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St Helens & Prescot Edition

Apr/May 2014

In a League of His Own Ray French

Photo by David Sudworth

Jack’s Tracks Visits Crosby Class From The Past St Ann’s School, Rainhill

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Ray Of Sunshine

In this issue

His voice was the soundtrack to generations of Rugby League fans. Ray French was there for every Challenge Cup Final between 1982 and 2008. The Windle-based TV commentator witnessed Saints’ 11 appearances in that time, their double win over Leeds in the 1990s and the last time the won the cup six years ago. He’s now offically hung up his microphone but, as our interview on page 26 shows, he’s lost none of the sharp wit which made him a household name. The term ‘legend’ is bandied around a fair bit these days, but in Ray French’s case it is fully justified. For many, he ranks alongside some of the best sports commentators of all time; people like Kenneth Wolstenholme (football), Ted Lowe (snooker), Murray Walker (Formula 1), and Peter O’Sullevan (horseracing), who are instantly recognisable from their own unique style.

10 12 14 20 24 26 30 34 36 38 40 43

In an increasingly homogenised world, where the celebrities are by and large quite grey, we yearn for dashes of colour to brighten up our day. Ray French certainly brought that into our homes in abundance by simply being himself. He agrees he always looked at the game from a fan’s perspective, and anyone who has stood on the terraces will know some of the strange things folk come out with... hence his famously hillarious observations. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the bottom of why dogs always seemed to invade the pitch at Headingley, but it’s certainly no mystery as to why this homegrown star’s departure from our TV screens is missed by sports fans across the country…

Puzzle Page Recipe – Butternut Squash & Ginger Soup Class From The Past – St Ann’s, Rainhill Planning Matters Puzzle Solutions Ray French Jack’s Tracks visits Crosby Test Drive - Jaguar F-Type Motoring Services On Your Plot Home Services Useful Numbers

Publisher: Local Life 247 Ltd, Unit 8, Hewitt Business Park, Winstanley Road, Orrell, Wigan WN5 7XB T 01744 649 722

@ W

Editorial: David Sudworth Sales: Chris Pearce Design & Production: Peter Bretherton Accounts & Distribution: Sally Boon

Local Life is published every month. The magazine will be distributed into the following edition areas on an alternate monthly basis. The St Helens and Prescot edition is delivered to over 12,500 private homes and businesses in Rainhill, Eccleston, Prescot, Eccleston Park, Windle, Prescot Road and parts of Nutgrove and Sutton Heath. Copies are also available to pick up free from Tesco Extra Stores in Peasley Cross and Prescot. The St Helens and Ashton edition is delivered to over 12,500 private home and businesses in Rainford, Billinge, Newton-le-Willows, Garswood, Crank, Kings Moss and parts of Ashton and Moss Bank. Copies are also available to pick up free from Tesco Stores in Haydock and Earlestown. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the data in this publication is accurate, neither the publisher or its editorial contributors can accept, and hereby disclaim, any liability to any party to loss or damage caused by errors or omissions resulting from negligence, accident or other cause. Next issue - May

No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced without the prior written consent of Local Life 247 Ltd.

Advertising deadline - Friday 14 April Published - Thursday 1 May Local Life Media


When you receive the new edition of Local Life - remember to recycle the old one.


Paul’s Mission

My Three Angels

A St Helens Police Inspector is on his biggest recruitment drive yet – to sign up 1,000 people for a charity bike ride in aid of the Joining Jack charity campaign. Former Parr High pupil Paul Holden, 43, is raising funds for the organisation inspired by Jack Johnson, the son of former Wigan and Salford rugby forward Andy Johnson. Jack, 5, has the terminal muscle-wasting disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and the Joining Jack campaign was set up to raise funds and awareness of the condition. The circular ride takes place on Sunday, August 31, over either 100 miles or 100km from Wythenshawe Park in South Manchester. Dad-of-three Paul said: “Last year’s ride saw 505 people taking part, and this year we’re hoping to get 1,000 people signed up.” To take part, email or visit www.

Rainhill Garrick Society’s next production is My Three Angels and shows over three evenings in May. The play, by Sam and Bella Spewack and directed by Richard Parker, is set in tropical French Guiana on Christmas Eve 1910 and follows the story of the Dulay family. Felix, Emilie and daughter Marie Louise manage a general store which is deep in debt. To make matters worse, an evil-minded cousin is on his way from France with a mission to evict the family from the business, accompanied by his cold-hearted nephew, who is jilting the daughter for an heiress back in Paris. Three convicts, on work release from Devil’s Island Prison, are hired to repair the shop roof and overhear the situation. They conspire to assist the family and set matters right by drawing on their chequered pasts and criminal knowledge. My Three Angels is showing at Rainhill Village Hall, Dane Court, on Thursday, May, 15 through to Saturday, May 17. Tickets are £6 for adults, £5 for concessions and doors open at 7pm. For tickets call 0151 4267507.

