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
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: Production Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Production Technician is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer - Hosted Telecommunications

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Ne...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor / Partner - Cheltenham

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: A very rare high level opportunity with a fir...

Recruitment Genius: IT Manager

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor of electronics...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower