Teams from town’s past hold happy memories

TRYING to trace old friends isn’t always easy, especially when you haven’t been in touch for years, but it is getting easier thanks to the internet.

Friday, 27th July 2012, 4:29 pm

Former Dewsbury man John Walker is hoping the internet will help him in his search for long lost friends from his childhood in Staincliffe, Ravensthorpe and Thornhill.

John, now 66 and living in Derbyshire, used to live in Thornhill and Staincliffe and made lots of friends there, both in his childhood and early teens.

He is now trying to locate them, particularly those he played football and cricket with, to talk about old times and perhaps organise a reunion.

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John attended Staincliffe Infant and Junior School, Ravensthorpe Secondary Modern School, and later Dewsbury Technical College, where he studied textiles.

He later got involved with local football and cricket teams, including Savile Town Spartak football team and Ratcliffe Mills cricket team, both of which he formed in the 1960s.

John, who visited Dewsbury recently, said: “You lose touch with so many people in your life and never know what has happened to them.

“I made a lot of good friends in Dewsbury and it would be really nice to hear from them.”

Sport played an important part in John’s life but an injury to his ankle forced him to give it up and instead he went into training local football teams.

“I used to play football for the school with both the Yorkshire Boys and the Dewsbury Boys but then I broke my ankle in several places.

“I went for trials with Doncaster Rovers and Bradford City but failed the medicals. I also played for a while with Thornhill Edge, who were in the Vauxhall Conference, and also played cricket with them.

“But my ankle kept swelling up and I was told if I carried on I’d lose my ankle. That’s when I went into training and managing football teams, which I loved.”

John later managed Savile Town Spartak, a team which got through to the Under 18s county final.

“We played against Ossett Town and the man who managed them finished up going to be trainer of a club down south, which I believe was Southampton. He asked if I’d go with him as his assistant. I didn’t but I wish I had.”

John also recalls another team which played for Savile Town – the Trojans were the junior team and Spartak the senior team. Both teams played in the Sunday League. I’d love to see a photograph of the Trojan team if anyone has one.”

John also has happy memories of the Dewsbury Town AFC of which he was the trainer.

“It was a proper town football team and we even wore the town’s crest. We used the field at the back of Ravensthorpe Power Station.

“It was a very good side and I think one or two of the players may have gone on to play professionally.”

John’s memories of playing cricket while working at Wormald and Walker’s Mill in Thornhill Lees are equally vivid.

He worked at the Ratcliffe Mill and recalls they still had the old steam engine and gas lamps when he first went to work there.

“We used to have inter-departmental cricket teams from each mill and I got the Ratcliffe team together and organised all the matches.

“They were all people who worked at the mill, but if I’m honest, we weren’t very good. I also played for Wormald and Walker’s ‘A’ division.”

Despite having gained his City and Guilds certificates in textiles, John left the industry when he was 28 for better money.

He went to work as a driver at Moore’s Bakery, situated in Owl Lane, and then worked for various other firms as a driver in different parts of the country.

John has very happy memories of his early childhood when he lived in Staincliffe Road and attended Staincliffe Infant and Junior School.

He vividly remembers his first day at school which literally started with a bang – on the head!

“I remember my mother walking me to school and when we got there a fierce looking woman came out to take me inside,” John recalls.

“I was frightened and backed off and she tried to take my hand. I pulled away, fell forward and banged my head on the steps. I split my head open and had to be taken to Staincliffe Hospital nearby.”

John eventually settled in and made good friends at the school, including Graham Carr, who was his best friend and whose dad ran a working men’s club in Dewsbury Moor.

He remembers those early days when there wasn’t much money around and a trip to Crow Nest Park was a grand day out.

“They used to have boats on the park lake in those days. Half the lake was used for boats and the other for children to paddle in.”

One of the highlights of John’s childhood was a two-week trip to Cliffe House with other children from his school, including Graham.

But the trip was cut short for John when he got appendicitis at the end of the first week and was rushed into hospital.

John’s parent’s moved to Thornhill around that time, and that was the last John ever saw of his best friend Graham.

“I think his family moved to another area and I have often wondered where they went to or if they took over another working men’s club.”

John now hopes that old friends from his childhood or sporting days will get in touch, especially Graham, Eric Fenton and Brian.

He would also like to know more about Cliffe House from people who spent time there in childhood or who worked there.

You can email John at [email protected] to share any information.

l If you have childhood memories or old photographs to share with our readers, contact Margaret Watson at [email protected] or via the Reporter office on 01924 468282.