Hi There again I hope your all doing OK and surviving the changes we are all experiencing and welcome to another edition of the ‘Lockdown Diary’. If you aren’t following the serialisation of the book, I hope that you will at least read the first few paragraphs for I believe that they are important.
It was good this week to see Scott Taylor coming out big to support the Club for their caring attitude to their employees most of whom are on Furlough at present. It also appearedfrom Twitter that Adam was having a few issues with the Bank Manager, as he attempts to access more of the support provided by the government to get business through these strange times.
This it appears is all linked to ancient debts, accrued by the previous administration, which is all really worrying because as Adam said, it puts the very existence of our club under threat. This, I believe, wasn’t so much Adam going off on one, as him being conscious that the livelihood’s of almost 200 people are in his hands and him only wanting what was due to the Club. We need all the help we can get for it will only take a couple of clubs to get into real difficulties for the whole game to collapse, so we all, fans, clubs, the games administrators and even the clubs Bank manager have to do our bit and hold the line as best we can.
What is however most heartening is the fact that all 190 people on the Clubs payroll have agreed immediately to a wage cut of up to 35% until August, with not one complaint or grumble. That will bring hardship to some, but when compared with what is going on in Rugby Union and particularly Football, it show all of us (and no doubt Adam), the stuff that rugby league is made of and just reaffirms for us long term fans, what a tremendous spirit there is at Hull FC.That tenacity and will to survive got us through the seventies and the Lloyd years and it will get us through now! It is the stuff that runs through the very DNA of the Club and its army of fans and something that has repeatedly shown up to be our biggest asset over the years.
I want here to personally thank the players and all the staff for their attitude and understanding and commend their sacrifice and their obvious passion for our great club. For us fans, your actions as employees of the Club we all love are a great tribute to our belief in that Club. What’s more in such dark times, when we are all worried and even scared for ourselves and our families, it is just so heartening and uplifting for us all.
Hull FC is an organisation central to the Community and I hope that should we continue to struggle, Adam and Clarkynext come to us the supporters to help out if we can. Many of us are under economic pressure and struggling at present and many can’t sometimes make ends meet at all, however I know we will all help if we possibly can. This is different to any other crisis we have faced, for it is not brought about by a profligate owner, or are unaccountable Board of Directors, or by the actions of a megalomaniac running the club, nor is it borne out of poor performances, poor coaching or players that can’t be arsed on the field either.
This is a national crisis that is not of our doing, but one thatthreatens the very fabric of our way of life and as such we all must do what we can to get through it and as we do that, we must strive to preserve the things that are most dear to us all. We are lucky I think to have Adam for he has once again engendered a siege mentality, a belonging and a togetherness at the Club. He is doing his best and as Scott Taylor said, the staff trust him to do that. We must now all trust him and back him and the club through these horrible weeks and months, always with the hope that one day we will return to the KComto watch some rugby again.
Man, these are strange times indeed.
However, and moving on, I heard the other day from the keeper of records and all things historical about Hull FC, the Club historian Bill Dalton. He contacted me to tell me of a massive anniversary that came about this week. Bills hasbecome a good friend to both me and the Dentist Diary over the years and he told me this week that last Friday it was exactly 100 years since our first ever Championship Title. Bill in fact sent me a newspaper cutting from the Yorkshire Post and a great piece he had written about it, that I enclose for you all here.
Quite ironically, I discovered as well that back then the world was gripped by a massive Flu pandemic which coming as it did at the end of the Great War, in the end killed 17m people worldwide. I guess it will have been so different back then with no health service, news channels, internet and Piers Morgan, but it’s still a case I guess of what goes around…anyway Bill wrote;-
Saturday 24th April 1920. Northern Union Championship Final (at Headingley)
Results wise, this was Hull’s finest season thus far in the Northern Union resulting in a 2nd-place finish in the League. After the opening day loss at Halifax, only a further four League games were lost up to and including New Year’s Day at Rochdale.
Following that, only a Home loss to Oldham on Valentine’s Day 1920 spoiled the League record until the final two matches at Easter, during which Hull played 4 games in 5 days, viz; 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th April. The second of that quartet was designated Billy Batten’s Benefit match, which realised £1,079-13s-8d, a monumental sum for those days, and a clear indication of the extent of the affection felt by the Hull supporters. Second position in the League was already secure by the time the Easter Programme had arrived. Leeds, having finished third came to The Boulevard in the Play-Off Semi-Final and were dispatched 11 – 0.
So, for the first time Hull made passage into the Championship Final where, on 24th April 1920, the Opposition was Huddersfield, the ‘Team of all the Talents’, who sought a win to achieve a Second ‘All Four Cups’ Season following their all-conquering season in 1914-15. Although much was made of the fact that the ‘Fartowners’ were without their five Tourists, it was also a fact that Hull were without Billy Stone, who had also departed on Tour, and Jimmy Devereux, Eddie Caswell (both injured), Ned Rogers (ill) and Forwards Tom Herridge, Jack Beasty and Fred Newsome, all suspended through dismissals in successive Easter matches. The loss of half their pack of Forwards notwithstanding, Hull matched the Huddersfield six in a dour Forward battle in which Penalties were the main feature of the first half, although all were unsuccessful apart from the solitary effort kicked by Holland on 27 minutes which gave Huddersfield the lead. That one was for offside at a scrum, which Billy Batten fiercely contested. After a flare-up 3 minutes before halftime, following an alleged tripping incident, Alf Grice was sent off, leaving Hull another front line forward short, for the remainder of the game.
More missed Penalties by both sides together with failed Drop Goal attempts were a feature of the second half in which Hull gradually looked the more threatening as the game wore on. Francis broke and kicked through for Batten whose kick on rolled slowly over the dead ball line, so agonisingly slowly before the chasing Billy could reach it to score. But, it all came right for him and for Hull when, on 72 minutes, he drove through a defensive wall to set Markham up for a run down the wing before Billy took his return pass to score after what The Hull Daily Mail described as “a Superhuman Effort”. So, at long last, Hull attained the Northern Union Championship and Billy Batten was three-quarters of the way to his second full set of Winners medals.
Hull –J. Holdsworth; A.Francis, W.Batten, J.Kennedy, J.W.Markham; T.Milner,J. Hulme; A.Grice, E.C.Shield, W.Holder, R.Taylor, H.Garrett, J.E.Wyburn
Huddersfield – M.Holland; G.Todd, T.Gleeson, A.Rosenfeld, H.Pogson; C.Marsden, R.Habron; J.W.Higson, G.Naylor, A.Swinden, T.Fenwick , A.Sherwood, H.Sutcliffe.
Referee – A Hestford (Broughton).
Att: 12,900 (Rec; £1,615)
So, thanks so much for that Bill, it was certainly an insight into times gone by. However, now for those of you who are following the continued serialisation of ‘Roamin’ the Range Together’ here is my latest offering. The next Chapter of Book One follows the difficult days of the sixties the end of Roy Francis, the advent of Alan McGlone, David Doyle Davidson, John Maloney and Chris Davidson amongst others and a trip to Wembley for a now famous international game.
Mum and Dad go to ‘The Movies’
School was still a pretty unpalatable experience as I continued to consistently underachieve but it had to be done and so each morning during term time I either walked to school down Walton Street and caught the bus on Chanterlands Avenue to Bricknell Avenue or did the two-bus bit and went around through the City centre. It was still though a long way to go each day, however in those days of Grammar schools, Technical High Schools and Secondary Moderns, everyone was on the move at 8-00 each morning and it was just something that you did.
The buses around school times were just like a menagerie, lads threw missiles out of the open back doors and deposited the contents of less fortunate kid’s satchels out of the upstairs windows as the bus sped along. Beatles and Stones songs were sung at the top of our voices and more often than not the conductor would turf us all off the bus a long way short of school! They were great days, when nothing really seemed to matter besides rugby and having fun, and despite the constant tirades of our teachers, school didn’t bother us much either. The teachers at Kelvin did their best and I guess looking back we tried ours too, but despite the lack of streaming and all the modern ideas it was still literally us and them. Them being the swots who sat near the front and soaked up knowledge like sponges and us the ‘thicko’s’, who sat at the back studying for a ‘degree’ in gazing out of the windows.
It was about this time too that I remember my Mum and Dad made a very rare visit to ‘the Pictures’. This was an outmoded means of entertainment back then, Steven Spielberg, ‘Star Wars’, “Indiana Jones” and the renaissance of cinema, were still almost 20 years off and most establishments in the City were experiencing dwindling attendances and being run down or shut altogether, something that seemed to have been brought on by the increasing popularity of TV. We all used to refer to these establishments as the ‘local flea pit’ and I guess like many who lived around us my parents were just in essence the casual “Sound of Music”, “South Pacific” “West Side Story” type of movie goers.
This particular visit to the Carlton Cinema on Anlaby Road was a little bit special though and was in the form of an organised ‘Outing’ for the members of the Hull Supporters Club. So, what was so special? Well it was the showing of the new Lindsey Anderson film, staring a young Richard Harris, called “This Sporting Life”. I was packed off to Martin Tomlinson’s house in the Avenue across the road, where I spent the evening with him and his parents as this was definitely, I was told, not a film for ‘youngsters’. I have watched it several times since and really rate it as a great period study of our game back in the early 60’s. It is, I accept, certainly dated and that’s part of its charm, but it’s definitely a really good study of the adversity and struggles endured by the average Rugby League player in the 50’s and 60’s.
Whether the administrators of the game like it or not, ours is a northern sport and always has been, so for me this is the definitive movie about Rugby League in the ‘bad old days’. It was filmed in and around Wakefield in the early part of 1962 and had several titles before “This Sporting Life” was finally settled upon. Produced in glorious Black and White it tells the story of an injured aging player, Arthur Machin and features him reflecting on his life. Richard Harris starred and it is widely reported that he at first found it a nightmare filming with the Trinity players.
Popular folklore in the West Riding of Yorkshire indicates that he had any pretence of impending stardom knocked out of him on the first day of filming when Rocky Turner ran around a scrum and ‘administered’ a trade mark stiff arm tackle, the sort that had whiped out Peter Bateson a few years earlier. Turner was, you will remember, the player that in effect finished our full backs career, so I guess roughing up a ‘softy’ film star would be no problem.
Most of the filming was done at Wakefield’s Belle Vue stadium. If for nothing else it is worth watching this film just to see that famous ‘ground’ as it was then, with its pergola like West Stand. This was a fantastic feat of architecture which had four wonderful brick chimneys on top and it cancan be glimpsed in all its former glory in the movie.
The film succeeds, where so many sporting films fail, in that it gets the atmosphere absolutely right. There are some great performances too, from Leonard Rossiter as the ‘weasely’, ‘Rigsby’ like reporter, and Arthur Lowe (developing his character for the future Capt. Mainwaring in Dad’s Army), as the club Chairman. The good people of Wakefield were paid the princely sum of £2-12 shillings a day to act as extras standing on the terraces and cheering to order, whilst script writer David Storey brought some authenticity into the plot by drawing on his previous experience of playing, after he’d paid his way through Leeds Art College, by turning out for Leeds ‘A’.
For real film buffs there is also a cameo by Glenda Jackson, making her first ever, none speaking, film appearance, as the pianist in the fictitious Dolphin pub, during a bawdy player’s night out. This fact only came to light a few years ago when she sent another extra in the film, Wakefield legend and ex referee Albert Raynor, an 80th Birthday card! Anyway, Mum and Dad seemed to enjoy it too, and they talked about nothing else but ‘This Sporting Life’ with the neighbours for the next few days.
Taking the salute at Craven Park.
Saturday 17th August 1963 Craven Park: Hull 15 Rovers 11
On the rugby field there is little doubt that 1963/64 was probably the worst season the fans had been asked to endure since well before the Second World War. After another hot summer, things for Hull FC started quite well.
For the traditional Eva Hardaker Memorial Trophy opener four of us travelled down to Craven Park in ‘Bully’ Spriggs’s Dad’s new Ford Anglia, and we all felt very important as we parked on the ‘Official Car park’ in front of the Holderness Road Ground. Bully, who was driving, was not named because he was one to push folks around or anything, his sinusitis caused him to snort a lot and I guess looking back he probably did look like a Bull! For the first taste of rugby that season there was certainly a good attendance that day and as it was raining and Bully was feeling a bit flush after getting his bonus from work, he treated us to seats in the Main Stand. We watched the game in one of the seating block adjacent to the side of the Stand, which back then had glass panels so the spectator’s view of the try lines was not impeded. We all really enjoyed the match and the banter, as we experience a great victory over the old enemy and despite being just ‘a friendly’ (as I have said before there is simply no such thing between such bitter rivals) it was always good to beat the Rovers particularly at Craven Park. In the end after a close game it was the trusty boot of Arthur Keegan that converted two decisive penalties to send us home happy.
We won 15-11, and buoyed by that feeling you get of not wanting to flee too quickly the scene of a ‘special’ victory, we remained in our seats after the game talking rugby and what we were all going to do that night to celebrate. When we finally left the stand and went back to the car the Car Park was practically deserted. In jubilant mood Billy drove around the perimeter of the cinder concourse with me sat on the bonnet of the car, waiving my scarf and singing ‘Old Faithful’ at the top of my voice. This drew a few abusive shouts and gestures from the remnants of the Rovers crowd that milled around the player’s entrance waiting for autographs but I retorted with a ‘Winston Churchill salute’ in their direction, whilst Billy shouted back from the car that he would be surprised if any of the Rovers players could write anyway! Then, with shouts that questioned our parenthood ringing in our ears, we beat a hasty retreat down Holderness Road and back to the relative safety of the people’s republic of West Hull.
Rugby was everything back then, and I suppose that’s when I even started dreaming about it. The dreams were usually muddled and fraught with desperation, although I particularly remember one of those anxiety dreams that you have when you’re young where I would have a ticket for the big game, probably a final in Leeds, and was leaving Hull in plenty of time for the kick off. I get on the train but it’s going to Scarborough, then onto a motor bike which loses a wheel, then into a taxi that gets a puncture and a bus that runs out of petrol, in fact every attempt I make to get on with the journey to the West Riding sees me travelling further and further in the opposite direction. By ten to three I am in somewhere like Selby desperately trying to hail a cab, it gets a puncture and so it goes on until I wake up in a cold sweat with the sheets round my neck safe and sound at home in bed. Most fanatical sports fans have dreams like that but few admit to them. I’ve sadly endured them, from time to time throughout my life!
Step up Johnny, Step down Roy!
The following week of that 1963/64 season started with the visit of Leeds and we got the usual ‘stuffing’. Next up though was the long trip to Widnes and we somehow came back from Naughton Park with a very creditable win. This was a complete surprise and gave everyone connected with the club tremendous heart for the season ahead. How wrong we all were to be proved, as what it actually heralded was a fourteengame losing streak! That run ended with an away win in the Eastern Divisional Championship to Keighley, but by Christmas, in the league, we were stuck at the very bottom of the table with just that Widnes victory to our name.
That situation sadly led to the end of Coach Roy Francis and his position was taken by Johnny Whiteley, who was still struggling with injury. It was in fact a busy board meeting on 29th October that saw Francis resign to take up the coaches job at Leeds with Johnny appointed as his successor, Bill Drake was also that night placed on the transfer list at £5000 and there then followed the announcement of the debut for young Bill Pickersgill the following weekend, a player who had only signed from the amateur scene three weeks earlier. As a young supporter this was for me my first real experience of just how fickle sports fans can be, as Francis had gone from a hero, to someone that everyone on the terraces wanted to see the back of. That was my first managerial casualty as a fan and because Roy had always been there in the background rather like a surrogate father figure looking after my team, his leaving hit me hard.
Francis had always been our coach, I had known no different and even though I was only a young lad I would miss him. Over the years you realise that some of the most intense relationship’s you can have is between coach and fan. Supporters have of course a great affinity with players but they can rarely change the whole feel of our lives like coaches can. When things are bad they get the blame and we all lay into them, although rarely are they hailed as the players are, when things go well. On the other hand, when one Coach goes and a new one is appointed you are allowed to dream even bigger dreams than you did before and I should know because to date, in 50 odd years of watching Hull FC I have seen around 27 incumbents in that coaching role.
However, on this occasion, although a new broom was expected to make a difference, with limited resources and diminishing attendances, Johnny Whiteley had no magic wand and under his stewardship the club fared little better. We won only two competitive fixtures before Christmas, in fact between the Widnes game in late August and early February,we won just once, away at Keighley.
So, despite a new coach, the current two division system coupled with our poor form dictated that we were doomed to relegation, it had looked that way from about November but thankfully our position in the upper echelon was saved by the RL scrapping the two-tier system, at the end of that season.
To even get through the fixture list though we desperately needed some new faces because along the way some players just disappeared, whilst others retired and the quality of youngsters coming through to replace them had suddenly become poor to say the least. In the sixties of course you could have as many players on your books as you liked because they only got paid when they played, so Johnny decide to go on a recruitment drive. The Board found a bit of cash in the form of signing on fees to waive under the noses of potential targets and into the club came Eric Broom a reliable goal kicking Prop from Huddersfield, Jim Neale a real ‘hard man’ back row forward from Cumbria, Geoff Stocks a high stepping winger also from Huddersfield, and a lad called Davis, again from the same club, who was a half back who never really made the grade.
With the exception of the latter, the others went on to make a total of over 450 appearances for the club between them, so that was good business. Chris Davidson and Alan McGlone also joined from local rugby and soon started to make their mark. It was all good business by Whiteley but it did little, at first at least, to turn the tide. Jim Neale was a great bloke: as hard as nails on the pitch and always the centre of any scuffles or fights. However away from the game he was a real nice guy, I knew that because he lived in a club owned house at number 11 the Boulevard and I used to deliver his paper! Our pack though was certainly a considerably lighter six than the all-conquering forwards of the 50’s and although more mobile, they had, like our speedy backs, a real problem getting any joy on a muddy Boulevard pitch that often resembled that Chocolate Pudding you got served up for school dinners at Kelvin Hall. To try and improve the surface of the playing area our new grounds man Fred Daddy deposited copious amounts of sand on the pitch which, when it rained, just made it worse. In winter it was like treacle, and in summer you had to protect your eyes from what resembled a dust storm in the Gobi Desert.
Heading for academic oblivion.
As for my life, well school was panning out to be an unmitigated disaster and my Mum was already preparing folks for the worst by announcing to everyone that “Academically he’s ‘finding it tough but will”, she thought, “Turn out to be good with his hands’”. That didn’t really bother me though as my interest in music, railways and of course my rugby team, where surpassed almost overnight by a sudden developing interest in girls! They had always been a hindrance and if you like, an occupational hazard of mixed schooling. They, I remember, always seemed to me to have a strange aroma about them that was far removed from the liniment and chewing gum that I loved around the tunnel at the Boulevard and I guess that was about the time that things started to go downhill big time. Still my trips to St Matthew’s youth club on a Sunday after Church certainly started to become a deal more interesting! ‘Good with my hands’ I was proving to be!
That October at Kelvin we were all herded into the Assembly Hall to be addressed by Bill, the headmaster, where we were lectured long and vociferously about the evils of young lads working on an evening at the Hull Fair. Now here, I thought, was something to consider, as I had never thought of that one before!! So that year at Hull Fair, for £1 a night, I was employed on Doubtfire’s Dive Bombers, helping young ladies in and out of the tiny jet planes that whizzed round expelling compressed air. Mum and Dad thought that I was just going to the Fair with my pals every evening, but between 6-00 and 10-00 each night I got my first crude introduction to the world of work.
Travels with my pals…my first International and the great Reg Gasnier!
Wednesday 16th October 1963: Great Britain 2 Australia 28
It was during that season too, that the Aussie touring team came to this country for the first visit that I, as a fan, had really been aware of. To this day I am still a one team guy and always have been. My club comes first and rugby league in general at both club and international level is a poor second. I think though that I am also pretty patriotic, although to this day I find it hard to get really excited about any international game simply because it doesn’t feature Hull FC. The international side is OK and worthy of support as long as we as a club have some representation in it, but Hull FC is the only team I have ever got really passionate about.
However back in 1963 all the talk in the papers was of the impregnable Australian Tourists that were to visit this country to play both club and international games. This hyping of the unbeatable Aussies got us all talking one night at youth club, where despite my age, (I was still too young to be a member) I was allowed to attend, and Barry Johnson, ‘Bully’ Spriggs, Mike Day and a couple of the other older lads decided that they would make the trip down to London to see the first test match as it was to be the first ever to be played at Wembley Stadium. The touting of the game in the press had reached unprecedented levels and it was billed that morning in the Sunday People as, ‘The British Lions against the ‘Invinsibles’.
I went home that night and begged my Mum and Dad to let me go with the lads, but Dad said, as Dads do, that I was too young and it was much too far for me to go without my parents! Mum winked, as Dad left the room and whispered that she would, ‘Work on him’. Next night ‘surprise, surprise‘, it was ‘homemade’ meat pie and mashed potatoes with gravy for tea, followed by Mums ‘special’ rice pudding, Dad’s favourite!! And so, it was that a couple of days later Dad reneged on his original decision, and I was off to the game. One thing that my father had not however realised was that the game was in midweek, and as the club had a small amount of tickets on sale, I made sure that I had been across the road to the Boulevard to get mine, before he had chance to realise. So not only was I going to the match but I was also getting a day off school to do it too!! Things could’nt have been better.
