Hi Old Mother Benson,

With a bit of time to spare today having, to wait for home visit to do with my property, I just wondered if a few reminiscences would be of interest. As I have always said before use or discard according to what value you think they have. I think I may have missed offering this stuff before, but as the following paragraph explains the old grey matter could be failing a bit.

As a man who has always been ‘blessed’, if that’s the right word ,with a long memory, although I frequently misplace my wallet and car keys, looking back over the years I have collected a variety of what to me at least were interesting experiences; most of which, as you might expect, to do with sport, in particular bowls and the great game of rugby league. So without further ado I will record them as snippets and hope they will be of interest to others of our aging group; and hopefully a few younger readers.

When I was working as apprentice joiner at Clayton’s in Pepper Road, my ‘gaffer’ was George Patterson, who turned out to be the father-in-law of George Todd, the Hunslet back of Thornton and Todd fame. Some few years later when I made the first of my brief appearances with the Hunslet A’ team George and Walter Swift were the A’ team Coaches.

During my days as a delivery driver for Shell- Mex & B.P. I made a number of connections with retired rugby players of note, including as follows: Jonty Parkin of Wakefield Trinity was one. As the owner of a wholesale fish business in Wakefield, behind the City Arms, where England skipper Ernest Ward was landlord, when I delivered petrol there I was always assured of a few of Jonty’s stories and always rewarded with a parcel of fresh fish, enough reward in itself apart from the rugby banter.

While it was always rumoured that Alf Ellerby’s wife in his Grforth Old George hostelry was a great attraction pulling beer, due to some remarkable feminine attributes, his one time opposite wing partner with Leeds RL, Stan Smith was foreman at Tadcaster stone quarries where I also delivered fuel for the tractors and other equipment. That also was a time for him to tell his own stories, and by the time I left I was usually well behind time with the rest of my deliveries.

Later when Huddersfield were in their pomp with such players as Cooper, Devereaux, Hunter, Pepperell, Henderson and Dyson, Jack was the man who accepted petrol deliveries on behalf of Percy Keep, the owner of the garage at Fartown Green, where stories were also exchanged as petrol flowed into the storage tanks. By that time of course that great loose forward from borders rugby union ,Dave Valentine had passed on at an early age; and Dick Cracknel and other notables had still to arrive on the scene.

Collecting engine oil from the Shell refinery at Eccles, Manchester was always a bonus when it was possible to have a few words with Gus Risman who worked in the time and gate office. Such connections didn’t end there, as the great Leeds Welshman Dai Jenkins worked for Clarke’s on Kirkstall Road as a painter, and I met him frequently at various garages where his job was to repaint oil cabinets. Another titbit to do with Dai was that the first time I played at Headingly with York ‘A’ another soon to be famous player was at scrum -half, who left Leeds due to Dai’s first team ascendancy and became a Huddersfield player and Welsh and GB international, and also in later life a more than useful bowls player. I’ve won many a drink on gambling that nine out of ten cannot name him, when asked which club was his first. His initials, same as the GB RL team are also GB.

During the years which have passed since the war, it is remarkable how many of the then well known names have gone from the memory of Hunslet’s supporters .However some of those who have stuck with me are such as Turton, the fair-haired winger from Sharlston, Don Graham, the Australian, Ronnie Carol, Keith Bowman, Alan Sinclair, and I seem also to remember a centre by the name of Aspinall, all of whom played their part in the Hunslet RL Parkside story. My father always said that one of the best centres he ever saw was Ernest Winter, who, though slight in build, was a crafty box of tricks and pace.; and made a a back division hardly bettered in its day.

While never being a drinker, when on leave from Germany, I often met up with the Ogden brothers Maurice, Billy and Jack at the Yorkshire Hussars before proceeding to the Mecca. Always with us was little Cyril Gilbertson ,the Featherstone half-back who was more like Jimmy Cagney than Jimmy himself, who also had a double in Cyril Knowles, the Methley transport contactor, who frequented the Prossie and smoked the biggest cigars available. Clandestine late night parties were often held there, with numerous sporting personalities and top professional men, attending, and I was only invited after having become Yorkshire Champion at bowls and as old school-friend of landlord. Ken.

A final snippet for now should perhaps be one relating to one of the Ogden brothers Maurice, who was ‘bit of a lad’ with the young ladies and at the same time, especially with a few beers down him, more than a bit truculent. One night he kept excusing a young man and his partner to the point where the fellow became exasperated, which resulted in he and Maurice having a set-to. Suddenly emerging from a seat nearby, the much smaller figure of Ted Verrenkamp emerged and said to Maurice “ Now then Maurice leave it alone”. And much to everybody surprise he did. After all Ted was a regular on the wing for Leeds and that was perhaps why. Known at the time because of the way he ran as ‘windmill legs‘, not very heavy but fast, and tricky and very determined he was an asset for Leeds at the time.

I wonder how many remember Eric Backhouse, the one time full back who’s problem was a loose shoulder joint, which led to his early retirement from the game. This was a great shame as he was a remarkably good full back, an excellent all round player and goal kicker. After taking a job with the Leeds Park’s department he rose through the ranks to become deputy director under a man by the name of Tinker. On the way up however, from cutting grass on the verges near Leeds Parish church, he was in charge as head gardener of Middleton Park. Before leaving my job at Shell, I took part in a company film named “People Who Matter” As a result the producer wanted to show bowling in-progress. Problem was it was winter and greens were closed.. But after phoning Eric he arranged for the green to be prepared so that filming could take place, which was a boon for the film’s producer with time at a premium. But as when on the field in his playing days, Eric never missed a trick, and achieved bonus points by having his men working on the flower beds as filming took place. The end of those proceedings took place in Tommy Wass’ pub in Dewsbury Road to the satisfaction of all concerned.

A final snippet comes from the time when I had to go down to London to Dubb (sound over vision) what had been filmed at Middleton. When it was over we went to a hostelry in Knightsbridge for lunch, just as Harry Rigby the BBC TV bowls commentator at the time, reporting on Waterloo bowling said: “This ball’s gorra lot o’ coal on”

“What does he mean” said our producer. After explaining that he meant to say the bowl was being played too fast, he looked surprised but interested. After explaining that we bowlers were not too keen on such colloquial expressions, the producer said: “Oh! We love it, especially the comments of Eddie Waring”. As many of us up north were not too keen, Eddie’s commentary with his ‘up an under’ and ‘he’s a big strong lad’ made the game for him. But as most of us already know, it takes all sorts to make a world.

P.S This was supposed to be short piece, But has turned into a bit of a rant. Two choices The Blog or the Dustbin. The Oracle is almost, but not quite yet ,worked out. EAL.

Ernest is our top RAMBLER- Please Keep it up!
Old Mother Benson.smiley