So, here we are again 4 weeks into the serialisation of my first book and I just wanted to thank all those of you who have, in such strange and scary times, taken the opportunity to contact me after reading the previous instalments. It seems, like me, some of you are enjoying the brief escape of reliving less complicated times. In fact, a lot of you have returned to me stories of your own that hopefully one day in the future I’ll be able to include in the Diary. I know by the number of folks that are ‘clicking on’ every week, it’s being read by plenty of the regular readers.
Thank-you so much for all that and for sticking with me as the weeks come and go and I just hope that keeping the diary going in some form, is working for you, at a time when, however hard we look, good news is hard to come by, whilst rugby news is none existent.
I know one thing, I miss bumping into all those fans I used to see every week, in the street, in the shops and in the pub, who were all eager to chew the fat about the last game, what I’d had to say in the diary and the team in general. If all this has proved nothing else then it has certainly brought to the fore just what gregarious and social animals we all are.
As I said last week the weekly rounds may not be taking place, the FC may not be training and the club may be in a bit of a state (as all clubs are), but as fans and comrades, even when we are unable to meet, we continue to gain great succour and strength from being part of the great FC family, and I think that there is a kindred spirit about us all that will, in the end, get us through.
Better times must be around the corner and one day we will,I’m sure, be getting back to some rugby and just worrying about who’s injured, who’s out of form, how our new coach is getting on and what the SMC is up to; if that is, by then, we have a game to support.
Thanks’ as always for your good wishes, which I of course return to all of you.
This week in the continuing tale of a lifelong FC fanatic, we move into a rather tough times for the club; the 1960’s. However, for this young fan, struggling with the rigours, heartache’s and bullying of the 60’s secondary education system (which included being forced to play Rugby Union), there was always, my first trip to Wembley, Arthur Keegan, Clive Sullivan and the great Wilf Rosenberg to get me through. This week we start with a bit of Shakespeare and if occasionally it’s not strictly accurate, it’s just my mind playing tricks on me and on how I remember it. One things for sure however, it’s all come straight from the heart. So, again, I hope this week you find something to enjoy. Stay safe everyone!
Try to Keep Believing
‘And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail, unwilling to school’
After that disappointing start to the 61/62 season at the Boulevard, my first Academic year at Kelvin Hall Technical High School started on 9th September 1961. I obviously didn’t know any Shakespeare then, because it wasn’t very Chiltern Street at all, but had I been conversant with the works of the bard no doubt my demeanour that morning would have been best summed up by that extract from ‘The seven ages of man’ in ‘As You Like it’. It was just all that uniform stuff, the smelly leather satchel and the cap; boy I hated the cap, it just wasn’t me at all. There was little doubt however that I found myself that day at an educational establishment that despite being just five miles from Aylesford Street and the Boulevard, was light years away from Chiltern Street Juniors.
The first morning that I stepped from the number 15 bus along with another dozen or so ‘new kids’, I was totally captivated, not so much by the school itself, that was just four years old and still in its infancy but by the playing fields that surrounded it on every side. As I walked through the gates, they were the only thing I could take in, they were gigantic;there was literally grass as far as the eye could see. I had never seen so much of the green stuff in my life and I remember making a mental note that this place was bigger than West and ‘Picky’ Park put together.
We were all immediately shepherded into the cloakrooms, where we deposited our Hats and Coats and instructed to put on our indoor shoes. After a short assembly, where all the new recruits were read ‘their rights’ by our Head Master William Pattinson (or Bill as he soon became known), a roll call was read out and once this had been completed, we were marched off to our various classrooms. All this was done in utter silence because you simply knew no one; everything was new including your classmates. I was put into class 1DS: (the initials did not actually mean that they had already sussed my level of academic ability but rather that our form teachers were Miss Downing and Mr Stankley!) This was a modern school indeed, no streaming, no elitism and some girls that actually looked quite acceptable, although everything to animpressionable young student was a completely newexperience.
‘Stinker’ Stankley’s name, caused a few titters, which helped break the ice a bit and things were further eased when we found out our Geography teacher was a Mr Mann, our maths teacher a Mr Nutter and our English master a Mr Adcock!! The head teacher, Bill, was a fine figure of a man, standing six-foot-tall he always seemed to wear a light checked suit, well-polished brown brogues and sported a shock of greased back white hair. Much to my relief Bill told us all in his ‘Welcome’ speech that he did not agree with corporal punishment and that was quite a culture shock for me, particularly after what had gone on in the past with ‘master spy’ ‘Herr’ Symonds and that slipper, this, I concluded at the end of my first day, was maybe not going to be as bad as I had at first envisaged.
No Rugby League … an introduction to ‘kick and thump’.
Suddenly however, life was turned upside down as I quickly discovered that school was no longer a pass time to be endured between games of rugby and playing out, school days were now much longer and therefore more time consuming. I had to leave home at ten to eight to catch a bus to the town centre and then another to Bricknell Avenue. By the time I got home each night it was around five and then there was another new innovation to cope with, the dreaded homework! That didn’t go down too well I can tell you, but I soon worked out which teachers demanded results next morning, and those who were not that bothered, so I just did what I had to. Itmade no difference of course to Mum and Dad who would still ask every tea time, when they caught me sat watchingTV, “Haven’t you got any homework to do?”
Every Thursday afternoon the timetable included a double period of sport with Mr Jones, a small but diminutive Welshman who insisted that there would be “No Rugby League played at his School” and so I was introduced, painfully, to a sort of kick and get thumped version of the game, that was apparently called Rugby Union or ‘Ruggarrrr!as Jonesey called it in his rich Welsh brogue.
I suppose when I look back now, considering this school was in Hull, there was certainly a modicum of snobbery about the place, and if like me you got into the school team, you would spend a lot of Saturdays travelling to faraway places in the East Riding countryside like Driffield and Bridlington, where this strange game was also played by kids who spoke withvery effected accents indeed. My old rugby coaches at Chilton Street would have been pulling their hair out. Strangely enough though, I found that the ‘posher’ the accents became at these schools, the more violent was the opposition. Soon,this quickly became little more than a weekly opportunity to go out into the country on a nice bus ride, to get my head kicked in and I soon decided that perhaps that was not for me at all. So, believing that discretion was the better part of valour, I quickly hatched a plan to stop getting beat up every weekend.
When it came to Thursday’s Game’s lesson, I started to have attacks of amnesia when it came to remembering to bring my kit with me, an action which often led to me being given ‘lines’ by ‘Jonesy’ which I studiously completed in the warmth of the changing rooms. However, when we played touch Rugby League on the playground at lunch-time, the speed and handling skills I had honed at Chiltern Street, ensured I was always the first to be picked to play by my new pals.
There are no grey areas; everything in our house is black and white.
