Title - Joe Eddleston

With thanks to Steve Williams for introducing me to Joe's story

Joseph (Joe) Eddleston was born on 29th December 1896 at Oswaldtwistle, one of around fourteen children born to Richard and Mary (née Buller) between 1880 and 1899. In 1911, 14-year-old Joe was working as a bleach croft labourer while living at 21 Hill Street, Oswaldtwistle with three older brothers, William Henry (26) - married with two young children - James (18) and Richard (16). By the time recruitment began on Saturday 6th February 1915 for an Accrington & Burnley Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, both Richard and Joe were employed at Accrington's Howard and Bullough's works. Recruitment closed for Sunday, but when it re-opened on Monday, Joe and Richard were quick to sign up. Officially designated as the 158th (Accrington and Burnley) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, the brigade was known locally simply as the Howitzers.

Right: Joe Eddleston. Photograph reproduced from Accrington Stanley: A Complete Record 1894-1962 by Mike Jackman & Garth Dykes (Breedon, 1991) with kind permission from Mike Jackman.

Joe Eddleston

Joe's army service record shows him to have been a foundry labourer on enlistment, 5 feet 4¼ inches tall, weighing 124 pounds and with a fully-expanded chest measurement of 35½ inches; being under-age at eighteen, Joe had falsely declared his age to be nineteen years and one month.

The two brothers were talented footballers and both played regularly for St. Mary's Catholic School, Oswaldtwistle in the Oswaldtwistle and District Sunday School League. While the Howitzers were training in their home towns, St. Mary's won the League Cup on 10th April, beating St. Andrew's, Accrington by two goals to one, Richard scoring the second goal; although Joe, St. Mary's "speedy and clever outside-right", failed to score, he hit two fine shots, both of which just passed over the bar.1

Joe travelled to France as a driver with the Howitzers' A Battery, disembarking at Havre in the morning of 1st February 1916. The brigade saw continuous action in the Battle of the Somme from 20th July until 11th August. As part of a general reorganisation, the Howitzers were sadly soon to be disbanded, A Battery leaving to become C Battery of 48th Army Field Artillery Brigade on 8th January 1917. The battery took part in the 1917 Battle of Arras and the latter stages of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). In 1918, it was heavily engaged on the Somme front over 27th and 28th March (the German Michael Offensive) and in the Battle of the Lys (Hazebrouck) in April. It was during the latter action that Joe was wounded by a gas shell at Maroc, west of Loos, on 11th April. On recovering, Joe was posted to 246th (2nd West Riding) Brigade, joining the brigade's B Battery on 25th May. He was promoted to the rank of bombardier on 28th August, and happily got through to the end of the war without suffering further injury.

Joe was demobilised on 31st March 1919. In the following year, he married 22-year-old Ellen Green at Blackburn Register Office; two children followed, Joseph (born 1920) and Mary (born 1923). Richard also survived the war, though he was discharged in July 1919 with a partial disability from gunshot wounds in his left leg.

Blackburn Rovers FC, 1919-20

Above: Blackburn Rovers FC, 1919-20. Joe Eddleston is seated at the far left. Photograph courtesy of Steve Williams.

Unlike Richard, Joe was able to resume his football career and in May 1919 turned professional, joining Blackburn Rovers, then playing in the English First Division. Making only seven appearances in the 1919-20 season, Joe scored three goals for Rovers. In April 1921, Joe moved to Nelson FC shortly before the club bacame a founder member of the Third Division North, and was a member of the team that famously beat Real Madrid by four goals to two on 15th May 1923 during the club's tour of Spain.2 While at Nelson, Joe became regarded as one of the finest centre forwards in the North of England3, and scored twenty-five goals in the 1922-3 season, helping the club to win the league championship and promotion to the Second Division. Joe scored 97 goals in 183 appearances for Nelson before leaving to join Swindon Town in August 1926. On leaving Swindon after six years in which he had scored 66 goals in 202 appearances, Joe had "earned the reputation of being one of the biggest-hearted players, and one of the best who has ever worn the club's colours...a great trier and as gradely a lad off the field as on."4 After being placed on Swindon Town's free transfer list at the end of the 1931-2 season, Joe - then aged 35 - signed for Accrington Stanley to play one final season as a professional in which he scored 12 goals in 40 appearances.

Nelson FC, 1922-3

Above: Nelson FC, 1922-3. Joe Eddleston is seated fourth from left. Photograph courtesy of Shaun Lloyd (Nelson FC).

After retiring from professional football, Joe became a licensed victualler and for many years he and Ellen ran the Station Hotel in Cherry Tree, Blackburn, the pub becoming a popular stop with Nelson football coaches returning from away matches.5 Ellen died aged 58 on 4th August 1956; Joe passed away at Queens Park Hospital, Blackburn on 24th March 1959 aged 62. Ellen and Joe lie buried together in Pleasington Priory cemetery.


  1. Haslingden Gazette, 17th April 1915, page 3. [back]
  2. Burnley News, 5th May 1923, page 13 and 26th May 1923, page 10. [back]
  3. North Wilts Herald, 8th July 1932, page 6. [back]
  4. Ibid. [back]
  5. Nelson Leader, 10th August 1956, page 5. [back]

© Andrew C Jackson 2022

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