Thomas Clulee 

Thomas Clulee was born in Oldswinford, Worcestershire around 1857 and continued to live there until his marriage in 1883. The first reference to his footballing activities was possibly in The Worcestershire Chronicle on 4th November 1876 when there was a report of the previous Saturday’s game between Stourbridge and Queen’s College, Birmingham. The home side’s forwards included a player simply listed as ‘Clulee’, which may have been either Thomas or his brother, Harry, both of whom played for Stourbridge. When Stourbridge played Moseley, at Oxford Road, on 19th October 1878, Thomas Clulee played as a forward and captained the visiting side, which lost by one try and three touchdowns[1] to nil. Also in the Stourbridge forwards was another future Moseley player, A.J. Otter, while one of the Moseley forwards was E.B. Holmes who, along with Clulee, would later be prominent in amateur athletics administration.

Football was not Thomas’s only sporting activity, however, because he also competed in amateur athletic meetings and had many successes. During the summer of 1879 he won the 120-yard hurdle handicap  race at the Birmingham Cricket and Football Club sports, at the Aston Lower Grounds where Villa Park now stands. He also won the 220-yard race at the Stourbridge Cricket and Football Club athletic sports, at  Amblecote, together with the 120-yard hurdle handicap race. His brother Harry triumphed in the 120-yard members’ handicap race and also among the prizes was their football teammate Otter. Later in the same summer Thomas Clulee won both the 120-yard flat race and the 200-yard handicap hurdle race at the St. Clement’s Working Men’s Cricket and Football Club’s Athletic Sports, at Henwick, Worcestershire. At the 1879 Redditch and District Bicycle Club meeting he won both the 100-yard handicap race and the 120-yard hurdle handicap. In the latter event Clulee actually dead-heated with E.W. Edwards, of Birmingham Athletic Club, but Edwards declined to run again and Clulee was therefore awarded the race.

After only a few weeks break Thomas Clulee once more took to the football field and, on 18th October 1879, represented the Stourbridge club, at halfback, in the game with Moseley, at Oxford Road. The Stourbridge team also included both Thomas’s brother Harry and A.J. Otter among the forwards. Moseley won this match by one try and four touchdowns to nil but despite playing on the losing side Thomas Clulee’s play seems to have impressed the home club because a fortnight later, on 1st November, he played for Moseley as a three quarter in a side which was heavily defeated by Gloucester, at the Spa, Gloucester by one try and five or six touchdowns to one touchdown.

Thomas’s club affiliation at this time is a little confusing, having played for Moseley in November 1879, he competed as a member at the club’s annual athletic sports, on 1st May 1880, but was also listed, in newspaper reports, as a member of Moseley Harriers which was an athletics club. During 1880 while competing at other athletic sports, the newspapers listed him as a member of Stourbridge Football Club or simply as from Stourbridge. It may be that he was a member of both clubs or that the newspapers were unaware of his affiliation with Moseley Football Club. He certainly continued to play for Moseley during the 1880/81 season.

Thomas Clulee started the 1880 athletics season at the Coleshill Athletic Sports where he dead-heated in the 100-yard handicap open with L. Brun, of Moseley Harriers athletic club, who agreed to a run-off, which Clulee won. He then followed this success with victory in the 200-yard hurdle handicap race. At the Burton Football Club athletic sports Thomas Clulee won the 120-yard handicap open race, however, The Staffordshire Sentinel opined that ‘we can hardly credit Clulee’s performance’ and suggested that the distance may have been a little short. Later in the year Clulee undertook a very successful journey to the seaside for the Weston-Super-Mare Athletic Society annual festival. There he won the 100-yard scratch race, however, the time of 11 minutes 5 seconds as reported by The Western Daily Press on the following day seems a little slow! He easily won the 120-yard hurdle race and was also victorious in the 150-yard handicap gentleman’s plate. A few weeks later he was again on his travels when he competed at the Northampton athletic and gymnastic fête, which was held at Melbourne Gardens whose site is now occupied by Franklin’s Gardens rugby ground. At this event he finished second by four yards in one of the heats of the 100-yard handicap hurdle race before narrowly winning the final by no more than six inches. Thomas was particularly successful at the 1880 Stourbridge Cricket And Football Club Annual Sports, at Amblecote, where he finished third in the 120-yard members’ handicap race, won the 120-yard open handicap, jumped 20 ft. 3 ins. to win the long jump, successfully defended the 120-yard hurdle handicap event and finished second in the 440-yard local handicap race. He rounded off this athletic season with a trip to Lillie Bridge, London for the Kildare Bicycle Club athletic sports at which he won the 100-yard hurdle race.

After his successful year of athletic competition in 1880 Clulee seems to have reduced his commitments in the following year. The reason for this is not known but may have been due to injury or business commitments, he was at this time in business as a lime and coal merchant. Having previously been successful there Thomas once again took part in the Weston-Super-Mare Athletic Society sports in 1881 and won the long jump. Later in the summer he was back on familiar territory when he competed in the Stourbridge Cricket And Football Club Annual Sports at Amblecote, where he won the members’ 220-yard handicap race and the 120-yard hurdle handicap which was his third consecutive win in this event. Clulee then broke new ground when he competed at the Leek Cricket Club and Rifle Volunteers’ athletic festival and was successful in both the 100-yard open handicap flat race and the 200-yard open handicap hurdle event. For his final athletic meeting of the year Thomas Clulee made the long journey to North Wales to take part in the revived Carnarvon[2] Athletic Club sports at which he won the 100-yard flat race. 