Have Your Say The next Rainhill Police ‘Have Your Say’ meeting is on Wednesday, April 23, between 7.30pm-8.30pm at the Village Hall, Dane Court.

Rainhill Garrick Society presents...

My Three Angels by Sam & Bella Spewack Directed by Richard parker

Showing on 15th/16th/17th May 2014 Ticket prices adults £6 Concessions £5 7:30pm start (Doors open at 7 o’clock)

For tickets call

0151 426 7507 Rainhill Village Hall, Dane Court, off Weaver Avenue, Rainhill, L35 3LU Parking FREE After 7pm


Gala Events

Heart Variations

The Rainhill Gala Committee team is holding two events in April. Its fifth annual barn dance takes place at Rainhill Village Hall, Dane Court, on Saturday, April 12. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Bridge Barbers, on Warrington Road.

A musical experience like no other is being promised at St Helens Town Hall on Saturday, April 19. Heart Variations for String Quartet features conceptual artist Egle Mei, who over two years has recorded electrical impulses of people’s hearts and encoded them into notes. As part of the concert, the winners of a St Helens Young Composers Competition, which will take place in the run up to the tour, will share their very special and first classical music compositions for string quartet.

And on Monday, April 21, there’s an Alice in Wonderland Easter Trail at Loyola Hall on Warrington Road. Kiddies will get the chance to meet some of their favourite characters such as those from Alice in Wonderland and hopefully Iggle Piggle from In The Night Garden and Peppa Pig, subject to availability. Tickets are £5 and can also be purchased at Bridge Barbers. For further information, visit www.rainhillgala. or

The music of Ian Stephens, Meike Holzmann and the winning St Helens students will be performed by the Liverpool String Quartet. Doors open at 7pm, tickets are from 9pm and can be bought via


Telling Tales A new project is looking for your short tales. Entitled Stories of St Helens, it aims to collect the memories of the local community via workshops, discussions, a memory wall and a website. All those who make a contribution will be entered into a draw to win dinner for two in a selected restaurant. The stories/memories collected will be used by a writer to create a script for a new piece of dance theatre that will be performed in four local libraries. In addition, the completed script, extracts of the process and performance footage will be kept in the libraries as a living history archive. To get involved, email or visit

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Organised women and children-only bike rides are being offered from the National Wildflower Centre in Court Hey Park, Roby Road, Huyton. The route takes you away from traffic along the old Liverpool Loop Line, part of the Trans-Pennine route. The next one, arranged by British Cycling Breeze, is on Saturday, April 12, at 10.30am. The event is free but you do need to book. Contact can be made via www.

Your Roots

Paper Dens

Getting ready to research your family tree? St Helens Central Library has courses on how to get set up using – giving online records which may help your search. Once you’ve got to grips with it, you can get free access from any St Helens library computer. Registration is now open. It costs £35 in total although concessions may be available if you are on certain benefits. Ring 01744 676952/677675.

Join artists Lydia Meiying and Nicky Colclough at Eccleston and Rainhill libraries as they show youngsters how to make walk-in paper dens. They will be at Rainhill Library, View Road, on Tuesday, April 8, from 1pm-6pm and at Eccleston Library, Broadway, on Thursday, April 17, from 10am-4.30pm. Entry is free to both.

Table Talk

St Helens Sinfonietta’s next recital is on Saturday, April 26. Six Pack – The Irwell Sextet features Dewi Tudor Jones and Rosy Williams on violins, Aimee Johnson and Fiona Dudley on violas and Doug Badger and Graham Morris on cellos. It starts at 7.30pm in United Reformed Church, Ormskirk Street, St Helens. Tickets are £10. Call Lyn Wallace on 01744 600846.

The Table Talk Club meets every second Tuesday of the month at Trinity Church in Longton Lane, Rainhill. Tea and coffee are provided free together with biscuits and homemade cakes. A short talk follows the refreshments. The meetings start at 10.30am. For more information, call 0151 426 5858.

Sinfonietta Recital


Easter Activities

Cheeky Chick (Saturday, April 5) and the Petal Twins (Saturday, April 19). Church Square Shopping Centre and Hardshaw Centre will also be hosting some family friendly events. On Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, Church Square Shopping Centre will be hosting Easter themed workshops for children to decorate eggs - supported by an Easter Bunny Hunt where children can win chocolate eggs by taking part. The Hardshaw Centre will introduce the hilarious ‘Eggs On Legs’ on Saturday, April 19. For more details go to

Family Fun Day There’s plenty to keep the kiddies occupied in St Helens town centre this half term. From Friday April 4, until Tuesday, April 22, popular attraction ‘The Garden’ will host a range of Easter activities and a children’s funfair in Church Square. Throughout the two week event, there will also be Easter bonnet and basket displays, face painting, badge making provided by Small Wonders Nursery, while local garden centre Suregrow will be hosting plant-potting workshops on Saturday, April 5, and Friday, April 11. Popular children’s entertainment company Reefs Reptiles will be featuring a host of exotic reptiles and creepy crawlies on Thursday, April 17, and there will also be special appearances by colourful characters the

Are you thinking about EQUITY RELEASE?

