First Black Rugby League Player in the UK

Cec Thompson was born on 12 July 1926 in County Durham. He became the first black rugby league player in the UK.

He was of a white mother and a Trinidadian father His father died before he was born and he grew up in several orphanages. His mother was left to bring up four children on her own. He left school at 14 years old. He worked in several jobs and was constantly bullied because he was black.

When he discovered rugby he began to feel belonging to a group of people. It wasn’t long after he joined a works tournament and a scout from Hunslet club offered him a contract. The contract was for £250. He then became the first black player to play for Great Britain in 1951. The test match series was against New Zealand.

Thompson was absolutely dedicated, worked hard and full of enthusiasm. His love of rugby rewarded him with being signed to Workington Town and he played there till 1960. Unfortunately, he had to retire because of a knee injury. In the time of his career he played 294 games and scored 64 tries. He played second row and wing.

After that he took an honours degree in economics and a diploma in education at Leeds University. When he achieved this, he went to teach economics. He retired in 1991.

In his autobiography ‘Born On The Wrong Side’, he wrote: ‘In those days there were very few black people away from the sea ports. Leeds is about as far from the seas as you can get and I felt as if I had walked out of a freak show.’ What must that man have gone through? Only because he was black. Yet, it wasn’t his fault. Nobody gets asked how they want to be born and where. Yet, people are still being racists purely somebody is black or different nationality. They are using it because they know they win. There is nothing the abused person can fight back with. When will mankind learn. Enough blood was shed and hurt been done.

Theodore Cecil Thompson died on 19 July, 2011 at the age of 85. He suffered for a long time with Parkinson’s disease and the brain condition Lewy Body Dementia.

He is sadly missed by his wife Anne, son Mark and grandson Otto.