HULL FC is one of the oldest clubs in Rugby League and was formed by a group of ex-public schoolboys from York in 1865. Following a succession of grounds and headquarters, the club moved into the Hull Athletic Club’s ground at the Boulevard.
Their first game came September 1895, when a record crowd of 8,000 witnessed the ‘Airlie Birds’ defeat Liversedge in the very first season of Northern Union Football.
The Black and Whites, as they were to become known because of their famous contrasting irregular hoops, was one of the original clubs to apostatise from the RFU. The hoops soon went from famous to feared by most clubs, as Hull FC proved themselves as one of the driving forces in the early years, making three consecutive Northern Union Cup Finals between 1908-1910.
In 1913 they paid a world record £600, plus an astounding £14 per match, to Hunslet for three-quarter Billy Batten. A year later the investment had paid dividends as the Airlie Birds won their first Challenge Cup, beating Harold Wagstaff’s stupendous Huddersfield in the semi-final and Wakefield Trinity in the final.
In 1920, Batten was once again prominent in Hull’s first ever Championship final, scoring the only try in the 3-2 victory over Huddersfield. At that time, Jack Harrison, also set the current Hull FC try scoring record for the number of tries scored in one season, bagging 52 tries in the 1913/14 season.
The early 1920’s were bittersweet years for the club. In 1920 Hull lost the Yorkshire Cup Final 2-0 but went on to win the Rugby League Championship in 1921, both against arch rivals Hull Kingston Rovers.
However, Hull couldn’t emulate the successes of 1914, losing a further two consecutive Cup Finals in 1922-23 to Rochdale and Leeds respectively, but the Yorkshire Cup and the top of the league table were some consolation.
After winning the Yorkshire League in 1926-27, Hull went through a lean spell that lasted almost a decade. Eventually though, the club were soon back on the map when they secured their third Championship title in 1935-36, beating Widnes 21-2 at Fartown, Huddersfield, with club record points scorer Joe Oliver scoring two tries and kicking five goals.
They also won the Yorkshire League that season, having been runners up in the previous year.
Before the Second World War broke out, Hull were runners up in the Yorkshire Cup in 1938-39 and runners up again in the Yorkshire League in 1940-41.
It was this period that also brought about the club’s famous anthem, Old Faithful, now heard on the terraces every single game.
The song was initially adopted back in 1936, when on September 26th, Hull claimed a narrow 13-12 victory against Wigan at the Boulevard.Overjoyed with such a dramatic win, the Hull fans began to sing the former chart topping cowboy song Old Faithful and as they say, the rest is history!
The club suffered a baron run of years without a trophy though the 1940s, with the Second World War as it did for all teams, disrupting their achievements.
But the Black and Whites were back to winning ways in 1956, beating Halifax in the most dramatic of circumstances to lift the Championship crown, before repeating the feat two years later by toppling Workington.
This success led to further accolades, with Roy Francis leading the club to consecutive Challenge Cup finals at the turn of the sixties, however the Airlie Birds came away empty handed on both occasions.
Two of the club’s most iconic individuals featured prominently for Hull throughout the 1960s, with Clive Sullivan, the club’s current top try scorer, making his debut in 1961 going on to have a highly successful career at the club. As well as Johnny Whitely whose services as a player earned him the coach’s role in 1965, replacing Roy Francis.
Perhaps the club’s greatest achievement occurred in the 1978/79 season, as Hull finally returned to the top division by winning single every game in their Division two campaign, becoming the first and only team to achieve the record to this day.
This was followed three years later with the club’s second success in the Challenge Cup, defeating Widnes 18-9 in a replay at Elland Road, to lift the famous trophy once more.
In more recent years, a Division one title in 1997 took Hull into the newly formed Super League era in sparkling fashion, whilst a third Challenge Cup success in 2005 at the Millennium Stadium against Leeds Rhinos, has ensured that the Airlie Birds continue to be one of the most successful clubs going.