The Friends of Sutton Park are holding a Family Fun Day on Saturday, May 17, from noon until 5pm, at the Robins Lane venue. Attractions will include bouncy castles, face painting, a football tournament, prize stalls and fairground rides. For more information, email

Get Hunting! An Easter egg hunt is being held at the North West Museum of Road Transport on Hall Street in St Helens between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, April 19. Standard admission charges are adults £3.50, concessions £2.50, children £2, and a family ticket is £10. Under 5s go free.

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We wanted to put Mum’s ashes somewhere special. We chose to bury them under a 30-foot oak. Even though we chose cremation for Mum, it was nice to find out that we can still have a beautiful final resting place for her ashes at GreenAcres Burial Park – Rainford. It is the most beautiful and peaceful place and somewhere we like to come back to and remember her. It’s open and staffed every day of the year so we know that her special place is being looked after, even when we are not there, by staff that really care. Mum would have appreciated that. You only get one chance to say goodbye so we made sure it was just right. A sense of place for a lifetime of memories Visit to download a brochure or book a visit on-line. Or contact us for more information at 01744 649189 or


SATURDAY 3RD MAY, 10 AM-3 PM, FREE ENTRY Families are invited to come along and join our guided tour and discover all the hidden treasures in our woodland. For more information, go to


Wordsearch Sudoku

Puzzle Corner


Guess where? Photo courtesy of Rainhill Library


Find all the types of cat. Ragamuffin Burmese Bombay Toyger Persian Somali Abyssinian Siberian Ragdoll

Tonkinese Sphynx Munchkin Thai Javanese Manx Siamese Rex

Answers are on page 24 of this magazine


Open Evening

Slide Show

Popular local musical group St Helens Gilbert & Sullivan Society is unveiling a new look in May. It is launching The St Helens Singers which aims to foster the enjoyment of singing in four-part harmony with an exciting and varied repertoire. It will encompass songs from West End shows, country and classical, among others while maintaining a link to its Gilbert & Sullivan roots.

The Sankey Canal Restoration Society’s next meeting is on Thursday, April 24, at the Friends’ Meeting House, Church Road, in St Helens town centre. The Eastern Manchester Ship Canal on Victorian Glass Slides talk on the evening by Glen Atkinson starts at 7.30pm. For more information, contact secretary Peter Keen on 01744 884000 or email

To showcase the group, members are holding an open evening on Monday, May 12, at 7.45 pm at the Baptist Church, Hall Street, St Helens. Interested people will be able to meet members and listen to music. For more information please contact secretary Marie Holden on 01744 612485, or email info@sthelenssingers. Alternatively, visit

Trust Talk Gordon Yates will give a talk on Artic and Hebridean Odyssey to National Trust members and visitors on Thursday, April 10. It takes place at St Helens College’s Lecture Theatre in Water Street in the town centre. Parking is available on Beecham’s car park, on Brook Street and Water Street. Doors open at 7pm and the meeting begins at 7.30pm. Admission is free to nonTrust members. The cost for visitors is £1.

Enjoy Singing? Want to be part of a four-part harmony singing group that performs locally?

St Helens Singers invites you to our;

Open Evening Monday 12th May – 7.45pm St Helens Baptist Church Hall Street, St Helens For more details call Marie Holden on 01744 612 485

The St Helens Singers


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Recipe of the month

Butternut Squash & Fresh Ginger Soup There is nothing more warming to the heart and soul than a bowl of freshly made soup. This one is no exception. Eat with a chunk of soft bread and butter, put your feet up and savour every mouthful.


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• 50g butter • 2 large diced onions • 1 good sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed • 50g fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced • 300ml Greek yogurt • 300ml vegetable stock • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon • Salt & pepper • Handful of chopped parsley

Equipment Wand blender

Method Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add stock, butternut squash, ginger and cinnamon. Cook for 20 minutes or so, until soft. Set aside to cool for a few minutes then blend until smooth with a wand blender. Stir in the Greek yogurt. Season to taste. Gently heat to serving temperature and garnish with parsley.


Rainhill in Bloom

Bike Checks

Entry forms for the annual Rainhill in Bloom will be made available soon. Organisers hope to start circulating them by the end of April. Forms can be picked up from the village library in View Road.

Bike owners are being encouraged to join a series of cycle maintenance courses. The sessions, which are all completely free, will feature instructors who can explain how to change a puncture and check your bike over.

As usual, this year’s contest will be divided into container and front garden categories. Judging will take place on July 20.

