Continue We want you to get the most out of using this website, which is why we and our partners use cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to receive these cookies. You can find out more about how we use cookies here.

Tuesday, 07 July 2015

Barrow RL’s great Britons

ALTHOUGH Barrow RLFC are out in the sticks, at the end of a cul-de-sac and miles from anywhere, they have enjoyed many years of success. During the 1930s and 1950s especially, they fielded many brilliant teams, producing no less than 21 players who have represented Great Britain while in Barrow colours. The first on the list was Harry Gifford, more than a century ago in 1908, with David Cairns the last in 1984. Here PADDY McATEER looks back on this elite group

HARRY GIFFORD (1901-1922)

HARRY Gifford was a gifted rugby league player, who spent just six days short of 20 years as a professional with Barrow.

Born in Kirkby-in-Furness in 1884, Harry signed from Ulverston Hornets NUFC for a fee of one Guinea (£1.05) in 1901.

He played in 423 games for Barrow, scoring 73 tries and kicking 153 goals for a points tally of 525.

Harry played in several positions, mainly full-back (182), but also on the wing (65), centre (54), half-back (25), prop (25), hooker (6), second row (6), loose forward (39) and forward (21).

It was in the 1908/09 season that he really came to the fore, becoming Barrow’s first international by representing the Northern Union (now Great Britain) against the Australian tourists on two occasions. He also played for England four times.

Harry was an obvious choice for the Barrow RL Hall of Fame.

JOE DOYLE (1913-1924)

JOE Doyle was born in 1894 and signed for Barrow in 1913 from Holker Street Old Boys, playing for the club on 137 occasions and scoring 61 tries for a points tally of 183 (in the days when it was three points for a try).

A speedy winger turned centre, Joe never gained a Lancashire cap but went one better to become Barrow’s first Great Britain tourist to Australia and New Zealand in 1920.

Though he never played at Test level, he represented his country in eight games on the tour, scoring eight tries.

BILL BURGESS SNR (1919-1933)

BILL Burgess enjoyed an outstanding career and had the honour of skippering Barrow in the first game played at Craven Park in 1931.

Regarded as one of the club’s best ever players, he turned out in Barrow colours on 467 occasions, scoring 54 tries and amassing a total of 539 goals for a points tally of 1,240.

Bill played in several positions, mainly at prop, where he made his name. He was the first Barrow player to go into double figures for kicks in a game, when he landed 11 against Dearham Wanderers in 1924.

He toured with Great Britain in 1924 and 1928, was club chairman and was inducted into the Barrow Hall of Fame.

CHARLIE CARR (1922-1934)

CHARLIE Carr, like Bill Burgess, is regarded as one of the best players ever to pull on a Barrow shirt.

He played in 396 games, scoring 61 tries and kicking 45 goals for a points tally of 573.

Charlie, though Hull-born, signed for Barrow from Askam in 1922 and played for England on nine occasions and Great Britain three times.

He toured Down Under in 1924, but never played in a major final for Barrow, being a losing semi-finalist in three Lancashire and RL Challenge Cup competitions.

JACK ‘TANK’ WOODS (1926-1934)

SIGNED from Cambridge Street Old Boys, Tank Woods played for Barrow 222 times, crossing for a total of 139 tries and a points tally of 417, before moving to Warrington.

He played the majority of his career on the wing and played for England twice and Great Britain once.

Though he toured Down Under in 1932, he did not play in the Test series, despite scoring 18 tries in 12 games. His only GB game saw him cross the whitewash.

ALEX TROUP (1927-1946)

LANCE, as he was well known, was born in the Orkney Islands but signed for Barrow from Maryport and played at both Little Park and Craven Park, making 397 appearances and scoring 53 tries and 92 goals.

He captained the side in the 1930s and was on the losing side in both the Lancashire and RL Cup finals in 1937/38 season.

He toured with GB in 1936, playing in two Tests against the Kiwis, and also represented England four times.

