Higher education postcard: University of Leeds lacrosse

This week’s card from Hugh Jones’s postbag brings smiling student sportsmen – and some of their life stories

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

This is one of my favourite higher education postcards (although if pushed I will confess to having about 100 favourite cards…).

Photos of people turned into postcards were popular, but they were often staged and formal: you don’t often see ones which convey happiness quite as much as this one. It’s the University of Leeds lacrosse team, 1923–24 – and I know this because that’s what the back of the card says.

Wonderfully, it’s got the team names on it:

On his own at the back: Pickard (I)

Standing row, left to right: Nicholls, Milner, Dean, Carr Snr, “Dickie”, Light, Self, McMillan

On chairs, left to right: Sugden, Chalmers, Carr, Cork, Elam

Sat on the floor: Pickard II, Yates

(I think the 4/2/23, in pencil top left, is from the seller, and refers to 2023, not 1923.)

It is possible to try to find out a little more, since the university makes its old calendars available via its digital archive. There are also a couple of newspaper articles reporting on lacrosse matches, which I’ve shown below – they give us some initials to go with the surnames.

(Published calendars have gone out of fashion, but if you’re not familiar, think of it as a yearbook containing regulations, courses and programme descriptions, lists of graduates, staff, statistics and so on, with adverts. Published annually and – certainly at LSE in the 1980s – given to you at enrolment to help you navigate your study. A book 3-4cm thick, in small dense type. Purple covers. Softbound. No, really – that was induction.)

Two Pickards graduated from Leeds in 1924: John Wilfred Pickard (medicine) and Henry Maurice Hattersley Pickard (Bachelor of Commerce).

Dr Pickard the medic has had a fair bit written about him from a “local character” perspective: there’s some very good stories to be read here. It seems he died in 1986, having practised medicine in Barnoldswick, which is just on the Lancashire side between Skipton and Clitheroe.

Henry Pickard appears to have had a career in business: Companies House shows him having been a director from 1991 to 2000 of the Leeds and Bradford Boiler Company, by when he must have been a very old man.

Edward Sidney Cromwell Nicholls graduated with a BSc in 1927. Judging by the newspaper reports of Nicholls, ESC playing for Leeds – I write a bit about this below – I think Edward might be our man. The only other thing I can find about him is his promotion, listed in the London Gazette of 8 October 1943, from corporal to second lieutenant, Royal Engineers. He seems to have survived the war.

Eric Henry Milner graduated as a doctor – MB, ChB – in 1925.

Dean B, (again, judging by the February 1925 newspaper team listing) seems likely to be Brien Dean, graduated BSc in 1927. If the spelling of his forename in the calendar is accurate, I can find no other trace.

George Hubert Carr, graduated in science in 1923; William Harrison Carr graduated in medicine in 1925. Were these Carr senior, and Carr (seated)? There’s mention of a Dr Harrison Carr at Hadleigh, Essex in the 1930s, but nothing specific to go on.

Of Light, AL, and Self I can find no record in the University’s calendars. Were they ringers? Students from (heaven forbid) Sheffield or Manchester? If anybody knows, it would be good to find out!

Robert McMillan graduated with a BSc in 1925.

John Anthoney Sugden, BSc in Chemistry, 1st class, 1924, MSc 1925.

W Chalmers was treasurer of the medical society 1925-26, and graduated in medicine in 1927. It seems that he captained the university’s lacrosse team for their semi-final against the University of Manchester in November 1926, but I can find no more of him than that.

I found nothing of Cork. Another ringer? Or have I misread his name? There’s a Leonard Percy Cook who graduated BA in 1926 – is he maybe our lacrosse player?

John Frederick Elam graduated with a First in History in 1924 and a Diploma in Education in 1925. In 1969 a man of the same name was awarded an OBE, following retirement as headmaster at Colchester Grammar School: the dates work for this to be the same person. He was headteacher from 1948 to 1968, and was known as Jack. Previously he had been headmaster of Monoux School, Walthamstow. The honour was granted in the Queen’s Birthday honours of June 1969. The same list, and the same honour – OBE – as Bobby Charlton and Basil d’Oliveira.

What else do we know about Mr Elam? He corresponded with the Good Morning publication in 1945, on the topic of John Stringfellow, the 19th century English aircraft pioneer. In 1848 Stringfellow achieved powered (but unmanned) flight with a steam-powered aircraft; it seems Jack Elam was something of an expert. He also nurtured sporting talent: Wisden’s write-up of Doug Insole in 1956, when he was one of their cricketers of the year, paid tribute to the “wholehearted encouragement of his headmaster, J F Elam.”

Donald Priestly Yates graduated with a BSc in 1923; and a Donald Yates graduated in medicine in 1924. I’d speculate that these might be the same person, with Dr Yates gaining an intercalated BSc (that is, a science degree completed in a year following the pre-clinical element of a five-year medicine degree) and then graduating in medicine. But speculation is all I can do: nothing online gives any further clue.

And finally, “Dickie”. The university’s calendars do not help here: there are no men with surname Richards graduating at the right time; and too many men called Richard to narrow the search.

Here’s the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of Thursday 5 February 1925, reporting on the Leeds University lacrosse team’s defeat at Cambridge. This has some overlap with the names on the card, and gives us initials – AL Light, B Dean, JF Elam, R McMillan, EH Milner, ESC Nicholls, W Chalmers and JH Sugden. Useful for approximating the dates of graduation; and clearly these were the more junior students in the photo on the card.

And here’s the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of Thursday 25 November 1926. We don’t get initials this time, but there’s still some overlap of names – Light, Dean, McMillan, Nicholls, Chalmers, Sugden – and we know that Chalmers was captain.

Aso there we have it – a lovely, giggly card, and some background on the students. If you know more about any of them, please do let me know.

2 responses to “Higher education postcard: University of Leeds lacrosse

  1. Might “Self” not be the person who sent the postcard, rather than someone whose surname was Self?

    1. I hadn’t thought of that, Chris – thanks. If the card was posted, it was in an envelope, so we’ve no way of knowing who sent it – maybe one of the other names in the press reports!

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