Joe Bulcock born in Burnley, signing from Macclesfield Town and leaving to join Crystal Palace, played in Exeter City’s first official game as a professional club against Millwall in the Southern League in September 1908. He moved on after a single season and, after playing nearly 150 league games for Crystal Palace, signed for Swansea Town. Enlisting with the Welsh Regiment he was sent to the front and died of his injuries in 1918.
Born into a family of cotton weavers around the time football was taking up its place at Turf Moor alongside cricket, Joe lived in nearby Fir Street. Starting with St Catherine’s Juniors, and working as a weaver himself, he quickly moved on to Colne of the Lancashire Combination side ahead of signing for Bury where he only made a handful of Football League appearances. Playing a season with Macclesfield, he was a typical Arthur Chadwick signing just as Exeter City was starting life as a professional club in 1908.
Appearing in the opening game of City’s first Southern League campaign, he made 23 league appearances before fading from the scene two-thirds of the way through the season. Leaving for Crystal Palace in 1909 he was far more successful in South London and, playing 146 league matches, gained representative honours playing for the Football Association.
Joining Swansea Town in 1914 he briefly worked as a plumber’s mate when football was suspended before enlisting with the Welsh Regiment in December 1915. Sent to the Western Front in September 1917, he was wounded at the Fourth Battle of Ypres the following spring and died of his injuries on 20 April 1918.
Exeter City historian Aidan Hamilton, visiting Burnley in 2022, was able to report that Joe’s name is listed on Burnley FC’s World War One memorial.
For more information about Joe Bulcock’s war service and death see his entry in the Killed in Action section of the Archive