I hope some of you will forgive me for going slightly off-track so far as
rugby is concerned, when I deviate from the theme, though not very far, in
order to offer this semi-biographical piece.
Being born and brought up in Hunslet, I suppose it was inevitable that I would
at first be interested in Parkside and the events there, living so close and
also to the bowling greens of Hunslet Lake, which were even closer. Furthermore
the cost of a game of bowls, providing the men in the old mens’ shelter would
let us gain access, at only one penny for an hour was within our scope.
In the past I have often told the story of how Ken Traill, Ronnie Thornton
myself and others had a roll on the surface there; and can even remember the
numbers of the bowls we used. Alternatively as the aforementioned lads both had
connections with the oval ball, as had I with family, we played rugby on the
moor in front of the Prospect (Prossie) pub. Often with a bundle of tied
newspaper for a ball. Ending up covered in bruises and dog dirt, from being
tackled on the concrete path running across the moor, along with the inevitable
poo. Our other pastimes including waiting for the gates at Parkside to open at
three-quarter time. After which we would sit in the touchline straw watching
our heroes, hoping to emulate them someday.
Later with a spirit of adventure burning in my mind, I found myself at sea in
the Merchant Navy, sailing around the Mediterranean, where unbeknown to me that
lovable fellow Jimmie Brogden was also serving his stint. Meanwhile Ken Traill
had gone off to serve in the RAF at Rufford, nr. York, and Ronnie Thornton to
serve in the navy. After two years in the merchant navy, as spud peeler and bed
maker (cabin boys are nothing like admirals), I left to join the army with the
intention of acquiring a motor cycle, by joining the Royal Signals, duly
signing on at the recruiting office near the Majestic. I can even remember the
recruiting sergeant’s name, it was Stead.
Between times, reverting back to bowling when home on leave, unknowingly I
defeated the Leeds Parks champion on the Hunslet Lake green, as if to prove
that my earlier experiences in the game had been put to good use. However back
with the army while stationed at York, and with the BAOR in Germany, my focus
came back to rugby. First playing with York’A’ team at Hull, Headingly, Leeds
and other venues. And around the continent with various regimental or
divisional sides., when stationed in Germany. Also taking and completing a
RU referee’s course in Berlin. Billeted at the 1936 Olympic Stadium
My games with the Parksider’s were in the ‘A’ team when home on leave, after
writing a letter to Mr Richardson, requesting a game. I played on each occasion
through 46/7/8/9 before an injury to caused my retirement from the game shortly
after being discharged. Fluid and an arthritic condition being the problem.
Meanwhile Ken had gone to Bradford Northern to make his name and Ronnie
Thornton became a regular with York. My contemporaries at Parkside were such as
Gordon Waite, Pete Anson, Maurice (Tosh) Thornton, Edison, Bates, Granville
James, Sammy Newboun, Eddie Bennet, Sonny Rushton, Ollie Ormanroyd, Bill
Robinson, Dennis Artis, Tommy Potter, Ginger Davies Oldfield and George
Ellener. Other first teamers, occasionally with the ‘A’ team, recovering from
injury. The ‘A’ team coaches were George Todd and Wally Swift.
Leaving the army in 1949 I thought I had it made, playing both rugby and bowls
at Parkside. But after sustaining the injury to a knee, which never
fully responded to treatment, I did various jobs, including ambulance and heavy
goods driving for Leed council, and same for the MOD; moving tanks
around the country destined for NATO. Leaving the latter in 1954 I was
able to concentrate on my bowling, even though I played number of games with
East Hunslet Labour club.
After a few games with the Labour club I had to call it ‘game over’ at least so
far as rugby was concerned. With time on my hands away from work I suppose it
was inevitable that I should go back to playing what they used to call ’Old
men’s rugby. I remember an old mate Keith Clark, father of golfer Howard, who
couldn’t understand my choice of sports, particularly bowls. But as for golf,
although carrying the bags for 6p a round, at Middleton Park and South Leeds
golf clubs, I was never offered an opportunity to swing a club. It just didn’t
happen in those days; and as the say once a ball player always a ball player, I
often wondered what might have been had they done so.
My first success in bowls came around the time I first met Alan Simpson, who
was a member at Hunslet Lake. Still making his way in Law as I progressed to
greater things in bowls.
