|William Cross by Dave Dooley: |
Billy Cross was a great player in the early days of the club playing over 70 matches mostly as a stand off. He made his debut in Saints first ever Northern Union game against Rochdale Hornets on the 7th. September 1895. Playing for six shillings under Rugby Union rules and scoring system, Billy Cross has the distinction of kicking the first ever goal for Saints as a Northern Union [rugby league] team.
Billy was the captain of the Club prior to the Northern Union set-up and was one of that great batch of players that Saints imported from Kendal Hornets in the late 1880s and early 1890s. This moustached `will o the wisp` was one of the club`s most durable players and a proud leader of the team.
Billy scored his only try under the auspices of the Northern Union for the Saints in a league match against Huddersfield on 30th. November 1895 as part of a comfortable 11 points to 3 victory. In 75 matches for the Saints Billy scored one try and kicked 3 goals for a total points aggregate of 9 points.
His greatest disappointment must have been the 1897 Challenge Cup campaign, which he missed after being injured against Oldham in the early part of the year. The Saints got to the final, with Richard O`Hara in the stand off berth at Headingley. Saints lost by 10 points to 3 to the `Gallant Youths` on that particular day. Billy was also absent when the first Saints side to lift a trophy under Northern Union rules beat Runcorn, in extra time, by 6 points to nil in the South West Lancs and Border Towns Cup at Widnes on April 30th., 1900. That season Billy had only managed one outing for the first team.
In his last season Billy played nine matches mostly in the forwards. His final match for the Club was against Batley on the 23rd. of March 1901 when the Saints went down to Batley by 7 points to 5 in the third round of the Challenge Cup at Knowsley Road.
A further biography has been compiled as a result of further research based around the 1896-97 team:
William Anza Cross became a star for the famous Kendal Hornets team in the 1880s before becoming a Saint. A half-back with grace and skill [probably akin to Lewis Jones in style] he represented Lancashire on no less than 16 occasions, from his debut against Cambridge University on 4th November 1891, to his last against Westmorland at Whalley Range on 29th October 1892.
He was brought up in Kendal, where his father, Thomas, was a Labourer and their address in 1871 reads: 8, Black Hole Yard. Ten years later and by now one of five siblings, 18-year-old Billy is still in the same place, but his job is entered in the census as ‘tobacconist’. At some stage he lived and worked in a cigarette factory in Preston and was tempted to go and play rugby in St. Helens where two of his former Kendal Hornets’ colleagues, Joe Allen and James ‘Pasha’ Graham were playing with great success.
In an article in the St. Helens Lantern, in September 1889, [A Chat with the Captain] Billy explained how he came to be a St. Helens player:
“I was 24 last birthday and was born in Barrow. When I was 15 I joined Kendal Excelsiors and played a season with them. The following year I joined the Kendal Hornets – second team – and being lucky enough to score four tries as a ‘forward’ in the first match of the season I was taken into the first team for the rest of the season; and remained a member of it till I joined St. Helens last year. I played as a ‘forward’ for the first four years but with the team getting short of a half-back I took the place and have played as half-back ever since. Work was scarce in Kendal and I had to go and look for it somewhere else. I found it in Preston and as there was no rugby club there and as Kendal Hornets was too far away, and as I couldn’t give football up, and as two Hornets, old chums of mine, Allen and Graham, had got work in St. Helens and had joined the St. Helens club and spoke very highly of it I decided to join the St. Helens club which I did at the beginning of the last season. I turned out to have got the biggest number of tries at the end of the season; and this year, the club has done me the honour of electing me Captain”.
Cross flourished with the Saints, becoming captain, as he said, but, in some ways, he was probably one of the first examples of an ‘on-field coach’. He was one of the fifteen pioneers who made their debuts for the Saints in their first ever Northern Union game against Rochdale Hornets on the 7th September 1895, playing for six shillings ‘broken time’ allowance and under Rugby Union rules and their scoring system. It was Billy who had the distinction of kicking the first ever goal for Saints as a Northern Union [rugby league] team, when he converted the home side’s second try by Peter Dale. The moustached will o’ the wisp that was Billy was one of the club`s most durable players and a proud leader of the team. Yet, as we shall see later, it appears that he retained his amateur status!
The 1891 Census tells us that he is, at twenty six years of age, a licensee at the Cambridge Vaults [later Duke of Cambridge] in Duke Street, St. Helens. He is married to Eleanor and they had two children: William  and recently-born Agnes. Also residing in the pub is his Saints’ team-mate James ‘Pasha’ Graham.
Billy scored his only try under the auspices of the Northern Union for the Saints in a league match against Huddersfield on 30th November 1895. Overall, in 75 matches for the Saints in the Northern Union, Billy scored one try and kicked 3 goals for an aggregate of nine points.