WILLIE HORNE (1943-1959)

WILLIE Horne needs no introduction to old and young.

One of Barrow and Great Britain’s best ever players, he is one of a rare breed to skipper club, county and country.

Willie played for Barrow 461 times, scoring 112 tries, kicking 739 goals and rattling up 1,814 points. He signed on at Craven Park from Risedale Old Boys and skippered Barrow to victory in the 1954/55 Lancashire and RL Challenge Cup finals.

Willie was one of four Barrow players who went on the 1946 Indomitables tour Down Under, on the aircraft carrier of the same name, which was built in Barrow.

He also toured in 1950 and captained his country when they won the Ashes in 1952 on home soil. He won eight Test Caps in all, but failed to make the 1954 tour.

JOE JONES (1944-1952)

JOE Jones was born in South Wales and signed for Barrow from Wigan, playing in 221 games and scoring four tries and 235 goals for a points tally of 482.

He was a Welsh rugby league international on 12 occasions and toured Down Under in 1946, where he played in 12 games, gaining his one and only GB Test cap.


GENTLEMAN Jim played for Barrow a magical 500 times, scoring 354 tries and 20 goals and a points tally of 1,102.

Born in Cleator Moor, he signed from local soccer team Crystal Palace, playing on the wing for all but 15 games, and was a well-respected figure throughout rugby league.

He played for England once and went on the 1946 tour to Australia, where he was top try-scorer with 25 tries in 15 games, but failed to make the Test side.


BRYN Knowelden played only four seasons for Barrow before moving on to pastures new and a glittering career with Warrington and finally Hull KR.

He signed from a local works side and played in 103 games for Barrow, scoring 43 tries for a points tally of 129.

He played just one game on the wing, 99 at centre and three times at stand-off.

Bryn was also a good soccer player, attracting the attentions of Manchester United and West Ham before trialing for Liverpool.

But he was a happy man when Barrow gave him the professional ticket and toured Down Under with the 1946 squad, where he gained his one and only cap.

ROY FRANCIS (1939-1948)

ROY Francis was born in Cardiff, but it was from Wigan that he came to Craven Park before moving on to Warrington and Hull.

He played 112 games for Barrow on the wing and at centre, plus once at stand-off, notching 71 tries and two goals in that time.

Roy was a crowd favourite and a classy winger, who made just one Great Britain appearance in 1947 against New Zealand. He went on to become a top coach with Hull and Leeds.

FRANK CASTLE (1949-1960)

FRANK Castle was a rugby union man from Coventry and a former Olympic sprint trialist when he came to Barrow.

He went on to make 366 appearances for the club, crossing for 281 tries for a points tally of 843. A speed merchant, Frank once crossed for a double hat-trick against York.

He played for GB in the successful 1952 Test series against the Australians and, in total, played five times for GB and five times for England.

Frank played in all three Challenge Cup finals for Barrow in the 1950s and crossed for a brilliant brace of tries when Barrow beat the Aussies 12-9 in the 1959/60 season.

He toured in 1954.

DENNIS GOODWIN (1949-1957)

DENNIS Goodwin signed for Barrow from Walney Central and had a great career, making 341 appearances and crossing for 89 tries for a points tally of 267.

He played 254 times at centre before moving into the second row.

A true gentleman, Dennis played in the 1951 and 1955 Challenge Cup finals and toured with Great Britain 1958. He gained five Test caps in total.

Dennis moved to Leeds with great success before ending his playing days at York.

PHIL JACKSON (1950-1960)

PHIL Jackson was another great product of local rugby.

Although born in Canada, he signed for Barrow from Vickers RU and made 225 appearances, scoring 89 tries for a tally of 267 points.

Phil was ‘A Prince Among Centres’ and played for Great Britain 27 times – a great achievement in days when there were so many top-class players.

He was a World Cup winner in 1954 and toured Down Under in 1954, 1958 and for the 1957 World Cup. He played in all three 1950s Challenge Cup finals for Barrow.

