We’re looking back on some local greats this Yorkshire Day

This Yorkshire Day ( 1st August) we’re celebrating just some of the famous and infamous people from the towns and villages of Kirklees.

Harold Wagstaff, 1891-1939

Born in Holmfirth in 1891, Harold made his debut for Huddersfield in 1096, aged 15. He remains the game’s second youngest player and its youngest ever International, playing the first of 21 International matches in 1909, aged 17 against the first ever touring Australian side. Harold served in Egypt during the First World War before returning to Rugby League, eventually retiring in 1925.


Mary Taylor, 1817 – 1893

An early advocate for women’s rights, Mary Taylor was born in Gomersal in 1817. She was close friends with Charlotte Bronte and Ellen Nussey. She moved to New Zealand to make her fortunes before returning in the late 1850s. In 1875 at age 60, she led a party of five women to scale Mount Blanc in Switzerland, the group then publishing an account of their adventure entitled, Swiss Notes by Five Ladies.  She published many articles for Victoria Magazine discussing her views on women’s rights; these articles were eventually made into the book, The First Duty of Women.

Mary-Taylor-mountaineering-1874 Red Hosue Museum Archive

James Mason, 1909 – 1984

Considered one of the greats of the golden age of Hollywood, James Mason was born in Marsh, Huddersfield in 1909. Starring in the leading role in the 1947 film, Odd Man Out, which was the first recipient of the BAFTA Award for Best British Film, made him a household name and he decided to make the move to Hollywood where he featured in several movies, Broadway shows, TV appearances and voiceover roles until his death in 1984. He was a keen supporter of the Huddersfield Rugby League team, so perhaps he would’ve seen Harold Wagstaff, another Huddersfield great, play at the local grounds?


Dora Thewlis, 1890 – 1976

Born in Meltham in 1890, Dora made headlines in 1907 when she was arrested for participating in a suffragette march in London. Part of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), she was campaigning for women’s right to vote when police arrested her. She made headlines as the ‘Baby Suffragette’ in an attempt by the press to discredit her cause due to her age. Dora and her sister emigrated to Victoria, Australia in 1912, where she married and had two children. Dora remained politically active throughout her life.


Joseph Priestley, 1733 – 1804

Priestley was born in Birstall in 1733. He is often credited with being the first scientist to discover Oxygen; but also contributed many ideas to the fields of science, theology and linguistics. He produced over 150 works on a range of topics and advocated for the free and open discourse of ideas. Priestley was a liberal political theorist who believed in equal rights for religious dissenters and openly supported the French Revolution. He was forced to leave the UK in 1791 after a group of locals burned his Birmingham house down and he spent the rest of his life in Pennsylvania, USA.


Do you have a famous, or notorious ancestor who lived here?

We’d love to hear about them in the comments.




  • Thanks David, he sounds very interesting! One to add to the list 🙂 ^CP

  • Charles Dawson, 1866 – 1921

    Born in Huddersfield in 1866 Dawson was an English champion player of English billiards. He held the world professional title in billiards in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1903, when it was held on a challenge basis. In 1904, Dawson published a book called “Practical Billiards,” which included player biographies.

  • Very interesting reading about these people from Yorkshire.

  • barbararushforth@btinternet.com

    James Mason’s mother was a member of SSAFA and brought my mum food parcels during the war. He bought me a KitKat once.

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