Hero Joe was key to Caton’s record-breaking unbeaten run

In the Premier League season of 2003–2004 Arsenal went undefeated for 49 games, writes sport historian Terry Ainsworth of Lancaster, but we have a local North Lancashire League record that can sit proudly alongside that famous top team.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:45 pm

On December 30, 1949, a letter was published in the Lancaster Guardian that recorded a quite remarkable achievement.

Arthur Till, of Caton wrote: “Records are meant to be broken; at all events they are continually being broken. First class football has been no exception this season and neither, I think, has junior football. The feat of Caton United Football Club in playing no fewer than 45 consecutive games without defeat is surely a record.

Their long run of successes came to an end on Boxing Day morning when they were beaten 3–1 away at Galgate, after having won by the same score at Caton the previous Saturday. Up to that day Caton had won seventeen matches and drawn one this season whilst their last defeat was Boxing Day 1948, precisely a year ago.”

Photograph of Caton United 1948-1949 at Jowett’s Field, Caton, with a clean sweep of  trophies won in that season, Division1 title, Parkinson Cup & Senior Challenge Cup.Back row from left: Dick Woolcock, George Wilson, Stanley Walker, Bill Dainty, George Robinson. Middle row from left: Tom Eglin, Bill Hodgson, Jimmy Till, Jimmy Clarkson, Bert Cartmel, Albert Robinson, R. Bowker, Ritson Stockdale, Sid Southward 
Front row from left: Fred Robinson, Joe Easterby, Jock Kerr (captain), Ted Fairclough, Cyril Gardner. Sat on the ground from left: Jimmy Mason, Frank Woodhouse.
Photograph of Caton United 1948-1949 at Jowett’s Field, Caton, with a clean sweep of trophies won in that season, Division1 title, Parkinson Cup & Senior Challenge Cup.Back row from left: Dick Woolcock, George Wilson, Stanley Walker, Bill Dainty, George Robinson. Middle row from left: Tom Eglin, Bill Hodgson, Jimmy Till, Jimmy Clarkson, Bert Cartmel, Albert Robinson, R. Bowker, Ritson Stockdale, Sid Southward Front row from left: Fred Robinson, Joe Easterby, Jock Kerr (captain), Ted Fairclough, Cyril Gardner. Sat on the ground from left: Jimmy Mason, Frank Woodhouse.

The team’s outstanding outside right or inside right, Joe Easterby, who was arguably the finest player produced in this area of the country in the North Lancashire League, was born locally in New Street, Brookhouse in 1928 and died in Galgate in 2012. After army service he played for Caton United from 1947-50 and had trials with Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

He joined Morecambe in September 1950, becoming a professional a month later.

Joe was a regular in the team for many seasons, retiring in 1960.

The Wolves manager came to Morecambe and met with Joe at the Midland Hotel, Morecambe to try and persuade him to sign with Wolves but Joe turned him down and instead went on to sign for Morecambe in September 1950 making 262 appearances and scoring 43 goals.

Morecambe FC 1954-55. Back row from left: Maurice Holmes (secretary), Tommy Gore, Ken Udall, Jacky Langford, Jack Gorst groundsman/trainer) Middle row from left: Gerry Johnson, Harry Baines, Joe Easterby, Bill Smith Front row from left: Albert Dainty, Eddie Miller, George Rutter, Ray Charnley.

Although Wolves offered him top wages, £10 a week, Joe said: “I am very happy to play in local football and be near my family and friends.”

He was earning £6 a week at Claughton Brickworks and £4 from Morecambe FC so he was earning the same as going to Wolverhampton.

Joe lived 50 yards away from our farm in Brookhouse and was a hero of mine.

I would go as far as to say Joe would be in the same bracket as Alan Spavin and Ray Charnley if he had decided to join a First Division club.

Two other players on the photograph were also in the very top bracket of footballers: Albert Robinson, who was in the Royal Marines, played for Crystal Palace in 1946 and Bill Hodgson was on the books of Blackpool just after the war.

When Joe Easterby worked for the Lancaster City Council, he would bike from Galgate to work and he never had a pipe out of his mouth.

He was employed by the council to put up road signs so I assume he worked for the Highways Department.

When Ray Simpson, my friend “The Memory Man”, was picking up fellow workers in Lancaster to take them to the depot in Morecambe he would often come across Joe cycling over Greyhound Bridge and would stop, put his bike in the back of the van and give Joe a lift.

After work the reverse system usually worked well and Joe would be dropped off in Lancaster and then cycled home to Galgate.