REVIEW: Border City Blues, by Alan Tucker

Neil Barraclough

Alan Tucker’s book Border City Blues will go down as the definitive history of Carlisle rugby league.

Tucker writes with authority, having served as Carlisle’s chairman, and the result is a book packed with memories and insight that would otherwise have been lost in time.

From the enormous to the trivial, the challenges Carlisle rugby league faced are laid bare for all to see.

On top of that, every campaign is recorded, starting from 1981-82 through to the 1997 summer season, and Tucker brings the statistics to life with some of the tales he recalls in absorbing detail.

Writing of the 1989-90 season, in which Carlisle finished fifth from bottom in the second division, Tucker notes:

“A much more prosaic memory of that summer is of Don McDowall’s and my attempts at building a ramp for disabled access to the grandstand… We struggled in vain for a day-and-a-half… The damn ‘whacker-plate’ just had a mind of its own and took off downhill every time we used it.”

Tucker and his colleagues were always up against it in Carlisle, a “football town” that “didn’t seem to add up as a destination for any young rugby league player” according to Dean Bell’s foreword.

But they battled and persisted, stubbornly refusing to give up and getting their occasional reward along the way.

There are also chapters dedicated to Carlisle City’s 1928 and 1950-52 existence, as well as a look at how the sport has continued in the town since 1997 with the introduction of Carlisle Centurions to the summer conference.

For anyone interested in the history of Cumbrian rugby league, Border City Blues is a must-read book. But it’s appeal doesn’t stop there.

It is a story of spirit and determination, of fighting against the odds and refusing to give in. It is a true rugby league story.

Border City Blues: The Story of Carlisle Rugby League’, by Alan Tucker, is out now. ISBN 978-0956478771, published by Scratching Shed Publishing. It is available to buy here.