His greatest disappointment must have been to miss the inaugural Challenge Cup campaign in 1897, when he got hurt early in the New Year against Oldham. The Saints reached the final; Tommy Foulkes took over the captaincy; Richard O’Hara took over the half-back slot and Saints lost by 10 points to 3 to the `Gallant Youths` of Batley on that particular day. He can be seen behind the players on the pre-match team picture. Billy was also absent when the first Saints side to lift a trophy under Northern Union rules beat Runcorn, in extra time, by six points to nil in the South West Lancs and Border Towns Cup at Widnes on April 30th 1900. That season Billy had only managed one outing for the First Team.
In 1901, the public house seems to be a thriving concern. Billy is 37 by this time and winding down his rugby career on the playing side. There are six children now [2 boys 4 girls] plus three ancillary staff. Another addition is James Garrity, listed as ‘adopted’ and also ‘deformed’. James was afflicted by dwarfism and was taken in by the Cross family, becoming a popular character around the pub itself and as a mascot for the Saints’ team.
Broken time? It appears that Mr Cross was a real Corinthian. It was interesting to read this quote in the local press in an article about [winger] Bob Doherty, where it mentions Billy Cross as a fellow North countryman! It appeared in March 1901: "By the way, W. Cross, who is still playing for the Saints has never accepted payment during his fifteen or sixteen years connection with the club". Perhaps being the landlord of the Club Headquarters was seen by him as a fine recompense and he was able to dismiss any payment from the Committee. But this seems to say much about the man himself.
In his last season Billy played nine matches mostly in the forwards. His final match for the Club was against Batley on the 23rd March 1901 when the Saints went down to Batley [The Gallant Youths became a bit of a bogey team] by 7 points to 5 in the third round of the Challenge Cup at Knowsley Road.
By the 1911 Census, Billy Cross, aged 47, has left the Duke of Cambridge and returned to Preston [Brixton Road] with his wife and six children to resume his former employment as a tobacco spinner. The 1939 Census saw Billy living in Pinfold Road, Preston. His death was recorded in Chorley in September 1953 at the Grand age of 89. He remains the most prominent pre-Northern Union footballer to play for the club.
|Season (Official Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|Season (Other Matches)||Tries||Goals||DGoals||Matches|
|7th Sep 1895||W||6||Rochdale Hornets||L||1895~96||H||8||3||1||VIEW|
|14th Sep 1895||W||6||Runcorn||L||1895~96||H||5||0||1||VIEW|
|21st Sep 1895||D||6||Batley||L||1895~96||A||3||3||VIEW|
|28th Sep 1895||L||6||Stockport||L||1895~96||H||0||3||VIEW|
|5th Oct 1895||W||6||Broughton Rangers||L||1895~96||A||5||3||1||VIEW|
|7th Oct 1895||L||6||Bradford||L||1895~96||A||4||15||VIEW|
|2nd Nov 1895||D||6||Leigh||L||1895~96||H||6||6||VIEW|
|9th Nov 1895||L||6||Hunslet||L||1895~96||A||0||12||VIEW|
|16th Nov 1895||D||6||Wigan||L||1895~96||H||0||0||VIEW|
|23rd Nov 1895||W||6||Leeds||L||1895~96||H||9||0||VIEW|
|30th Nov 1895||W||6||Huddersfield||L||1895~96||H||11||3||1||VIEW|
|7th Dec 1895||D||6||Wakefield Trinity||L||1895~96||A||0||0||VIEW|
|14th Dec 1895||D||6||Oldham||L||1895~96||A||0||0||VIEW|
|21st Dec 1895||W||6||Broughton Rangers *||Fr||1895~96||H||13||10||VIEW|
|25th Dec 1895||W||6||Widnes||L||1895~96||H||6||0||VIEW|
|28th Dec 1895||L||6||Halifax||L||1895~96||A||0||3||VIEW|
|1st Jan 1896||L||6||Manningham||L||1895~96||H||3||8||VIEW|
|25th Jan 1896||W||6||Batley||L||1895~96||H||11||5||VIEW|