Another problem with those Saturday morning Rugby Union outings was that arriving back at school in the early afternoon had started to affect my ability to get back to the Boulevard for those mid-winter 2-30pm kick offs. The Hull team in 1961/62, despite starting to disintegrate as the great players of the 50’s began to age and move away, was reasonably successful and we won 23 games. As kids newly initiated to watching Hull FC we never thought much of it really, but I guess that the older fans who had lived through that great period in the late, 50’s must have realised that things were on the slide. The problem was that we had a few young players mixed with some of the old guard, who were just hanging onas diminishing financial resources meant that cash to replace our aged players was almost none existent.
If things were tough at school they were little better at home either as Dad was in a foul mood because for the first time in thirty years Hull had finished below Rovers in the league table. Back then, as is I suppose, still the case to this day, that sort of occurrence certainly coloured the atmosphere in a rugby mad household like ours. As I said earlier some of the heroes of the fifties had departed, although some still remained, including Bill Drake, Tommy Finn, George Matthews and Malcolm Storey. Then Bills brother Jim Drake became a real “Turncoat” in this lad’s eyes, when much was made in our house of the fact that after receiving a big benefit cheque from the club, he had gone off to play for the enemy across the river. Dad had helped on his benefit committee too, so you’ll appreciate just how well his cross City move went down at number 23.
You see the thing you learn at an early age about being a fan is that you grow to find it incredibly hard to understand why players never ever feel as passionate about your club as you do. You may sometimes think that they care that much, you always want them to and occasionally you really believe that they do, but trust me, after sixty years of devotion and loyalty to my club the fact is players don’t care as much as fans do.
Granted the players take all the physical stuff and injuries and most of them truly believe that they give their all for their club, but it can never truly be their club can it? Well it can’t when as a last resort, if all else fails, they can be transferred somewhere else, whilst for us fans that is simply not an option. Personally, I don’t believe that they make the personal, financial and emotional sacrifices that we as supporters make or indeed have to take the ridicule and hurt that us ‘mere’ fans do. We do all that for a team that are to us the one and only club we can ever follow, who are for us simply the best there is, and yet we know in our heart of hearts that they are never ever going to win that much ‘Silverware’ in any one’s fans life-time. But it is a life time love affair; simple as!
Although I was just eleven when I started to understand that fact, I guess back then in Aylesford Street with Jim Drake on his way to Rovers, it was nothing new really for my Dad, and despite being furious about what had happened, he would have most definitely, seen it all before.
Of course since then, as time has moved on, Jim Drake is remembered for what he was, a real hero, and a fantastic player and servant to the Black and Whites, but back then he had left us for the enemy and that’s the way it was when you were a kid, there were no grey areas and everything in our house was black and white! The season, which had threatened at times to trail away amazingly ended with another Wembleyappearance on the cards, well it did until we were walloped 29-9 in the Challenge Cup semi-final by St. Helens. It was a game that Mum decided we would not be attending, and when I heard the result I thought that she had probably made the right decision.
As well as Jim Drake moving across the City, Tommy Harris, one of Mum’s big heroes, departed for York and so the day he left was another black one in our house. However despite a veil of gloom descended over number 23, I was still young and enthusiastic about the game and it all left me pretty unaffected, I just lived for going across the road to the Boulevard every week and during the long winter season it was the usual routine of ‘A’ team games one week, first team the next. In those long cold winters because there was no pitch-side lighting at the club at all, training was conducted at the local public baths in Madeley Street. The junior pool was covered every winter with floor boarding, with just the ‘big’ pool left open for swimming. Incidentally this boarded and cavernous hall was also a regular venue for Saturday night dances and of course Wrestling which was promoted there once a week by the famous Leeds promoters Relwyskow and Green, that often featured the previously mentioned ex Hull hooker and now professional wrestler, Sammy Evans.
Eventually Dad got over his depression and joined the committee formed to organise Jim’s Drake’s brother Bill’s testimonial in what was to be a joint benefit to honour the services to the club of both Bill and Johnny Whiteley.
Enter Arthur Keegan; probably the best Full-Back I will ever see.
Hull/Rovers Combined 17 New Zealand 6
In the 61/62 season several of the old guard from the glorious 50’s like Johnny, Mick Scott, Stan Cowen and a struggling Peter Bateson soldiered on in the first team,although, you’ll recall, Peter had been badly injured in thatChampionship play-off game before the 1959 Wembley final, when Rocky Turner of Wakefield felled him with a late off the ball tackle and he had never really recovered. His confidence was shot and although still a great goal kicker, he was by now mostly restricted to plying his trade in the “A” team, with hisfull-back spot being taken in the first team by an up and coming hero in the guise of the soon to be great Arthur Keegan. We were trying to re build the team, but lack of cash and some poor decisions on the signing of amateur players was making for slow progress.
We were still managed and coached by Roy Francis who was responsible for advising the Board on team matters and here it should also be remembered that it was not until the early 1970’s, when Francis returned to the club, that the board stopped picking the teams each week, a situation that is pretty hard to believe in these days of coach’s selecting the team in Super League. Still despite our limited finances we did go out and signed Terry Hollingdrake, a prolific point’s scorer from Bramley. Terry was well known in the game as a free scoring winger and he signed for the club for the then substantial fee of £5,500. To this young and not easily impressed supporter though, he never really appeared to be that good and seemed to spend most of his time being pushed into touch! But, it was an early indication of sports fans always having differing opinions and what did I know, because a glance at the record books shows that he actually was top try scorer that year with 21 touch downs, so I can only presume that he scored a lot of those tries away from the Boulevard.
That 1961/ 62 season of rugby league at the Boulevard started much as the previous one had finished but little did I know that it was to contain a fundamental milestone in the life of this young supporter and something that would see me introduced to my first two real heroes of the Boulevard. The team plodded along in the first few games with the highlight of the early season being a win for a Hull and Rovers Combined team against the New Zealand Tourists. This was a great game to watch containing as it did some fantastic end to end rugby which was crowned by a 17-6 score line in favour of the ‘City’ team.
Two heroes for the price of one. The Flying Dentist and A. N. Other.
Saturday 9th December 1961: Hull 28 Bramley 9
However, that December, just as things were settling down for another average season, the news broke in the Hull Daily Mail that Hull had put in an audacious bid for the Leeds star Wilf Rosenberg, or as he was widely known in the West Riding, “The Flying Dentist”. Dad brought the paper into number 23 that night and immediately called me away from my home-work and into the kitchen as he spread The Hull Daily Mail on the table, sending the carefully arranged knives and forks crashing to the floor. There must be, I thought, something pretty dramatic in the news today. He turned the paper to the back page and announced triumphantly, “Look at that Son, now he is a great player”. The ‘flyer’ from South Africa had signed!
I was so excited and could not wait for his first home game that weekend against Bramley. On the days leading up to the game I desperately needed to find more out about this new ‘Star’ that we had acquired but with only a local paper to rely on, information was in scant supply. So, in desperation I resorted to asking our Physics teacher Mr Bell, who hailed from Hunslet on the outskirts of Leeds, (but supportedBramley) just what he knew about ‘The Flying Dentist’. I stopped him in the corridor at school before General Science that Wednesday morning and he willingly related all that I needed to know to ensure that, for me, a hero was about to come into my life.
