A FORMER Workington Rugby League player has been labelled 'remarkable' by a top university, as part of Black History Month.

Cec Thompson played for the side from 1953-1960, featuring in 192 games and scoring 165 points. His father was of Trinidadian descent and because of this, he became just the second black rugby league player ever to be capped by Great Britain.

Mr Thompson took to the rugby field for the first time as a 22-year-old during a workplace rugby tournament in Bramley, where he didn’t know the rules of the game.

However, standing over six foot and weighing 14 stone, as well as having a wealth of fitness picked up from his work as a labourer, Cec took to the sport like a duck to water.

During his time in Cumbria, Cec ran a window cleaning service. In his seven years at Workington, he played in a Challenge Cup final at Wembley and a Championship final at Odsal.

Born in 1926, Cec’s father died before his birth. His mother, a miner’s daughter from County Durham, was unable to support her four children, and Cec spent an unhappy childhood moving from orphanage to orphanage.

He was the victim of racist abuse and bullying, and left school at 14, shy, and unable to read or write. As Cec described in his autobiography, he was “desensitised and utterly unemployable”.

During his time as a rugby player, he enrolled in night school to complete his O-Levels, and later advanced to Huddersfield Technical College. In 1965, aged 39, Cec headed to Leeds to study economics at the University.

Whilst at Leeds, he formed the first student rugby league club, becoming the club coach and President, and co-founded the Student Rugby League.

Upon graduating from Leeds in 1968, he began teaching economics in South Yorkshire, progressing to become Head of Economics at Chesterfield Grammar School.

He remained in the role for 17 years – and of course, took charge of rugby at the school. All the while, he developed the cleaning business that funded his path into education, and his successful enterprise grew to employ over 600 staff.

In 1994, Cec was awarded an honorary degree by Leeds University. An annual rugby prize – the Cec Thompson University Player of the Year Award – is given in his honour.

A Leeds University spokesperson said: “We are extremely proud to count Cec among our alumni. His story continues to inspire students, staff and alumni at the University – his determination to overcome the formidable barriers placed before him provides a lesson in what is possible.

"We were delighted to award Cec with an honorary degree in 1994, and we will continue to celebrate his contributions and achievements on the rugby field, in the classroom, and in society.”