On this day - October 22nd

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rugby lights

Rugby under lights

The first rugby match to be played under floodlights saw Broughton meet Swinton at the Yew Street ground in Salford on 22 October 1878. Rugby League wasn't invented until 1895, so both codes claim this match as "their" first game under floodlights.

Our picture shows what it probably didn't look like

The Observer reported:

The ground had been marked out by chalk touchlines so as to make the boundaries all the more distinct, and arrangements were made for four electric lights, two at each end of the ground. Sieman's Patent was the kind of apparatus used.

The lights were not of equal power, the two at the Mitchell Hey end being only what are known as A machines, while the two at the Manchester Road end were B machines, double the strength of the others. The two smaller machines worked satisfactorily, but only one of the larger ones could be worked.

That which did work was very satisfactory so far as it went, throwing out from its parabolical reflector a bright steady light of great brilliance and power, but not sufficient to reach the other end of the ground as was intended. The intentions had been for throwing the light from the larger machines down the chalk lines on each side of the ground, the smaller machines being designed to dip their lights into the centre and so illuminate the whole ground.

Each of these latter machines threw out its light in a beam after the manner of a bulls-eye lantern and though the illumination was brilliant within a certain area it was not obvious over any wide area.

The steady light produced at the other end was subject to a temporary eclipse shortly before the time appointed for the match to begin, and this left the public in no doubt as to whether it was the result of an accident or was designed to illustrate its own power by the force of contrast, for it certainly seemed dark indeed when the light was extinguished. (The eclipse was caused by a fault quickly rectified). The other large machine was not going to work until the game was closing.

There was fog prevailing to some extent and this interfered with the illumination, while the failure of one of the machines was a serious drawback. At times the players were completely lost sight of by the would-be onlookers and we should fancy they were sometimes out of sight of each other.

Financially the venture was a decided success, over 5,000 people being present (the Salford Evening News claimed "Probably 8,000 to 10,000 persons were present when the time for kick-off arrived." ).

Refreshments were, as usual, supplied by Mr Taylor of the Golden Fleece.