The match took place the week after Hull Fair, on 16thOctober 1963 and just 4 days after I had watched the Tourists fielding their second-string players at the Boulevard when they took on a combined Hull and Rovers team which they beat 23-10.
The lads and I aimed to get the 6-45 train to Doncaster and change there for an express to Kings Cross. It was still dark at 6-00am that Wednesday when ‘Bully’ called for me, only to receive a right ear full about looking after me from my Mum and Dad, the latter standing at the front door wearing those obscenely ‘gapping’ pyjama’s he seemed to save especially for such occasions. He told Bully to take care of me and that he ‘Knew where he lived’, if he didn‘t, and at last, with my illicit Hull Fair earnings in my pocket, we set off for the station where we met the other chaps from the youth club.
The journey to Doncaster was pretty uneventful although there were about a dozen or so rugby supporters from Hull all travelling to the same destination as ourselves. There was certainly none of the high jinks on the train that I had seen that year Mum and I had gone down to the ‘smoke’ to watch the Cup Final. I was well occupied though with my train spotting, whilst the other lads, who were all around 16-20, produced a couple of bottles of Hull Brewery Amber and passed them around. I refused a swig and concentrated as it got light, on looking out of the window and tucking into the first of the banana sandwiches that my Mum had packed me up.
The connecting train at Doncaster was late by about an hour, so whilst they went off to the Station Buffet I continued collecting the numbers of the ‘Streak’s’, ‘Pacific’s’ and ‘A1’s’ I saw whilst sat on a porter’s trolley at the end of the platform. We eventually arrived at King’s Cross station at around 11-30 and as we got off the train, the general melee and hustle of that great terminus and the capital itself smacked an impressionable 13-year-old, straight in the face. I just could not believe how many folks there were milling about, and being a lad from a City with a small ethnic community, just how many of them had black, yellow or brown faces. This was only my second visit to the City of London and Wembley, and I was still totally overawed by it all.
Johnny, one of the lads in our crowd who I did not know very well, had an uncle who had a pub in the centre of the City, and so it was decided we would go there. I’d never been in a pub before so this was a real adventure, but I was reassured about the whole thing when Bully said “Don’t worry about it, we’ll sneak you in, but don’t tell your Dad or he‘ll kill me!” After changing tube trains twice, we arrived at our destination and once back out in the daylight, we quickly found the public house, which as the second book of this story unfolds plays an important part later in this supporter’s life! The Prince of Wales in Drewery Lane was, even back then, a smart black and white half wooded building, with a welcoming and quite serene atmosphere. It was a real oasis when contrasted with the goings on outside in the street where everything was racing twice as fast as it seemed to do in Hull. I had a bottle of pop and a very strong Cheese and Onion sandwich, we sang a couple of chorus’s of ‘Old Faithful‘, much to the disdain of the hostelries regular lunchtime custom, and soon, clasping my ticket in my hand, we retraced our steps to the tube and headed for Wembley. It was just starting to pour with rain!
I might have been one of the youngest in our group, but I was the only one who had actually been to Wembley before, so I knew the ropes. When we arrived, it was ‘chucking’ it down and as I lead the lads from Wembley Park Station down Wembley way to the ground I triumphantly pointed out the turnstile that my Mum and I had used for the final in 1960. The whole place overawed us, although I guess looking back it was getting a bit tatty for a National Stadium. Our seats, despite being quite a way up the terracing, were still out in the rain and even before the game had kicked off we were soaked to the skin. The attendance I remember was poor and the fare on the pitch, as far as the Great Britain team was concerned at least, was little better.
The touring team that year contained one player that I could not wait to see in the flesh, Reg Gasnier, he was the player that everyone in the media and the game in general were talking about and there had even been a four page spread about him in my last Christmas’s Rugby League Annual. Reg was, and still is I guess, the best centre to ever pull on the green and gold shirt, and despite the weather, his display did not disappoint anyone. At just 23 he was the youngest ever Captain of Australia and in a dream centre partnership with Graham Langlands he terrorised the British Lions from the outset. In an amazing display against the elements and what you could only call, a mediocre Great Britain Team, Reg scored a hat trick of tries, whilst Langlands landed 5 goals, with a soaking wet leather ball, from difficult positions, usually against the wind.
As the game wore on the rain got heavier and heavier and in the end a sad and bedraggled British 13, trooped off the pitch following a 28-2 trouncing. I didn’t care though, even at an early age, I knew that as it was not a defeat for Hull FC, it just couldn’t hurt so much, although I did realise that I had seen someone in Reg Gasnier that was really special. I remember thinking that perhaps Trevor Carmichael and Keith Barnwell, my heroes in the centre for Hull still had a bit to learn!! The ‘Gas.’ though was not the only star of the team because the tourists also boasted other household names like Muir, Hambly and Irvine. It was a great ‘milestone’ in my young life and one I guess you can understand has stayed with me to this day.
The journey home is a bit of a blur really, although I think that Bully and Mike got me safely back to Aylesford Street by midnight and then Dad ensured that I was up for school at 6-30 next morning!! Trainspotting, my first pub visit, the Tube and Reg Gasnier; what a memorable outing to the capital that was.
As for Gasnier well, I am just honoured to have seen him play, he continued his rich vein of form throughout the tour which went from bad to worse for the British team. The next Test in November was televised from Swinton’s Station Road ground, and I watched at number 23 with Mum, as even Eddie Waring ran out of superlatives; the Tourists trouncing us 50-12. This was a real low point for British International rugby and although we came back to win the third test 16-5, the Ashes went back to Australia with the tourists. Gasnier went on to play a total of 39 tests for his country scoring 26 tries and is still probably the best centre I have ever seen. He was certainly good at amassing points, as in a career that went from 1959 to 1967 he scored a total of 219 tries and kicked 31 goals!! Not bad for a bloke who developed a serious knee condition and had to retire at the ‘tender’ age of 28.
‘With The Beatles’
Whilst all this rugby stuff was going on, the rest of life was just all school and bed really although the weekend fix of Hull FC or Hull A just about kept me going despite it being the worst season in decades. However, for everyone who was around in those days something else was happening that was to change all our lives. Across the Pennines in Liverpool the four mop topped lads that Lenny had so quickly dismissed a few months earlier were leading the Merseyside music revolution and everyone you met was a fan of the Beatles. Looking back, it’s hard to know now what music was around before the Beatles, although I guess there was plenty of it. Mum and Dad liked anything from Bing Crosby to Cliff Richards and quickly took the stand of most parents describing The Beatles, Mersey Beats, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Searchers as “just a row”. Especially, that was, when I was glued to the TV every Saturday night as they all appeared on the BBC’s only pop music programme, the 6-5 Special.
That same autumn, after much persistent pleading I was officially admitted to the St. Matthew’s youth club, I had been allowed to go in the past because I was always hanging out with the rest of the older lads, but I was still 2 years under the official age for joining. We had to raise some funds though because the Church Hall badly needed some repairs to the roof and so we decided to put on a show in the Church Hall one Sunday night after Evensong.
