Lions' Tales

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Documenting the Voices of Swinton RLFC

Swinton Rugby League Football Club has a rich sporting history dating back to its formation in 1866. The club has also played a central part in the social and cultural environment of the local community. Lions’ Tales is a project co-ordinated by the Swinton Lions Supporters’ Trust which aims to bring together the sporting and cultural heritage of Swinton, Pendlebury and Clifton as well as further afield by documenting the voices of the players, officials and supporters from Swinton RLFC.

So, if you are willing to be interviewed or write about your Swinton memories; or if you have Swinton RLFC memorabilia that can be made available, then contact the numbers presented below. In particular, any of the following items would be useful for the project and please note all items will be copied and recorded before being returned safely.

  • Programmes (especially pre-1960)
  • Photographs (action shots or team line-ups)
  • Medals and/or caps
  • Scrapbooks, yearbooks etc.
  • Swinton RLFC playing shirts etc.
  • Season ticket, match-day passes etc.

This project is supported by Supporters’ Direct and the Federation of Stadium Communities (FSC) with the view to establish how an area can connect with a local sporting club. So far, permission has been granted by the British Film Institute (BFI) to use images of Swinton RLFC from the Mitchell and Kenyon Archive from 1901. Also, research is underway to identify the numerous rugby-related drawings and paintings of LS Lowry who lived close-by to the former Station Road ground in Pendlebury. It is hoped to display all the material and memories in local schools and libraries for educational purposes and publish the results in a book.

For further details please email Ian Jackson.

Launch Event

The Swinton Lions Heritage Project kicked-off on 12th January with a launch event at the town hall attended by over 80 people representing may key stakeholders. Past players Malcolm Cummings, Bob Fleet, Tony Pratt, Brian Robinson and Derek Whitehead were in attendance along with director of rugby Paul Kidd and current players Phil Joseph and Rob Foxen – a former Swinton High pupil.

The project named ‘Swinton Lions Tales and More’ is financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and although its primary aim is to capture the memories of past players and supporters, spin-off projects will also run alongside. One example being, media students at Salford University will be using the clubs training sessions in a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

The project is co-ordinated by the Federation of Stadium Communities, a charity set-up in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. Chief executive Judy Crabb explained how the project came about and what the deliverables would be, which includes permanent material for rugby league’s own heritage centre at the George Hotel in Huddersfield. Judy also spoke about how the process can help old people with illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease, as a project like this can help stimulate their mental abilities and she was pleased that Age Concern is among the societies involved.

The Key-note speech was made by Editor-in-Chief on the Independent newspaper, Simon Kelner who talked about how much the club meant to him as a youngster and how the loss of Station Road was akin to losing his own home. Simon spoke about the profound effect the club had on him as, when asked, he always told people he came from Swinton even though he actually hailed from Prestwich.

Head of Heritage Lottery Fund for the North-West, Sara Hilton spoke of the notion that heritage isn¬ít just about old buildings but people and that a town’s football or rugby club is just as important to the people who live there as any building. She also called for other organizations to bid for a grant as the area was under-represented for heritage lottery funding.

Pendlebury Councilor John Ferguson spoke of his memories of Station Road, not as a rugby fan but as a member of Swinton Jog-Fit club in the eighties. He gave a wonderfully descriptive account of what it was like to change in the players’ dressing-rooms and then run-out through the tunnel and into the glare of the floodlights. He also spoke of how proud he was that Station Road was actually situated in Pendlebury and how he hoped that the Lions could be brought home to his ward; this time at Agecroft Road.

The final speaker was Dr. Steve Kelly an oral history specialist and writer who enthused about the need to collect people’s memories. He is currently training pupils from Swinton High School in how to conduct interviews and the students who were there must have been pleased to hear how impressed he was with their progress. The Swinton High students will be putting their training into good practice this week when they begin the first of their interview sessions with supporters.

Cine footage of the 1963-64 champions as they do a lap of honour following victory over Wakefield on 23rd May.

Season ticket from 1928-29 season.

Season Ticket 1928-29

The fixtures printed below at the start of the season already shows when the opening match at Station Road is to take place. They must have been very confident of the builders!

Season Ticket 1928-29 Fixtures

Pictures of the Swinton caps and medals of Lawrence Critch who played scrum half for the Lions between 1901 and 1906

Lawrence Critch Cap

Lawrence Critch Medal Front

Lawrence Critch Medal Back

Pictures of the caps awarded to Dai Davies.

Dai Davies - Swinton Cap

Dai Davies - Lancashire Cap

A superstar of his era, Davies was an 18 year old Welsh international Rugby Union reserve when he came North to Swinton in early 1899. Davies apparently signed a hastily drawn-up contract on a shop window for a down-payment of £5, with a further £15 awaiting him at Swinton.

He made a his debut in a success at Widnes on 3rd April 1899 and quickly formed the most potent half-back combination in the Northern Union alongside Joey Morgan. This was never more apparent that when the pair helped destroy Salford in the 1900 Challenge Cup Final with Davies a try-scorer.

In season 1900/01 he appeared on three successful occasions for his adopted county, Lancashire, and even grabbed a try against Cheshire. Sadly though, by 1902 Swinton's finances were precarious and this necessitated the transfer of Davies who curiously joined Bolton Wanderers as a goalkeeper. He even reached the FA Cup Final with Bolton in 1904, although the game was lost 1-0 to Manchester City. However, Davies remains to this day, the only man who has played in both an FA and Challenge Cup Final.

The prodigal son returned to Chorley Road at Christmas 1909 and he enjoyed a further four seasons with the Lions. During this period he gained an international cap when Wales were defeated by England at Coventry on 10th December 1910 and he also skippered Swinton in 1910 Lancashire Cup Final which was lost 4-3 to Oldham.

He retired at the age of 33, but was later grealty effective at organising sporting activities for the 'Swinton Pals' at their First World War training camp in North Wales. After the war Davies assisted the Swinton Park amateur club for a while.