After first taking the Leeds title in 1956, at Middleton Park, the following
year I was fortunate enough to collect two more titles in a day, capturing the
Leeds Half Holiday title at Hunslet Moor, and the Evening league title at North
West Liberal club, in Woodhouse street. After that came selection for the
county! Although my job often interfered, and throughout my 60 plus games for
Yorkshire, I also topped the British County players’ averages’ twice going
undefeated over two seasons in all games in the 60s.
My best season ever came in 1965 when I managed to collect six titles including
The Yorkshire Parks, Leeds Parks, Leeds Half holiday, the C&I U title, the
Scarborough Gambart Baines open and the Leeds Indoor title. In pairs events my
partner Ben Froude and I also gathered a further three titles.
Due to work commitments my form and results dropped, and I was unable to
compete further at county level. My business in the sports and camping trade
clashed with the bowling seasons, so Ihad to accept playing what could be named
compromise bowls. Play when I could and do the best I could. No way to compete
really in a game which requires total dedication and concentration; as those
who know the game will tell you. Between times I am pleased to be able to say
that I coached a number of young players both at the old Hunslet Lake club (now
defunct) and my later one at Holbeck Ltd . Nearly all of those have gone on to
achieve great success. At least three becoming Yorkshire County champions. One
playing over 100 times for his county.
As I have often said before, up to the time of the death of my friend and
bowling colleague Brian Rowe, I had never attended the Ex-Parksider’s reunion;
believing that I would be something of an imposter, a mere ‘A’ team player
sitting among those who were once my heroes. I still feel the same, regarding
them with awe. But what a grand bunch of men they are. Unpretentious, friendly
and above all still lovers of the great game rugby league. And in particular
their days at the old Parkside ground.
I’ve had other highlights in my life, including being the writer of the first
book ever published totaly dedicated to the Crown Green Game. I have flown to
Berlin on the airlift to play rugby; I have met some of the rich and famous in
some of the most fascinating and interesting places. I’ve worked on Emmerdale
Farm for ITV, for my company Shell Mex & BP in a documentary, ran two
successful businesses with my late wife; while also living in a back-to-back in
Beeston for over 50 years. In travel, lived rough and also in luxury. In tent,
caravan or hotel, and am grateful for that. But I often thank the Lord that I
was born and raised in Hunslet.
I have little else to say other than to state that somehow it was inevitable
that my two preoccupations in life, other than my dear, late wife, would be
rugby and bowling. Now that it has come to end, I can sincerely say: I would
love to do it all again.
The two sports were strange bedfellows some may say, but unless one has played
both and experienced the similarities in confidence and the desire to succeed,
taking many knocks mentally, in the process , especially bowls, in all kinds of
weather, against so many different opponents, judgment is impossible. Today
many of the top bowlers are young and intelligent men and women who, if they
are good enough, can not only make a good living while also making many
friends, but build their own characters of dedication and determination to
succeed in the process. Hunslet has produced a plethora of those. And you would
do well to remember it! Photos:. my collection of 1957; Two of my former
pupils mentioned; The book I published in 1961; The Dakota we flew to Berlin on
during the time of the Berlin blockade; Arthur Clues and Bert Cook

about the time of their arrival in Leeds; The motor cycle
for which I joined the army; feature for the Shell Mex & BP company
magazine on the publication of my book on bowls; being presented with the
£1000 first prize on the occasion of my second win in the £3500
Lily Rock’s memorial event at the age of 83; the 1936 Berlin
Olympic stadium; Howard Clarke, Ryder cup golfer and son of my late friend,
Keith Clark; with friends on a bowls and golfing holiday in Spain 1986. You may
recognise one in particular; my all conquering team on the indoor green at
Joseph Street baths, Hunslet in 1959.

Thank you Ernest for allowing us to share your memories and as always quality reading.

There will be a free pint to the first Ex Parksider who can identify all the photos that Ernest sent & yes Ernest you can participate.

Claim your prize at this years Hunslet Ex Parkside Players annual reunion lunch on Sunday the 5th June at the Hilton Leeds