In issue 17 of the Pontefract Digest, July
2006, you published my letter appealing for people with knowledge of the
history of the town's football clubs to come forward. At that time I was
particularly interested in tracing the history and lineage of what is
now the town's major club, Pontefract Collieries. This has proved to be
a major task and it is clear that the history of the Collieries Club is
complex and intertwined with its predecessor clubs, particularly
Pontefract United and others. Further complications arise as there was a
previous Pontefract Collieries Club which appears to have disappeared,
for reasons yet to be rediscovered, in 1960.
Following my appeal last year I am very pleased to say that several
people came forward and contacted me. Some were former players, and some
were relatives of players from long ago. I would like to thank them all
again through these pages.
First, I met Brian Firth who was goalkeeper with the Collieries side in
the late 50's and early 60's. A recent photograph published in issue 25
of the Pontefract Digest, of the Collieries side that played at Raith
Rover's ground at Kirkcaldy in 1958 includes Brian, referred to as 'Timmo'
Firth. I recently visited this ground and took the photo with me to show
to some of Raith's older supporters. Although they could not recall the
game between Frances' and Pontefract's respective collieries sides, they
were able to identify the part of the ground where this picture was
taken, as it is now vastly changed from those days. I would be very
pleased to hear from Robert 'Jock' McPhee who sent in that photograph if
he is able to contact me, as I am sure he has a tale or two to tell
which will help in my research.
Pontefract Colleries AFC 1959 - Submitted
by Rod Naylor (click to enlarge)
Brian also provided some valuable photographs of the side he played in.
I enclose one for publication in your pages. Most of the players were
able to be named by Brian and his wife, Jean, but there are a few gaps,
so if anyone can help with this, it would be much appreciated. Whilst I
am painstakingly collating the statistical history as best I can, it is
always a real bonus to be able to put a face to a name.
Another former player I met was Alfie Winterburn, who played in the
early 50's. Together with his wife Maureen and son, Ian, who also later
starred for Collieries, provided some interesting tales and invaluable
photographs ranging from Willow Park FC 1931-32 to the successful
collieries sides of the 1980's.
I also met John Littlewood who was able to identify himself in a team
photograph of Orchard Head Youth Club FC, who merged with the old United
side in 1962 to form the current Collieries club. He informs me,
confirmed by another older fan I have met - Martin Coleman, that
Collieries played for a period at Atkinson Lane after the war. Martin
indeed claims he was at one of the first ever fixtures of this club,
against Willow Park.
Going back further, I was contacted by David Carr, the son of Walter
Carr, who played for United in the 1930's. He showed me Walter's medals,
including Pontefract League and Infirmary Cup winners medals from
1937-38. He also has pictures of a team outside an old railway carriage
which at some stage was being used as the 'changing rooms' in Pontefract
Park. Fascinatingly, David still has a copy of Walter's diary from 1935,
in which he has meticulously entered the results of the games he played
in, and when he scored.
Early 1900s Pontefract Football Team - submitted by Brenda Grace (click to enlarge)
Even further back, I met a delightful lady by the name of Brenda Grace
who produced the oldest team photograph I have come across so far! This
is from somewhere between 1903-13, although what team it is and where it
was taken is still a bit of a mystery. One member of the side, however,
was her grandfather, John William Malpass (aka Colley) who worked at the
Prince of Wales after moving to the area from Staffordshire, and played
football in the area, probably for the Colliery team. John worked as a
'trapper' at the pit from the age of 14. This involved working in almost
total darkness, and his main job would have been to open the doors or
'traps' as the trams of coal passed through. Later in life he suffered a
near fatal injury at the pit, breaking his pelvis.
She also showed me the many medals her father, Charles Grace, had won
whilst playing for Fryston C.W. during the twenties and thirties,
including winning medals for the Castleford and District FA Cup,
Embleton and Infirmary Cups, and Castleford Senior League.
I am grateful for the help and interest shown by all these people and in
time I am hopeful of being able to put together all the pieces from one
of Pontefract's biggest jigsaws, in order to produce a comprehensive
chronological history of football in the town. I am still keen to meet
anyone else who can help with this task, whilst I continue to delve
deeper into the archives (where they exist) and collate information from
all the old newspapers. Incidentally, I note that one of the Digest
Magazine's regular contributor's is called Norman Blackburn. Could this
be the same as the 'Blackburn, N' who was a regular United goalkeeper in
the late 50's and early 60's?
Please, if you think you can help, do not
hesitate to get in touch and help me ensure that the history of the
local clubs and their players can be preserved for past, present and
Email: ponterod (AT) hotmail.co.uk