Chudleigh CC stalwart Danny Hughes was a genuine man for all seasons

Danny Hughes (front, centre) with the Chudleigh team who won the 1963 South Devon CC six-a-side tournament
Danny Hughes (front, centre) with the Chudleigh team who won the 1963 South Devon CC six-a-side tournament

DEVON’S sporting community has lost one of its best-known members with the death of Danny Hughes at the age of 94.

Hughes was not only a skilled footballer at South Devon League level, good enough to appear in three successive Herald Cup final-winning sides, he was also a handy club cricketer with South Devon and Chudleigh CCs.

When Hughes’ football playing days ended he turned to coaching, masterminding the rise and rise of Newton Dynamos FC from a bunch of youth league lads into a squad good enough to play alongside the likes of Plymouth Argyle A team in the old South Western League.

Chudleigh 1st XI in 1971. Dany Hughes is fifth from the left at the rear. Son Terry is kneeling in front of his fatherHughes played cricket well into his 50s, then turned to umpiring Saturday afternoon league games for Chudleigh.

When Chudleigh ran into a player shortage in the late 1990, 72-year-old Hughes borrowed some kit and made up the numbers in a league game against Plymouth to prevent the club being deducted points for failing to fulfil a fixture.

It was that sort of dedication that earned Hughes the Teignbridge Sports Personality of the Year award in 1984.

“My dad spent his final years in a care home and the certificate he was presented with stayed with him on the wall until his dying day,” said son Terry.

Danny Hughes was born in the Surrey town of Caterham, moving to Chudleigh in the 1930s as his mother had family in the town.

During World War Two Hughes enlisted in the Royal Navy and served between 1942-1946 on  the destroyer HMS Urania with the Pacific Fleet.Danny Hughes the Kingsteignton footballer being introduced to a VIP guest before the 1953 Herald Cup final

“Dad was a quartermaster on destroyers assigned to protect our aircraft carriers,” said Terry.

“He served for the duration and saw a lot of the Far East, such as Australia, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines. I know he visited Hiroshima after the bomb had been dropped.

“During the war he played football for Navy sides and one game was against the Australians at the Sydney Cricket Ground.”

Peacetime brought Hughes back to Newton Abbot where he first joined the South Devon Cricket Club, then based in Cricketfield Road.

“Dad played at South Devon until around 1952 when he moved to Chudleigh,” said Hughes.

“His mother had family connections with Chudleigh and dad had so much gip from her family he made the move.

“He spent the rest of his cricket career at Chudleigh, playing in the first team for nearly 30 years and captained the side in two spells (1960-64 and 1968-73).”

Hughes dropped into the 2nd XI from the mid-70s onwards, then turned to umpiring in 1981. 

Winter Saturday afternoons from the late 40s to the early were spent playing football for Kingsteignton Athletic, who were a dominant force in the South Devon League.

The Rams won the Herald Cup in 1953, 1954 and 1955 and in all three years Hughes played at inside-right. They did the league and cup double in 1953 and 1954.

Hughes had his own contract cleaning business and one of his client was the Centrax engineering firm at Milber. His connection with Centrax led to an offer to play the final two years of his football career for the factory side.

By 1964 Danny Hughes had retired from local football, but son Terry was just starting out on his soccer journey.

“We were a bunch of kids Buckland who were playing pick-up games against other sides, like Broadlands, and wanted to form a proper club,” said Terry.

“What we needed was a manager so I asked my dad to come down and watch us play a game. That was the start of what became Newton Dynamos.”

Danny became manager, chairman and coach all rolled into one and recruited other parents, such as Dave Cook, Sam Ridler and Harry Flaherty to fill

Newton Dynamos quickly joined the Devon Minor League then graduated to the Saturday afternoon South Devon League.

Danny Hughes umpiring a game at South Devon CC in 1992Dynamos lost their first game 22-1 against Watcombe Villa. Things could only get better from then on, and they did. Over the next decade Dynamos climbed seven divisions to the SDL Premier Division, then took a big leap into the semi-professional South Western League in 1977.

“We were strictly amateur, unlike some of the teams we played against, but held our own,” said Terry.

Over the next 30 seasons the Dynamos morphed into Newton Abbot FC, dropped out of the South Western League in 1989 and left their home at Centrax to play at Coach Road, now the Devon FA headquarters.

Financial problems beset the club from around 2006 onwards and a merger with Dawlish Town failed to save them from going out of business in 2008.

Danny Hughes had long retired as team manager by then, although even in his mid-80s still followed the club’s fortunes closely.

“Dad was devastated when the club folded and would have liked to start Dynamos all over again if he could,” said Terry.

Danny Hughes met his wife-to-be Gladys in Newton Abbot in 1947. The couple married in 1949 and had two children, Terry and Denise. Gladys died in 2007.

Danny Hughes funeral will take place at St Mary’s Church, Coach Road, Newton Abbot this Friday (November 16) at 11am. A reception will be held at Devon FA HQ after the service.