WHILE he may have only played twice for St Helens, there have been few more extraordinary players to appear for Saints then Jimmy Peters.

Born in Salford in 1879, Jimmy’s early years were spent with Cedric’s Menagerie, a travelling zoo.

When his lion tamer father was mauled to death, Jimmy became a child bareback rider with another circus, until he broke his arm.

Having been abandoned by the circus in 1890, Jimmy found himself in Fegan’s Orphanage in Southwark and then Little Wanderers Home in Greenwich, where he began to excel in several sports including rugby.

Jimmy trained as a carpenter and moved to Bristol where he turned out for Bristol FC before moving to Plymouth where he played for Plymouth RFC and then Devon.

Despite one local newspaper complaining he was “keeping a white man out of the side”, Jimmy’s skill was recognised and in 1906 he was picked to play for England against Scotland. In his next match, he scored a try in England’s inaugural international against France.

St Helens Star: Jimmy Peters (third from left, middle row) played rugby for Bristol and Somerset between 1900 and 1903

Selection for club, county and country was always controversial because of Jimmy’s colour and he became embroiled in controversy when members of the touring South African Springboks complained about playing against him.

Tragedy struck in 1910 when Jimmy suffered an accident while working in Plymouth’s naval dockyard and he lost three fingers. His career never recovered and he decided to return to his native North West and switch codes.

Jimmy played for Barrow in 1913 and then transferred to St Helens in 1914. He made his debut at Knowsley Road on November 20 against Dewsbury and finished on the winning side but would lose his next game against Warrington in what turned out to be his last appearance.

St Helens Star: Jimmy Peters (front row) was sensational for Devon as they won the County Championship in 1902, prompting calls for an England call-up

Jimmy moved back to Plymouth, becoming a publican. He died in 1954 aged 74. In 2014, Twickenham’s World Rugby Museum learned that his grave had no headstone, making it impossible to identify. The following year, a new headstone was installed paying tribute to Jimmy being England’s first black international rugby player.