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Frank Sugg: A Man For All Seasons

Written by Martin Howe
Older readers may remember scoring runs with a Frank Sugg cricket bat or kicking a Frank Sugg football. Younger readers may find such implements, or even a model boat bearing his name ‘in the attic’. His cricket and football annuals are collectors’ items.

Sugg was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, but spent his formative years in Sheffield. A grammar school boy, he decided to forego a legal career to become a professional cricketer, in breach of Victorian convention. After an unsuccessful start in first-class cricket with Yorkshire, he joined Derbyshire but later moved across the Pennines, where he played as a hard-hitting batsman, a ‘smiter’, for Lancashire, and in 1888 twice for England.

With his brother Walter, Frank Sugg opened a sports shop business in Liverpool in 1888 and by 1914 it had grown into one of the leading businesses of its kind. The firm failed in the 1920s although an offshoot, based in Sheffield, continued to trade until 2001.

A Christian Scientist by faith, Frank Sugg was a fitness enthusiast and involved himself in various sports. He played, briefly, for several leading football clubs, took up long-distance swimming, and was a local champion at athletics, billiards, bowls, and golf. With his brother Walter, he bought racehorses. An appetite for gambling on horses apparently cost him a lot of money. Perhaps as an act of charity, he was given a county umpire’s .job at the age of 64. Frank died suddenly, aged 71 years, soon after the death of his brother and is buried in an unmarked public grave, for reasons which remain unclear.

He certainly knew hard times at the close of his life, but Martin Howe reports on Frank Sugg as more of an entertainer and a ‘laddish’ character.

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