James ‘Jimmy’ Peters features in our Hidden Statistics series, bringing to life the tales of under-the-radar sporting pioneers all through Black History Month
By Erina Cantillon
Final Updated: 18/10/20 7: 31am
In the most recent instalment of our Hidden Figures collection this Black History Month, all of us look into the tragic and turbulent tale of James ‘Jimmy’ Peters, England’s first black rugby player.
In fact , not only was Peters the very first black man to symbolize England at rugby in 1906, he quite remarkably, remained the only real black England player for another 82 years until Chris Oti displayed England in 1988.
Peters was a true sporting master.
But before that, their beginnings were both unusual plus tragic. Born in Salford, Lancashire on August 7 1879, Peters’ Jamaican father George died just before he was born, having been mauled in order to death by lions in a schooling cage as part of circus preparations.
Thereafter, Peters’ mother, called Hannah Gough from Shropshire, grew to become unable to look after him and decided for him to go and sign up for a different circus troupe as a bareback horse rider.
Having broken their arm at the age of 11, Peters has been abandoned by the circus as their hellish beginning to life continued, finding yourself at Fegan’s orphanage in Southwark, and then the Little Wanderers’ Home within Greenwich.
It was on the latter that Peters became immersed in sport, going on to captain several teams. Indeed, Greenwich Admirals Rugby League Club continue to celebrate Peters’ life to this day with an annual problem game.
Into adulthood, Peters trained as a carpenter and as the printer, moving to Bristol. Right here, he featured as an out-half with regard to clubs including Bristol, while furthermore representing the Somerset County group between 1900 and 1903.
In Bristol, Peters experienced ethnic backlash as a committee member on Bristol rugby club resigned within protest due to him being selected to represent the side.
Local newspapers printed he had been “keeping a white man from the side”. The black population associated with England at the time is estimated to get been as low as 50, 000.
By 1902, Peters shifted further south to Plymouth in which he played for Plymouth RUFC as well as the Devon county side. In 1906, he was the star player from 10 as Devon picked up the County Championship, and his performances had been so impressive, calls for him in order to represent England internationally came — and from the press too.
In January 1906 this individual was overlooked for an England Check vs Wales, with the Plymouth Herald activities: “It would appear [Peters’] form so commended itself towards the selectors that only racial meeting prevented his securing due reputation. ”
A month later on, he was again overlooked for any Test vs Ireland, with the Western Times saying: “Peters is sacrificed. Color is the difficulty… Pity for the likelihood of the English success. ”
Finally by March seventeen 1906, appendicitis suffered by Dai Gent saw Peters in for the historic England Test debut towards Scotland – a game in which he or she claimed two try assists. An additional Test against France saw your pet score a try.
In spite of his positive showings, The Yorkshire Post stated: “His selection is in no way popular on racial grounds”.
Later the same year, Peters’ presence became a major theme associated with controversy, when the South African Springboks toured England.
First of all, several Bok players refused to manage him against Devon due to the color of his skin, with the sport almost abandoned.
Because Anne Pallant writes in A Sporting Century, South Africa’s High Office, who had to come down from the endure, at last persuaded the visitors to take those field.
Even nevertheless, there was no joint photograph involving the Springboks and Devon – the custom of South African traveling sides, as they did with Oxford University and Ireland in the exact same year.
Peters was after that not selected for England’s Check against South Africa. As the Yorkshire Article said at the time: “It is quite probable that for sentimental reasons which usually need not be detailed, the selection panel have preferred not to select Peters, especially as the opponents of the Britain team will be South Africans. inch
Peters would just pick up three further England hats in his career between 1907 plus 1908, against Ireland, Scotland plus Wales, scoring one further consider.
In 1910, this individual lost three fingers in a dockyard accident but after a brief pension, continued to play, including featuring within a testimonial for which he was pressured out of rugby union in 1912 after a suspension for accepting transaction from Devon Rugby Club — illegal due to the codes of the sports activity in amateurism.
Frustrated with the politics of the sport, Peters was accepted into rugby little league at the age of 34, returning to the north-west and featuring for Barrow plus St Helens before retirement within 1914.
On 03 26 1954, Peters passed away in the age 74, with evidence recommending the rest of his career was invested working as a carpenter.