TED TOOHEY (1947-1956)

TED Toohey was Willie Horne’s half-back partner.

He came from Wigan and made 344 appearances for Barrow, scoring 70 tries and kicking two goals for a points tally of 214.

Ted played in the 1951 and 1955 Challenge Cup finals and represented Great Britain on three occasions, touring in 1954.

JACK GRUNDY (1950-1961)

JACK Grundy was one of Barrow’s best buys when he signed from St Helens for £1,000. He played in 374 games, scoring 112 tries as a second row forward and kicked one goal, for a tally of 338 points.

Jack won the Lance Todd Trophy in the 1955 Challenge Cup final, when Barrow beat Workington 21-12, and he gained 12 caps for GB, going Down Under in 1957 at the age of 32 with the World Cup squad.

BILL BURGESS JNR (1961-1968)

BILL Burgess Junior was one of the best wingers of his generation.

He signed for Barrow from Fylde RU and played 223 times, scoring 179 tries for a tally of 537 points.

Bill was a lethal winger with a fine body swerve and played for Great Britain on 13 occasions, going on the 1966 tour.

He was on the losing Barrow side in the 1967 Challenge Cup final against Featherstone and ended his career at Salford.

PHIL HOGAN (1971-1978)

PHIL Hogan was a star of the 1977 World Cup for Great Britain, playing in the final, which Australia won 13-12.

He was a surprise member of the squad but came home a star of the show.

Phil signed for Barrow as a 16-year-old from Holker Pioneers and played in 152 games, scoring 46 tries and kicking 173 goals for a points tally of 484.

He played fives times for his country, once as a substitute, and moved to Hull KR in 1978 for a world record fee of £33,000.


CHRIS Camilleri signed for Barrow from Cardiff RU, but his stay was short, scoring 31 tries in 44 appearances. He gained two Great Britain caps in 1980.

EDDIE SZYMALA (1973-1984)

EDDIE was the showman of rugby league. A player signed from Barrow Island, he made 205 appearances, scoring 41 tries and kicking 68 goals for a points tally of 264.

He was a Lancashire Cup winner in 1984 and played for Great Britain twice.

DAVID CAIRNS (1978-1987, 1990-1992)

DAVID Cairns was Barrow’s last Great Britain player, who was overlooked for the 1984 tour, much to the dismay of many.

He played 341 games for Barrow, scoring 80 tries and kicking seven goals for a tally of 289 points.

A gutsy scrum half, David broke his Barrow spell by going to Salford, but before that was named man-of-the-match in 1984 when Barrow beat a star-studded Widnes side to lift the Lancashire Cup.

He only gained two GB caps in 1984, but did tour with BARLA under-18s in 1977.

The above list does not include players only picked for England, Wales, Scotland or other nations.

Player information courtesy of Keeping the Dream Alive: Barrow Rugby League Football Club Complete Who’s Who (1897/98 to 2008), by Dave Huitson, Keith Nutter and Steve Andrews.

Have your say

My father(a world war II vet) has a medal he brought home that reads, (front side)LANCS/COUNTY/FUNION (back side)BARROW intermidiate compt.winners 1906 Holker St. Old Boys J.Slater No.407077 If you can tell me anything about this medal I would be greatful.

Posted by Dave Wielkopolan on 16 February 2012 at 22:29

Make your comment

Your name

Your Email

Your Town/City

Your comment


North West Evening Mail What's on search

Powered by

Hot Jobs

Loading latest hot jobs...
Powered by Zoopla.co.uk

Featured companies

Searching for featured companies...
Search for:


Has children’s sport benefitted from the ‘Olympic legacy’?



Show Result

Resource Cumbria

The Forum

F. Dickinson footwear

Homes and gardens 22

To save our contact details direct to your smartphone simply scan this QR code

North West Evening Mail

Evening Mail Going Out