Sessions will be held at the new Taylor Park Cycle Hub, Regents Road, St Helens, on Tuesday, April 22, Tuesday April, 29, Monday, May 5, and Tuesday, May 13. For further information, phone 01744 676789 or email

Lights Out A section of the M62 in Knowsley is having its lights switched off in a 12 month trial. It’s due to last until next March between junctions five and six. Renewed road markings, reflective studs and better signage were installed in preparation for the cash-saving pilot scheme.

Mosaic Workshops Free mosaic workshops are being held on Monday, April 7, at Rainhill Village Hall, Dane Court. There are three sessions available; 10am-noon, 1pm-4pm and 6pm8pm. All welcome to go along.

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Class from the Past - St Ann’s School, Rainhill

Thank you to Andrew Whitley and Stephen Platt for sending us this photo of pupils at St Ann’s School, Rainhill, from June 1978. Among those pictured is (back row) Mr T. Ranson, Annette Gardam, Adam Green, Alan Ellis, Lisa Oliver, Neil Brook, Sandra Barnes, Angus Dagnall, Simon Owen, Anne-Marie Nugent. Second row: Keith Hartley, Peter Wood, David Hughes, Lesley May, Nigel Hughes,

Stephen Platt, Allison Jackson, Neville Tinnion, John Bower. Front row: Joanne Walker, David Vose, Anne Whitfield, Karen Marshall, Jane Asson, Linda (surname unknown), unknown, Graham Brown and Jane Cunliffe. If you have a photo from your old class which you’d be willing to share, please email it with as much support information as possible, including names, to David Sudworth on

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Gagging For It The great and the good popped down into town recently to watch the new Gagliardi men’s fashion range being unveiled at Tyrers department store. On hand to do the honours was ex Saints legend Paul Sculthorpe and the Brand Manager for Gagliardi, Sam Borg. Mike Duff, the Store Manager at Tyrers, said: “We’re as proud as punch to be the only store in Northern England that can offer the Gagliardi range to our customers. The range consists of a selection of smart casual and formal wear for today’s discerning man, and in my view, offers men’s fashion of the finest quality at extremely reasonable prices”. The fashionistas amongst you will quickly spot that the entire Gagliardi range is based on a deep appreciation of fine Italian tailoring, and it has a real distinctive Mediterranean flair along with a penchant for rich colour. Pop down to the menswear department at Tyrers to check out the Gagliardi range and you could win a four star luxury break for two in sunny Malta! Simply leave your details with the menswear department before 30th April to enter the prize draw.

Sam Borg, Paul Sculthorpe and Mike Duff


Special Year

College Revamp

A new season beckons for Prescot and Odyssey Cricket Club – this year marks their 160th anniversary - and the hunt is now on for new players. Matches start in late April and the Burrows Lane club would welcome anyone who would like to play, whether they are beginners or more experienced players. Contact the Vice President, Dave Davies, on or 0151 493 9405/07725 005122.

Work is now underway on a new £5m redevelopment of St Helens College’s Technology Campus. The College will update and upgrade the Campus, situated on Waterside in Pocket Nook, which hosts course subjects including engineering, construction and animal care. The new campus will benefit from a new dining area and internal courtyards, as well as accessible outdoor spaces, up to date reception and remodelled entrance piazza.

Dancing Queens

Easter Bingo

Fusion Morris Dancers are looking for new girls to join their troupe. No experience necessary, and they practice every Thursday between 5pm and 7pm at Whiston Town Hall, Old Colliery Road. Weekly subs are £1.50.

An Easter bingo fundraiser for 26th St Helens (Blackbrook) Beavers, Cubs and Scout groups will be held on Saturday, April 5, at 7pm, in the Scout Hut, rear of 90, Ashurst Drive, Blackbrook. All welcome.

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Planning Matters Rainhill The Elms, 9 Craven Road: Demolition of existing rear extension and outhouse and erection of a single storey rear extension. Demolition of outrigger chimney stack and fitting of two roof lights to outrigger roof (ref: P/2012/0180). The deadline for public consultation is April 11. The Skew bridge, Warrington Road: Modifications to bridge parapets; raising height of eastern parapet, including installation of new sandstone steeple coping and installation of steel screen to western parapet (ref: P/2012/0183). The deadline for public consultation is April 13.

533 Warrington Road: Erection of a detached dwelling with an associated double garage and boundary treatment (ref: P/2012/0228). The deadline for public consultation is April 26.

Windle 22 Windle Grove: Single storey side and rear extension (ref: P/2012/0190). A decision is due in early May.

Whiston 34 Pottery Lane: Erection of a single storey detached double garage (ref: 14/00147/FUL). The deadline for public consultation is April 14.

