We are proud and honoured to be one of the founder clubs of the organisation we know today as the Rugby Football League and whose 125th birthday is celebrated today with a special event in Huddersfield.
Today (August 29, 2020) is exactly a century and a quarter to the day since Rugby League was officially born at that historic meeting of clubs at the George Hotel, Huddersfield.
The Oldham club’s representative, Joseph Platt, played a key role in steering through the ‘new’ version of rugby and was, in fact, the new body’s secretary for the first 25 years from 1895 to 1920.
To kick-off Rugby League’s special anniversary celebrations in style, OuRLeague has an exclusive Happy Birthday message with contributions from special guests including the RFL’s new president, Clare Balding; Sky Sports’ Jenna Brooks; England Women’s captain Emily Rudge; the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham; others and several fans.
The RFL wishes all fans of our great sport a wonderful anniversary weekend and it goes without saying that the Oldham club wishes to be part of that and with particular relevance to our very own Roughyeds supporters, season-ticket holders, sponsors, backers and volunteers, without whom there would be no club.
Thanks to all — and here’s to the next 125 years, starting with 2021 and a new season for which we are already preparing earnestly, as you already know.
Meantime, the chief executive of the RFL, Ralph Rimmer, has recognised the part played by “a group of Oldham supporters and historians” in pointing out the opportunity to provide belated recognition, at this significant time in the sport’s history, of the important role played by Joseph Platt in the formation of our great game 125 years ago.
“We thought an historic first posthumous addition to the Roll of Honour would be fitting.”
Events leading up to the historic meeting at The George in Huddersfield are well documented in Michael Turner’s book, ‘Oldham RLFC – the Complete History, 1876 to 1997’.
Michael, a lifelong fan, burned the midnight oil for many years to research the history of our great club, going right back to its early beginnings in 1876.
“Despite opposition from the RFU, a league system was introduced in Lancashie and Yorkshire in 1892, with Oldham becoming the ‘champion club’ of Lancashire in 1893-94.
“That season coincided with a proposal by the leading Northern clubs to be allowed to make payments to players for ‘broken time’, ie, time and pay lost from work because of their rugby commitments.
“This was rejected by the Rugby Union governing body and the seeds of the breakaway were well and truly sown.
“There followed an uneasy period when allegations of the dreaded professionalism were frequently directed (and not without foundation) at the Northern clubs until after several meetings, mostly in Manchester and Leeds, 22 of the most prominent Northern teams decided to break away to form their own Northern Union.
“At the annual meeting of Oldham FC, held at the Temperance Hall, Horsedge Street on July 25, 1895, members voted unanimously to back the committee in supporting the rebel clubs.
“The breakaway was formalised at the now legendary gathering at the George Hotel in Huddersfield on August 29, 1895. The rest, as they say, is history.”
He went on:
“The day after that famous meeting, the (Oldham) Chronicle reported the passage of events, noting that the Oldham club representative, Joseph Platt, was very much a leading figure and that a meeting would be held the following week at the Spread Eagle in Manchester to arrange a new fixture formula for the 22 members of the Northern Union.
“The first fixtures were arranged for September 7, apart from Oldham and Huddersfield. The probable reason for the late entry of these great trans-Pennine rivals being that a fixture was already arranged for Monday, September 23, which was a local Huddersfield holiday, and these arrangements were kept in place.
“So it was that Oldham entered the new competition on September 14 with a trip to play Hunslet at their famous old Parkside ground.
“There was much interest in the new competition so a special train was chartered to ferry Oldham supporters over to Leeds, there to be transferred to Hunslet by wagonette.
“Great things were expected of the Oldham team, captained by the ex-Liversedge and England RU international Harry Varley and including county players Jack Hurst, Arthur and Sam Lees, Emanuel Bonser and Bob Edwards. Also in the line-up was future club secretary Bob Wylie.
“Alas, on this momentous day, they (Oldham) met with defeat by 16 points to eight.”
The original Northern Union Yearbook from 1895-96 listed Oldham alongside Bradford, Brighouse Rangers, Batley, Broughton Rangers, Halifax, Hunslet, Hull, Huddersfield, Liversedge, Leeds, Leigh, Manningham, Rochdale Hornets, Runcorn, St Helens, Stockport, Tyldesley, Wakefield, Wigan, Warrington and Widnes.
It said of Oldham: Pavilion on the ground. Captain, H Varley. Colours, red and white jerseys and blue knickers.
We should all acknowledge and celebrate the courage, wisdom and foresight of our sport’s founders.
LET’S ALL RAISE A GLASS TO RUGBY LEAGUE AT THIS SPECIAL TIME AND TOAST OUR FABULOUS SPORT AND ALL IT STANDS FOR.