Susan Jarvis interviewed by Helen Peyton
What’s your connection to Featherstone Rovers?
My father was born in Featherstone and that’s my connection to the Rovers. And my grandfather. In fact, quite a few of the Jarvis family followed the Rovers and also the Lymans, my Grandma’s side, who was from the side of my grandma Jarvis and two of my grandma’s relations played for Dewsbury. Paul Lyman played at Wembley, in1984, the last time we won the cup.
Did your father and grandfather play?
No we were just supporters. My Dad told me that If there were any big matches on, through the week, school used to let the kids out to go and watch the match. I’ve never lived at Featherstone. When my mum and dad got married, they stayed over Castleford way because that is where my mums family were from. My father introduced me and my brother to Featherstone Rovers and both he and his children supported them, although it became harder through university and moving to Stoke and the other one to the other side of Leeds. We would all go to Aunty Mary’s on a Saturday and all go to the match together
How old were you when you first started going?
Happen 7 although I’d be younger than that, because I used to go dancing on a Saturday morning and sometimes it’d clash and I wasn’t, you know, like me brother, me dad used to take him every Saturday. I’d be about 7or 8, but my brother, first match was when he was 2 and my dad took him on his shoulders. Mine and my brothers first match together was at Halifax. I’ve been going ever since!
Do you have your own seat?
When it used to be the old ground, before the new main stand was made, we all used to stand at back of the sticks with Aunty Mary. And then we decided that we’d move into the main stand and sit down.
There won’t be many that have supported Featherstone as long as you?
Well, there might be a few, round about my age I would think. There might be some who’re quite a bit older than me? It was in me blood I suppose. I mean me mum knew nothing about rugby. But of course, when mum and dad were courting and they got married, she thought, well, if he’s going, I’m going. So that’s how we’ve all started going. We used to have get two buses, we had no car then. We used to get a bus from here to Castleford and then one from Castleford to Featherstone and we used to go down to me Aunty Mary’s and we’d stay there while it were kick-off time, then we used to walk up. Then we used to catch the last bus from Featherstone on Saturday night and then the last bus from Castleford – sometimes we had to run for it to get up here. I think the last bus left Featherstone about 10 o’clock, got to Castleford about half past ten and I think the bus was about quarter to eleven. It was a big day out.
I was too young to go to the 1952 final. My brother went, people were knitting scarves and things. I had a scarf and there were all the players. I think me Aunty Edie knitted it. Somebody knitted it anyway and it were blue and white and each section of the scarf was the name of a player. It’s probably still up in the loft with all the years of programmes and other memorabilia.
The bus broke down, going to London, but they just got in before match kicked off and Dad said to my mother, “Do not buy a programme – only off a proper seller”. So what did they do? They bought a programme and when they opened it there were nothing inside. It were from a tout that they bought it, but they were warned. It was common for the touts to forge the outside cover! It was Uncle Ken and Aunty Gertie that got told off for buying these programmes.
You were Miss Featherstone?
What did you have to do? Because it wasn’t a beauty pageant, was it?
No, well, if anything were going off at club you attended it, you kicked the ball off at full time, you know, for player of the year and things, you presented the trophies.
It was lovely.
What did you have to do to win it?
A lot of people put their names forward and then people asked you questions. You were taken into a side room and were asked questions about rugby. Your score went towards them picking you. You paraded round the clubhouse in front of a number of judges, the main judge was Lady Masham, from up Ripon way. Her husband, Lord Masham, he owned the pits in Featherstone they were even called Masham’s and he was the president of the club, all those years ago. When the pits closed everything changed,! Lady Masham was a lovely, lovely lady, she were paralysed – she fell off a horse and it paralysed her. That’s how you came to get the title, with your knowledge of rugby and how you paraded round. That’s how that was. After the 79 and the 83 Wembley, the players were taken to Swinston Hall with Lady and Lord Masham for a players went to a reception. They were very hands on, he was a good patron, they used to come to matches.
So that’s how I come to be involved with the Rovers?
My dad didn’t used to go to away matches, when I learnt to drive, me and my mum used to go. Big matches as well, international matches we would tootle off but my dad was a home bird, he used to say, “Oh, you get off, I’m not bothered about going”. He used to watch it on television. When mum died, I didn’t bother going on me own, not to away matches. I cannot listen to it on the radio – I’ve got to be there, me, to see it. Can’t watch it on television. If they’re playing away, I don’t put results on until matches are finished, my stomach gets all in a churn and I think this is not worth it, Susan. If they’ve won, they’ve won and if they’ve lost, they’ve lost. I can’t listen to it, I’ve got to be there to see the actual match.
Did you win an award?
Yes we did. It was from Nisa, the supermarket. Terry Mulaney, who was at Featherstone, and it was at the time when my mum was very, very poorly. When she died, Terry nominated us as Supporters of the Year.
Supporters of the year?
It were me, my brother, his wife and my brother’s son, Richard. They gave us a cup. I think they used to do it every year. It kind of wrapped it up a bit, after losing me mum. She would have been proud of it, would me mum.
Has the game changed?