That night was a real culture shock for me though because after singing the Magnificat and Nunc Dimitus at Evensong in the Choir across the road at St Matthews, I rushed straight to the Hall to grab my Beatle Jacket and Cardboard Guitar to pose with three of the other lads David Carrington, Barry King and Mike Watts, as the Beatles. All the old timers from Church came along to a show that included a couple of short plays, a monologue or two, someone playing the piano and us lot. We went down a storm, from the first bars of ‘Love me Do‘, we mimed and mimicked along with the music as all the girls from the youth club screamed out “John” and “Ringo” and the old folks put their fingers in their ears and grimaced.
We raised lots of cash too, although the vicar did receive some rather cutting comments from the neighbours down the Boulevard about the noise levels disturbing their viewing of ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’. Still those who went seemed to enjoy it; church halls back then were real ‘community centres’ and the place was packed that night when some much-needed funds were raised.
The real Beatles ‘live and inaudible’ at the ABC Regal.
The mayhem continued when the actual Beatles made their second trip to the City to play at the Regal Cinema on Ferensway, on 24th November. Two weeks prior to that the tickets had gone on sale and there were queues of teenagers twice round the building 24 hours before the ticket office opened. In the end on Police advice, they had to open up early, for fear of a riot breaking out. Jenksy and I went to town that day just to see the crowds in the queue, something that several hundred other spectators had also done. We earned a bit of cash too, running backwards and forwards to Mackman’s the Bakers for sandwiches for the queuing fans who were famished but dare not leave the line in case they lost their place. It was an amazing scene. Girls sang Beatle songs and danced, whilst the boys tried to look ‘hard’ in their Beatle Jackets and winkle-picker boots. The whole place, which was right next to the bus station, was in complete uproar.
Sammy ‘Jonno’ Johnson who had just moved into number 16 in Aylesford Street was a member of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and was regularly seen at the Boulevard on stretcher duty. He was, along with just about everyone else in the Brigade, on duty at the Regal on the night of the concert and described the scene he found there on many occasions afterwards. He related with great dramatic gestures that the whole place went berserk and apparently you could not hear a word or a note that the band played for the noise from the audience. But no-one seemed to care. Sammy said that they had over 300 “cases” that night as girls fainted and were trampled and crushed as the crowd went mad! With over 1200 inside there were another 2000 outside trying to get a glimpse of the ‘Fab Four’ who were smuggled, Jonno said, in and out of the building in a van through the staff entrance!! It was the talk of the City for over a week after that and the Daily Mail had a field day on both the letters and front pages.
The paper carried graphic descriptions of the concert augmented with even more graphic photographs of girls crying and screaming. However, the letters page of the paper was reserved for the rather disapproving comments of the older generation. We as kids though were having none of the latter and were all converted over night as ‘Beatlemania’ swept the Country. It was then that I thought I might just have a bash at the guitar myself, but more of that later.
So, it’s come to this? We rejoice at beating Bramley.
Saturday 15th February 1964: Hull 12 Bramley 8
1964 was a year when we saw the end of a real institution if you lived near either the Hessle or Anlaby Roads. It was that year that Hull Corporation finally scrapped the trolley buses which were the stable method of transport backwards and forwards from the town. On rugby days there used to be a special service which augmented the usual 69 Anlaby Road trolleybus, which was numbered 169 and actually ran down the Boulevard to Malm Street to deliver fans to home games and then they queued up at a temporary bus stop outside St Matthews Church Hall to take them back afterwards. As young lads we used to go down there to watch the conductors turning the buses around using the long bamboo pole that they stowed underneath the chassis. With these they detached and re-attached the electric terminals that connected the bus to the over-head supply, whilst in between they manually pushed the bus to the other side of the road.
However back to the rugby and the game that stands out for me that season was our twelfth home game against Bramley on 15th February 1964. This was once again an Eastern Divisional match but by the end of it we had a win, so who cared? Although only about 4000 people attended the match we actually managed to come out on top after weeks of failing miserably. I guess I remember it particularly because Wilf Rosenberg scored one of the tries, whilst one of the Bramley efforts was scored by Terry Hollingdrake the ex FC player, who Wilf replaced. I watched the game from the Threepenny Stand and remember it was a cold afternoon with squally sleet showers lashing down the pitch towards the Gordon Street end.
For the first twenty minutes we came out and played like a team possessed as, with the wind at our backs, we scored two tries one by Wilf and a memorable solo effort by our centre Mountain. A strange story surrounds Mr Mountain because if I remember rightly he joined the club in the late 50’s and was then called Ali, but he changed his name because of ‘the abuse he was getting!’ How times change eh? However, I really don’t know just why he chose Mountain but he scored a great try. That day the game flowed quite well in the rest of that first half but in the second with the sleet in our faces the “Cream” were dragged into a dour forward battle and all we could manage against the elements were two penalties by Keegan.
Hollingdrake’s try for Bramley and a “roly poly” forward effort from Morgan brought ‘the Villagers’ back into it, but we hung on for a memorable, if not scrappy, 12-8 victory. We had won at home for the first time in almost a year! Never to be understated the headlines in that evening’s Sports Mail read “Hull break the Boulevard Hoodoo….. at long last”. We had broken it and we were pleased, but in reality it was only Bramley.
One hundred years of Hull FC.
In 1964, there was not much to shout about at the Boulevard although a run of six straight wins did give the crowd some hope and with all our new players settling in, it was a better season, but gates were falling and they eventually ended up at a level that was to prove to be a post war low. This was a shame because it was the 100th anniversary of the founding of our club and a special brochure, to commemorate this most significant of years, was produced by two Directors Albert Saville and Reg Lee. Benny Allgood’s sweet shop in Airlie Street was selling them and the first day that they were on sale Dad brought one home along with his evening paper,. It was, as I remember, a glossy document of about 120 pages and sold for two shillings and six pence. It had a very prestigious forward in the form of a typed letter from The Right Honourable the Earl of Derby who was back then the President of the Rugby League. Within the pages of the Centenary Brochure were articles by luminaries ranging from The Chairman of the Rugby League, to Mike Ackroyd who was Dick Tingles predecessor and FC reporter at the Hull Daily Mail back then. There were club photographs of teams and players from the past, and at the time it was a real ‘collector’s item’ for a young FC Supporter.
Johnny Whiteley however continued his recruitment drive and Ken Foulkes, who had been international scrum half Keith Hepworth’s understudy at Castleford, Mike Harrison a fantastic prop forward and two local lads Shaun O’Brien and Nick Trotter all signed on for us that year, as we tried desperately to build a competitive team. A young RU convert, David Doyle-Davidson made rugby League history that season too, when he was the first club substitute to ever be used. He came on from the bench to replace Terry Devonshire, on 5th September in a game at the Boulevard against Batley. It was also the year that our coach the battered and battle worn Johnny Whiteley finally retired from playing, to concentrate on his ‘off field’ duties.
It was a sad time too at number 23 because one of my Dad’s old friends, his doctor and the club’s former honorary Physician, Ian Innes died suddenly. Doctor Innes had a surgery on the Boulevard next door to the St Matthew’s Church Hall and was a real local character as well as a big Hull FC fan, Dad missed him a lot really, probably because he had become a good friend who had helped him with his ‘Sand Fly fever’ legacy from the war, a complaint that sadly still bothered him, whenever the summer weather got a bit hot.
