined:
Richard joined Luton from Everton in 1895. Following the move, Richard enjoyed a benefit match from Everton although given his form with Luton there would appear to have been misgivings on the part of Toffees to let him go. The following appeared in the Athletic News on 6 April 1896.
After Richard signed for Luton Town from Everton in November 1895 he was interviewed by the Luton Times which was published on the 22nd November 1895, below. He played in goal for Everton in the 1893 F.A. Cup Final against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Fallowfield, Manchester. The official attendance was 45,000 but it has been estimated that 60,000 were in the ground and round the edge of the pitch. Wing play was impeded by the crowd so both teams resorted to the long ball. Unfortunately a hopeful long ball caught Richard out and it sailed into the net for the only goal of the game. The interviewer graciously avoids this.
He played 78 times for the Straw Plaiters but had to be sold when the club got into an awful financial mess in 1898 and had to unload nearly all the first team. Richard’s move to Glossop was part of a transfer package that also included “Punch” McEwen, Donaldson and Gallacher (probably William Gallacher or Gallagher?). The transfer was not without problems with disagreement between the two clubs over the transfer fee. The dispute was widely reported in the press and the extract from The Edinburgh Evening News of 12 November 1898 summarises the outcome of the dispute. Luton obtained the fee they asked for. £300!
Richard is wearing his cap in this photo of the Glossop North End team.
Richard’s fine form continued at Glossop as highlighted in a match report from Sporting Life of 28 December 1898.
Richard called time on his football career in the early years of the twentieth century but remained with Leigh Cricket Club. How long Richard continued to turn about for the club is not known but he was still playing in July 1909 when the club gave him a benefit.
Sadly despite a successful sporting career Richard’s life was hit by a number of family tragedies between 1908 and 1918. Richard’s wife Sarah Jane passed away on 19 October 1908. Sarah was just 40 years old. She was buried at Leigh Cemetery on 22 October 1908.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser 23 October 1908 above.
With a young family to support Richard re-married in late 1910. His second wife was Sarah Jane’s younger sister Elizabeth Brocklebank. Richard and Elizabeth had one child Harold (Harry) born in 1911.
Tragedy struck the family again in 1914 and 1915 with the loss of Richard’s two eldest children Richard James and Gladys.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser 30 October 1914 above.
Gladys passed away on 21 October 1914, age 18, and Richard James on 22 January 1915, age 21.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser 29 January 1915 above.
Richard’s second wife Elizabeth passed away on 9 October 1918. She was only 35. Richard remained a widower for the rest of his life and died on 5 November 1939 in Leigh. He is buried in Leigh Cemetery and the gravestone remembers Richard, his two wives and three of his children.
The Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser printed a lengthy obituary on 10 November 1939 that included the item below and the article published in 1905 highlighting his sporting achievements.
Richard was also remembered in many other newspaper notices including the following from the Birmingham Daily Gazette of 9 November 1939.
Three of Richard’s surviving children were living with him at 64 Hope Street, Leigh at the end of his life. Lucy, Lily and Harold (Harry) all remained single. George Frederick was the only one to marry. The surviving children spent their lives in Leigh and are buried in Leigh Cemetery. The web site Billion Graves has photographs of the family headstone (produced below) plus ones for George Frederick and his family, and Lily/Harold.
Thank you to Richard Webb for kindly compiling this entry.