He told me that Wilf was indeed a Dentist with a practise in Leeds, and that fact and his amazing speed with ball in hand, was the reason that he had been given his nick-name. ‘Belly’went on to tell me that Wilf was a real ‘old fashioned’ flying winger, whose speciality was to end his runs with a spectacular dive as he crossed the line. He also said that a lot of the Leeds fans over in the West Riding were ‘Up in arms’ about his leaving and added that he was amazed that Hull FC had got such a sensational player to move over to the Boulevard at all. I simply couldn’t wait for Saturday to come. I ducked out of homework on Thursday night and went with Jenksey and a few of my pals to Madeley Street to see if I could catch a glimpse of Wilf at training. Sadly, once we got there, and watched the players going into the building it was hard to decide whether he was there or not. One of my mates Steve said, “They all look the same with their clothes on” which I guess summed it up really.
Well over a thousand more spectators than usual turned up at the Boulevard that Saturday as Jenks, Steve Dyson and I watched the game from our most recently adopted vantage point, in front of the Threepenny stand laid on the roof of the home teams trainers hut. It was a great view, although you had to keep quiet or the coaching staff would pop their heads over the roof and tell you to ‘Clear off’. For games to be really memorable back then and to send me back home buzzing with the overall experience of it all, I had to have fish and chips for dinner, meet my pals on the car park and watch from the Threepenny stand side of the Boulevard. I was meticulous in my planning that day and everything was set fair to remember this one.
The Hull’s team that kicked off at 2-30 that afternoon was I suppose the usual mix of ‘has-been’s’ and youngsters, who were, none the less, still all big stars to this young supporter. Hollingdrake was missing because of a leg injury and as that made us short of Backs, Loose Forward and Captain Johnny Whiteley played in the centre for one of the few times in his career. This was probably, as one wag said behind us in the Threepenny Stand, “To bloody well make sure we get some value for money out of that bloody Dentist”
There was another surprise in store though because on ourwing was a rare sight in those days, a black man. There were hardly any playing in the RL and it was a really unusual sight for us all to see this lean, fit muscular black guy, shinning with embrocation, running straight out of the tunnel to take up his place in front of us. Looking on the team sheet in the programme he was down as A.N.Other, which seemed a really strange name for anyone, let alone a rugby player. Thankfully, someone in the know behind us explained that he was probably a “Trialist”, ‘moonlighting’, from Rugby Union. Back then if you were found playing League by the other code’s authorities your career was over, so aspiring converts reverted to pseudonyms such as A.N. Other, S.O. Else, Winger, Trialist and even, A. Newman. In fact, when international sprinter Berwyn Jones who was probably the fastest man in the country at the time, had a trial for Wakefield in 1964, because he had already played Union, he was given the rather ironic alias of ’Walker’.
No one down at the Boulevard that afternoon had to wait long for some action because the first time this ‘Mr. Other’got possession of the ball he was off down the field at great pace and it took a brilliant last ditch crash tackle by Wilson the Bramley full-back to stop him from scoring with his first involvement in the game. Then, the moment we had been waiting for arrived as Wilf at last got in on the action. Scooping up a loose ball about fifteen meters from his own line, he set off down the field, ‘hugging’ the whitewash that denoted the right touch line. As he passed level with us scorching down the far Best Stand side, everyone from the trainer’s benches in front of us were on their feet. He looked like he would go into touch at any minute, (just as Hollingdrake seemed to do every week) but he handed away three potential tacklers in a thrilling dash to the line. Then, from what seemed like at least five yards out, with just one player left in pursuit, he took off for that famous dive Mr Bell had described so graphically the previous Wednesday. Rosenberg literally flew over the line parallel with the ground to complete his first touchdown for the club, much to the pleasure of the posse of photographers eagerly waiting behind the dead ball line. As their flash bulbs lit up the dull afternoon, for this fan a star was born.
That try and dive will stay in my memory forever, and I was not on my own because one of those photographs even featured in a couple of Rugby League annuals that Christmas!! Wilf scored 2 tries on his debut, whilst the trialist Winger Mr A.N. Other scored three, the last one a magnificent 50 yarder that saw the coaches and bench officials from both clubs applauding the effort, and so, almost as an aside, we won the game 29-9.
It wasn’t all about our wingers though because impromptu centre Whiteley, had a great game that afternoon too, he even supplied the passes for one of Rosenberg’s and two of the trialist wingers tries. As we sang “Old Faithful” with the rest of the ‘Threepennies’ at the end of the game, little did Steve, Jenks and I know that we had just witnessed the birth of a star and the beginning of an era.
Getting ‘coined’; the things you do for charity.
As an aside and a footnote to that monumental moment in my life as a supporter, it should also be mentioned that at the same match, we witnessed a ritual that was seen as a regular tradition in the 60’s and 70’s. That year as I have already mentioned it was the joint Testimonial season for both Bill Drake and Johnny Whiteley and a collection for their benefit fund was taken at half time. This saw four members of theplayers Testimonial Committee holding a bed sheet at each corner and tilting it towards the crowd. They then walked round the touch line inviting the spectators to throw coins into the sheet. It was all a very orderly affair as the group passed in front of the Best Stand and round the end terracing with folks moving to the front of the crowd and tossing coins into the sheet.
However, when they paraded down the touchline in front of the Threepenny Stand, all hell broke loose. We three lads watched in glee as the regulars magnanimously threw handfuls of coins, not into the sheet, but at the four characters carrying it. A cheer went up every time someone was hit, and a group of young lads followed up behind the procession picking up any coins that had missed the collecting sheet, no doubt on a ‘one for you one for me’ basis. It was certainly a fact that many a Committee member went home as battered and bruised as the players, after these collections, and I bet Dad was glad that he had to work that Saturday.
Sullivan signs and we have the best pair of wingers in British Rugby League.
Saturday 6th January 1962: Hull 30 Bradford Northern 6.
After the Bramley game our Directors retired to the Board room to pat themselves on the back after the signing of Rosenberg and to consider what to do about signing their ‘trialist’, Mr A. N. Other. All of a sudden the whole place was thrown into turmoil when it was reported that three Halifax directors had been sat in the Best Stand and were so impressed they were looking for the young black winger to sign him up for the West Yorkshire club. However, the player himself had completely disappeared and fearing the worst our directors instigated a search of the City in which all the hotels were contacted but there was still no sign of the player. Had he just walked off or worse still been ‘abducted’ by the Halifax Directors? It was a mystery. A catastrophe was eventually averted when it was discovered that our coach Roy Francis had been worried about the rival clubs official as well and had taken the player home with him for some tea.
The paper work was done on Sunday Morning and on Monday the club announced that we had signed the young black winger, who apparently hailed from Cardiff’s Tiger Bay area and who was of course Clive Sullivan. Thus began, an era which was one that few in Rugby League will ever forget, ‘The Sullivan Years!’