‘March of the Mods’
Friday 16th April 1965: Hull 12 Hull Kingston Rovers 10
Life in Aylesford Street mirrored the changes taking place across the country. I was just fourteen of course but even back then fashion played a big part in a teenager’s life and it was about that time that Mum had bought me a brand new ‘Fish tailed Parka’ coat. I was into all sorts of music from the Beatles to the Who, and like most kids I loved Bob Dylan although for most of the time I had little idea what the hell he was on about. The fact remained though being a mod at Easter ’65 was back then simply the only thing a young lad could be.
Everyone but everyone over the age of sixteen seemed to have a scooter which were invariably festooned in mirrors and adorned with chrome side panels and monogrammed paintwork. Every Sunday they would go to Bridlington to posture with the ‘Rockers’ on the beach and frighten the old ladies on the Prom, whilst during the week there would be regular ‘rumbles’ in the Kontiki and Gondola coffee clubs in the City centre. We lads were just too young to get a scooter, but we did our level best to look the part.
However, that Easter when all the headlines on the TV and in the papers were being made by the ‘Mods and Rockers’ battling on the beach at Brixham, Clacton and Brighton, this FC fan had other things to do with a busy Easter programme for the Black and Whites, and two home games on consecutive days. In fact, in 1965 we played three games in four days backing up a Good Friday fixture against the old enemy at the Boulevard with another home game against Wakefield and an away game at Bradford two days later on Easter Monday.
We had already lost 14 games that year and were well behind Hull Kingston Rovers in the League table and so as I made my way across the road in my new Parka (which I did everything but sleep in) for a noon kick off on Good Friday, I was fearing the worst as we had now got the unenviable record of having been beaten in the last ten League meetings against Hull Kingston Rovers.
The Rovers fans had, as usual, been gloating over this record and the fact that they had finished higher than us in the last two seasons. The fact that we had finished above then for the previous 28 seemed to have been missed completely but as we all know, sports fans and particularly local rivals, have pretty selective memories when it comes to historical facts. However, although I was still only 14 years old that awful feeling was already starting to grip me! I was already churned up physiologically by the magnitude of these Derby’s games and felt it in the pit of my stomach in that horribly sickly way that only the ardent fan who has suffered heart-breaking defeat at the hands of the ‘infidels’ understands.
The Match turned out to be a really tough and bruising forward game but Derby’s always were back then, however on this occasion the massive Rovers pack full of ‘big names’ came up against a Hull team that was really ‘pumped up’ by the occasion. We battered the ball carriers in the first few exchanges and despite a Kellett penalty putting them 2-0 up we opened our scoring after just eight minutes. A great pass from Cyril Sykes found Keegan who ran up from full back and split the defence wide open as only he could do and as Moore and Blackmore closed in, he turned back inside and found David Doyle-Davidson, who was making a rare start in the centre and he ran in untroubled for the easiest of tries. That gave us a 3-2 lead but then the Hull defence squeezed the opposition into the middle of the field and would not let tricky scrum half Dave Elliot get the ball out wide to the fast and impressive looking Rovers back division.
This action meant that a lot of niggle and tension crept into the game as the 16,500 crowd created a cauldron of atmosphere as both camps exchanged ‘compliments’ and taunted each other. Several ‘face outs’ on the pitch had threatened to boil over as old scores came to the fore and Kellett who was really on form with the boot landed three penalties, which stemmed from these skirmishes, to put the opposition in the lead again.
Then at last Elliot moved the ball wide. A great pass to Burwell was shifted onto Blackmore un-marked on the wing, Brian Sullivan and Stocks tracked back across to try and nail the Rover’s winger but in the end it was scrum half Kenny Foulkes that hammered him to the ground just ten yards from the try line. Up sprung the Rovers player to exchange blows with Foulkes who was still struggling to regain his feet and immediately referee Ernie Clay sent Blackmore from the field. Although they were down to 12 men, some real battling defence from the Rovers pack saw them still in the lead at half time.
Kellett landed another goal just after the re-start but after that it was all Hull. A high tackle by Poole saw Eric Broom fire home a great 40-yard penalty and then after Flanagan had been caught off side, Eric got another from a lot closer in. Then we saw the try of the weekend. Terry Devonshire picked up a loose ball in his own 25-yard area and started off down the field. With such short legs he seemed to be moving a lot faster than he actually was but despite the best attempts of Mullins, Moore and Burwell he got to the line and touched down just to the right of the posts. Broom landed the conversion and with 20 minutes to go we led by the slender margin of 12-10. They were nervous times indeed for a young fan and the last quarter was certainly not all plain sailing as Rovers threw everything at us to try and get a result. They had us rocking at times as Poole, Holliday, Fox and Foster tore into the heart of our defence. On one particular occasion, Rovers who monopolised possession from the scrums broke away and Flanagan stepped round Keegan and on toward the line before he was caught inches short by David Doyle-Davidson. In the end our half backs Foulkes and Devonshire had been just too good for Rovers and thanks to our brilliant defence in that second half we came out winners 12-10. The good sports amongst the FC fans shook hands with the Rovers’ supporters and wished them well, whilst us ‘Airlie Street Mods’ just posed in our parkas, pulled faces at them and laughed!
A busy weekend for Terry Devonshire.
Saturday 17th April 1965: Hull 16 Wakefield Trinity 13
Next day, Saturday, we were at home again and 7,500 people paid £925 to watch us take on Wakefield Trinity who were having their first game of the holidays. Despite a crunching encounter just 24 hours previously we made just one change from the team that played Rovers, with Trevor Carmichael coming in for Stocks at centre. This was surprisingly a game where our players showed no ill effects whatsoever and before the kick off Terry Devonshire received an award from the ‘Programme Club’ for being young player of the year whilst Arthur Keegan as usual received the fan’s player of the year award.
This was another really exciting game for us spectators crammed into the Threepenny’s as after two penalties by Eric Broom we went on to score the first try when Carmichael sent that man Devonshire in again under the posts. However,Wakefield were soon back on terms by half time with two goals from Fox and a try from Hopwood. In the second half Devonshire shot in from a short ball on the inside from Foulkes and although both Fox and Broom exchanged penalties we came out winners 16-13. With almost the last play of the game Devonshire punched ex International sprinter, turned Wakefield winger Berwyn Jones, and was sent off by referee ‘Sergeant Major’ Ernie Clay who was officiating his second game in 24 hours at the Boulevard. So,with three tries, two winning pay packets and a sending off it was an eventful two days for young stand-off Terry Devonshire.
We went to Bradford on Easter Monday and lost 15-9 but we had four points from the weekend and we had won the game that really mattered to the fans the previous Friday. That’s what you called a ‘Good’ Friday!
Bert Wheedon’s ‘Play in a Day’
It was around that time that my latent interest in guitars came to the surface again and I decided to ask my Mum and Dad for one for Christmas. Barry King (who became a life-long pal) from the youth club already had a solid electric one and was quite proficient. He was a bit of a retro fan really, and stuck in the 1950’s and big on Elvis and the Rock and Roll Years. Although I had lived through these, I never really realised just how good Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly and of course Elvis “the King” really were. Barry took time to introduce me to this genre of music and I was soon hooked on hillbilly rock, as well as the obvious Beatles and ‘Mersey Sound‘, and there was actually a distinct similarity in influences between the two styles of music that was to become apparent in some of the Beatles later LP’s when they included some of the material they had played in the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and no doubt when Lenny went to see them in Hull.
