Once again we come to the culmination of the domestic Rugby League Season with the Final of the Challenge Cup. Or at least it would have been had not the governing body of this great sport, known to you and me as Sky TV, not decided to interfere with one of our great traditions.
My mind is taken back to my youth when the decision to play at Wembley was greeted with joy in the Cheshire household. Unfortunately my beloved Warrington did not feature, but my father decided we would make the trip anyway.
The train from Warrington Bank Quay took eight hours, which was considered quite fast in those days, and I’m pleased to see that in honour of those times privatised rail companies still take eight hours to get a train from Warrington to London. Yes, another great achievement of Tory policy which has been heartily endorsed by New Labour. Who said the post-war consensus was dead!
We arrived in London at 5 o’clock in the morning. Dad took us to the Imperial War Museum for a look around. We were astounded by the machinery of warfare. The gas canisters, the machine guns which dealt out death on an industrial scale, the bombing planes, in fact all the horrors of modern warfare were there on display for all to see. I well remember the words of my father when he said: “Thank goodness there will be no more wars my lad! We have it on the authority of our own politicians that that last one was ‘The War to End Wars’. “
Catching a tram to Trafalgar Square, we saw a youngish sort of chap dressed from head to toe in black. He was addressing a large crowd of similarly-dressed chaps. We strolled over to listen to what he had to say. His speech seemed to be concerned with something he called the Red Menace and made many referenced to an international conspiracy led by “the Dews”.
Father took this as an insult to the cherry red-clad supporters of our Lancashire near-neighbours, Wigan and their Yorkshire opponents that day, Dewsbury. Picking up an empty beer bottle, father launched it in the direction of the speaker and shouted “Take that you clown! Just because you will never have a successful rugby league team in London there is no need to ridicule us Northerners!”
We narrowly escaped the mounted police baton charge and later read that a Mr Moseley had been arrested for incitement to riot. How we laughed!
As to the game itself, Wigan beat Dewsbury by 13 points to 2. The Wigan mascot was a strange lad by the name of Lindsay. “Queer sort of name for a chap, son!” my dad said.
Anyway, a precedent had been set by those far-sighted people at the Rugby League Headquarters and for seventy years we visited Wembley apart from the years between 1939 and 1945 when Mr Moseley’s German friends, no doubt incensed by the growth of our great game, began another World War.
So, this week sees St Helens take on new boys, the Catalonian Dragons. One hopes both sets of supporters enjoy the day out and allow me, an old codger, to offer a word of advice. If you should see a fascist gathering in Trafalgar Square, do not do what my father did and throw a missile. The boot to the groin and the right hook on the right-wing nose gives much more satisfaction.
Your old friend, M. Cheshire of Warrington