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Puzzle Corner - Solutions

Short Story Do you love words? Are you imaginative? Then why not submit an entry to the Prescot Festival Short Story Competition? It’s free and open to non-professional writers of all ages living in the Knowsley or St Helens council areas. The theme for your story must be ‘journey,’ be your own work of fiction and be no more than 1,000 words long. The deadline for receipt of your story is Friday, May 16, to Prescot Festival Short Story Competition, 5 Preston Avenue, Prescot, L34 1LR. More details are available at

Library Plan Whiston Library is hoping to reopen as a volunteer-led facility in May after being shut by Knowsley Council. The Dragon Lane facility closed as a council service on March 28. But campaigners from Our Whiston Library, who are behind the plan to get the venue open again, estimate it will be open again in May. From that point, it will be staffed by volunteers for one or two days a week. Exact times have yet to be decided. Library users are asked to note that as the library will be independent from the council, they’ll need to register for a brand new membership card if they want to use it at Whiston Library. To volunteer, contact Dave Kernick on 07835 090752.

The picture is of Warrington Road, Rainhill, outside the Victoria Hotel

Society AGM Prescot Historic Society holds its annual general meeting on Thursday, April 24. There will be a talk from Dr E. Graham on Fish and Fishing in Early Modern England at the meeting, which takes place at the Parish Church Hall on Church Street, Prescot, at 7.30pm. Entry is £1.50 for visitors, while annual membership is £10.

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Hayes Traditional Butchers Premium Quality Fresh Meat in Rainhill

Hayes Traditional Butchers take great pride in selling premium quality meat. From lamb and pork chops to full joints, they sell cuts of meat as you want them. Anthony Hayes has been in butchery since he left school at 16, so has over 30 years experience in the trade. Anthony also owns The Scotch Beef Shop in Woolton Village, Liverpool, and Appebite Coffee Shop which is also in Woolton. The shop in Rainhill is managed by Kevin Edwardson who has been a butcher longer than he can remember! Along with his assistants Dave and Lisa, they make a great team.

Scotch Beef from Inverurie Aberdeenshire, hung on the bone for 3 weeks. Free Range Pork from Yorkshire. Scottish Highland Lamb. Free Range Poultry. We also produce our own Bacon, Sausage and cooked ham. Home delivery around St Helens, Rainhill, Prescot, Liverpool, Warrington, and Widnes.

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French Lesson… David Sudworth meets the St Helens-born legend of BBC Rugby League commentary Linguistical flourishes, the occasional verbal slip, all delivered in a reassuringly ‘proper’ St Helens accent... Ray French’s voice is synonymous with Rugby League. Indeed, he was the man behind the BBC’s mic at every Challenge Cup Final from 1982-2008. His style is legendary, boosted by his famous on-air howlers. Who can forget these pearls of wisdom: “There we see the sad sight of Martin Offiah limping off with a broken finger” and “He’s got the icepack on his groin there, so possibly it’s not the old shoulder injury” to the slightly bizarre: “Every time we come to Headingley there is a dog on the pitch. Why oh why people bring dogs to rugby games, I’ll never know…” Ray agrees he did get caught up in the atmosphere and excitement: “Being paid to watch rugby was heaven to me. When I started the head of sport told me just to be myself because whatever happens 50% will love you and the rest will hate you even before they’ve switched on their sets, and that’s good TV.” Although recently retired from commentary work, the 74-year-old married father of two from Windle is still keeping his hand in with radio and the odd punditry spot on TV. Old habits die hard for a man who has the game running through his veins.


We meet at Liverpool St Helens Rugby Club’s ground, just off the East Lancs Road, where Ray started out as a youngster and has been club president since 2000. He’s one of the game’s most colourful characters, never frightened to air his views, but behind that there’s the family man. Married to wife Helen for around 50 years, they have two children, Walkden-based Susan, a teacher at Salford College, and Didsbury-based Gary, a former Orrell RU player in the 1990s who now works in accounts at Mencap. Ray and Helen also have two grandchildren Giacomo, 7, and Pietro, aged 2. Born on December 23, 1939, on Cowley Hill Lane, Ray grew up at 13 McFarlane Avenue. He was the only child of Ellen and Richard French. Richard worked as head sorter at United Glass Bottles (UGB) and the family lived with Ray’s grandparents. “I used to sit on my granddad’s knee and do commentary for him,” says Ray. “We lived just around the corner from Knowsley Road and in those days we’d play near the ground when the game was on. Every so often, we’d hear a big roar go up from the crowd, so we’d go up and watch for 10 minutes or so before going off again to play. When I got back my granddad wanted to know how Saints had got on so I sat there and would tell him what happened. He loved it and would really encourage me.”

