In the year that sees the last deep coal mine close, celebrate 10 miners who became sporting heroes

With the last deep coal mine in Britain closing this year, there is no better time to celebrate those mining heroes who excelled in sport.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th February 2016, 9:56 am
Updated Monday, 15th February 2016, 10:00 am
1980 Harold Larwood and Bill Voce visit Nuncargate 2
1980 Harold Larwood and Bill Voce visit Nuncargate 2

The days may be long gone when you could shout down the shaft to find a fast bowler or goalkeeper, but the stories still live on.

1. Harold Larwood - cricket

Harold Larwood worked down the mines at Annesley Colliery in Nottinghamshire from the age of 14. But it was on the cricket pitch where he really made his mark. Larwood made his first test debut in 1926, in just his second season of professional cricket. He made a name for himself with his controversial bowling style known as ‘bodyline’. It was during the 1932-33 Australian tour, also dubbed ‘The Bodyline Tour’, Larwood caused chaos for the Australian team with his newly developed form of bowling.

2. Bill Voce - cricket

Another Annesley miner, Voce played alongside Larwood in a double act that threw the Australians during the Bodyline Tour. It is fair to say no English cricket side has ever had such bad press as these two received after the tour. Following the bodyline tour Voce stepped back from bowling and took up batting, in which he also excelled.

3. Garin Jenkins -rugby union

Jenkins is regarded as one of the last Welsh miners to play rugby for Wales. He established his reputation as a mighty hooker on the field after being made redundant from the pit in 1988.

4. Bill Foulkes - football

Bill Foulkes began life early down the pit at Lea Green Colliery right until he became a regular starter for Manchester United. The journey from pit to pitch is quite considerable. Foulkes was discovered at a young age, playing for Whiston Boys club at 18. From then he played 688 games for United, placing him fourth behind the likes of Ryan Giggs and the great Bobby Charlton.

5. Gerald Smithson - cricket

Smithson was a Bevin Boy during the war, which saw him working at Askern Main Colliery during the war. He played two tests for England in 1947-48. He received special permission from Commons to leave the mine to tour the West Indies.

6. Jack Charlton - football

Jack only spent a short amount of time down the mines in Ashington with his father before he accepted a trial at Leeds United. After a successful trial he began his footballing career on the Leeds United youth team, then moving on to a first team contract at just the age of 17. He later became part of the historic 1966 World Cup winning team as well as many other titles to his name.

7. Rees Stephens - rugby union

Rees worked down his father’s mine during the war, but soon after went on to make his mark in senior rugby. He made several successful appearances for Wales right up to age of 35 and was part of the Lions Tour in 1950.

8. Arthur Wharton - football and cricket

Arthur’s story starts from pitch to pit. He moved to Staffordshire as an immigrant from Ghana in the 1880s as a teenager. Wharton quickly made a name for himself when he became the first person to run 100 yard sprint in just 10 seconds. That wasn’t the end of his list of sporting achievements. The incredible runner then became a professional footballer after signing for Rotherham United. This made him said to be the world’s first black professional footballer. In 1914 he turned down a cricketing job to become a miner at Yorkshire Main Colliery until his death in 1930.

9. Billy Cleaver - rugby union

Cleaver went from being manager at Celynen North pit to having 14 caps for Wales between 1947 and 1950. He was also part of the British Lions team in 1950.

10. Nat Lofthouse - football

Nat stuck with Bolton Wanderers to the very end. In 1943 he also became a Bevin Boy throughout World War II working at Mosely Common Colliery. Between 1950 and 1958 he was capped for England 33 times scoring a total of 30 goals.