Real Name: Ralph Leather Rylance
Normal Position: Centre Half
Born: Prestolee, Bolton
Died: 30/01/1915 (Southport)
Appointed captain of Southport Football Club in the summer of 1883 having made his debut for the club in January of the previous year.
The third child of Margaret Rylance and James Leather, Ralph was born in 1842 in the small village of Prestolee in Bolton, taking his father’s name Leather despite him passing away before he was born.
Ralph (Leather) makes his first appearance on the census records aged 18 at 52 Harwood Street, Blackburn, with his occupation listed as Attorneys Clerk. Two years later, at the end of 1863, Ralph married Margaret Parkinson. They had their first child Mary Ellen in Blackburn in 1864. Her birth was still registered with the surname Leather.
In 1870 their third child, Charles, was born and was registered as Charles Leather Rylance and by the time of the 1871 census the whole family had extended their name to include his mother’s Maiden name, Ralph himself becoming Ralph Leather Rylance.
On January 1st, 1881, now a Solicitors Clerk, he registered a provisional specification with the Office of the Commissioners of Patents.
His invention received Provisional Protection only but was for ‘Improvements in the formation of floors or surfaces to be used for the purposes of games of football, bowling, lawn-tennis, racquet, croquet, or similar games, and for creases used in the game of cricket’. What he had attempted to patent was the first artificial multi-sport playing surface.
In the 1881 Census, taken in April, Ralph Rylance still lived in Bolton with his Wife Mary and elderly mother Margaret Whalley (maiden name Rylance). His son James Arthur Leather Rylance’s birth at the end that year was not registered in Southport and Ralph, still a Solicitors Clerk in Blackburn, played for Blackburn Law against Southport in their third fixture, at the end of November.
Long thought to be the driving force behind the formation of Southport, we now understand Rylance to have played a less significant role, Rylance not making his debut for the Reds until 7th January 1882, two months after their formation, and only making a handful of appearances in the remainder of the 1881/82 season, whilst still turning out on occasion for his original club.
He and wife Margaret went on to have a number of other children, one of whom, Walter, presented Southport Football club with a red flag to celebrate their erroneous 50th anniversary in 1931.
Ralph and family made the permanent move to Southport in the summer of 1882 and he made further appearances for the Reds including in the club’s first FA Cup tie at Liverpool Ramblers at the end of the year. In September 1883 he was appointed captain for the 1883/84 season.
Withdrawing from the field in March 1884, however, he made no further appearances for the club, and served no part on any committee.
In November 1884 a report appeared in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser relating to a case being heard at Liverpool Chancery Court in his absence. The charge was that he had forcibly taken an elderly lady ‘of unsound mind’ away from her home in Blackburn to marry his brother-in-law, 20 years her junior, and to live in the property next door to Rylance on Eastbourne Road in Birkdale. Andrew Parker, a friend of the lady, Isabella Parkinson, had petitioned to prevent Rylance from selling her home in Blackburn worth £6,000. Her family, learning of the marriage, argued that she had not understood that she was married and petitioned to classify her as a lunatic. Pending the outcome of the lunacy proceedings, the judge granted the prevention order. Neither the defendant, Rylance, nor Plaintiff, Miss Parkinson were in attendance as they had both gone to America. This is likely to explain his sudden disappearance from the football field before the end of the season.
Later returning to his home in Eastbourne Road, Birkdale, and now working as an Oakum manufacturer in Liverpool as part of Rylance Medd & Co, he led a management buyout of his business partner John Goldsmith Medd in 1897 and continued to successfully run the business with his sons James and Walter.
Ralph Leather Rylance died on 30th January 1915 aged 73 leaving his estate, worth £9,073 17s 5d to his wife Margaret.