Darlington has not produced many Olympic medal winners over the past century, and one of the few it has did not win a medal for Team GB. This Darlingtonian led Denmark to success in the 1948 Olympics in London, beating a Bishop Auckland legend on the way

WHILE Bob Hardisty, the v a n q u i s h e d Aucklander, is so famous he has a street named after him, Reg Mountford – the Danish Darlingtonian who did the dirty on him – is barely known. This may even be the first telling of his story.

Reg was born in 1908 at 1, Cliffe Terrace, Woodland Road, into a family of sporting tailors. He had no interest in the cloth, and instead became a miner, working somewhere in south Durham – a physical job that built up his muscles.

His footballing talent caught the eye of the Quakers, and he made his debut as a 20- year-old defender at Feethams in a victorious FA Cup replay against Scarborough at the end of 1928.

His proudest Quaker moment came the following February when, turned into a striker, he scored three goals in a 5-3 win over Rochdale.

“Mountford, Quakers’ handyman, does the hattrick,”

said the Evening Despatch’s headline.

The Despatch was The Northern Echo’s sister paper.

The Echo made a sober assessment of the new star: “Mountford created a good impression. He wasn’t faced with strong opposition but he made good use of all his chances and once in possession took a lot of shaking off.

He must realise, however, that it is a very dangerous practice to argue with the referee, even if he disagrees with his decisions.”

Little did the Echo’s writer – Darneton by name – nor the 2,452 crowd realise how much potential Reg had.

Others did. At the end of the 1928-29 season – 14 appearances, three goals – Mountford was transferred to Huddersfield Town, who had had a disappointing season by their standards. They had finished 16th in the First Division, but a few years earlier had become the first club to win the title in three successive seasons. The Terriers were the big time.

Playing as a defender, Reg made 236 appearances for Huddersfield over the next decade, scoring seven times.

Town rarely finished outside the top ten, but Reg’s biggest moment was probably his appearance in the 1938 FA Cup final in front of a Wembley crowd of 93,497, plus a small television audience – this was the first televised Cup final.

But it must have been a terrible heartache for Reg to lose in the last minute of extra time to a Preston North End side which included Bill Shankley.

Then came the war. Reg was selected to play one wartime international for England – a 3-2 defeat to Scotland at St James’ Park – and then he retired.

He made the unusual career step of emigrating to Denmark to try his hand at management, taking control of a Copenhagen side called Boldklubben Frem.

The 1948 “Austerity” Olympics were to be held in London and Reg was asked to manage the Danish team.

They beat Egypt in the first round at Selhurst Park, and created a major upset by overcoming Italy 5-3 in the quarter- finals.

They lost the semi-final at Wembley to Sweden, who were managed by a fellow Brit, George Raynor. This defeat plunged them into the bronze medal play-off against a Great Britain side managed by Matt Busby and captained by Bob Hardisty.

Hardisty was one of the greatest amateurs of his era – a time when amateur football was practically as popular as the professional game. He was born in Chester-le-Street but played for 20 years for Bishop Auckland, one of the greatest amateur sides in the land. He won 15 amateur England caps, three FA Amateur Cups and represented GB at three Olympics.

Yet he never won an Olympic medal. In fact, the closest he came to one was in that bronze play-off at Wembley on August 13, 1948, where he was thwarted by Reg from Darlo.

Hardisty put GB 2-1 up in the 58th minute, but Mountford’s Danes took the match into extra time. They had an unassailable lead when GB’s Harold McIlvenny – who also played for Bishop Auckland in the 1950s – scored the final goal in the 111th minute. It made the final score 5-3 to the Danes who therefore won the bronze medal.

After this success, Reg seems to have stayed in Copenhagen for at least another four years. He later returned to England, and settled near Brighton, where he died in 1994 – Darlington’s Danish Olympian.

THE Mountfords were a long-respected family in the local sporting world, although Reg’s well-known father died a tragic death beneath the wheels of a trolley bus.

The first Mountford to make his name in Darlington was James, who arrived from Bishop Auckland in 1790 and set up as a breeches maker in Tubwell Row.

His descendants were all sporting and all tailors, including his grandson, Charles, who was born in 1864.

Charles had a remarkable sporting pedigree. He co-founded Darlington Harriers in 1890, the athletics club which still runs, and held extremely senior positions with Darlington’s cricket, rugby and football clubs. He was president of the North Yorks and South Durham cricket league, vice-president of Cockerton Cricket Club, disborntrict chairman of the Northern Counties Athletics Association etc etc etc… At his inquest in 1931, the coroner paid tribute to “a very great sportsman”.

That inquest was caused by a sad accident. At about 8.50pm, Charles, 67, a Cockerton councillor for 15 years, caught a trolley-bus in Skinnergate.

Rather than find a seat, he stayed standing in the central doorway.

“He elected to remain on the platform where there would be more air,” said the coroner.

“I expect everyone has done the same thing at one time or another, in preference to going into the crowded compartment.”

The trolley-bus turned into Bondgate – where Charles’ shop was.

“When they had travelled about 50 yards from Skinnergate, the conductor, John Sleightholme, heard someone shout that somebody had fallen off the bus,” said the Despatch.

“He immediately gave the emergency signal of four strokes on the bell, and he got out and found Mr Mountford lying in the gutter. He was bleeding from the head and appeared to be unconscious.”

He never recovered conscious. His son, Reg, rushed up from Huddersfield. “I was informed of the accident about 12 midnight and arrived at Darlington at 5am. I saw my father at the General Hospital and was with him for the last ten minutes.”

Charles left two children: Reg and Muriel. With Reg playing football professionally at Huddersfield, there was no one to take on the tailoring business so, after 140 years, it closed.

Since its foundation, it had moved from Tubwell Row to High Row to 80, Bondgate.With the tailors gone, No 80 was demolished, along with neighbouring buildings, and the Majestic cinema opened on Boxing Day 1932 on the spot. The Majestic is now the Cueball snooker club.

  •  We are indebted to Reg’s relative Gareth Mountford of Nottingham for his help in telling this story. Are there any related Mountfords still in the area? They were once a large family, but Muriel never married and died near Reg in the Brighton area. Reg is believed to have married a Huddersfield lass and had two sons. One of them, Keith, is understood to have died in Denmark last year. If you have a family connection, please get in touch with Echo Memories.

BUT was Reg Mountford the best Olympic footballer to come from Darlington?

Was he even the best from Bondgate? Hopefully, next week, Memories will reveal all . .