Gainsborough, Lincolnshire born right half Hughie Dickson was a Darlington stalwart of the 1920’s and early 1930’s in what was arguably the best period of Darlington’s history. He had joined hometown club Gainsborough Trinity after the First World War and was playing for Worksop Town when Darlington signed him when the club re-formed after the War in 1919. By January 1920, Dickson was part of a Darlington half-back line – the others being George Malcolm and Percy Sutcliffe – who, according to the Daily Express ahead of their FA Cup tie with Second Division Birmingham, had acquired “a reputation for upsetting opponents’ designs”. In the event, they could not upset Birmingham’s designs: Tommy Winship missed a penalty, and Darlington lost 4-0. Dickson and right back Arthur Golightly were their most “conspicuous” players, though both “perceptibly tired under pressure” towards the end of the game.
In February, he was one of two Darlington players selected for the North Eastern League representative team to face the Central League, and he helped Darlington win the North Eastern League title in 1920-21, after which the club was elected to The Football League’s newly formed Third Division (North), Dickson playing and scoring in their inaugural match in August 1921 in a 4-1 victory over Halifax Town. From time to time during the 1922-23 season, he played inside forward with Bert Burridge at right half, bagging 8 goals, and after goals in each of his first two matches of the 1923-24 season, the Derby Daily Telegraph wrote that “he has been instrumental in putting a lot of ‘pep’ into the attack”, and that although “neither big nor heavy… he is the type of player who takes a lot of shifting off the ball. He can shoot, too.”
By midway through the season, his form was such that “substantial offers” had reportedly been made by First Division clubs for his services, but Darlington did not sell. He was ever present as Darlington won the Third Division (North) Championship in 1925, and played most of their matches during their spell in the Second Division where they achieved their highest ever League finish the following season. In September 1924, a crowd of 5,000 saw Scottish club Raith Rovers, with former Darlington player Peter Bell in their team, visit Feethams for Dickson’s benefit match.
He received a second benefit in April 1930, the proceeds of a match against Middlesbrough, by which time he had made approaching 500 appearances for Darlington in all competitions. In the later part of his career, Dickson was used in the right back berth, partnering Herbert Brown. In March 1932, “the club’s most popular and consistent player”, according to the Yorkshire Post announced his retirement at the end of the season after 13 years and nearly 600 games. The 3-2 home defeat to Doncaster Rovers on 30 April should have been his last game before entering a career in business, but he was lured out of retirement for 10 appearances during the 1933-34 season. On what was his final appearance for the club, on 10th February 1934, he scored Darlington’s consolation in a 6-1 defeat at Wrexham. He had made 434 appearances and scored 43 goals for Darlington during their League era. Only Ron Greener, who passed his mark in the 1960’s, played times more for Darlington.