|1st Feb 1896||L||6||Hull||L||1895~96||A||0||9||VIEW|
|8th Feb 1896||L||6||Hunslet||L||1895~96||H||0||5||VIEW|
|15th Feb 1896||L||6||Manningham||L||1895~96||A||5||9||VIEW|
|22nd Feb 1896||L||6||Runcorn||L||1895~96||A||0||3||VIEW|
|29th Feb 1896||D||6||Warrington||L||1895~96||A||5||5||VIEW|
|21st Mar 1896||L||7||Wigan||L||1895~96||A||0||10||VIEW|
|28th Mar 1896||L||6||Tyldesley||L||1895~96||A||10||11||VIEW|
|3rd Apr 1896||L||6||Widnes||L||1895~96||A||4||16||VIEW|
|18th Apr 1896||L||6||Oldham||L||1895~96||H||3||5||VIEW|
|20th Apr 1896||W||6||Rochdale Hornets||L||1895~96||A||4||0||VIEW|
|25th Apr 1896||L||6||Liversedge||L||1895~96||A||3||13||VIEW|
|30th Apr 1896||W||6||Broughton Rangers||L||1895~96||H||26||0||VIEW|
|5th Sep 1896||W||6||Crompton *||Fr||1896~97||H||23||3||VIEW|
|12th Sep 1896||W||6||Rochdale Hornets||L||1896~97||H||6||5||VIEW|
|26th Sep 1896||W||6||Tyldesley||L||1896~97||H||3||0||VIEW|
|3rd Oct 1896||L||6||Oldham||L||1896~97||A||0||11||VIEW|
|10th Oct 1896||W||6||Morecambe||L||1896~97||A||8||5||VIEW|
|17th Oct 1896||L||6||Rochdale St. Cuthberts *||Fr||1896~97||A||4||6||VIEW|
|24th Oct 1896||W||6||Widnes||L||1896~97||H||14||0||VIEW|
|31st Oct 1896||L||6||Runcorn||L||1896~97||H||3||7||VIEW|
|7th Nov 1896||W||6||Rochdale Hornets||L||1896~97||A||14||11||VIEW|
|14th Nov 1896||D||6||Warrington||L||1896~97||H||0||0||VIEW|
|28th Nov 1896||W||10||Leigh||L||1896~97||H||11||3||VIEW|
|5th Dec 1896||L||14||Swinton||L||1896~97||H||0||3||VIEW|
|12th Dec 1896||L||6||Broughton Rangers||L||1896~97||A||0||3||VIEW|
|19th Dec 1896||L||6||Stockport||L||1896~97||A||6||13||VIEW|
|1st Jan 1897||L||6||Oldham||L||1896~97||H||5||17||VIEW|
|16th Apr 1897||W||6||Halifax *||Fr||1896~97||H||11||3||VIEW|
|4th Sep 1897||L||6||Salford||L||1897~98||A||0||8||VIEW|
|11th Sep 1897||W||4||Leigh||L||1897~98||H||10||5||VIEW|
|18th Sep 1897||W||4||Rochdale Hornets||L||1897~98||A||3||2||VIEW|
|25th Sep 1897||W||4||Tyldesley||L||1897~98||H||11||0||VIEW|
|2nd Oct 1897||W||4||Wigan||L||1897~98||A||17||7||VIEW|
|9th Oct 1897||W||4||Broughton Rangers||L||1897~98||A||8||0||VIEW|
|16th Oct 1897||L||4||Widnes||L||1897~98||H||3||13||VIEW|
|23rd Oct 1897||L||6||Warrington||L||1897~98||H||3||8||VIEW|
|13th Nov 1897||L||3||Swinton||L||1897~98||A||0||13||VIEW|
|8th Jan 1898||L||6||Swinton||L||1897~98||H||5||13||VIEW|
|15th Jan 1898||L||6||Tyldesley||L||1897~98||A||3||8||VIEW|
|22nd Jan 1898||W||6||Wigan||L||1897~98||H||9||8||VIEW|
|29th Jan 1898||W||6||Leigh||L||1897~98||A||3||0||VIEW|
|5th Feb 1898||L||6||Rochdale Hornets||L||1897~98||H||3||6||VIEW|
|12th Feb 1898||L||6||Oldham||L||1897~98||A||0||11||VIEW|
|19th Feb 1898||W||6||Stockport||L||1897~98||H||27||0||VIEW|
|26th Feb 1898||L||6||Batley||CC1||1897~98||A||7||12||VIEW|
|12th Mar 1898||D||6||Salford||L||1897~98||H||14||14||VIEW|
|26th Mar 1898||W||6||Runcorn||L||1897~98||H||11||0||VIEW|
|2nd Apr 1898||L||6||Widnes||L||1897~98||A||6||7||VIEW|
|5th Nov 1898||L||6||Leigh||L||1898~99||H||0||8||VIEW|
|18th Mar 1899||W||7||Whitworth||CC1||1898~99||H||12||3||VIEW|
|17th Feb 1900||L||3||Runcorn||L||1899~00||A||0||9||VIEW|
|1st Dec 1900||L||8||Stockport||L||1900~01||A||0||5||VIEW|
|8th Dec 1900||L||15||Batley*||Fr||1900~01||A||0||5||VIEW|
|15th Dec 1900||L||8||Oldham||L||1900~01||H||5||15||VIEW|
|24th Dec 1900||L||8||Warrington||BTCSF||1900~01||A||5||6||VIEW|
|26th Dec 1900||L||8||Leigh||L||1900~01||H||0||12||VIEW|
|29th Dec 1900||L||8||Widnes||L||1900~01||A||0||8||VIEW|
|5th Jan 1901||L||8||Barrow||L||1900~01||A||5||14||VIEW|
|12th Jan 1901||L||6||Leigh||L||1900~01||A||0||5||VIEW|
|19th Jan 1901||W||8||Swinton||L||1900~01||H||6||3||VIEW|
|23rd Mar 1901||L||8||Batley||CC3||1900~01||H||5||7||VIEW|
|*Unofficial Match. **Non Playing Sub.|