Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: A home win for Eddie Waring

Sometimes a picture tells a story all by itself - they remind us of the changes which have taken place over the years, like the photograph accompanying this article.

Tuesday, 5th May 2015, 10:00 am
Flashback to 1947-48 and the packed house of happy faces at Dewsbury Town Hall as Eddie Waring brought his famous rugby show to his own home town for the first time.

It tells us how fashions have changed, how men wore suits and ties, and glossed their short-back and sides with Brylcreem.

The children pictured are a mirror reflection of their dads, same clothes, same hairstyles, and I bet if we could see their shoes they'd be as brightly polished as their hair.

This picture also speaks of a time when Dewsbury had its own Mayor and its own motto - Deus Noster Refugium Et Virtus (God our Refuge and Strength) proudly displayed on all the town's civic regalia.

But the man wh0 stands out for me is rugby league legend Eddie Waring, the local lad who made good. In his role as a BBC television commentator, he took the game of rugby league into the homes of millions, and made it known to people down south who had never even heard of it.

He was a lovely man, who I knew personally, a man always proud of his Dewsbury roots.

Eddie is pictured third from the left on the third row, and his nephew, Harry, can be seen near the front left with the Leeds and New Zealand star, Bert Cook's arm around his shoulder.

There is also another little boy pictured at the very end of the front row on the right, who nearly everyone in Dewsbury will know, Keith Cross, of the famous Cross's Pork Butchers on Dewsbury Market.

There will be lots of other faces Dewsbury people will recognise, and that is the joy of photographs like these.

In 1946, Eddie launched a series of Rugby League Road Shows, the aim of which was to publicise the game and raise funds for the Benefits of players in recognition of their services to a particular club.

Stars from many clubs were happy to attend and support either their team mates or opponents who they had got to know over the years.

Club rivalries were forgotten and supporters, like those pictured, turned out in their thousands to see players and also enjoy films which Eddie had collected during his travels.

Eddie continued his shows for over three decades and those attending the one in Dewsbury would have seen such great names as Ernest Ward, Lionel Cooper, Johnny Hunter and Dickie Williams, all pictured on the photograph above.

The young Harry Waring pictured above at the age of 11 was to become Uncle Eddie's assistant during the Road Shows which included a series of lectures and film shows Eddie took across Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumberland.

Harry recalls going with his dad, Eddie's brother, also called Harry, to all the early road shows, the first of which was at a working men's club in Hunslet in 1946.

With his heavy leather suitcase filled with films, programmes, records of the tourists' Welsh choir, and rugby shirts from the tour they set off by bus from Dewsbury to Leeds, and then walked to Hunslet over the Leeds Bridge.

Harry said: "My job was to put out all the programmes and shirts on the front of the stage with a warning that I'd be sacked if any of them went missing.

“It was a sign of the times that none of them did, and I kept my job.

This was the first of what was to become famously known as The Eddie Waring Rugby Show, but the days of using public transport were soon to be over when Harry's dad bought a battered old van.

On a trip to Oldham they had to stop on numerous occasions to top up with water and to change a wheel, recalled Harry.

"The next season saw a show in Dewsbury Town Hall when a full house turned out to see Lionel Cooper, Dickie Williams, Ernest Ward and Bert Cook take the stage at question time”, recalled Harry.

"Eddie had been the club manager during Dewsbury's successful war-time period and was delighted to get a full house in his home town."

Following those early shows done on a shoestring, the Waring trio progressed to going by taxi, and their taxi driver was Theophelus "Offie" Addinall.

On one trip Eddie asked how he'd got his unusual name. Offie said his father had been a gambler and had bet his shirt on a horse called Theophelus.

At the time his wife was expecting their first child and he said if the horse won, he'd name the baby Theophelus in its honour.

It did win with long odds, which enabled him to start a taxi business, and 'Offie' became Eddie's driver for many years.

Harry recalls how Eddie, ever the diplomat, never revealed who he thought was the best team ever.

His stock phrase when asked was to ask the questioner to name what he thought was the best team and then discuss its merits.

"One day, after Eddie's retirement, whilst we were taking a walk together on a beach in France, I asked him to name his Great Britain team to take on all-comers," recalled Harry.

"He looked at me with his knowing smile and said: 'If you give me yours I'll tell you if I agree. I gave him mine and he said that team would do well.

"I then asked him what about his, to which he responded: 'Anybody who has ever worn a Great Britain shirt is at the top of his sport, there have been so many.'

"But then after a few quiet minutes reflection he said: "The best of the best was Jim Sullivan."

I am indebted to Harry for the use of the photograph above and for the wonderful memories he has recalled.

If you attended the Dewsbury Road Show and would like to share your memories of it, please contact - [email protected] or 01924 468282.