Mum and Dad did’nt have a lot of money, although Mum had just started her first job since she was married, working on the school dinners at Constable Street School. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it transpired that the father of ‘Ginger’ Higgins one of my pals from down the Street, had bought his son an electric guitar the previous year, but ‘Ginge’ has soon grown bored of it, so my Dad bought it, and gave it to me for Christmas!! It was the first of many such instruments that I would own, and was a Hohner ‘cut away’ just like Hank Marvin’s first guitar, it was already dated but I thought it was fantastic.
Barry lived with his two aunts in Ena Street just off the Boulevard and we used to practise every night in his front room. He played guitar so much better than me, and I found it really tough keeping up. Everyone seemed to be in groups back then and the success of the Liverpool scene certainly appeared to have got most kids ‘star struck’ and belting out the obligatory three chords! Good old Dad, who was working for Ross the Pork Butchers’ in Savile Street by then, bought me a “Burt Weedon, Play in a Day” book from Gough and Davey’s the music shop just across the road from his shop. However, I had to get rid it after 3 years, because I still hadn’t learned anything. It was a good job that there was no trade descriptions act back then.
It’s a good job too, that I got my guitar before Christmas because our first booking was on 2nd January 1965. Barry’s Mum and Dad always had a New Year’s party at the Conservative Club on Beverley Road and they asked Barry if we were good enough to play, ‘Bazz’ said we were, although we definitely weren’t, well I certainly wasn’t anyway. So, the date for our first performance was set. We had a repertoire of 5 songs including strangely enough (although no-one knew it at the time), the song with which Paul McCartney auditioned for the Beatles, namely Blue Moon of Kentucky. There was also another one by Elvis entitled ‘I was the One’ and the Gene Vincent standard, ‘Be Bop a Lula’. For my part we learnt a song that had been released about 3 months earlier by the Nashville Teens, called “Google Eye”. With an amplifier made from an old radio I could barely play any of them and spent most of our “Performance” “John Lennon style” with my back turned to the audience, just so they could not see me fumbling about! Great fun, although even if our guitars were the same, Hank Marvin really had nothing whatsoever to fear.
On Thursday 21st March there was a very important end of season game at the Boulevard to honour Scrum half Tommy Finn who was receiving a well-earned benefit year. The game saw ‘Past Hull’ play Hull FC and it finished 31-26 to the current Hull team. 23 ex-players lined up for the opposition and acquitted themselves really well and a crowd of 4,600 was in attendance. Steve, Spriggsey and myself watched from the Threepennies behind the players benches, which had to be extended that day to accommodate all the ex-players. Two long distance tries by Terry Devonshire won the game in the second half but everything was played out in a really good spirit and the players ‘chaired’ Tommy Finn from the field at the end.
That season as our new acquisitions started to bed in at the Boulevard we finished in a respectable 13th place out of 30 clubs in the league. Eric Broom took over the kicking duties from Arthur Keegan and kicked 75 goals whilst our top scorer was once again Clive Sullivan with 18 tries and that Centenary Brochure that I cherish so much was listed in the annual accounts as having made a profit of £169.
Perhaps things will improve if we get some new drains?
That summer, just after the season had finished and Mum had marched me down to Town to get some ’sensible’ school shoes, I remember Bill Jenks stood at the end of our back passage eagerly awaiting our return. I had worn holes in my favourite Chucker boots and Mother had therefore decided that drastic action was needed. Billy was going through a ‘Cool’ faze and nothing seemed to ruffle his ‘Beatle cut’ back then, but he was obviously keen to relay something to us as we walked towards him down Airlie Street. ‘Hey just come and look at this’ he said as he dragged me across the road towards the open gates of the Boulevard ground. Once inside I could not believe my eyes.
I knew that the pitch had been like pudding all season and everyone had been complaining that it was stopping us playing fast open attractive rugby, but it was still hard to believe that there in front of the great old stand was a tractor with a plough digging up the pitch and turning it over. I doubted there and then, that it would ever be ready for the start of the season but after another ‘mile and a half’ of new drains had been added and the whole thing re seeded, it was back to a lush green sward for the pre-season games. It was certainly a memorable day for us both as the green grass disappeared to be replaced by a sight that looked more suited to the sowing of some winter wheat.
More of Arthur Keegan, probably the club’s most popular player…..ever!
The return to School in September 1965 heralded the start of my GCE year and the chance for me to get some ‘Certificates’, as my Dad called them, but although my parents were hopeful, I knew ‘deep down’ that it was already too late. Scholastic achievement that had been way behind Girls, Rugby, Guitars, Rugby and the Beatles………and rugby, for the last four years, was still in its traditional position and that situation was unlikely to change any time soon. I was heading for disaster exam wise.
Across the road at the Boulevard 1965 saw Arthur Keegan made club captain and a popular one he was too. As I said earlier towards the end of every season, as you went through the turnstiles at the main entrance of the Boulevard, you were handed a voting slip for the fan’s player of the season something that was rewarded at a special presentation evening in the Supporters’ Club, that none of us youngsters could go to. Then the whole thing was repeated by the Chairman on the pitch at the last game of the season. Me and my pals always tried to choose someone different but it made little difference as Arthur Keegan was voted the fans’ player of the year for the next 7 seasons and that’s probably a record that will stand as long as the club exists.
John Maloney makes his mark.
That season however both Eric Broom and Keegan were relieved of the kicking duties when one of the greatest goal kickers I have ever seen John Maloney, signed from Shaw Cross amateurs in Dewsbury. John was an interesting character as well, because although he could mix it with the best of them out on the pitch, he used to turn up for games and training in a Rolls Royce. His Dad owned a major engineering company in Dewsbury and John was the Managing Director. As kids we used to go over to the car and marvel at it as it stood on the car park amongst the Vauxhall Victors, Ford Prefects and Morris Oxfords of the other players. Lenny who was always one for a ‘quick return’ even offered on several occasions to ‘guard’ it for him! John was of course to become one of the greatest point’s scorers the club had ever seen with a career that spanned 9 seasons and saw him kick 674 goals whilst scoring 38 tries. In fact, his total points tally for the club of 1462 was only beaten by the great Joe Oliver way back in the 1930.
All the fun of the fair and the Kiwi’s.
Saturday 9th October 1965: Hull 8 New Zealand 11
The second game that John Maloney played for Hull FC was a big one indeed because it was against the visiting New Zealand Tourists. It came 11 games into a season where we had lost 6 and won 5, so as usual back then, ‘thing’s’ were nothing if not ‘average’. The game against the Kiwi’s took place on ‘Hull Fair Saturday’, 9th October. It was a misty dank day best described back then by most folks who lived around the Boulevard as typical ‘Hull Fair Weather’. Attendances were still dropping and the fact that Hull City were starting to put a good team together down the road at Boothferry Park did little to help our cause either.
Of course, as usual with visiting touring teams we were definite underdogs and the fact that NZ put out 10 of the side that had just won the first Test against Great Britain at Station Road Swinton, did nothing to raise our hopes of an upset. I watched the game from the well of the Best Stand with a couple of good mates Steve Mason from Kelvin Hall and Kenny Caswell. The game kicked off with a reasonably good attendance to cheer on the Black and Whites. The opening exchanges saw some dour stuff with a lot of ‘Incident’ and niggling in the tackle. Both teams dropped the ball at regular intervals and a slippery pitch did nothing to encourage open rugby. However, then, straight from a scrum, the visitors flashed the ball along the line and winger Reidy took a smart pass from loose forward Hammond and scorched down the touch-line with Sullivan in pursuit. Just as Clive caught him about ten yards out, he swung a great inside ball to Bailey who scored a spectacular try, that the partisan but knowledgeable home crowd, roundly applauded.
