A Big Emotional Surprise for Shank

It was a Big Surprise for Frank “Shank” Watson when he was lured to the graveside of his mother Clara, and his three disabled brothers by Laurie Baker and Ray Abbey this last Sunday the 18th August at the Hunslet Cemetery.
They had clandestinely raised a substantial amount of money to provide a Headstone for this worthy Daughter and son’s of Hunslet.

Laurie had wrote a book on Franks life and times, it has turned out to be a best seller, and there is talk of a film being made- It brought tears to my eyes when I read it.

And seeing the headstone brought untold emotion to our Frank- all he could say was “I had no Idea, this was happening” & “Thank you very much, Thank you very much”

Laurie and Ray were at the graveside and Laurie gave a little speech thanking Gary Hetherington of Leeds Rhino’s, and to Hunslet Hawks for making donations to the fund, he also thanked all the invited guests of family & friends, and fellow members of the Hunslet RL Ex Parkside Players Association of Franks who had made contributions to the Headstone, they included- Ray Abbey, Laurie Baker, Jimmy & Edna Brogden, Dianne Cole, Brian Culley, Alan Darlow, Ronnie Fletcher, Geoff & Maureen Grace, Peter & Dian Jarvis, Stuart Keane, Michelle & David Mason, Bob Pickles, Keith & Anne Rowson, Alan Simpson and Gordon Tindale.

Everyone retired to Hunslet Warriors Club for refreshments and inevitably more reminiscing of their playing days took place, later they were joined by George & Margaret Clarke, and Dennis Tate.

Keith Rowson told when he signed for Hunslet he got a pair of second hand boots that had 13 patches on them, so he used part of his signing on money to buy a new pair, Peter Jarvis told that when he signed he was given a pair that had the initials of FW (The Great Fred Wards Boots) impregnated with brass nails on the bottoms – Some wag said he wouldn’t fill Fred’s Boots!

Well they way I remember it, the boots overflowed with Peter in them!

Talking about boots reminds me of what Ernest Lundy once told me: He was home on leave just after WW2 and he was picked to play at Parkside – he had not been training so in an effort to get some kind of fitness he went swimming, and on the Saturday morning he woke up with a bout of flu- he nevertheless turned up for the game and reported his sickness problem to the Hunslet trainer who said “never mind I’ll play you in the forwards, where you can take it easier!”

At that time the Boots were in short supply and studs were even rarer to find-

The studs were longer for the backs than they were for the forwards – and Ernest remembers the game as Hull.F.C. had two Australian forwards Watson & Gitto who to Ernest surprise congratulated him for having a good game in the forwards, after the game he noticed he had lost most of his studs, so he found himself going back out onto the Parkside pitch in total darkness where he searched for his studs for almost an hour until he found the majority of them-

The joys of being a professional Rugby League Payer in the late 1940’s.!
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Click on photos to enlarge

These photos were taken by our Archivist Keith Rowson and Shows the new Headstone and the second one shows Frank with his nephew Alan Darlow , who was raised by Clara in the Watson household. You will notice that there is an Urn at the bottom of the first Photo, it was placed on the grave in the 1960s- this had been removed and lost by “Whoever” many years ago, and Alan Darlow searched & searched for this and eventually found it right at the other side of the cemetery in some undergrowth.

Later a “Team photo “ was taken at the Hunslet Warriors club of all who attend and is published in the Archives 3 columns.

I am Reliably informed that Laurie Baker is going to write an article for our website that takes into account what has happened to Frank since his book was first published in 2011.- Thanks Laurie we will look forward to reading it.

The Great Jeff Stevenson confided in me when he attended the Hunslet reunion that when Jeff was signed for Leeds to replace Frank at scrum half, that Shanks in his usual kind manner gave all the help and advice that without which Jeff would not have become the world class player that he became.

That was the mark of “OUR Shanks” the most unassuming, kind hearted Star of Rugby League if their ever was one.

Frank It is all the ex players pleasure to know you.

Old Mother Benson