Jimmy Cumberbatch – Trailblazer
He dazzled the crowds at Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, did this “live piece of mercury,” this Jimmy Cumberbatch.
Born in Liverpool to a Manx mother and Bajan father, Jimmy started his rugby league life with Barrow St. Matthews before joining Broughton Rangers in 1932.
It was Rangers last season at The Cliff.
Cumberbatch then started making a name for himself upon the move to Belle Vue, putting in a string of notable displays on the left wing.
Manchester made the man.
He later married Eva Ball and had a son, James, in this city.
As the consistent and dynamic plays continued in the blue and white of Broughton Jimmy caught the eyes of selectors. In 1935 he earned Lancashire colours, and two years later in 1937, Cumberbatch became the first black player to represent England rugby league.
His brother, Barrow legend Val Cumberbatch, soon followed suit.
Sadly for the city Cumberbatch left Broughton in 1937 for Newcastle, then the latest (and ill-fated) expansion club outside the rugby league heartlands.
Newcastle’s subsequent, rapid collapse mortally wounded his career. However, in six years at Broughton, Cumberbatch sent wondrous shockwaves through Manchester rugby and the sport as a whole.
A real rugby league trailblazer!
A piece written by Antony Stewart