School: “Back then, if you went to grammar school you were really somebody. Mum and dad were over the moon. Going to Cowley changed my life completely in outlook. I was plucked from a community and it totally opened my eyes to books and writing. If I hadn’t had gone, I would probably have ended up working at UGB with my dad.” Although well-versed in the rules of Rugby League, grammars generally followed the lead of private schools by practising Union. He continued to play Union through his time at Cowley and later on at Leeds University, where he studied for an arts honours degree in English, History, Latin and Russian. However, upon graduation in 1961, he’d impressed the scouts enough so switched to League and signed for Saints, juggling his one year teaching diploma studies in Yorkshire during the week with matches at the weekend. Switching codes wasn’t as straightforward as it is today. In fact, at one point it may have ended up in court: “I had wanted to go to Loughborough University to do my teaching qualification but once I signed for Saints and switched to League, they made it very difficult, almost impossible, for me to attend there. But the Professor of Education at Leeds was big League fan so said I could have a place there instead.

But it was on the nearby Congregational Fields where Ray would start honing his playing skills: “In the school holidays we’d be there from seven in the morning and your mum had to call you in at night. We’d be there all day and it was brilliant. The older lads would really look after us younger ones and let us join in their games. I ended up playing on the wing, just next to the tennis courts. Every so often the ball would go over but there was a small hole Ray pictured standing fourth from the right in the 1959-60 St Helens 1st XV in the fencing, so it was my job to Saints’ chairman at the time was Harry Cook, he was go through the hole and get the ball back. Eric Ashton also a headteacher at the old Merton Bank School, and was there, he later played for Wigan so I always remind suggested I take court action against Loughborough people that Eric first’s wingman wasn’t Billy Boston, it but I eventually decided against it.” was me,” smiles Ray. Having progressed through Rivington Road Infant School and Knowsley Road Juniors, he then became the first person in the family to go to Cowley Grammar

Ray, who turned out for England and Great Britain, also revealed the unusual wage structure when he first joined Saints: “It was £18 for a win and £7 if we lost,


which after tax went to about £3.50. I was also teaching at Fairfield School in Widnes at the time and was on about £17 a week, so if we won I’d double my wages.” In 1965, Ray returned to Cowley as an English teacher, and continued playing for Saints up until 1967. He then turned out for Widnes before hanging up his boots in 1971: “Mentally, by that point I’d had enough. I was really immersed in teaching and I’d be getting up early, doing a full day’s teaching, then driving over to Widnes at night for training. It just got a bit too much so I ended up coaching here at Liverpool St Helens for five or six years and doing a bit of radio.” In 1979, Ray published his first book, My Kind Of Rugby, and it was by chance picked up by a BBC producer. Ray takes up the story: “Eddie Waring had been the BBC’s League commentator for years but he was retiring. They asked me if I’d go to Manchester and do a test commentary. All I had was a team sheet and some action on a screen, so I did it, left and thought nothing else of it. “A few days later I was flying out to Australia with the Cowley rugby team and was sat in this Chinese restaurant in Melbourne when I got a phone call from the BBC. At first I thought it was a wind up. I only believed the guy when he said he was calling me from an England v Australia cricket match, because the TV in the restaurant had the same match on so I could hear the noise from the crowd.” His first live commentary was in 1981 at Wigan’s Central Park. Unfortunately, all didn’t go according to plan when, about 20 minutes in, a gust of wind blew Ray’s notes from the commentary box onto a fan’s head down below.

Ray behind the mic It wasn’t the last time Ray came a cropper at a match: “I remember a few incidents at the old Wembley Stadium. It was really dilapidated and to get up to the


commentary box, you had to go in this horrible, old creaky lift. One time, I was with the ex-miners’ leader Joe Gormley who was there presenting the Challenge Cup and we both got stuck in the lift. We got out with about five minutes before kick-off but Joe was going mad, saying: ‘We wouldn’t stand for this at Bold Colliery, that lift would have been condemned years ago!’” But perhaps Ray’s most hilarious story is when he got caught short on live TV in the middle of a Challenge Cup final: “It was the first time I’d ever seen bottled water so I had about three of them before the game. There were no toilets in the old Wembley commentators’ gantry but about three quarters of the way into the game, I was bursting to go. I was up there with ex-Wigan player Joe Lydon and ex-Widnes player Jonathan Davies. I passed the microphone to Jonathan and mouthed to Joe: ‘I need a pee!’ So we found one of those old fashioned red fire buckets for me to use. It made such a noise that the producer called me and, because it was raining, asked whether the roof was leaking. I told him we had a sort of leak but it was in hand!”

Ray with his MBE at Buckingham Palace in 2011 Since stepping down from commentating, Ray, who was awarded an MBE in 2011, has kept himself busy through coaching and other media work. Admittedly though, he is relieved not to have the pressure of preparing for matches: “There is a lot of work which goes in beforehand and people don’t see that. In TV, you have to know everything, all the players and also when the cameras pick out a famous face in the crowd, you’ve got to know who that person is. Even if something unexpected happens like the posts fall down you’ve got to know the date when that last happened. The preparation is immense.”


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Jack’s Tracks

Crosby & Hightown

We used the free Burbo Bank Road North car park, directly facing renowned artist Antony Gormley’s 6ft 2ins Iron Men statues, officially called Another Place. Ironically, they were actually in another place when we arrived as the tide was right up to the sea wall, thus submerging these pieces of modern art under the choppy foam.