I remember just two games later after a freezing cold Christmas that saw most matches in the league cancelled, we played Bradford Northern in a game that I watched in the Best Stand with Steve and a pal of his called Kenny. In that game the scoring roles were reversed, with Rosenberg crossing for three tries and ‘Sully’ scoring two. We won a famous and unlikely victory by 30-6. There were about 7000 hardy fanswho braved the elements that day as the west of the City of Hull began to warm to these two flying wingers that were starting to set the Boulevard alight. As young supporters we loved it. In the remaining half of the season those two wingersterrorised defences and scored 28 tries between them! I also remember that year we signed two young forwards John Edson and Jim Macklin whose progress we lads followed in the A team. Of course on top of the try scoring list was, for the second season running ‘my mate’ Terry Hollingdrake, he had been moved to the centre after the arrival of the two new boys but who seemed still to flatter to deceive, although in more recent times my research has led me to believe that he was a fine player and that I as a young and impressionable youth had perhaps got it terribly wrong.
The First team, the A team, the football team.
Saturday 31st March 1962: Hull A 12 Featherstone A 10
Looking back on that 1961/62 season I guess that oneparticular weekend in late March sticks in my memory as a good example of what life at the Boulevard was like back then. We were in a bit of a poor run of form having lost 5 of our last 6 first team games, most recently to Oldham and Wakefield at the Boulevard. Much of the fans discussion and that of the media centred around Peter Bateson, the full back and goal kicker who had been the mainstay of our successful side in the late 50’s. As I previously mentioned, Peter had never been the same since he got battered by Wakefield’s ‘Rocky’ Turner and was now regularly described as ‘Windy’ by certain elements of the Boulevard crowd.
This particular weekend a few of us lads used our passes to watch the ‘A’ team take on Featherstone ‘A’ in the Yorkshire Senior Competition. It was quite a nice day and as always for these games we took up our place on the Threepenny Stand with another 430 diehard supporters. Transfer listed Bateson was playing for the second string that day, whilst Arthur Keegan played in the first team away at Bramley. As is often the case in these situations, Bateson showed up really well in what was a dour game against the Colliers, who were always packed with big brawny forwards straight out of the coal mines, but who were usually short of speedy creative backs.
That day ‘Hull ‘A’ ran out in faded shirts, some of which their wearers obviously found to be badly fitting, with Prop Malcolm Storey’s so tight it looked like anytime it would split open down the middle. Tries for Storey and Clive’s younger brother Brian Sullivan saw us lead 10-0 at half time but the tough uncompromising West Yorkshire men fought back in the second half, with two stars for the future Tonks and Morgan blasting over the line to score, whilst a young Eric Broom, who was two years later to sign for Hull, brilliantly converted a couple of long range penalty goals.
For Hull FC both Terry Devonshire, a young off half/wingerwho was to become a future hero and Keith Macklin had big games as did Peter Whiteley and Storey. The main action though took place in the last few minutes when our big trialist prop Wiles was felled by Morgan and a classic brawl in the mud broke out, (something that happened every week in A team games, in fact if it didn’t you felt that you’d been cheated), in the end the referee had to physically wade in to sort things out. As I indicated earlier, in the end Bateson was to prove the hero, and whilst both Hollingdrake and Keegan were missing critical goals for the first team over at Bramley, Bateson stroked over the last minute 52 yard penalty, that had followed the punch up, to make the final score an exciting 12-10 victory to the Hull A team.
We all trooped down to the front of the stand and around the ground for the usual ritual of congregating around one of the old ‘Tannoy’ speaker poles on top of Bunkers Hill at the Airlie Street end. Here we awaited the result coming in fromthe first team’s game at Bramley. After about ten minutes the speaker crackled into life with the announcement, ‘The final score from Barley Mow is Hull 8 Bramley 16. Another defeat and more disappointment as we trudged off for our teas,chuntering and moaning about the state of our current form.
Later at number 23 the Green Sports Mail dropped through the letter box at around six thirty and indicated that the away game at Bramley had ended up 2 tries a piece but ironically for us lot who had marvelled at Bateson’s late goal for the ‘A’team that very afternoon, the lack of a successful goal kicker meant that Bramley in the end took the spoils.
Apparently the first team were experiencing problems at half back and so we tried Dick Gemmell at number 6 instead of in his more customary centre spot, but this hadn’t worked at all although my hero Wilf Rosenberg, who was man of the match, scored two great tries to see us level at half time. The first was after just 4 minutes when he scooped up a loose ball 40 yards out and charged down the wing to finish with his usual spectacular dive in the corner. We missed the conversion, but then just before half time Wilf scored again after a 20 yard run that followed a rare flowing move from the Hull backs. Much of what we tried as a team, the paper indicated, was hopelessly out of time and we had dropped the ball regularly, in a game that featured 36 scrums.
The report went on to inform us that Trevor Whitehead was the pick of our forwards and although in the last ten minutes Keegan kicked a penalty goal, four goals in the second half by Bramley’s Smith saw them home. The Sports Mail headlines said, ’Hull may have to recall Bateson’ but those who had made the coach journey to West Leeds told us next day, that Keegan despite his wayward goal kicking, had otherwise hada fine game at full-back.
So, in labouring the point a bit I hope I have demonstrated what just another weekend of supporting Hull FC was like. It was another defeat for the first team and a close win for the A team, however that weekend the action was not quite over yet as next day, Sunday, saw us all back at the Boulevard for a special charity event for the Johnny Whiteley Testimonial Fund. It was a football match between A ‘Johnny Whiteley11’ and a ‘Freddie Trueman 11’ (the Yorkshire Cricketer was also having a benefit that year). I went with Dad and stood in the well of the Best Stand. An amazing 6000 people paid admissions totalling £1000 to watch the game and after expenses both beneficiaries received £350 towards their testimonial funds. A Half time collection realized £31, and was conducted in the previously described tradition, when once again four brave souls carried that sheet round the ground again, running, the gauntlet with the marksmen in the Threepenny stand! This time Dad could not escape and took a corner of the sheet ‘copping’ a cut on the forehead for his trouble. The score ended 4-4 with David Bell (Hull and ER); Johnny Whiteley (2) and Groundsman Ron Tate scored the home teams goals, whilst Yorkshire Captain Brian Close scored a hat trick for Trueman’s 11. Three games and a lot of good fun it was just a typical weekend in 1962 really.
Hull FC on Tour and having to borrow some goal posts.
During that hot summer of 1962, we went off to the ‘Caravan’ converted railway carriage at Speights Farm in Mappleton, for what was to be our last summer holiday there. New regulations about both the condition of static caravans and the basic requirements of caravan parks dictated that the site and our ‘railway carriage’ were to be condemned! However,whilst we whiled away the six weeks summer holidays on the sunny east coast, Hull and Rovers embarked on a promotional tour of the South West of England.
Even back then the administration of the Rugby Leaguefavoured these ‘missionary’ excursions into the heart of Rugby Union territory and as I believe is still the case these days; usually they failed to reap any real rewards. The two deadliest of enemies played each other 3 times in games at Cambourne, Falmouth and Penzance. Hull FC, we were all pleased to learn, won all three matches.