Out of recognition. Super League. No, I don’t like Super League. I’ll watch it, it’s not as fast as Super League, but I prefer the Championship games to Super League. I really do.
Have you seen a change in Featherstone?
Yeah, it has. Because before Super League you used to get all the big teams come, so you got big gates. As soon as it went to summer, people have other things to do. They’re steady, to me the gates are steady. But, people might think I’m silly, but I don’t want Rovers to go up into Super League, I don’t. If they go up, I will support them, but I just think it’s ridiculous. And then they stopped relegation and promotion, they did, because Super League wanted everything for themselves. You never know, do you, how long Super League will last, how long Sky will be prepared to give you the money, and I shall put a flag out when it slumps, when it goes. I will, because Championship teams to me are not getting a lot of money anyway. I would imagine that a lot of Super League teams are in trouble – how can they keep paying these wages? You’ve only got to look at how Bradford Northern went out of League, then they came in, Bradford 19 something or other. Then they went out again. Then they’ve been relegated last year to Division One because of financial difficulties. They don’t get the publicity – people might disagree – not like soccer or teams like that. To me, on the gates, they can’t afford to pay these big wages. They’re paying all the money out what they’re paying in to the players. And OK it’s just a short career, but if the money they’re getting, they open a little business or put it away, they’ve something to fall back on, haven’t they? But a lot of them don’t. And then when the money dries up, you know? And half of them won’t be able to work by the time they’re 40, 50, with all… And there’s no need for it. You see, they’ve all this health and safety, which is good, and they’ve all this training they do, and they don’t work, haven’t got a proper job. Years ago, I can remember at Easter, they played Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday, or was it Monday/Tuesday. They played three games, working, and then coming and playing the game. Now these, training all week and the morning, because of two or three games to play. So has the Championship teams. You’ve got a few, you know, that on professional terms, but the rest of them are working. And this is why I shall put the flag out when it goes bust. That might sound petty but it’s not, it’s just how I feel. Cos I think, I think they’ve absolutely ruined the game.
Then Super League teams didn’t want ‘A’ teams, so all the young lads, where are they going to play? I mean, we do, dual reg. I don’t agree with dual reg, but there you go. They’ve started having A teams again – and that’s how you bring your young kids through. But Super League teams… We do it at Featherstone – they bring dual reg in and to me, they’re keeping other kids out. But that’s the way of the world, I’m afraid.
Are you going to continue as a Featherstone fan?
Yes, I will continue as a Featherstone fan as long as I can get there.
If you stop driving, you’ll have to go to your two buses again?
No I couldn’t do that. You see, there again, Sunday service is not the same as it was years and years ago. I couldn’t get to Featherstone for 3 o’clock from here, on’t bus. If ever anything happened to Featherstone I wouldn’t follow another team. Featherstone through and through I am. I’ve got blue and white coming through my veins. I would never, ever support another team. I don’t like Castleford, for one.
Anything else that you can think about the rugby?
I can remember t’players going on strike. That must have been in the 70s, 80s. We had a chairman then who got into trouble, Mind you, we thought he were OK. It will have been about money. They went on strike, wouldn’t play, and then he turned out to be a wrong’un, this chairman. The business premises burnt down and he did time.
I can remember’t old stand burning down. 30 years ago? And the new stand must be 20 years old now?
Was it during a match?
No, it was an electrical fault, apparently. And when it was the old stand, the dressing rooms used to be underneath. Plus there were a Ladies’ Committee. For many years, it were guarantors and their wives used to come. There used to be a tea room and they used to all go in there for a cup of tea at half time and yeah, there were a Ladies’ section at Rovers. There were Knottingley supporters, there were Pontefract supporters. I don’t know whether any of them were still on’t go or not. Cos I don’t really get involved like I used to do. I just like to go and watch my match.
I was on supporters’ committee and we used to do a lot for Rovers. I’ve done a lot of earning money for them and I think I’ve done my fair share, My dad, when it was the old club, clubhouse, on the car park, they used to have dances on a Friday and a Saturday night and on a Monday morning, my dad, who was retired then and Albert Aldgate who was a big Featherstone supporter, used to go and mend the toilets and sinks where they’d been smashed. They never charged them. It was every Monday morning, they’d go and see what damage had been done over the weekend. Many a time it was 6 o’clock when he got home and we’d say, “What you been doing? Where’ve you been? You’ve been out of here since, what, 9 o’clock this morning!”. That’s how it was, he never charged, didn’t charge expenses, neither did Albert, just did it out of the goodness… Every week without fail, somebody would rip sinks off walls and it was terrible. But we survived and we all, we’ll always survive at Featherstone. I think we will, anyway.
Of course, when me brother came out of teaching – he were a headmaster, was me brother. He was so fed up of not being able to do his job. He used to say, “All I am now is a glorified accountant”. He used to love it, you know, and he was a good headmaster. And it was getting him down and he took early retirement, then he went to work a bit at Rovers, in’t shop and what have you. They had a classroom done for him and put that on the wall. The kids used to go to matches and when they’d see him at match they’d go, “Are you alright Mr Jarvis” “Yeah, are you alright?”. That’s what they did and that was lovely.
So yes, Featherstone Rovers through and through.