Then we went on the offensive as firstly Sykes made an opening for Foulkes who knocked on and then Alan McGlone carved out a gap in the Kiwi’s defence for Sykes to exploit but again the ball was dropped. Finally, McGlone who was having what was to turn out as a career defining game, put Club Captain Arthur Keegan clear only for our popular full-back to be held inches short of the line.
If we were not that good at most things back then, we were certainly good at goal kicking and John Maloney made sure with two penalties to give us a 4-3 lead. Furthermore just on half time Maloney was at it again converting a great 50 yard effort to send us into the changing rooms with an unlikely 6-3 lead. The second half opened with Hull playing their best rugby for two years and only a great last-ditch tackle by the Tourist’s full back Tait avoided another score that could have seen us take control of the game. Then Terry Devonshire who was playing in the off-half berth, shot through a couple of poor tackles and drawing two defenders passed to Arthur Keegan. He drew the last man to put Sullivan clear only for our usually reliable winger to juggle the ball and drop it as he crossed the line.
If the rugby was getting hot the exchanges in the tackle were reaching boiling point, as half way through the half, a massive brawl ensued. Let’s face it, if you went down the Boulevard back in the 60’s you wanted your money back if you didn’t see a good scrap, and no one was disappointed that day. Broom (and as usual) Jim Neale were pulled out and lectured by the referee who awarded the opposition a penalty in our 25. They pressed and pressed but we somehow held out mainly due to two great ‘ball and all’ tackles by David Doyle-Davidson which effectively stopped two man over-laps on the left. The Tourists were then awarded a penalty for some sloppy high tackling on Hull’s part and full back Tait converted the penalty to put the Kiwi’s just one point behind.
Then from the kick off (with that old trick I have seen time and again) Kenny Foulkes’s kick went sailing straight into touch. Tait again opted to kick at goal this time from the centre-spot and as the ball literally crept over the post’s we were a point behind. On we battled, with prop Pearson going close and Terry Stocks (who streaked down the wing running with his knees almost to his chin) just failing to squeeze in by the corner flag at the Gordon Street end of the Threepennies.
However, that was it and despite a big pull possession wise in the last ten minutes the fitter and more polished NZ defense kept us in own half and a late penalty to the visitors left the score at 8-11. As has so often been the case we created some great opportunities to score, but could just not convert them and after playing our best rugby for the last two campaigns Hull FC came up just short. No doubt that night having read again about the game in the Sports Mail, I would be, as usual, off to the Fair to work as a spare hand and money collector on Doubtfire’s Jets, where I was now a regular employee.
Clive Sullivan who continued to play well throughout the season scored 23 tries that year. No one was paid that well in the game in those days, something that was borne out by our balance sheet that year that showed players wages amounted to a total of just £8,147. But, the A team, packed with young local hopefuls from the cities junior clubs won the Yorkshire Senior Competition Challenge Cup and we were there to watch them accept the Trophy, and then drop it, (dinting the handles), before the final A team game at the Boulevard.
Leaving the Boulevard behind and to this day the biggest upheaval of my life.
As my fifth year at Kelvin Hall Technical High School continued the run up to the examinations, it became clear to this particular scholar that the best I could hope for was a couple of GCE’s and a couple of CSE’s, but in any case, I told myself, University was certainly not for me, I wasn’t, I felt,cut out for that! More worrying though was the fact that despite being in my last year at school I still had no idea ‘what I wanted to be’ even though in six months-time I would be jettisoned from the education system forever, and would need to find a job.
There then came a big change for all three of us living at 23 Aylesford Street and something that, looking back, I guess changed my life forever. One grey October Thursday afternoon in 1965, I had just got home from school, when Jessie my Father’s Mother made her weekly visit! You will remember from way back in the early part of this tome that Thursday was ‘Granny day’ but this visit was somewhat different. There was much whispering and discussion which stopped every time I entered the little front room of number 23, and it seemed to me that something was definitely going on. When I left at around 7-00 with my guitar to go to St Matthew’s Church Hall for ‘band practise’ with Barry and the rest of the guys, they were still at it. The ‘pop’ group was coming along well and we were starting to play a bit at the youth club on Sunday nights. These musical interludes certainly appealed to me much more than revising for examinations and the way some of the girls took notice of the band acted at that time, as much more of an incentive than ‘Getting some qualifications behind me!’
Anyway, the intrigue I had experienced at home was soon clarified when the reason for all the whispering was explained to me by my Dad over breakfast next day. It transpired that Granny knew a women from her days at school, who owned a house way over the other side of the City in Sutton. The property in Potterill Lane was one that this Mrs James had rented out to one particular family for years but recently her long standing tenant had died and she was looking for someone to take over the tenancy. Granny had told Mum and Dad that it was theirs, if they wanted it, but they had to move quickly, and after doing their sums and realising they could just about afford it, they did want it …badly.
I guess for them it was the chance to move on and get out of the Boulevard and into the country. Sutton in those days was just on the edge of the City of Hull and Bransholme, Spring Cottage and the other estates that now encircle the area, were still about 10 years away! When they told me all about it, despite the hard exterior I tried to portray, I could feel my eyes filling up, as things like the band, St Matthew’s, the local girls and the closeness of the one big love of my life that was, so conveniently positioned just across the street, all meant that this move spelt disaster for me. At the time I was ‘Going out’ with a girl called Rita whose Dad was one of the very first Mr Whippy ice cream van drivers in the City. She would, I thought, have to go too, Sutton was miles away, I could get back for rugby, but not for a girl friends as well. I bet that this was a development that pleased her Dad, because he didn’t like me and I didn’t care much for him either, but at least there was one advantage, in that circling the local streets as he did, I could at least hear him coming.
Mum and Dad had their minds made up on the move though, and so, just 4 weeks after Granny had dropped the bombshell, Hardaker’s Removal van pulled up outside Number 23 and the first 15 years of my life and everything I knew as home,was loaded into it. We all went off to Sutton to start a new existence, deep in ‘Rover Territory’. In reality, there were actually a lot more Hull FC fans than ‘Robins’ in the village, but before I actually knew this it was a daunting prospect relocating to the heart of red and White territory. There would be no more popping across the road on Tuesdays and Thursdays to watch training, and no more leaving home for games on Saturday afternoons at eight minutes to three either. As the big maroon removal van rumbled up the Boulevard with us lot sat in the front, it was as if I was leaving for another country and I now knew how those blokes I’d met who had joined the army and were then drafted abroad, felt about leaving home. It was the start of the next chapter of my life!
So, there we are I hope you found something of interest in there and that you are surviving the lockdown, staying clear of trouble and staying safe. It all just goes on and on doesn’t it and the more it does the more any semblance of a return to watching rugby seems to diminish. However, I guess we all have to be vigilant, all being well I’ll be back next week but in the meantime thanks so much for putting u with me for another week, stay safe and try to keep believing!