Harry Buckle 1882 – 1965
From Belfast To Sunderland To Cork and Pioneering League Of Ireland
Soccer In Cork In 1922
A Belfast man played a huge role in the emergence of soccer in Cork city and county and also throughout Munster. His arrival in Cork coincided with the arrival of the giant Henry Ford Motor Company down Centre Park Road on the famed Cork Marina in 1917.
Harry Buckle was born in Belfast and in the northern capital city he played soccer with Cliftonville Casuals; Cliftonville Olympic; Cliftonville; then moved across channel and played with Sunderland; Portsmouth; Bristol Rovers and latterly Coventry City. The Belfast exile came back home and played with Belfast Celtic; Glenavon; Belfast United and at the conclusion of his senior career with Cork club, Fordsons FC. at the ripe old age of forty four, he steered Fordsons to an epic and historic F.A.I. Cup triumph.
The Cork Buckle soccer dynasty left a rich legacy that is still prominent in Cork’s up and down soccer history, with so many League of Ireland clubs who failed to establish a lasting longevity but Harry Buckle’s longevity as a pioneering football ambassador in Cork and Blackrock, requires preservation and promotion.
It is appropriate that the Buckle name should be upfront when writing about the Golden Memories of Cork Soccer. At the Fords factory Harry Buckle had a daily job of work like all other employees but soccer or the lack of it in Cork city, came to his attention very quickly once he arrived in the Rebel County.
Racial Abuse At Harland & Wolf Shipyard:
On his return to his native Belfast shore in 1912 after a professional soccer career in England, Harry found employment in the Belfast Shipyard of Harland & Wolfe, who hired a predominantly unionist work force. As a Catholic Harry Buckle, for no reason other than his religion, was frowned upon and targeted for racial abuse. In one incident a metal bolt was hurled at him and worse still in another unsavoury racial incident, he was thrown into the icy waters of the Lagan by work colleagues.Cork, as his adopted homeland, was a welcoming place for Harry and as glad as Harry was to be in the company of decent Corkonians, Leesiders now had a Belfast exile with a vast knowledge of professional soccer in their midst.
Born in 1882 Harry Buckle came through the ranks at Cliftonville, playing for Cliftonville Casuals and Cliftonville Olympic before breaking into the first-team. He earned his first Ireland cap in the Ibrox Disaster Fund match against Scotland in August 1902 and the first of four Inter-League caps in a 3-2 defeat by the Football League on his home ground at Solitude in November 1902.
Sunderland Here I Come:
A move to professional football with Sunderland followed shortly afterwards. Buckle was slow to settle in England, a point illustrated by the following extract taken from a 1903/04 Sunderland season preview:
The most important of the new Sunderland “captures” is that of Harry Buckle, who, although he came from Belfast’s Cliftonville last season, must be regarded as a new player, seeing that he was only once in the team and then not in the presence of a Sunderland crowd.
His play is forward and it is of the best. He is 21 years of age, stands 5ft 10in, and though apparently heavily built, is as active as a squirrel.
Harry made his debut for Sunderland, after joining from Irish side Cliftonville against Stoke City on 8 November 1902 in a 1–1 draw and once Buckle made his way into the Sunderland side at the end of October 1903, he began to make his mark, scoring a total of ten goals in 21 appearances from outside-left. His best spell in front of goal saw him find the net six times in six matches through November and December.
Tall and heavy-set for a winger, it was his "pile-driver" shot that brought him most of his goals. He was also famed for his unwillingness to head the ball, instead preferring to take it down to his feet and making use of his arms and elbows to hold off would-be tacklers.
This form also brought Buckle back to the attention of the Irish selectors and he made his international return in a 3-1 defeat to England back at Solitude, Belfast. Over the following two season’s Buckle’s form began to tail off and he made just fourteen appearances in the 1904/05 season and ten in the 1905/06 season. Harry made 44 Sunderland league appearances scoring 14 goals for the north England club before moving on to Southern League club, Portsmouth, where he played his part to claim a club title. He spent just one season with the south coast club.
In his only season on the south coast, Buckle helped Portsmouth to runners-up spot in the Southern League and he left to join rivals Bristol Rovers for the 1906/07 season. At Bristol Rovers Buckle picked up his third Irish cap, making the short trip to Aberdare for a 1-0 win over Wales. Thus Buckle became only the second Bristol Rovers player to win international recognition.
First Ever Coventry City Manager:
In 1908 Buckle joined Coventry City for their first season in the Southern League and was scorer of the club's first two hat-tricks in senior football as he finished top-scorer for the club in consecutive campaigns. In 1909 he was appointed as player-manager, a position he held until 1911, when he made way for new manager, Robert Wallace.
Buckle returned to the Irish League, combining part-time football with a job at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. He won further representative honours with Belfast Celtic in 1912 and 1913 and he scored a cup final goal V Glentoran in the 1912 I.F.A. Cup final. He finished his Irish League career with spells at Glenavon and as player-manager of Belfast United.
After briefly moving to Wales before settling in Cork for the rest of his life, Harry Buckle took a job in the Cork shipyards and then with the Ford Motor Company. He joined the works team, Fordsons where he combined playing with club managerial and secretarial duties. Just days after his 44th birthday he demonstrated that he had lost none of his skills as Fordsons shocked Shamrock Rovers to claim the 1926 Free State Cup.
The contribution of Harry Buckle to Cork soccer history is already well noted and it should also be stated that his prowess as an administrator when pioneering a relatively new sport in Cork city was quite remarkable.
The Buckle dynasty proudly lives on in 21st century Cork through his grandson Robert Buckle and Roberts own family, whilst Cork G.A.A. and soccer legend, Dave Barry of St. Finbarrs and Cork City F.C. can also proudly claim, that Harry Buckle was his grandfather on his mothers side.
The Harry Buckle Cork 20th century soccer story is worthy of any hall of fame preservation and now in May 2018 we are inducting Online the Harry Buckle Soccer Story at our Irish Heritage Website at www.scoreboardmemories The Irish Home Of The All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery.
The Harry Buckle Soccer story will also be incorporated at the new Blackrock Online Heritage Website due to be launched in June 2018 and it will also feature on Historical Cork Facebook Website.
Written by Derry JF Doody
Editor/Promoter @ All Ireland Hall Of Fame Online Gallery