For the last of our articles about the 75th anniversary of The Hunslet Club I spoke to Paul Thorpe about what the club means his family.
Paul Thorpe is one of four generations of his family to have been part of the Hunslet Club story. His father Brian started coming to the club in 1951. Twenty years later Paul came to play football and has been back nearly every day since.
Paul’s sons Sam and Ben both coach rugby teams and his 6 year old grandson Alfie has just started playing rugby too.
“The Hunslet Club is a big part of my life” explains Paul. “I got such a lot out of it as a kid that I just wanted to put something back.”
At 18 Paul took on running the Youth Club, a role he only relinquished 18 months ago due to ill health. But he’s still involved at the club, co-ordinating the junior rugby programme.
“As a kid growing up in Belle Isle there wasn’t a lot to do, but there was always something new to try at the club. We used to go away for a two week camp at Flamborough – it was the only holiday a lot of the children got.” There were weekend trips to Whitely Bay Boys Club too for rugby matches.
Paul thinks the secret to the club’s success is that it has evolved over the years. “It’s not stood still, we’re always looking to improve things, and we listen to the kids.
“The Hunslet Club has always been a safe place with the right values. It’s like a big family, there are no cliques. Whatever sport or activity you do, you mix with people who are doing other things – boxing, gymnastics, rugby, whatever. And you’re encouraged to try other activities.”
With many children no longer allowed to play out on their own the club is even more important and is often the only place the children socialise outside school.
And what of the future? “We used to just provide activities for children, but now there are classes for adults and open age sports teams. It’s really a family club for the whole family.”