FEATURE: The Heroes of Hill 60...new book revives story of Rawmarsh Welfare FC

FEATURE: The Heroes of Hill 60...new book revives story of Rawmarsh Welfare FC

By David Beddows | 14/09/2020

FEATURE: The Heroes of Hill 60...new book revives story of Rawmarsh Welfare FC
Rawmarsh Welfare do battle with Bishop Auckland in the FA Amateur Cup at Millmoor in 1951. A crowd of 6,600 turned out.

 

THE football heroes of this town aren't confined to those who have worn the red and white shirts of Rotherham United.


Over a period of several decades a light shone from a village football club which made waves far beyond the borough boundary.


Rawmarsh Welfare were a force in amateur circles. They reached the first round proper of the FA Cup in 1951 and in the same season attracted a crowd of 6,600 to Millmoor for an FA Amateur Cup tie against Bishop Auckland.


A second wave of success in the late 1960s and early 1970s saw them crowned Yorkshire League champions.


It's a story that needed telling and a new book by Gary Cooper, a former PE teacher at Rawmarsh Community School, does just that.


“The Forgotten Heroes — the story of Rawmarsh Welfare” isn't just a blow by blow account of the club's story from its formation in 1929 to its sad end in 1982, it touches on the personalities and characters who turned out for Welfare at the sloping Hill 60 ground.

Rawmarsh Welfare's 1952 line-up.

From Gladstone Guest and Gordon Banks to Cyril “Cloggy” Smith, Tony Lowe and Mick Wassell, they were footballers cut from a different era and a different cloth.


Unlike the stars of today, they worked alongside their supporters down the pit or in the steelworks or in associated jobs.
One of Welfare's top men, Ralph Goacher, even turned down a contract at Manchester United in preference to earning his corn from his new job in steel.


It was back in 2008 that Gary set a local history lesson for the kids in his class. When one told him the story of his grandad playing for Rawmarsh Welfare in the FA Cup, Gary was intrigued.


He started doing some digging and the seeds for writing the book were born.


“When I first considered writing, it was really just the FA Cup story,” says Gary. “Then I discovered there was a bit more to it than that.”


Gary's original research and interviews with ex-players was interrupted by a move to go and work in Luxembourg.


The project sat on a shelf for years until Covid-19 occurred and lockdown gave him the chance to sit back down and complete it.


The result is a near 200-page tribute drawing on player interviews, documents and old newspaper cuttings.

Author...Gary Cooper with is book 'The Forgotten Heroes - the Story of Rawmarsh Welfare FC.'

 

Welfare's origins lay in the old Rawmarsh Athletic club and they played their first game against a Rotherham United A team on August 31, 1929.


Welfare won 6-2 and they were up and running.


Embarking on what was described as “an ambitious programme”, the club pulled in some of the best local players and flourished.


There was a near miss in the FA Cup in 1933 when they lost in the final qualifying round to South Bank St Peter's from the North East. In the next round, the first round proper, they were drawn to play Rotherham United at Millmoor.


They reached the second round of the FA Amateur Cup in 1939, travelling down to London by train for a 2.30pm kick-off against five-times winner Clacton and narrowly losing 2-1.


Closer to home, the club's trophy cabinet bulged for the few decades, winning the Sheffield Association League, Rotherham Charity Cup, Mexborough Montagu Cup and going deep into the FA Cup qualifying rounds.


Football boomed in the post war years and Welfare basked in the glow. A staggering 4,664 spectators were at Millmoor in 1950 to see them smash Ecclesfield Colly Rovers 8-0 to win the Charity Cup. That same season 2,500 watched them beat Upton Colliery in the Sheffield Association League Cup semi-final before they went on to win it.


Welfare added the Montagu Cup for good measure that year, making for some raucous celebrations back at the Horse and Jockey in Rawmarsh, the club's base.


The most outstanding season came two years later and the good omens were there early on.


Welfare were drawn at home in each of the first three qualifying rounds of the FA Cup.


Beighton, Langold and Worksop Town were duly despatched and they were then pulled out of the hat first again in the final qualifying round at home to Skegness Town.


It was a huge game, a chance for Welfare to make history, and a record 3,000 spectators crammed into Hill 60. The gate receipts of £128, 19s were another record, each club receiving £52 after expenses. 


Welfare held off a Skegness comeback to win 4-2 and book an historic first appearance in the first round proper.


Many ears in Rawmarsh were cocked to the radio for the draw, broadcast live on Monday mornings back then on the BBC's Light Programme.


Welfare missed out on playing a league club, instead being a handed a home tie against Buxton.


Not impressed by the state of the pitch, the Derbyshire club asked for a change of venue. The request was promptly turned down.