Clulee seems to have curtailed his athletic activity still further in 1882 because there is only one definite newspaper report of him competing during the year. This was at the annual sports, at Stourbridge Cricket Ground, at which he won the 120-yard hurdle handicap race for a fourth consecutive year. At the same meeting Thomas’s brother, Harry, won the 220-yard members’ handicap which Thomas had won in the previous year. Although his brother, Harry, continued to take part in athletic events 1882 seems to have been Thomas Clulee’s final year of competition. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that, in September 1883, he married Mary Ann Higgs. On 6th October 1883 The Birmingham Daily Post listed one of the Stourbridge three quarters, in a match with Woodsetton, as Clulee but no initials were given. Similarly, in a match between Stourbridge and Moseley Woodstock, on 24th November, the same newspaper listed one of the former club’s halfbacks as Clulee. As it seems that Thomas had retired from active sport by this date these references may well be to his brother Harry.

Having given up athletic competition Thomas Clulee took up sports administration and, at various times, chaired meetings of the Midland Counties Amateur Athletic Association and its general committee, served as its president, represented the association at Amateur Athletic Association meetings and was elected a vice president of the Amateur Athletic Association. He also acted as a judge, referee, timekeeper and handicapper at amateur athletic meetings including the national Amateur Athletic Championships. He appears to have retired from athletics administration in 1889 and from officiating at meetings in 1903.

Until 1885 Thomas was in partnership with Samuel Mobberley as a firebrick manufacturer and colliery proprietor at Blower’s Green, Dudley, The Lye and Cradley. Following the dissolution of this partnership Thomas continued in business on his own account at Blower’s Green and later became a partner of E. Bowen, before, in 1889, the concern was sold to Bowen’s Stourbridge Firebrick and Colliery Union (Limited) although Thomas remained associated with the new company. By 1891 the Clulees were living in Dudley with their five-year old daughter and at this time Thomas was still in business as a firebrick manufacturer, however, he seems to have wound this business up in the following year.

At around this time Thomas Clulee’s family moved to Brierley Hill where he soon became involved in community life. He served on the local council for 12 years and was twice its chairman and he also served on the Stourbridge Board of Guardians, which oversaw the activities of the workhouse. He was, however, best known for his work with the Brierley Hill volunteer fire brigade. From 1897 he served as the brigade’s chief officer and was also the chairman of the Midland district of the National Fire Brigades’ Union. Thomas’s wife Mary Anne died in 1900 and in the following year he was living with his 15-year old daughter in Brierley Hill and was in business as a coal merchant.

In 1909 Thomas married Emma Mary Finney, at St. Mary, Halesowen. His bride was a lady of some means who had devoted her life to the welfare of others particularly the villagers of Quinton where she lived. She was also highly respected in her role as president of the Norton Cottage Homes Committee, which aimed to provide pleasant homes for orphans and for her work on the Stourbridge Board of Guardians. It was probably through the latter work that she first met Thomas Clulee. Thousands of people poured into Halesowen hours before the wedding ceremony and lined the streets in an effort to see the wedding party. One hundred and thirty firemen, including 25 officers, all in full dress uniform, lined the approach from the church gates to the church door and when the couple emerged, following the ceremony, the Brierley Hill firemen stood to attention and formed a triumphal archway with their fire axes. They then accompanied the newly-weds to their carriage where the horses were removed from their harnesses, which were replaced by decorated ropes so that the firemen could pull the carriage to Halesowen Drill Hall for the reception. There were 250 guests at the reception including many local worthies such as chocolate magnate George Cadbury, Mrs W. Byng Kenrick the widow of West Bromwich industrialist Archibald Kenrick, Halesowen ironmaster Walter Somers, Brierley Hill sausage maker Ernest Marsh and W.A. Albright of Albright & Wilson. Following the reception the couple left for Quinton where they were to live at Pax Hall. When they reached Quinton a large flag-waving crowd and a band greeted them and the horses were once more removed from their harnesses and a group of village men drew the carriage along College Road and Ridgacre Road to the gates of Pax Hall over which a triumphal arch had been erected.

During the First World War Thomas Clulee seems to have served with the Worcestershire 1st Volunteer Battalion, because in March 1918, when the Germans made a breakthrough on the Western Front and troops were withdrawn from coastal defence to serve overseas two companies of the 1st Volunteers, one of which was commanded by ‘Captain Thomas Clulee, of Halesowen’ formed part of the 64th Special Services Battalion which was stationed at Lowestoft, Suffolk from June to September 1918. 

Thomas was again widowed in 1919 when Emma died at the age of 50. He seems to have left Pax Hall in the same year and he died in 1930 at the age of 73.


[1] A touchdown was recorded when a side was forced to ground the ball in its own in-goal area.

[2] The spelling was changed to Caernarvon in 1926 and to Caernarfon in 1974.