Category Archives: History

Bristol INTERNATIONAL Rugby Star OF THE 1930S

At one time considered the best centre-threequarter in “the four countries” (England, Ireland, France and Wales), Donald William Burland played rugby for Bristol from 1926 to 1934. He “assisted the county on more than 30 occasions” and played for England eight times.

Don Burland was born in Bristol in 1908. His father, William had the Rising Sun pub at Ashton Gate and was also a member of Bristol Bowling Club. Sadly, William died when his son Don was only 1 year old.

Nevertheless, Don Burland grew up strong. Of “magnificent physique”, he was said to be as strong in attack as in defence. His hand-off was so powerful that he occasionally left “a trail of fallen opponents in his dash to the line”.

He played for Horfield Church before joining Bristol Rugby Club at the age of 18. His greatest moment was probably in 1932, in the international against Ireland in Dublin, when he scored all 11 points – he converted his own try and kicked two penalty goals.

Known for being unstoppable when he was in possession and within 20 yards of the line, Don Burland received more than his fair share of injuries. It was after he fell heavily and dislocated his shoulder in the match between Bristol and Aldershot Services in March 1934 that he reluctantly took the decision, on medical advice, to retire from the game at the age of 24.

Bristol Rugby Club in around 1933 with Don Burland (2nd L back row)

In August 1934, the Western Daily Press said of Don Burland, “He will rank as one of the finest match-winning players Bristol has ever had”, In the course of eight seasons, Burland had made “over 200 appearances for Bristol and scored 691 points”. After his retirement from rugby, Don didn’t stop playing sport. In 1935, he was still appearing in local headlines playing some excellent cricket for Bristol Casuals!

Latterday “Robin Hood’s” Secret Larder

The largest surviving oak tree in Sherwood Forest is the Major Oak, estimated to be 1,000 years old; the oldest is thought to be the Parliament Oak. The now lost Shambles Oak was a latterday “Robin Hood’s” secret larder!

The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest
The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest

The Shambles Oak, was killed when picnickers lit a fire beside it in 1913 and it blew down in 1920. A story in the Derby Mercury of 4th June 1851 tells of a sheep-stealer named “Hooton”, who used the tree, which was thirty feet around, to hide the carcasses of his ill-gotten gains. People living in 1851 remembered his beam and hooks being in the tree, suggesting the hiding place, deep in the forest, was in use in the 17th or 18th century. Perhaps the culprit was one Samuell Hooton of Ollerton, who was christened on the 4th May 1633?

Whilst the newspaper report of 1851 says the trunk could contain fourteen people, the Nottinghamshire Guardian of 27th May 1864 tells us that “recently twelve persons from Nottingham” stood inside the trunk to sing the anthem, “Great and Marvellous are Thy Works”.

Butchers' or Hooton's Shambles near Ollerton, Sherwood Forest
Butchers’ or Hooton’s Shambles near Ollerton, Sherwood Forest




Let Woods for the Trees find your family stories in old British newspapers. And read other blog posts here.