The Original Reds

Chapter 14 – The McLuckie Connection

In 1887 a young Scots lad made his debut, at full-back, for Workington Reds. In December 2007, some one hundred and twenty years later, another young lad joined Workington Reds, initially on loan from Morecambe, and he was also a full-back.

The connection? They were both called McLuckie, and together they forge a unique direct link between the pioneers of the original club and the club we know today. The young Scot was called Alex, and Phil is his great, great, grandson.

The story is a fascinating one, and includes not only football, but also long sea journeys, gold mines, golf, bowls, tragedy, and a lifetime of sheer hard work.

Alexander Morrison McLuckie was born on the 6th June 1865, in Abbey, a parish in Renfrewshire named after the nearby Paisley Abbey. He was the second child born to Colin and Jane McLuckie.

The census of April 1871 shows that the family were living in Kirknewton and East Calder, Midlothian. Six-year old Alex now had two younger brothers, John and Thomas, and a one-month old sister, Agnes, as well as his older brother, Colin junior. His father’s occupation was shown as a ‘shale miner’.

Ten years later, the April 1881 census showed that older brother Colin had moved out, but there had been an addition to the family, another son, David, who at that time was eight. Alex, now fifteen (although the census says sixteen), had left school, and, following in his father’s footsteps, was also listed as a ‘shale miner’.

It isn’t known exactly when, but sometime between 1881 and 1887 Alex, and his younger brother Thomas, left the family home and moved to Workington in search of work. They did find employment as, on the 1891 census, they are both shown as being Engine Fitters. They are also living together, as lodgers, in a house on Milburn Street, the home of an Elizabeth Martin.

By this time Alex was making a name for himself as a footballer with the local club. The first mention of Alex McLuckie as a Workington player is in a report of a County Cup tie at Carlisle, which took place on the 10th December 1887. He retained his place at full-back for the next round, against Millom, and the semi-final, against Distington, before appearing in the final, against Keswick. With classic understatement, the press described Alex’s performance in the 4-1 victory as ‘noticeable’!!

Toward the end of the season Alex played in a prestigious friendly for the Reds against Preston North End, one of the best clubs in the country at that time, and by then had caught the eye of the county selectors. Although, not having been born in Cumberland, Alex wasn’t eligible for selection for the County in games against other associations, he was eligible to play for the county against club sides. So, after appearing in a Probables v Possibles trial match, he was selected to play for the County FA in one of two charity matches against Blackburn Rovers.

The following season Alex McLuckie was a virtual ever-present in the Workington side, which went on to retain the County Cup by beating Distington 4-1 in the final at Maryport.

The 1889/90 season was another successful one, both for the club and for Alex. Once again he missed very few games, and was an ever-present in a run that brought them another County Cup Final victory, this time against Carlisle.

The next season, 1890/91, was probably the greatest in Alex’s career. Firstly, he was given the honour of taking over from Workington legend Arthur Guirdham as club captain. He then led the side to yet another County Cup triumph, when they beat Frizington Rovers 3-1 at Moss Bay’s ground, and he was shown as being ever-present in every Reds’ line-up recorded throughout the season. Never a prolific scorer, he did manage to get one (the only Alex McLuckie goal recorded for the Reds!) in a 3-2 friendly win at Maryport. I’d like to think it was either a twenty-five yard screamer, or a towering header from a corner, but sadly the only description of this momentous moment is: ‘Before half-time M’Clucky scored another goal for the visitors’. They couldn’t even spell his name right!

In October the County Association selected Alex as the captain of the ‘Probables’ team in a trial match to select the side to play Northumberland. They had clearly forgotten their own rules as, a short time later, they issued a statement saying – “due to disqualification of players by reason of short residence or otherwise……”, and Alex was promptly dropped from the trial!

Although it had been a momentous season, Alex’s greatest moment was to come on the 21st July 1891.

Still lodging with his brother at Mrs Martin’s in Milburn Street, and still working as an engine fitter, on that day Alex married schoolmistress Mary Sandelands in Mary’s local church, St Paul’s, in Seaton.

Alex once again took his place in the Workington team for the start of the 1891/92 season, and played regularly in the early matches. However, an unknown, but clearly serious, injury saw him miss the second half of the season, including the whole of the County Cup campaign.

Alex did not play at all for Workington during the following season, possibly for work reasons, but more likely related to ongoing injury problems.

He returned to the team for the 1893/94 season, and match reports regularly highlighted his high-level of performance. He played his part in Workington retaining the fledgling Association League, and played in all of the matches in Reds’, ultimately unsuccessful, County Cup campaign. 

The last recorded appearance of Alex McLuckie in a Workington team was for the County Cup match against Carlisle City, at Keswick, on the 3rd March 1894. There is no evidence that Alex went on to play for any other club, and it is believed that he simply retired from the game at the age of twenty-nine.

It is possible, but by no means certain, that in 1894 Alex was running an athletic outfitters and tobacconists in Wilson Street in the town. Certainly the proprietor was shown as an Alexander McLuckie. If true, this new venture could explain his retirement from playing.

Despite no longer playing for the club, Alex retained an interest in the fortunes of Workington, and in July 1900 he was elected as a club vice-president.

On the 4th September 1900, Alex’s wife, Mary, gave birth to their only child, a son who they named Alexander Sandelands McLuckie.

The census of 31st March 1901 showed that Mary McLuckie and her young son were living in Derwent Cottage, Barepot. However, on the day of the census, Alex was in Scotland, no doubt visiting his family.  Alex’s father was now living in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, and he was shown as ‘formerly a miner hewer’. If Alex had ventured into retail it was short lived, as he was now shown as a Steelworks Manager working at Derwent Rolling Mills and Tinplate Works, Workington.

Alex’s visit to see his family in Scotland may have been to say goodbye, as his life was about to go off in a totally different direction.

In either late 1902 or early 1903, Alex left Cumberland and sailed to South Africa. At the time the government of South Africa had advertised in this country for skilled workers to help re-build the economy following the disruption caused by the Boer Wars, and Alex fitted the bill.

In August 1903 Alex was joined in South Africa by his wife and young son, and in early 1904 Alex’s younger brother, Thomas, with whom he had moved from Scotland and shared lodgings in Milburn Street, also sailed to join them.

Alex and his family were to remain in South Africa for the next seventeen years. In 1907 Alex and Thomas both obtained their South African Government’s Mechanical Engineers Certificate, and in June 1910 Alex was working as an engineer at the Crown Gold Mines in Johannesburg.

In March 1920 Alex, Mary and their son, Alex junior, returned to England, and took up residence in Curzon Street, Maryport. In 1924 their son, Alexander Sandelands McLuckie, returned to South Africa where he married Antoinette Jane Mitchell.

In May 1927 young Alex, now twenty-seven, returned to England with his wife, and went to live with his parents in Curzon Street. In October that year the couple had their first child, Colin, and they went on to have two more sons, Clarence, born in 1930, and a third generation Alexander, born in 1932.

The register of September 1939, taken shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, showed that all of the family were still living in Curzon Street, Maryport. Alex senior, now seventy-four, was shown as a retired engineer, whilst Alex junior, thirty-nine, was shown as an Insurance Agent.

On the 18th November 1940, Alexander Morrison McLuckie sadly passed away, at home, following a short illness. He had certainly lived a full life. A sportsman to the end, he had, until twelve months before his death, been an active member, alongside his wife, of the Maryport Bowls Club, as well as regularly playing golf on the Maryport Bank End Links. At his funeral he was described as being ‘of a quiet and sociable disposition, and esteemed by all classes within the town’. He and Mary had been married for forty-nine years.

In October 1941 Mary suffered a heart attack, and became confined to bed. She died on the 1st May 1942, and was buried, alongside her husband, in Maryport cemetery.

Alex Sandelands McLuckie’s middle son, Clarence, subsequently married, and had a son named Morris.

By the 1960’s Alexander Sandelands McLuckie and his wife, Antoinette, were living in Causeway Road, Seaton, and Alex had inherited his father’s passion for bowls. Tragically Antoinette passed away suddenly in March 1967, aged just fifty-eight.

Alexander Sandelands McLuckie died in October 1979, and is buried alongside his wife, Antoinette, in St Peter’s Churchyard, Camerton.

Morris McLuckie’s son is the Phil McLuckie who made his debut for Workington AFC, at Leigh RMI, in a ‘Blue Square North’ match, on Boxing Day 2007.  His Great, Great, Grandfather would have been proud.

Philip under the photo of his Great Great Grandfather

Alexander Morrison McLuckie
Workington AFC – 1887 to 1894
Club Captain – 1890/91

Appearances: (based on research and available records)
FA Cup – 3
County Cup – 19
Association League – 16
Friendlies – 65
Total – 103 (approx.)

County Cup Winners – 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891
County Cup Finalists – 1894
Association League Winners – 1890/91, 1891/92, 1893/94
Cumberland County v Blackburn Rovers – May 1888.

Phil McLuckie
Workington AFC – 2007 to 2018

League – 244 (58 sub) 28 goals
Play-Offs – 3
FA Cup – 16 (5 sub) 1 goal
FA Trophy – 23 (5 sub) 7 goals
League Cup – 6 (1 sub)
County Cup – 7 (2 sub) 1 goal
Total – 299 (71 subs), 37 goals

Phil captained the side on two occasions 

John Norman, June 2020
With grateful thanks to Morris McLuckie for his valuable assistance.

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