This Jack’s Tracks marks a mini milestone – the first one this year where we’ve had to don shades for the occasion. Yes, the sun (finally) got its hat on and came out to play on the day we headed over to the Sefton coast. At 5.5 miles long, it’s a fair distance for the casual walker but can be tailored to suit your own tastes. There’s even the option of hopping on a train for part of it, strongly advised for those with children or dogs. It’s Jacks ‘Tracks’… but not as we know it!


More of them later though as we made our way past the coastguard station and straight down Hall Road. Walking down a residential street usually doesn’t prompt much comment but the vast array of architecture on display make this a fascinating start to walk. Everything from 1890s to the present day can be seen, all of them done to the highest standard. Indeed, some of them wouldn’t look out of place on Kevin McCloud’s Channel 4 programme Grand Designs.

Hall Road is bisected by a rail crossing and station. From here you can get the train to Hightown; highly advisable if you don’t want to tackle the busy, footpath-free country road which lies ahead. Right at the end of Hall Lane, we took the public footpath continuing eastwards over the fields and in the direction of Little Crosby. Suddenly we were away from the seaside and

Moss Lane, which we were now on, leads onto the Hightown Bends, a rural route with a distinct lack of pavements. The traffic is also quite heavy at times as people use it as a cut through to Crosby. I’d strongly advise not to take children or pets along this route. Instead, after enjoying the splendour of St Mary’s, there’s the option of heading back to Hall Road

into a rural idyll. The path was in reasonable condition for the time of the year and we didn’t have to play Dodge Puddle Hopscotch too much.

Station and catching one of the regular services up to Hightown.

Eventually, we arrived on the residential part of Dibb Lane with the pretty, 167 year old St Mary’s Church directly in front of us. Admittedly, despite its grandeur my eyes did wander to the advertising billboard to the left for the Courtyard Café. I rarely pass up the opportunity for a sit down snack (it was Afternoon Tea time I hasten to add!) but even I couldn’t convince myself I’d burned enough calories at this stage to warrant such an intake.

For the purposes of this walk, we continued up Moss Lane until we reached Gorsey Lane. To be honest, it was a blessed relief to be off Moss Lane and back onto the tranquil rural route to which we are accustomed. We carried on until coming to a large barn and cottage on the left hand side. Directly opposite was a green sign denoting Sandy Lane footpath, we went down here and through the fields until arriving at Sandy Lane itself. We took a right and head past the football and cricket pitches, beyond which is the main settlement


Lower Alt Road




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Little Crosby

of Hightown. Pacing left turn at Alt Road, the railway bridge became almost instantly visible. Once over the bridge, we headed across the War Memorial roundabout to our right and followed Lower Alt Road down to the bottom where we discovered a boat yard on the right and the Alt Centre on our left. Down the side of the centre is a public footpath which runs adjacent to the River Alt. Once over some boggy marsh land, we came across possibly one of the most bizarre sights I’ve ever witnessed on a Jack’s Tracks walk – piles and piles of bricks acting as a buffer between the sand dunes and the open beach. It was a bit like being a kid again as we hunted out names showing where the bricks came from. Once we’d finished our Famous Five adventure, we made our way across this large expanse and found our way onto the main pathway heading south. By this time, the tide had gone out so the Iron Men were now visible. The sun was also starting to set, creating atmospheric, almost eerie, silhouettes as 100 Iron Men looked out towards Liverpool Bay. It certainly makes you stop and look… a welcome opportunity after two hours of toil. Once I’d been wowed by the Gormley statues, my mind wandered back to the eatery in Little Crosby I passed up on earlier. So as recompense, I allowed myself a minor luxury, a good old 99 from the ice cream van conveniently parked within staggering distance of the Local Life charabanc. It may not have been the civilised afternoon tea I was hankering after, but boy it didn’t half taste good! Please ensure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear whilst walking. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the walk is accurate, neither the publisher or its editorial contributors can accept, and hereby disclaim, any liability to any party to loss or damage caused by errors or omissions resulting from negligence, accident or other cause.

Tipping The Balance Brick tipping started on the beach in 1942 in a bid to stem coastal erosion. Initially, debris from bomb-damaged buildings in Liverpool was used. Tipping continued up until the early 1970s when spoil from the construction of the second Mersey Tunnel was used. Over the years, the sea has smoothed out many of the bricks but the merchants’ names are still visible, including Huncoat Plastic, Accrington; Rock Brick Co, Buckley, Wales, and R.P.B (Ralph Platt Barker) of Blaguegate Colliery, Lathom.


