FOREVER known as ‘Ruke’ David Rucastle (1937-2023) was the complete sportsman and arguably the best the village of Warton produced in the 20th century.

He excelled in the beautiful game and the summer game. Blessed with sporting genes his natural talent emerged at Skerton Secondary School in Lancaster which in the postwar years was a noted seat of sport, particularly soccer.

Of average height, he nevertheless became a prolific sent forward scoring many a goal with his head. His greatest asset was lightning speed over 10 yards which made him lethally predatory and fearless in the box. After school, he continued playing for the Skerton Old Boys team which won the 1954 Lancashire FA Youth Cup against Wigan Boys Club at Bloomfield Road, the home of Blackpool FC.

That all-conquering Old Boys side of 1953/4 also won the North Lancashire League junior division and two other cup competitions as David feasted on goals.

Returning from national service he joined Warton FC, but Morecambe FC was to come calling in March 1958. In a 3-2 win over Prescot Cables, the press reported that David “played accurate and intelligent football” and scored one of the Morecambe goals.

A two-year spell at Carnforth Rangers followed then onto Netherfield FC for the 1960/61 season before returning to the Rangers in October 1962.

His football career came to an abrupt end when sliding in, in his usual fearless way, he collided with the South Shore goalkeeper in a Lancashire Junior cup tie and that was it. End of a footballing career at just 25 years of age. There was no way back in 1962 from a cruciate ligament injury. 

Football’s loss was Warton Cricket Club’s gain. At 25 years of age, he was already the star player in the team as its bowling all-rounder and had a 10/8 to his name against Windermere 2nds in 1958.

His knee injury was to plague him for the rest of his sporting life necessitating a change of action and a reduction in pace. It didn’t stop his wicket-taking capacity as he learnt how to vary his deliveries. His statistics thereafter anoint him as one of the greats of local village cricket, and one of its most prominent banner carriers.

In all Ruke took 1507 wickets which included a second 10-wicket performance in 1981 to be followed by a 100-wicket season in 1982.

He had four hat tricks to his name and on 104 occasions took five or more wickets in an innings. He won the Westmorland League bowling averages in 1970 and 1981. He first played for the League representative side in 1958.

David leaves the sporting arena with what is believed to be a unique record. His two 10 wicket returns are bolstered by a century, scoring 106 not out against Bare in 1969. This contributed to him winning the 1969 WCL batting averages.

No other player in the WCL is known to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings and scored a ton. He finished in 1986 with a total of 9198 runs to his name. His retirement left a huge hole in the Warton dressing room and his infectious enthusiasm was missed as much as his wickets and runs.

His captaincy spell saw him lead his team to the league and cup double in 1974 and win the Tower Shield competition in 1975. Not to be deprived of his fresh air and fun David turned to Crown green balls with Warton Bowling club. As competitive as ever he soon reached first-team level and needless to say was part of championship-winning squads.

The village of Warton has lost one of its finest sporting sons. David Rucastle graced many a playing field in North Lancashire and South Westmorland. Whatever the game he always played it with boyish fervour and always to win.