I seem to remember reading in the Daily Mail that 5000 people attended one game where the Council had to provide some goal posts because the Rugby Union club who were tenants of the council stadium, took theirs down and refused to let the rugby league lads use them. For some reason, unknown to most at the time, the Union boys really feared Rugby League back then and tried at every opportunity to belittle and talk down our game. Still a lot of the players really enjoyed the experience and David Doyle Davidson told me years later, that someone in the crowd at one of the games yelled out, “When are you lot going to start fighting then”. I guess they looked upon our thirteen a side code of rugby as one that was played by northern upstarts, who more often than not let their fists do the talking. However, this tour actually heralded the start of Arthur Keegan’s permanent reign as full-back and banished once and for all the spectre of Peter Bateson from the club. At one of these tour games, when Arthur dropped a towering kick a voice in the crowd yelled “Bring back Peter Bateson”. He related later that he thought, “Bloody Hell you travel 300 miles to play a game and there is still a Threepenny Stander waiting to bollock you in the crowd!”
Five ‘Half Crowns’ for a Season Pass
Saturday 11th August 1962: Hull 28 Hull Kingston Rover 11
The 1962/63 season saw me getting my usual season pass which was once again priced at 12/6d, a princely sum that was as usual provided for me by my Mother and Father who always encouraged my attendance at the Boulevard. Iremember each year proudly presenting the man at the ticket office the five half-crowns that secured the small piece of white card that I used to get into every game at the Boulevard that year. Mum used to cover it in cellophane paper to protect it and put it ‘in a safe place’, but there still always seemed to be a scramble on match days to find it. When all the lads met up on the car park for the first game of the season we all agreed on a change of vantage point and decided to try a switch of our preferred viewing position to the Best Stand at the south end of the ground where, back then, there were terraced steps behind a whitewashed wall! The season started with a brand-new competition called the Eastern Divisional Championship which was introduced to make up the number of games, following the decision in the close season to create for the first time for over 40 years a competition which featured two divisions.
As usual the Eva Hardaker Memorial game was first up though and we actually beat Rovers 28-11 in a really entertaining encounter. It’s always great to beat the old enemy and although the match was deemed a ‘Friendly’ between the two clubs, we all knew then that there was, and still is, no such thing in Rugby League because every game against the old enemy is all out war.
A great day out though was marred by a real catastrophe for the FC fans, when our ‘lucky charm’ and club captain Johnny Whiteley, went down in a heavy tackle and broke his leg, an injury which saw him miss the rest of what was to turn out to be a pretty poor season for the black and whites. We actually went on to meet Hull Kingston Rovers twice in that Eastern Divisional Trophy and twice in the League, so we got used to playing them that year. In fact, as our form was pretty atrocious by the end of the season we were sick and fed up of meeting them and of the fear and dread that derby games were beginning to bring to this fan.
Luckily, we had managed to finish in the top half of the league the previous year, so we started in 1962 in the new First Division. Of course, this format reduced the number of games and so that clubs were not short of income, the RL introduced these new Eastern and Western Divisional Championship Competitions. They were played as mini leagues at either side of the Pennines, until the Division Onecampaign kicked off on Hull Fair Saturday 8th October 1962.
If the season was disastrous as far as results were concerned it was none the less an eventful campaign for the club and the fans. We played Halifax, Castleford, Rovers, Huddersfield and Bramley in the Eastern Divisional Competition winning just three of our eight games.
Like no doubt many of you reading this, I have found that as you get older you remember more and more of days gone by and less and less of what you did last week. However, the recollection of that season when at just 12 years old, I saw every home First Team and A Team game, is still a vivid one and at least my parents got good value for their investment in my season ticket that year. It was a significant season in the British game too, as everywhere gates were plummeting and clubs were finding it hard keeping going at all.
The ‘new’ First Division campaign…. and a bottle for the linesman!
Saturday 13th October 1962: Hull 25 Workington Town 25.
It was a strange season indeed, as it saw some low scoring games, a home drubbing by 45-0 from Wigan at the Boulevard, a 4-2 victory at Craven Park and the coldest winter on record that saw us playing no games between Christmas and early March. There were however two matches at the start of that first Division One campaign that really stand out for me.
We opened up on 8th October at Wakefield who were one of the strongest teams in the country at that time and we just failed to get a result losing 21-20. Then the following weekend, it was time for the home opener against a strong Workington Town team. As I indicated earlier, I had learnt very early in my supporting ‘career’ that all the Cumbrian teams were renowned for a no-nonsense approach to the game and for possessing giant packs of forwards. Never the less,Workington also had some handy backs and it was to turn out to be a thrilling encounter between two evenly matched teams. The game saw my ‘new’ hero, Wilf Rosenberg joined on the other flank for only the second time that season by Clive Sullivan, who was still in the forces and having difficultygetting time off to play.
If this game proved one thing though, it was that if we could get them both on the field at the same time, we had probably the most potent wing attack in the country. Although no one could be faulted for the effort the Hull team put into that game, we didn’t play that well at all, but Rosenberg scored two tries both right out of the blue. After ten minutes he took an interception on his own 25 and juggled with the ball he shot off to the corner for one of those spectacular dives that were his trademark. The second try by the South African flyer came late in the second half and brought the house down. We were trailing18-20 as he scooped a loose ball up with one hand and accelerating away from the immediate challengers, he stepped round the full back on the outside, beating him completely for pace before touching down (with another dive) near the posts. Two minutes later he was robbed of his hat trick by the linesman who stood, flag raised, whilst Wilf dived in at the corner at the Gordon Street end of the Threepennies.
He was seen by everyone in the ground to be yards away from touch and had received the ball well back and inside his centre, so no one knew why he had been penalized but the referee ruled the try out. This caused a rumpus in the old standdirectly next to the incident as the touch judge stood, flag aloft, copped it from the partisan crowd and this led to the inevitable bottle flying onto the pitch and narrowly missing the official’s head. He immediately appealed to the referee, who called in the bobby patrolling the front of the stand, whilst the touch judge in question was allowed to swap touchlines to get away from the wrath of the crowd, who then threw another empty beer bottle at the new linesman just for good measure and possibly as a warning as to the level of decision making the fans expected from him.
Of course, these days that sort of behavior is not tolerated or indeed wanted but in 1962 it was just part and parcel of the culture and legend that was that world-famous viewing gallery. Every time it happened the police would march down the touchline to the incident usually accompanied by a chorus of the ‘Laurel and Hardy theme’ from the massed ranks of the ‘Threepennies’. Sometimes a sergeant or overzealous bobby would climb over the fence to try and arrest the perpetrator but this usually caused such a deafening roar of laughter from the supporters that more often than not the local constabulary would just stir menacingly at the crowd from the safety of the touch line. Bottles flying out of that area of the stadium were not a rare occurrence at all back then and were always hailed by the rest of the crowd with a cheer that ran right round the terraces like some verbal ‘Mexican Wave’ before stopping short at the more cultured spectators who occupied the seats in the ‘Best Stand’.
