Mike Blackmore: Dual-code rugby player

Mike Blackmore was in the forefront of a small but significant influx which gave rugby league in the early Sixties a distinct West Country burr. Bobby Fleet, from Torquay, was a member of the Swinton three-quarter line that took them to two championships, but the club to benefit most was Hull Kingston Rovers, who recruited five West Countrymen in quick succession.

Rovers had already signed the Cornishman Graham Paul when an advert placed by the club's chairman, Ron Chester, in local newspapers drew a response from North Devon. Mike Blackmore had been a precocious talent in Devon rugby. He played for England Under-15s whilst a pupil at Barnstaple Secondary Modern School. By the time he was 16, he was on the wing for Barnstaple first XV and at 17 he won the first of his 42 caps for the county.

He went on to captain the side and played in three County Championship finals and five England trials, but was never selected for a full cap. Paul believes that there was an underlying reason for that: "Like me, Mike was from what you might call a modest background and it always seemed to be someone from the establishment who was selected," he says. "Background counted for a lot in those days and I think that was one of the main reasons he switched."

In 1961, Blackmore duly tried his hand at the other code and was an immediate success. "He was a big, strong wingman, very brave and a good finisher," recalls Colin Hutton, who coached him at Rovers. "He was very popular with the fans, because he took his opportunities so well." Paul calls him "a lovely guy to be with, with a soft North Devon accent that belied the way he played the game".

In all, Blackmore scored 96 tries in 190 appearances for Rovers, as well as kicking six goals for a career points total of exactly 300. The undoubted highlight was the 1964 Challenge Cup final at Wembley, where he played on the left wing against Widnes – Paul was on the right. It was not a good day for the West Country, however, with Widnes winning 13-5 in front of a crowd of over 84,000. With two of their best forwards missing, Rovers were overpowered in the pack and Paul and Blackmore saw little ball on the wings. It nevertheless made Blackmore one of the select band of dual-code players to appear on major occasions at both Twickenham and Wembley.

After retiring, Blackmore returned to Devon, where he worked mainly in the motor trade, and only a few players followed in his footsteps by "going North" to play league.

Dave Hadfield

Michael Blackmore, rugby player: born Barnstaple, Devon 29 September 1937; married (one daughter, and one son deceased); died Barnstaple 1 January 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before