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From the Bowls Board (3/3)

Our final First World War veteran to appear on the Bowls board is perhaps one of the finest amateur sportsmen Sunderland has seen. Read on!

SCFC/FWW /149 PICKERSGILL CHAS - 2nd LIEUT. 7th BATT DURHAM L I   He was one of Sunderland’s greatest all-round sportsmen and a member of the shipbuilding family later famous as Austin-Pickersgill. He was a cousin of Frank Pickersgill (148). He was born in 1887 and attended Dean Close School in Cheltenham. He first appeared for the 1st XV as a 17 year old in the 1904/5 season and captained the side both before and after the war. He was still playing rugby for the 3rd XV in his 50s (not so usual then!) He played across the backs and featured for Durham in a county championship final before becoming post-war president of the county. This is what the club history of the 1960s said about him;

‘He played for Durham County at cricket, rugby football and lawn tennis; amateur football for Sunderland AFC and was a member of the Sunderland Bowling Club rinks which in 1932 and 1935 won the All England Bowls’ Championship’.


Charles or Charlie was in his late 20s when war was declared. His address before the war was 4, North Elms, Sunderland and he later lived at 8, Valebrooke Avenue. Both addresses are close to the Ashbrooke ground. During the war he served as 2nd lieutenant then captain in the 7th DLI. His service number was 7/2589 - within a couple of both John Gillies and John Hopper with whom he played rugby in the backs.  He entered the front on 19th April 1915 and was wounded during the following month. According to eyewitnesses he led his platoon bravely although abandoned in his trench and outflanked. He qualified for the three service medals. He died in North West Durham in 1957. In the season before the war he was part of the successful Durham County rugby side that won the national championship. The club has a wonderful cartoon of him dressed up to play the various sports and there is a large photograph of him as part of one of the nationally successful bowls’ sides. This resides currently in the bowls’ pavilion.

Charlie is on the left. If anyone would like a free online copy of the book about Ashbrooke Sports Club ( formerly Sunderland Cricket and Football Club) and the First World War please get in touch.

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