The game ended in a 25-25 draw after Sullivan despite playing with a knee injury also scored two tries. More interesting to us lads though was our number 6 who we had never seen before, He was hailed in the programme that afternoon as ‘yet another’ A.N. Other who we found out a couple of days later was in fact Charlie Nimb a South African Rugby Union half back, of some repute. We weren’t that impressed with him at all though particularly when on his debut he dropped a ball which was snapped up by the Cumbrians, who then went on to score from the next play the ball. There were however some great performances in the Hull pack with hooker Ralph Walters and Brian Clixby at loose forward showing up really well against the mountainous Workington six. Clixby in fact scored Hull’s other try after a neat piece of play from scrum half Tommy Finn. At full-back ‘Mr. Dependable’ Arthur Keegan was man-of-the-match andkicked five goals from five attempts, but scores to the visitors from Glastonbury (2), O’Neill, Ferraria and Pretorus saw us share the spoils. The following week I watched the ‘A’ team beat Batley at the Boulevard, whilst the first team were losing at Wigan and then we were back home again to face Warrington still searching for our first win in the new top division.
Charlie Nimb signs in and gets the Flu!
Saturday 27th October 1962: Hull 28 Warrington 15
This game was to be our first success in the league campaign, with our lads beating the ‘Wire Pullers’ in a blood and thunder game using a mixture of guts and determination. Charlie Nimb was reported to have showed up well in the Wigan game and so the club had signed him up on contract terms and he had relocated to this country and moved into a little rented property in Hawthorne Avenue. This match was therefore his ‘Official’ debut for the club (although he was to catch flu the following week and miss the next three games). Despite being a convincing win in the end, it was a close game in many ways and although they made a few costly mistakes, in the end Warrington were just 3 points behind us at one point in the second half, before we pulled away to win 28-15.
In what was a ‘Bottle free’ game, our Centre’s George Matthews and Jack Kershaw proved the difference, although Nimb had a great match behind the scrum as he produced some excellent field kicks deep into the opponents half which pinned the Lancastrians back. The first try was a vintage bit of play from the evergreen Bill Drake who rumbled through a gap and went over near the posts with three forwards on his back. But once again it was out wide where we punished the opposition and Wilf Rosenberg ran in for two great scores, the second a blistering touch line hugging 90 yarder, straight from a scrum on our own line.
Arthur Keegan had been injured at Wigan but stand in full back ‘that man’ Terry Hollingdrake made no mistake with fiveconversions from five after Nimb had started the first half by missing three attempted penalties on the trot. In the second row Malcolm Storey showed the speed of a Centre when he went 40 yards to score after picking up a loose ball and another debutant Terry Devonshire, on the wing for Sullivan(who had not been released from work again), also gathered a Warrington fumble to score a try, which countered three by the visitors from Delooze, Glover and Gilfedder. It was just a relief though to get a win and the crowd clambered over the fences and ran onto the field to congratulate the players as the final whistle went. Once the team had disappeared down the tunnel and the strains of ‘Old Faithful’ had started to drift from the dressing rooms, my pal Steve ran home to get his rugby ball so that we could have a game on the pitch, ‘Just like Hull had done earlier’ until the Groundsman threw us out.
As part of his latest ‘economy drive’ Dad had stopped having the local newspaper delivered and so I went down the street to Benny Allgood’s news agents at about 6-00pm and waited till the ‘Green Sports Mail’s’ was delivered and I think it was apparent even back then that the obsessive behavior that has followed my supporting Hull FC over the last half a century, was already starting to manifest itself. You see if we had won at home I would religiously go and buy the paper, then take it home, spread it out on the table and accompanied by a bottle of Tizer and a bag of Golden Wonder crisps, I’d read every word about the game I had just seen. When we had lost, I just saved my money!
Mutiny in the Cinema.
Saturday 17th November 1962: Whitehaven 5 Hull 0 (match abandoned after 28 minutes, due to snow on the pitch)
There was much excitement after that win as we looked forward to playing Wigan next up at the Boulevard, however first we had to negotiate a difficult looking trip to Cumbria for a re match against that team of giants up in Workington. Our players went all the way to this northwest outpost of rugby league only to have the game abandoned because of heavy snow. At the time that the game was abandoned the score stood at 5-nil to Hull FC. In the supporter’s club, the following week my Dad heard a great story about the trip. This featured the fact that the Hull FC Board of Directors haddecided to ‘push the boat out’ and arranged for the team to stay over in Cockermouth on the Friday night before the game, in a large 16 room Bed and Breakfast establishment. Once they had all settled in, (the story continued), Ivor Watts who was our club masseur suggested that they all go to the local picture house, where Marlon Brando was starring in ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’.
Now ‘Wattsey’ was a big Marlon Brando fan and so to humour him the rest of the team reluctantly agreed, as long as someone else paid. Eventually it was the Chairman who coughed up and paid for everyone to go in. Quite what it looked like with 15 or 16 burley rugby players sat together in a row across the cinema one can only guess but at the interval they spread themselves around the auditorium which was anyway, poorly attended and freezing cold. At least Ivor enjoyed the film but when the lights went up at the end he looked round to find the place empty, as all the FC players, accompanied by the rest of the audience, had sneaked out of the side emergency exit and ‘legged’ it to the pub!! To crown that, as I have already mentioned, the game next day wasabandoned when the 50 or so Workington supporters who had brought sweeping brushes from home, could no longer keep the lines on the pitch clear of snow. Finally, to top off a troubled couple of days, on the way back the team coach got stuck in a snow drift near Scotch Corner.
‘Grandstand’ and ‘Our Eddie’ come to the Boulevard.
Saturday 24th November 1962: Hull 0 Wigan 34
So, the scene was set for our first televised home game for some years, against Wigan at the Boulevard on 24th November.
In those days the BBC used to broadcast a Rugby League game every other week and on this occasion the ‘Grandstand’ cameras and of course the ubiquitous Eddie Waring, were heading for the Boulevard. The lorries and vans started to arrive on the Wednesday whilst we were all at school, and the BBC staff spent the next two days erecting a scaffolding rig for the cameras over the top of the Threepenny Stand. My pals and I followed this construction work after school, and got friendly with the BBC production crew. One particular scaffolder called Sid, was usually stripped to the waist whatever the weather and displayed on his torso a relative ‘art gallery’ of tattoos. He was a real Wigan supporter, and he told us every time we went to talk to him that the Lancashire clubwould absolutely thrash us that weekend, but we just laughedand said, “No Chance”. However, our portly tattooed new found friend from Lancashire, was soon to be proved frighteningly correct.
A massive articulated lorry carrying a 60-foot hydraulic arm with a broadcasting dish on the top arrived on the Friday afternoon and was parked opposite our house. Looking back,it was pretty exciting seeing all this happening particularly when it was right on your own doorstep.
