October 5 1905

Three hundred mile trip for “Originals”

After a convincing win over Middlesex the 1905/6 All Blacks took the train to Durham for their next match. Billy Stead recorded his impression of the journey and what they saw.

“On the following day we set out for Durham where we were to meet the county team of the same name, and last year’s rugby champions. During this very interesting three-hundred-mile train journey we passed through the “Black Country”. It was a particularly bright, sunny day and plunging every now and then into the misty, clammy blackness of the manufacturing districts seemed to intensify the squalid, unhealthy conditions in which the workers throughout live.

Never do I wish to see again such a sight as Sheffield presented to us. It seemed, as seen by us from the railway, one vast sea of furnaces and chimney stacks, with the public buildings etc spoiled and robbed of all beauty by soot and smut. The country, like our NZ dredging grounds, looks as if it had suffered by some vast upheaval of nature. We had our hour at the famous old city of York, once the capital town of the country. Entering Durham you go right over the city and squatting, as it does on the banks of the beautiful River Wear, presents a rather pretty view. Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, both started in the time of the Normans, are the only historical spots worth visiting. The population, about 15,000, relies solely on the vast coal deposits found in the vicinity.

Rain falling right throughout the match considerably handicapped us playing our real game, though we won comfortably by 16 to 3, they being the first team to cross our line. The happy man to accomplish (this] stands a good chance of being forever immortalised. After the match, which, by the way, was played on the worst ground we have yet played on and one without any stand conveniences etc, we were entertained by the Lord Sheriff of the county, the Mayor, and citizens of Durham, in their town hall, and we left Durham feeling that they could not have possibly done more for us.”


Billy Stead.

From “Billy’s Trip Home” published 2005 by NZ Sports Hall of Fame p. 30.