“There's goals in that Thar Hill 60,” wrote local reporter Joe Humphreys, clearly chuffed by the decision.


In driving rain, Welfare pushed their higher league opposition to the limit. The visitors took an early lead but when Les Swales equalised just before half time, an upset looked on.


Although the atrocious conditions sapped Welfare's energy late on and Buxton pulled away to win 4-1, the season's excitement wasn't over.


The FA Amateur Cup of that season was a chance for more success, even more so when Rawmarsh received a bye in the first round and then beat Gedling Colliery to set up a home tie against Bishop Auckland, seven-times winners.

Rawmarsh Welfare's Yorkshire League winning side of 1970.


They wanted the tie moving to the North East, guaranteeing a 10,000 gate. Welfare's players instead voted 7-6 to take the tie to Millmoor and thousands turned up to watch.


Even though the skill and technical ability of the visitors told, the Bishops winning 5-1, Rawmarsh gave it their all. 
It took the best part of 20 more years for the club's next wave of success.


In 1969 they took the decision to re-enter the FA Cup and again negotiated the early qualifying rounds of the FA Cup before taking on Matlock Town, a Northern Premier League team choc-full of ex-pros.


It is astonishing to look back now and see that after a draw at Matlock, the replay was played on a Wednesday afternoon at Hill 60 (there being no floodlights back then) in front of a crowd of 1,160.


A 3-2 win set up an even tougher tie at Alfreton that ended in a 3-1 defeat but propelled by the goals of Mick Wassell, Rawmarsh proved too hot to handle for opponents in the Yorkshire League.


They won the second division and the Yorkshire League Cup in 1969, the first second-tier club to do so.


In 1970 they went on to win the top division, a high water mark the club was never to come close to again and in 1971 they lifted the Sheffield Senior Cup, beating Frickley 3-1 in the final.


The success couldn't go on forever and the 1970/71 season kicked off amidst rumblings that all wasn't well behind the scenes.


“Football club £100 in the red,” ran a local headline, the club apparently being dependent on bingo and cup runs to balance the books.


“The problems began in the 60s when local vandals would get into the ground and knock walls down,” remembers author Gary.

“There was a big fire as well and the social club extensively damaged. The insurance premium hadn't been paid and there was no money to rebuild.”


It meant that in 1982 when the Yorkshire League and Midland League were restructured to create the Northern Counties East League, Rawmarsh Welfare were not invited due to their sub-standard facilities.


Thankfully the chapter by chapter story of a once great club has now been recorded for ever.


“There is a generation of people in Rawmarsh and Rotherham who have probably never heard of the club,” added Gary.


“Some families will have grandads or great grandads who played for the team but their playing days will have been largely forgotten.


“That is why the book is called ‘Forgotten Heroes’. I believe the legacy of the team and the players and their contribution to the wider community should be acknowledged and celebrated.”


The Forgotten Heroes — the Story of Rawmarsh Welfare FC is available on Amazon, priced £7.99.

 

Welfare Wonders

Ralph Goacher and father Tommy.

Ralph Goacher
Son of the first captain of Rawmarsh Welfare in 1929, Tommy, Ralph was a talented inside forward whose exploits led to him being invited for a trial with Manchester United by Matt Busby and the coach of the time, Jimmy Murphy.
Played against Manchester City and was offered a contract but because he had started work in the wages office at the steelworks, he turned them down because he said he was too old — he was 24 — and in those days the maximum wage wasn't much more than he would be paid to play.

Gordon Banks


The Tinsley-born future England World Cup winner famously played two matches for Welfare in the Yorkshire League, conceding 15 goals. He was told he wasn't good enough. The rest is history.

Gladstone Guest


Prolific centre forward started out at Rawmarsh Welfare, scoring one goal and creating another in the 1939 Sheffield Senior Cup final, before signing for Rotherham United in 1939.
When he returned to his home in Canklow to tell them the news, officials from Portsmouth FC were sat in his living room waiting to offer him a pro contract. War was declared the next day and it was another six years before Gladstone made his pro debut.

Tony Lowe
Inside forward was a big personality in the local football scene in the late 60s and early 70s. Played in the most successful Rawmarsh side in history and returned as player-coach towards the end of his career.

Mick Wassell


Strong and formidable attacking force. In the Yorkshire League and Cup winning years in 1969 and 70, Rawmarsh scored 200 goals and Mick contributed 90 of them. “That's the sort of player he was,” says book author Gary Cooper.

Cyril “Cloggy” Smith
One of the many players who transferred over in the change of Rawmarsh Athletic to Rawmarsh Welfare, Smith was already 32 but a quality right half. Believed to have got the nickname “Cloggy” because he wore wooden clogs to work down the pit.

    


 

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