They came through the doors of the Garden Gate pub in Hunslet in twos and threes, filling the corridor with cheeky banter and grabbing a spot in front of the open fire in the Hunslet Heritage room. They were here to celebrate the 95th birthday of Harry Jepson OBE in the Hunslet RL way – a good chinwag over old times, a few jokes, a pint, and pie and peas.
Harry was given the best armchair by the fire and players now in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s squeezed past to give him their best wishes and shake his hand. His memory is as sharp as ever and his tales of Hunslet RLFC where he was secretary for many years need writing down for a best-seller. Now President at Leeds Rhinos, Harry doesn’t forget his roots as a Hunslet lad who trained as a teacher after war service in North Africa, becoming assistant Head at Clapgate School and using his spare time to work for Hunslet Schools RL Association. There’s now a trophy named after him and played for by the RL Conference.
But back to the Garden Gate celebrations: Ray Abbey and Peter Jarvis, both former Hunslet players, presented Harry with a framed picture of the 90+ year-olds still associated with Hunslet RL:- Harry himself, Ginger Burnell, Shanks Watson and Jimmy Brogden. Jimmy had been one of the first to arrive, Shanks in his flat cap one of the later arrivals. The crowd of players sang a rousing chorus of the Hunslet war cry, “We’ve Swept the Seas before Boys,” to finish off the official proceedings and then they broke into little groups, admiring the newly installed Hunslet RL timeline and Hall of Fame boards. Fixture lists were handed out for newly-promoted Hunslet, now in the Championship, and notice was taken of the Memories drop-in once a month before fans and players began to drift off home after an afternoon of happy congeniality at the Garden Gate.
Hunslet Hawks RLFC’s first home match is on Sunday 22 February against Batley, kick off 3pm.
The Hunslet Memories drop in meets the first Wednesday in the month at noon at the Garden Gate – all welcome.
This post was written by Pat Benatmane using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.