Test Drive - by Tim Barnes-Clay

Jaguar F-TYPE The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion. The flesh and blood big cat has a compact body, a broad head and powerful jaws – and this describes perfectly the attributes of the new F-TYPE from Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. Indeed, in the automotive world, the latest Jaguar is leading the pack. The two-seater convertible embodies a return to the company’s heartland, focusing on athleticism, dexterity and behind-the-wheel involvement. What’s more the F-TYPE is a continuance of a sporting lineage stretching back over 75 years. The engineering philosophy fortifying the F-TYPE is focused on Jaguar’s expertise when it comes to aluminium. The metal is lightweight, so its use in the

car’s architecture helps provide a perfectly balanced weight distribution. That permits the Jag’s rear-wheel drive dynamics to be exploited to the max. Three types of the Jaguar model are available: the F-TYPE, F-TYPE S and F-TYPE V8 S. Each is distinguished by the power output of its supercharged petrol engine, with all of them featuring stop/start technology to increase efficiency. My press car was the F-TYPE S, powered by a new 3.0-litre V6 lump. Producing 375bhp and 338lb/ft of torque (pulling power), the car has more than enough horses and grunt to get you moving rapidly. The freerevving, willing nature of the engine encourages you to be, shall we say, enthusiastic – and I certainly tried to sample the full extent of the car’s abilities. The 0-62mph sprint comes in just 4.9 seconds and the top speed is 171mph. The feeling you get when you accelerate is similar to that of an aeroplane hurtling down the runway before take-off. You’re literally pressed into your seatback, and the smile it induces could only ever be outdone by a small child on Christmas morning. And just when you think the Jaguar F-TYPE couldn’t possibly release any more endorphins into your bloodstream – you come across the sports car’s active exhaust system. With just a touch of a button you can


change an already throaty sounding exhaust note into one that builds to a thrilling crescendo at the red line. Driving the F-TYPE isn’t rocket science though. It has a set of eight closely-spaced gear ratios in its Quickshift auto transmission, giving you superior control. The V6-powered S model also includes a Dynamic Launch feature, which optimises acceleration from rest. Taking cues from cockpits of fighter aeroplanes, the switches are grouped by function. Further aeronautical inspiration can be found in the joystick-shaped SportShift selector controlling the gearbox. Additionally, the air vents on top of the dashboard will only deploy when you instruct them to, or by complex control algorithms, staying tucked discreetly out of sight in other circumstances. The concentration on driver passion and performance in the F-TYPE is highlighted by the ‘one plus one’ layout of the asymmetric cabin. This is confirmed by the grab handle which races down the centre console on the passenger side, delineating it from the driver’s side.

The F-TYPE is, without doubt, a car that delivers precisely the key sporting characteristics that Jaguar intended. It’s definitely a big toy for big boys and girls – and it’s available from only £58,500 for the entry level, rising to £67,520 for the F-TYPE S, on to a price-tag of £79,950 for the F-TYPE V8 S.


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On Your Plot

April showers to October fun Now is the time for April showers and with the weather warming up all the time and some gentle rain you’ll soon be seeing lots of changes on your veggie plot. If you are thinking of planting some of your seedlings out then don’t forget to harden them off first. You can move the pots outside each morning, bringing them in at night to gradually acclimatise them to the change. Do remember too that late frosts can still happen in April, damaging plants that are unprotected. Watch the weather forecast and if there’s any danger of frost then use fleece or cloches to protect plants where necessary. Are you a fan of Halloween? Why not have a go at growing one (or several!) of your own this year? Pumpkins need a long, growing season to ripen well so now is the time to start them off. There’s lots of different varieties, including some giant ones if you want something really impressive to carve. Look out on the packets for ones that are early ripening for the best chances of success. Pumpkin seeds are huge so it’s easy to sow just one to each pot. I’d sow at least 3 plants, if they all germinate and mature it’ll probably be more than you need. You’ll need to keep your young plant inside until all risk


of frost has passed. When it comes time to plant the pumpkin out it will like lots of nutrients in the soil. Dig out a large hole and put in lots of well rotted compost. They’ll bloom with wonderfully exotic looking, huge yellow flowers and it’s wise to consider removing the growing tip once three fruit have set as this will give a better chance for larger, riper, pumpkins. Support the growing fruits on a bed of straw to avoid them dropping off or becoming mushy. Are you enjoying purple spouting broccoli at the moment? You can buy summer varieties to plant now, or try Calbrese (this has the green heads) which is best planted straight into the beds where they will grow. Its wonderful to see the first fresh, local, asparagus appear for sale this month and if you’ve a bit of space spare on your plot now’s the time to plant this gourmet crop. Buy one year old crowns and plant them immediately into well drained soil. You should be able to take a small harvest next year and they’ll carry on cropping for up to 20 years!

Jobs for April:• Keep an eye out for late frosts and cover any vulnerable plants. • Harden off indoor sowings before planting out. • Start off French beans and Brussels Sprouts under cover. • Fancy something a bit more exotic? Try growing some peppers and aubergines - sow this month in a greenhouse or polytunnel. • Earth up potatoes once the first shoots appear.

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