Sincere thanks to David Gronow for permission to publish the following article and photographs.
Douglas Clark, one of the greatest rugby league players of any era, was born in Ellenborough, near Maryport, Cumberland, on 2 May 1891.
As a boy Clark attended Ellenborough National School and was one of the team that were runners-up to Aspatria in the Schools’ Competition.
On leaving school he assisted his father, a coal merchant, and when fourteen could carry a hundred-weight bag of coal under each arm that left his seniors in awe at his enormous strength.
At the age of fifteen he joined Brookland Rovers, playing in the intermediate competition for youths under eighteen years of age.
He cost Huddersfield £30 when signing for them in April 1909 - £15 signing fee and another £15 when he achieved first team status.
When he moved to Fartown his father asked that he play in the reserves for a time, but his giant stature ensured that he was soon first team material, playing his first match for Huddersfield at Hull KR on 25 September 1909 and going on to play 485 games in the Claret and Gold, still a Huddersfield club record for appearances in a career.
His extraordinary career as a sportsman was at its height when the Great War broke out.
Clark joined the Army Service Corps and in 1916, alongside Huddersfield team-mates Wagstaff, Gronow and Rosenfeld, helped form the backbone of the all-conquering Grove Park rugby union side.
In France he was wounded in eighteen places by shrapnel from a bomb and badly gassed at Passchendale.
He was discharged in a wheelchair, but within four months returned to his unit.
At the end of hostilities with a 95% Disability Certificate and fragments of shrapnel in his body, he was awarded the Military Medal for his valour during combat.
Doctors advised him to take things easy if he wished to reach an old age - when Clark returned to his old position in the Huddersfield team, within a season he had won a place in the 1920 Great Britain Tour side to Australia!
His Test career spanned nine years from 1911 to 1920, with his most memorable match being the ‘Rorke’s Drift’ Test in Sydney on 4 July 1914, Great Britain winning 14-6.
Britain were reduced to ten men for part of the game, Clark broke his thumb in the first half and immediately after the interval dislocated his collar bone in a tackle - strapped up he returned to the field only to find that it was impossible for him to continue.
Twice he made the attempt, Clark visibly in tears as he left the field for the final time.
He played in three Challenge Cup-winning Finals for Huddersfield in 1913, 1915 and 1920, five League Championship Finals, winning three in 1912, 1913 and 1915, ten Yorkshire Cup Finals (seven won), also winning six Yorkshire League titles and scored 99 tries for the Fartown club.
He scored tries in three Championship Finals, including a hat-trick in a 29-2 defeat of Wigan at Wakefield in 1913.
Undoubtedly, Huddersfield’s greatest season was 1914/15 when they lifted all four cups, emulating Hunslet’s feat in 1907-08.
They were so dominant that even the finals they contested were practically walkovers.
Clark was a major figure as Hull were beaten 31-0 in the Yorkshire Cup final, St Helens 37-3 in the Challenge Cup final and Leeds 35-2 in the Championship final, scoring a try in the latter.
Clark made his Cumberland debut at nineteen years of age against Yorkshire in 1910 and gained 31 caps in all - a total bettered only by Joe Oliver.
In 1930 the Australians were touring and Cumberland called him from retirement to captain the side on 7 December 1929, leading them to an 8-5 victory.
He played in 11 Test Matches against Australia and New Zealand, touring with the Lions in 1914 and 1920, and also won a further six caps for England.
In the 1920 New Zealand Test at Wellington, Britain were losing 10-0, but made the score 10-6, before Clark forced his way over the line for the decisive score which Ben Gronow converted, giving Britain an 11-10 win.
In 1929, Clark retired from football, his last game for Huddersfield was at Castleford in a Challenge Cup-tie on 23 February, Huddersfield losing by 0-8.
His talents also extended beyond rugby league.
At fifteen, he won a wrestling championship at Braithwaite in Cumberland and continued to wrestle at the highest level for over thirty years, winning the Grasmere Cup in 1922 and 1924, emerging as Champion of Great Britain.
He had been champion wrestler of the British Army during the First World War and later became the All-in Wrestling Champion of the World, winning the Championship Belt outright after beating two successive challengers, and touring Australia in 1934 and 1936.
At the age of 45 he was undefeated in nineteen contests, continuing until the age of fifty when he retired from the ring - people who had witnessed him in action swore he was the ‘strongest man on the planet.’
He carried on business in Huddersfield as a coal merchant, and was also a keen golfer, and a member of the Outlane and Huddersfield Golf Clubs.
In middle age Dougie liked nothing more than to return to his boyhood haunts.
Living in a caravan on the shore of the Solway Coast between Maryport and Allonby, he could easily visit his old childhood friends.
For years he was frequently seen still keeping himself fit by running for miles along the sands and swimming in the sea all year round.
It therefore came as a surprise and sudden shock to learn that he had suddenly died at his home in Birkby, Huddersfield, on 1 February 1951 - a bad dose of influenza quickly turned to pneumonia - he was 59 years of age.
At the time he was a member of the Huddersfield Football Committee.
Clark always thought of Maryport as his home town, and at his request was buried in Maryport’s cemetery.
His prowess is recognised by the fact that he was inducted into the Huddersfield Hall of Fame in April 1999 and more recently, in 2005, into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
Debut: 25 September 1909 v Hull KR (a)
Last Game: 23 February 1929 v Castleford Cup (a)
|Northern Union||8||Australasia||33||1912||Birmingham (try)|
|Northern Union||23||Australia||5||1914||Sydney (try)|
|Northern Union||7||Australia||12||1914||Sydney||Northern Union||14||Australia||6||1914||Sydney|
|Northern Union||23||Australia||13||1920||Sydney||Northern Union||31||N Zealand||7||1920||Auckland|
|Northern Union||19||N Zealand||3||1920||Christchurch|
|Northern Union||11||N Zealand||10||1920||Wellington (try)|
Test match rugby league kicked off on Saturday 25 January 1908 when The Northern Union defeated
New Zealand 14-6 at Headingley.
Since then the British National XIII has gone under the guise of The Northern Union (1908-1922),
England (1924-46) and Great Britain (1947-2007)
|England||31||Wales||5||1912||Oldham (2 tries)|
|England||35||Wales||9||1921||Leeds (try)||England||33||Other Nationalities||16||1921||Workington (try)|
|Northern Rugby League||12||Australians||20||1912||Wigan|
|Cumberland||18||Glam & Mon||12||1927||Pontypridd|
|Cumberland||15||Glam & Mon||5||1928||Whitehaven|
|Cumberland||6||Glam & Mon||14||1929||Cardiff|
Note: Thanks are expressed to Robert Gate for assistance in compiling the above records