On the day of the game we all tried to get a glimpse of Eddie Waring before he made the long and humiliating walk along the front of the Threepenny Stand to climb to his commentary position on the scaffolding that Sid and his workmates had erected. I discussed earlier in this tome the relationship that Waring had with the diehard supporters of the game and so it was no surprise that when he walked the touchline and climbed the ladder to the gallery poor old Eddie really came in for some stick from the local comics, and for him that day there was just no escape at all. He had quite a sad demeanour in many ways and on that cold December day after the game, whilst with autograph book in hand I awaited the emergence of the Wigan players, I watched as he sneaking out of theground un-noticed with his collar turned up and his usual trade mark ‘pork pie’ hat pulled down over his eyes.
That game might have been one of the first Saturday afternoon televised league game at the Boulevard. I say that because, I lived so close to the stadium and yet, as far as I could remember it was the first time I had seen the TV cameras arrive. I decided to watch the first half in the ground, mainly because the BBC only screened the second half of games back then and anyway I wanted to enjoy the banter asthe crowd baited Eddie as he sat up there above the Stand.Then during half-time, I climbed back out over the turnstiles and ran home to watch the rest of the game with my Mum on the TV. It was a strange experience indeed hearing the cheers from the ground across the street and watching the action there in our own front room.
Billy Boston a real legend.
Wigan was ‘the team’ back then and although the Hull side had started their first division campaign reasonably well, Wigan ‘took us to the cleaners’ that day. By half time I wasreturning home to watch my favourites trying to come back from a 31-0 deficit. The game was of course shown in black and white and Eddie was at his usual controversial best as commentator. His turn of phrase and choice of words was no different to what we had come to expect although one thing that he said in his commentary that afternoon stayed with me forever.
Waring stated that, “This man you are watching is a phenomenon the like of which you will probably never see again this side of a Sheffield Flood” and later he added his usual, “He’s a big lad but his Mother loves him”, which as a twelve year old I cringed at then, just as it does now as I write it here. The player that was the centre of this praise was alas not Wilf Rosenberg or Clive Sullivan from my beloved Hull FC. However, he was a big lad and not only his mother, but thousands of Rugby League fans did indeed love him, for he was of course, the great Billy Boston. Now for anyone who doubts just what a significant part Billy plays in RL history, it is worth for a moment considering his pedigree, which in my opinion ranks with anyone you care to mention in the history of the game.
Boston joined Wigan for £3000 in1953 when they beat off eight other clubs to his signature and he joined the Lancashire club with a massive reputation for scoring tries. Ex. “Squaddy” Boston signed from the then Army Rugby Union Champions, Catterick Royal Signals and he could certainly cross the whitewash as his Union record of scoring 126 tries in 30 games certainly proved. That’s an average of around 4 a game and when he signed for the ‘Pies’ eight thousand spectators turned out to see him score another four tries for Wigan ‘A’ on his debut at Central Park. After only six first team games Billy was chosen to tour New Zealand with Great Britain, when in 14 games he broke the tour scoring record with 36 tries.
By the time Boston made his last appearance for Wigan at Central Park in April 1968 he had in 14 seasons amassed almost 600 tries and everyone who saw him play during that career, marvelled at the style and ability that went with the fearsome strength of this iconic winger. For me, although a one club supporter, there was still nothing in the game back then that could equal the sight of Billy heading down the wing and going for the line. In defence too, there was never a more forbidding prospect for a centre or winger than to know Billy was after you, intent on a crash tackle. At 15st and 5ft 10ins he was still agile enough to beat his man by ‘sleight’ of foot but there was no catching Billy once he had the ball on the run. His hands were like dinner plates and packed amazing power to hand off the opposition as they closed in to try and affect the tackle.
That reputation of strength is further borne out by popular folklore amongst the ‘old timers’ which claimed that during that great final, that was featured in the last chapter, when we came up against Wigan and Boston, he actually ran down the wing with our diminutive winger Ivor Watts tucked under his arm!! He didn’t of course, but he was depicted as such by an eminent cartoonist and as is usually the case with sporting folklore that was soon the story that everyone down the years, who had not seen the game, swore was true.
Billy was one of the only players I have seen who had the ability to make those two heroes of mine Clive and Wilf, look pretty ordinary. It is easy to see how over 50 years later the Chairman of Wigan hailed Boston’s signing back in 1953 as “The greatest signing we have ever made” and it’s hard to imagine anyone in the modern game playing for 14 years and scoring 592 tries isn’t it?
In his book, “On Rugby League”, that man Eddie Waring summed it all up really when he said, “I know that Billy Boston cried the day he quit Rugby League, and everyone in the game should have followed suit, for this was the end of an era, the retirement of one of the greatest personalities our great game has reared” I certainly cherish having seen Bostonplay at the Boulevard, I remembered him from that great Cup game a few years previously and from this latest drubbing too, when he scored two tare away tries. He was a real hero of mine and is, without doubt, one of the few players who have not pulled on the Black and White shirt that I can say that about.
The coldest winter since 1947; Saved by some chemicals in Widnes and ‘An electric blanket’ in Leeds.
The abandoned Workington game the week previously was certainly a warning of just what was to come in the infamous and deadly winter of 1963. We managed to play on until Christmas with mixed fortunes but a loss at St Helens on 22ndDecember was to be the last game we played until 7th March the following year. During that time, I would watch through my frosted bedroom windows at number 23 as lorry loads of hay were ferried into the Boulevard in a vain fortnightly attempt to warm the pitch up, and us kids went into the stadium when we were not at school to ‘help’ the ground staff spread it. That was great fun but there was a serious side to it too because clubs depended solely on gate income for their survival and it was imperative that everything that could be done was done, to ensure games took place.
Early in February one hundred and fifty braziers were deployed on the pitch the week before a scheduled game against St. Helens but a blizzard and freezing conditions on the Thursday and Friday prior to the proposed fixture saw that game become just another cancellation in the ever-growing backlog of games. The only club that was able to play in that period, besides Leeds, who had an electric under soil heating system, often referred to (probably originally by Eddie Waring) as their electric blanket, were Widnes. These two teams featured on alternate weeks on the TV throughout the big freeze. Widnes, managed to play their home games by living up to their nick name of the ‘Chemics’, which was originally attributed to their being situated in an area on the banks of the Mersey which was festooned with Chemical plants and refineries.
The boffins at one ICI plant came up with a substance that, when spread on the Naughton Park pitch, thawed the surface and left, they claimed, the grass intact, thus allowing them to play their home fixtures when all others were called off. The actual details of this substance was top secret, however as us rugby starved fans watched the games on the TV and the weeks went by, we all noticed that the magic potion, although de frosting the ground, was also slowly but surely removing every blade of grass from it. By early March there was not a bit of green or even brown grass to be seen at Naughton Park and whilst other clubs were getting back into their season and playing on pitches that had benefited from a two-month rest, Widnes played it out on a pitch of rolled sand!
