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The Man of All Talents The Extraordinary Life of Douglas Clark By Steven Bell

Release date: 20th October, 2020
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £11.99
Our Price: £9.99
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Selecting our books with the intention of enjoying them, we can usually tell within the first few pages whether our early anticipatory optimism is justified. Should you pick up a copy of The Man of All Talents, there’s no need to await the passage of a few pages; author Steven Bell’s engaging style will have you hooked after the opening paragraph.

The talented sportsman in question is Douglas Clark whom Bell ‘discovered’ by mistake when conducting research for another book; we should be thankful the unexpected discovery took place.

Born in 1891, in Maryport, Cumberland, Clark, the middle of nine children, left school aged 14 (by no means unusual back then – or for the following 40-odd years) to work in his father’s coal merchant business, delivering sacks of coal. Little wonder that as he grew increasingly strong and muscular, Clark became an enthusiastic wrestler, a sport Bell confirms “held pride of place” among the sports and pastimes pursued by northern folk.

Though young Douglas enjoyed wrestling (there’s a great story of him winning a tournament and being introduced to the Earl of Lonsdale), his first love was rugby.

Usefully, the author presents readers with a brief history outlining rugby’s infamous split which effectively resulted in the creation of two different oval ball codes. Clark remained in the north and joined Huddersfield at the age of 18; it was with the ‘Team of all Talents’ that he would become an undisputed star, going on to win the sport’s every honour, including three Challenge Cups.

He played almost 500 games for Huddersfield (his only club) was selected to play for England and, at the age of just 20, Great Britain. In 1914, Clark represented Great Britain on the now infamous ‘Rorke’s Drift’ tour of Australia; with the Test series level at 1-1, the Aussies brought forward the date of the final Test (by a month) and changed the venue from Melbourne to Sydney but GB still emerged victorious, taking the series 2-1 following a 14-6 victory.

Returning home, Clark was almost immediately called up to serve in the Great War and was badly wounded, receiving the Military Medal for bravery. He could have retired, yet his injuries merely spurred him on and his sporting life continued, almost unabated.

Clark was just 59 when he died in 1951, but as this fascinating story confirms time and again, the book’s title is not unfounded hyperbole but entirely appropriate.


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