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Jill Crowther

Jill Crowther

  • Hull

Jill started watching Hull KR to spend more time with her dad and has some lovely memories of days gone by

Julia Lee catches up with Jill in Hull

Listening to what Jean said, how I became involved is very different, because I only got involved in later life, in my twenties. Although I knew all about Hull KR because my father had been a lifelong fan and although he was brought up in the Hessle Road area, for some reason, he was always a supporter of Hull KR. And he used to walk from Hessle Road and later from Beverley Road to the Hull KR ground. And then when he met my mother, I understand that she started to go with him, because it was an interest that she wanted to share with him. But I, as a child, didn’t really have any interest and then I left Hull when I was 17. And it was only when I came back in my early 20s that I started to get interested, because I realised that it was a way of communicating with him and his one main expert interest that he had.

I think when we were talking before, I said that this does happen. It did happen in those days, that parents who had had very difficult, hard upbringings, were determined that their own children would do better than they had, that they gave them an education that they hadn’t had, and you grew away from your parents, I felt, in a way. And it was only when I came back in my early 20s that I started to go to the games with my parents so that it was one thing I could do to share with him. And for my parents it was really their only luxury. They had season tickets, so they had seats, unlike Jean’s family. But my brother Martin , who was 8 years younger than me, had grown up with it as a child and used to go with my father, but I never did. But I used to hear the stories about the game, and he used to talk about the game, and he used to talk about players and names. When I joined the community trust evenings, I started to hear about all these people and how they fitted in with the history of the club that I hadn’t known – I just knew them by name, so I found that really, really interesting. My father, who was an invalid for many years, used to have a friend who’d come and visit him. And I never realised that this really kind, nice man who used to sit on the sofa and chat to my father was a really famous rugby league player Frank Beilby. And his daughter goes to the Hull Community Trust evenings and she often used to talk about her father and I once asked her, did she know how my father knew her father, and she didn’t know. But it turned out that her father had been a boilermaker at Earle’s shipyard and my father was a sheet metalworker at Earle’s shipyard, so they had known each other from those working days.

But I don’t have things like photographs and things that Jean has. I really don’t have anything like that. But once I started to support the club, because of my father’s interest… That would have been in about, it’d have been in the early 60s. And my parents used to go to all of the away games, I think usually by coach from the Hull KR ground and so I started to go with them on the away trips, which was good. And then of course the big highlight for me that I remember most about what the 1980 Wembley trip, but my father, sadly, had died. He never got to see that. But we did used to go to Wembley before that, because of the occasion that it was. Down on the train. Sit my father in a pub in central London and then go sightseeing and then pick him up, go to the game and then go home.

We went to Wembley most years. For a lot of years, we did do it, because it was such a celebration of rugby, wasn’t it? That was the thing. So, I wished he’d been here at the 1980 game, which I do remember so well. And you were asking Jean about whether the special trains were segregated, as it were, and I think for 1980, I think we went down by car and we parked at Wembley and I remember the coaches coming in and up the Wembley Way and I remember the national commentators commentating on this, how the buses were coming in and there were red and white scarves down one side of the bus and black and white down the other and how wonderful it was to see this friendly rivalry. And I remember that a lot about that particular game – there was no violence, no nastiness, it was just sporting. It was lovely, it was lovely.

So, the earlier cup finals of course, there wasn’t the personal interest, but it was just an occasion, to go down and share with the family. My mum and my dad and my younger brother used to go as well, cos he was interested. And when you were asking Jean about the supporters’ club, we used to go to the Supporters’ Club, but we didn’t used to go to the social evening, we always used to go before the match. And I always remember because my father used to say, “I’ll treat you to a drink before the match”. And he used to, he was very keen that I should ask my friends to come as well and I should introduce them to rugby league, and I’ll buy us all a drink beforehand. In fact, one of my close friends, her family had no interest at all, she started to come to Wembley, and she used to start to come with us.  And it was always packed, absolutely packed – you were lucky to get a glass. You couldn’t get a seat. It spilled over into the car park. But it was all very good humoured and very good tempered. So, I do remember those social afternoons, yes.

Before 1980 my father had died, sadly, by then. I think my mother didn’t go much after then. I suppose because it was the interest they shared together, she didn’t have a season ticket any more, so no. My brother kept going. My brother, who only died earlier this year, he was very keen, he used to go all the time to the matches.

Well, I hadn’t gone for a long time, so I was very fortunate, because it was Jean who sort of reintroduced… I always used to follow them in the paper, but it was Jean who reintroduced me, cos her brother Alan, of course, was a referee, and when there were tickets, and he couldn’t go, she would sometimes say would you like the tickets, so that’s what started me going again.

This was only, what, 2 years ago at the most? Not very long at all. So, I often used to think, but of course it was the new ground, which was completely different. And that is why at the Community Trust evenings I like seeing the films of the old Craven Park and how it used to be and where we used to sit and so on, but I also think, I sometimes think, of what my father would have thought if he could come and see a game now, and I think he would be very critical. I think he would be critical of the cheerleaders and so on, which is all part of the showbiz of it now, isn’t it? Whereas then, it was just, you were a serious rugby league fan, you knew a lot about it, it was very serious. And it’s a different game. And so, one of the things I like hearing at the community trust evenings is when the ex-players do a talk. I remember one of the friends of Roger Millward saying, he said he’d been talking to Roger not long before Roger died and he was asking him about the game and everything and Roger said, “I don’t talk about it much, cos it’s not the game I knew”. And I think yes, I can see that, even as a non-expert, I can see it’s not the game they knew. It is very different, isn’t it?

But on the other hand, perhaps it has a more popular appeal. And certainly, as an occasion, it has a more popular appeal, doesn’t it, now?

I can’t remember where we use to sit at the old Craven Park. I can visualise the stand….. I think we were opposite the threepenny stand as you are, now aren’t you? Where we sit when we go. So, it was probably that same stand. And one of the things I do remember is that it was always portrayed as a family game and when soccer was starting to get a reputation for rowdiness and fighting and so on, rugby league didn’t have that because it was a family game. And I can remember when I first started going, if there was the odd lad who started to cause trouble, how some of the big supporters would just lift him up and carry him, bodily, out of the stand, because they wouldn’t stand for any sort of upset, because they had their wives and children with them. And I think that was lovely. I think that that was part of the appeal of the game.

Lovely memories, but as I say, not the sort that Jean has. Very different indeed and supporting for a different reason. Supporting to give me a link with a family that in a way I’d grown away from.

I love the heritage nights.  I wouldn’t miss them, I love it when Keith Pollard starts. And I think, he has a very good knowledge of the game. He’s not stupid, is he? Absolutely not. And some of the talks he’s given, he’s got it all backed up with statistics and everything, I think, yep, he’s good is Keith Pollard.

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Julia Lee