Whilst almost the whole national sports programme was abandoned during the first two months of the year the Challenge Cup draw went ahead as usual. However, with regional TV not starting till 1968 and no local radio, it was not until we got the Daily Mail next day that we realised we had been drawn against the form team of the season Wigan, (again) at home in early February. That game was of course postponed, with three more aborted attempts to complete the fixture soon following in its wake and despite the best efforts of dozens of volunteers, hundreds of Braziers and lorry loads of straw it was just not possible to stage the lucrative fixture.
‘Twagging’ from school for the Cup!
Thursday 7th March 1963: Hull 0 Wigan 7
We were all totally starved of live rugby, when finally, the Wigan game was scheduled for Thursday 7th March with a 2-30 kick off. Thursday was early closing day in Hull, and with no floodlights it must have seemed a good afternoon to stage the fixture. That, of course, suited my Dad, (the Butcher) down to the ground, it was his afternoon off but no one it would appear told Bill Pattison our Head Master at Kelvin Hall about early closing day!!! As the hay was spread on the Boulevard in the week preceding the game, Steve and I, plotted just how we were going to ‘twag off’ school to see the match without our school or parents knowing about it.
That Thursday we left school after afternoon registration and walked all the way from Bricknell Avenue to the Boulevard arriving at about 2-15. We thought things would be relatively quiet, but the queues were amazing, snaking across the car park and out onto Airlie Street. It seemed everyone was starved of the game we all loved, and it was no surprise when the final attendance was announced as 10,329 (paying £1,355).
The kick off was actually delayed by five minutes so that everyone could get in through the turnstiles and when we finally got a position on the terracing at the Airlie Street end the teams were already out on the field. The remnants of the straw, that had been cleared to form massive piles around the touch line, were strewn all over the pitch, but who cared? We were about to witness our first game of rugby for months. Sadly, our mercurial winger Clive Sullivan could not again get time off from the Army and Bill Drake our captain who had pulled up at training on the beach at Bridlington the previous Tuesday, was out too with an injured knee. Otherwise we were at full strength against a Wigan side that read like a ‘who’s who’ of rugby league.
Referee Lawrenson blew the whistle and we attacked the Gordon Street end furthest away from our vantage point. A quick check of a programme, over the shoulder of a short guy in front of me, indicated that Wilf Rosenberg was playing, so that was really all that mattered to me. I was really up for this one and so I was pretty despondent when Arthur Keegan who was usually so dependable with the boot, missed three penalties in the first ten minutes. The first half though was all Hull as we mounted attack after attack in their twenty-five-yard area. Both Matthews and Jim Macklin fell to desperate last-ditch tackles by the Wigan full-back Bolton as we pressed their line. Then Dick Gemmell got the ball and quickly side-stepped Davies to send out a peach of a pass to Rosenberg who shot down the wing towards the advancing full back. As he approached Bolton, Wilf kicked ahead and it was ‘try on’ as the ball stuck in the mud over the try line where the tractors that had cleared the pitch had been turning, but he was blatantly obstructed by the Wiganer, who stuck out a leg in his direction and brought him crashing down. The resultant penalty was missed by Keegan.
Scrum-half Tommy Finn and young Terry Devonshire on the wing then linked on the other side with only an ankle tap on the youngster by Billy Boston saving the day for the visitors. Pitchford, McTigue and Collier in the Wigan pack were really ‘fired up’ and charged into our lads but they were well matched by Scott, Hockley and Sykes in the Hull engine room. At half time Wigan led by a solitary Ashton goal which he added to straight after the break following a foul by Walters on Wigan’s Pitchford. But at 4-nil we were still in it and without doubt the best team and with Ralph Walters at hooker winning the scrums 16-11 there was plenty of ball for our backs to play with. Two great breaks by Finn and Matthews just lacked the necessary backing up and then Rosenberg was just tackled into touch in front of the Threepennies, as he was about to launch his dive for the line.
With just ten minutes to go it looked like we had scored. Keegan joined the attack and shot towards the line, he beat their full back and was about to cross the whitewash when from nowhere winger Carlton hammered him to the ground and he dropped the ball. With two minutes to go and the game evenly poised all the accolades were going to the brilliant Hull defence when the inevitable happened. After all the Hull pressure and valiant defending Wigan got the final try, as a break by Lyon saw his wayward pass fall into the arms of that man Billy Boston who charged down the touchline and right over Devonshire and Keegan to score in the corner, Ashton missed the goal, but shortly afterwards the whistle went and we were out of the Cup.
In the end, the much-fancied Wigan outfit, in keeping with their ‘Favourites’ tag, had scraped home 7-0, but we had really put up a great fight! The whole day was an adventure which not only included a great match, and the first I had seen on a Thursday, but also the first and only time I twagged off school. My day however came to something of an ignominious end when on the way out of those big Airlie Street gates, I bumped into Dad, who was not too impressed at all with ‘bunking’ off school idea, something that I seem to remember resulted in a few nights grounded at home! Still what a memorable occasion it was and if you’re going to skip school there is hardly likely to ever be a better reason to do it!
As the milder weather continued the club managed to get an A team fixture played across the road that weekend and once I had persuaded Mum to let me go out without Dad’s knowledge, Jenksey and I were entertained by a full complement of hopeful’s in their faded irregular hooped shirts playing out an entertaining encounter against Huddersfield ‘A’, that unfortunately we narrowly lost. Our team that day included Keith Barnwell, Brian Sullivan, Eddie Wanklyn and David Doyle-Davidson as well as the ubiquitous trialist’s A.N. Other and S.O. Else.
The Beatles and their brush with the local constabulary.
Around that time the club, blessed with a host of promising backs, transferred my arch nemesis Terry Hollingdrake back to Bramley, and in an effort to improve a playing surface that was in a poor condition after that awful winter we took on a new groundsman Fred Daddy, who I got to know quite well. He would frequently chase us kids out of the ground when we climbed over the wall from Airlie Street to retrieve our rugby ball but on occasions we also helped him with moving straw and pulling that big concrete roller he used every Monday in a vain attempt to keep the pitch level.
At this point in my story I should also mention an incident involving a lad called Lenny a gangling youth of about 17, who always wore jeans and engineer’s boots and who I had got to know simply because we both frequented the Threepenny Stand. He used to join us young lads for a kick about on the club car park and it was on one of these occasions that he told us about a pop group he had been to see at the Majestic Ballroom on Witham a few nights earlier. They were called the Beatles. Lenny was a friend of lots of the local bands that played at the Church Hall dances around the area and according to him the Liverpool band wore ‘superb’ leather outfits but their music was “nothing special”. Over the years I reflected that Lenny was probably never destined to make a name for himself as a music critic.
The group that were to change the face of popular music forever actually became a little more famous in the area a couple of nights later when the Hull Daily Mail reported that their guitarist a certain George Harrison had appeared at Goole magistrates court. He was charged with running the group’s van off Boothferry Road and into a ditch on the way back to Liverpool from that self- same concert. Little did we or Lenny know, just who he had seen at the little Dance Hall in Witham although he’s probably ‘dine out’ on that story ever since.
To be continued ……..
Speak to you all again next week!