In March 2020 Michael Baldridge contacted me out of the blue to say that his great uncle was Ralph Rodgerson, a Town player of the club’s early history. He is in possession of three precious mementos which belonged to his grandmother, i.e. Rodgerson’s sister.
Ralph Rodgerson had been born in Sunderland on 30th December 1892 and took up a footballing career with local club Pallion Institute, then Seaham Harbour in August 1912. Burnley spotted his potential and whisked him away to their Reserves that year, but by February 1913 he had signed first amateur then – in August – professional terms with Huddersfield Town. A full-back by trade, Rodgerson made his professional debut at right-back on 17th August 1914 in a Second Division game against Fulham at Craven Cottage which Town won 3-2. Although he made regular appearances throughout the First World War, Rodgerson failed to break through, afterwards being in the shadow of star captain Fred Bullock. He was restricted to just eleven League appearances in 1919-20 and so it was, with a total of just 26 League – 14 in the top flight – and 1 FAC appearances and with no goals to his name, he joined local rivals Leeds United on 14th March 1921. From there he moved to Sunderland West End (October 1922), Dundee (January 1923 – £250), Spennymoor United (November 1925), Sunderland West End (September 1926), Hetton United (August 1927) and, finally, to Thornley Albion (October 1930).
The first item from Michael is a wonderful but rather tatty 1913-14 squad photograph by renowned Huddersfield photographer Turton. I have many of these in my collection, but not this one, notable as it is for showing the club bedecked in the famous blue and white stripes for the very first time. Ralph Rodgerson appears second from the right on back row of players, next to assistant trainer Jack Foster.
He can be seen clearly on this photograph of mine (below) from the Wartime League game against Barnsley at Leeds Road, 23rd September 1916. Rodgerson is second left on the front row between Harry Linley and guest star striker Tommy Hall (of Newcastle United).
The next postcard, again rather tatty, shows the 1919-20 squad outside the ground and is again by Turton of Birkby. I have a far better copy of this myself but it would seem churlish not to use Michael’s item here. On this team group Rodgerson can be seen second from the left on the middle row of players, standing beside captain Fred Bullock and directly behind Jack Wood.
The photograph from Michael that I have saved until last is a wonderful view of three Town players: Ralph Rodgerson is on the left, goalkeeper Edwin Davis at the back and Willie Watson on the right. It’s a marvellous shot and can accurately be dated to the 1914-15 season by the style of the shirts. Wonderful.
So, here we have three rather tatty and creased photographs kept for over a hundred years by a proud family who can trace an ancestor back to the fledgling days of a once mighty club side. Ralph Rodgerson was at Town when they were struggling along with meagre crowds in the face of certain closure by the end of 1919, yet had achieved promotion to the top flight and a FAC Final by April 1920. Even greater things were just around the corner for the club, although Rodgerson was to have moved on by then.
He died at the ridiculously early age of just 46 on 10th July 1939, but his part in the club’s rise is forever written in the history books.
As an aside, Ralph’s cousin Edwin Rodgerson was there at the same time, making them the only cousins – so far – to have been on Town’s books. You can see a photograph of Edwin Rodgerson HERE.
*NOTE: The birth and death dates here are at odds with those to be found elsewhere but as these are confirmed by the family I’m happy to trust them.
All pictures on this page are copyright and the property of either Michael Baldridge or myself.