Glory days of rugby recalled in Yorkshire player’s rare hoard

Auctioneer Gary Don with Lynn Eccles, whose uncle, Les White, left a hoard of rugby league memorabilia. ''Picture James Hardisty.
Auctioneer Gary Don with Lynn Eccles, whose uncle, Les White, left a hoard of rugby league memorabilia. ''Picture James Hardisty.

FIFTY YEARS ago when Lynn Eccles was a girl she often marvelled at her famous uncle’s cabinet full of rugby league trophies.

Leslie ‘Les’ White had been part of the famous ‘Indomitable’ Great Britain team which toured Australia in 1946 and Mr White had also played for Wigan, Halifax, York and Yorkshire.

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

Half a century after those glory days Mrs Eccles has now discovered that Uncle Les was also a serious collector of memorabilia, particularly items which related to games in which he had played.

A treasure trove of international caps, medals, a rugby blazer, photos, programmes and newspaper cuttings owned by Mr White’s son Michael, 69, are to be auctioned in Leeds on May 19.

Mrs Eccles, 64, of Wakefield, was tearful when she saw what was in the collection.

“I was quite choked when I saw the blazer. He was my uncle and I’m proud of him.

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

“He was a lovely and generous man. In the 1950s, when I was little, we used to visit his house in York where he had a cabinet full of trophies, medals and caps.

“I was always fascinated by his cabinet. We used to take out the caps and trophies and look at them. I used to visit him until I was about 12.

“He did give a lot of things away and then he split from his wife and moved to Scunthorpe.”

Mr White, who played prop and second row, died in a York nursing home in 1993, aged 73.

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

Sporting memorabilia belonging to former rugby player Les White

His family are hoping the memorabilia will eventually go on public display.

Leeds auctioneer Gary Don said: “We have dealt with a lot of sporting items but I have never seen as good a collection come up for sale. This is a rare opportunity to buy a piece of rugby league history.”

The collection will be sold in several lots, with no reserve.

The lots will include a rugby shirt he once wore and a black and white Great Britain team photograph where Mr White is pictured alongside other greats including Bradford Northern’s Trevor Foster.

Mrs Eccles recalled that his playing career was ended by a knee injury when he was 33.

She and Mr White’s son are keen that the personal effects go to someone who will enjoy them and perhaps display them publicly.

“Michael is coming up to 70 and has no one to pass them on to,” she said. “Out of respect to Les, Michael would like them to go to somebody who appreciates these items. We will be sad to see them go but want them to go to a good home.”

Mr Don is expecting buyers across Yorkshire and in Australia to be very interested in buying up the collection.

The pile of rugby league programmes which Mr White collected includes many from games played against smaller Australian clubs during the post-war tour to Australia and New Zealand.

Among the huge pile is a programme of the England versus New Zealand Maoris game which was played in 1946.

The collection will be sold in several lots.

Mr Don says the value of the whole collection can only be guessed at.

“It’s worth as much as a fan will pay for it. The lots will go into the auction without a reserve so it’s all going to be sold. The family want it to be preserved.”

For further information about the sale go to www.garydon.co.uk

* THE Great Britain side which toured Australia and New Zealand in 1946 took its nickname from HMS Indomitable, the aircraft carrier that took them there.

They were kept fit aboard ship by Trevor Foster of Bradford Northern who had been a physical training instructor in the Army.

The deck was used for sprints, touch rugby and hockey.

In one game, the rugby ball went overboard. Winger Eric Batten dived in to fetch it, only to be ticked off by the captain as the water was infested with sharks.

Eddie Waring, who later went to the BBC, was among the journalists on board. The team was unbeaten on the tour.