Challenge Cup World Club

Joseph Gerrard


Date unknown.
St Helens Local Leagues
07-11-1896 v Rochdale Hornets
1897- Died in Match
7 (0)


This rugged colliery furnaceman played 7 matches for the Saints between November 1896 and April 1897. However, Joseph Gerrard was no ordinary Saint, he was tragically killed whilst playing for the club.

He was a collier by trade and was the only support for a family of four brothers and sisters. He lived in Park Road, Blackbrook. According to newspaper reports at the time, on Saturday 14th August 1897 Joseph was taking part in a pre season friendly match at Knowsley Road between St Helens first team and a scratch 15 consisting of the rest of the clubs players and captained by club captain Billy Cross, with a crowd of over 200 in attendance.

During the course of the game Joseph collapsed untouched. Teammates tried to revive him, and on seeing the seriousness of the situation, captain Billy Cross dispatched a cyclist to fetch a local doctor, Dr Grey. However the situation quickly worsened, and when Dr Grey arrived at the ground, Joseph was pronounced dead. Initially as there was no marks on the body of Joseph and as his teammates said confirmed that there had been no rough play. It was assumed that he had died of a heart attack, and he was taken by horse ambulance back to his home.

The local coroner ordered Dr Grey to conduct a Post Mortem. From the Post Mortem, Dr Grey concluded that Joseph had died of a broken neck. At the subsequent hearing the jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death. At the time of Joseph's death he was 20 years old.

Club secretary Mr Houghton, went on to say that there had already been a meeting of the committee and as Joseph had been the sole support of his family, they had decided to play a benefit match, and Saints and St Helens Recs joined together to play a combined team against Runcorn on the Recs ground for the benefit of the relatives on Thursday 2nd September, 1897.

One note of interest was that Police Constable Lyon had found in the coat of Joseph a copy of a periodical entitled Spare Moment which offered a weekly sum to the relatives of any rugby player meeting his death whilst playing. However the coupon had not been signed by Joseph. The foreman of the jury at the inquest requested that official steps should be taken to secure the benefits from the insurance coupon found in his possession. The Chief Constable of St Helens contacted the proprietors of the periodical in reference to the insurance of £156 for cases of death whilst playing, and they decided to waive any objection to the coupon not having been signed by the deceased and to the absence of proof of the purchase of the copy in question. They agreed to pay the full £156 at the rate of £1 per week for 5 years.

Many thanks to Old Merseytimes for giving us permission to use their excellent research regarding the death of Joeseph Gerrard. The SHS can heartily recommend Old Merseytimes as a superb source of local history. Also, special thanks to Dave Lyon at Redvee, who has done much to bring the really unfortunate plight of this player further into the public domain.

Can you help the SHS by supplying his photograph or any other personal or playing details?

Dave Dooley


Season (Official Matches)TriesGoalsDGoalsMatches
1896~970 0 0 7
TOTALS:0 0 0 7
Season (Other Matches)TriesGoalsDGoalsMatches


7th Nov 1896
13 Rochdale Hornets L 1896~97 A 14 11 VIEW
21st Nov 1896
13 Rochdale St. Cuthberts* Fr 1896~97 A 0 4 VIEW
12th Dec 1896
13 Broughton Rangers L 1896~97 A 0 3 VIEW
19th Dec 1896
13 Stockport L 1896~97 A 6 13 VIEW
25th Dec 1896
9 Halifax* Fr 1896~97 A 0 4 VIEW
26th Dec 1896
13 Widnes L 1896~97 A 0 0 VIEW
6th Feb 1897
13 Wigan L 1896~97 A 0 4 VIEW
22nd Feb 1897
14 Warrington L 1896~97 A 3 7 VIEW
27th Feb 1897
14 Swinton L 1896~97 A 0 10 VIEW
16th Apr 1897
15 Halifax * Fr 1896~97 H 11 3 VIEW
*Unofficial Match. **Non Playing Sub.
WINS : 2 | LOSSES : 7 | DRAWS : 1


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