MEMORIES 458 asked about the Darlington & District Working Men’s Games League because John Masson had discovered this plaque which had once been attached to a trophy.

It commemorated the success of Rise Carr WMC in 1983 of winning all the games leagues – darts, doms, whist, 5s & 3s singles and doubles, cribbage and snooker – for only the third time since the Games League was formed in 1929.

“When that trophy was presented there were 14 Club and Institute Union clubs in the league, but now there are only five - Albert Hill, Darlington, East End, Harrowgate and Hopetown – although some clubs have more than one team participating,” say Geoff Austin, the league secretary, and his assistant, Alan Heseltine.

“The games are still played on a home and away basis on a Thursday night. Thursday was the chosen night because back in 1929 most working people were paid on Thursday, in cash in little brown envelopes, a practice that continued up until the 1980s.

“Your plaque states that Rise Carr club was the third club to achieve the “Grand Slam”. The Darlington club (often referred to as Northgate Club) were the first to achieve this feat a couple of years earlier, but we cannot remember the second club to do it.”

It is amazing to think that at the peak of clubdom in 1960, there were 11 workies in Darlington with 20,000 members out of a population of about 80,000 – that must mean that half of the male population were members.

When the games league was formed in 1929, there was the Darlington club in Northgate which had been formed in 1901, the Central in Arden Street formed in 1907, Cockerton of 1911, Haughton-le-Skerne of 1913, East End in St John’s Place which was formed in 1913, the Associated Society of Engineers which was formed in Northgate in 1919, plus the Croft WMC beside the River Tees in Hurworth Place which also dates from 1919.

The Croft seems to have been formed largely because after the First World War there was a dire shortage of beer in the villages, and the labouring men of the Hurworth area thought that by clubbing together they could prevent the towns from drinking every last drop.

The Northern Echo:

The Rise Carr club was formed in 1917 in a reading room attached to the rolling mills which dominated the area. It then moved to the Stag Hotel in Spring Street before in 1929 moving to large purpose-built premises in Eldon Street.

The club closed in 2008 when there were plans to convert the building into 20 apartments, but we don’t think anything has come of them.