Heath Old Boys Association


Sports memories


Ilkley Sevens 1960

Reading Keith Hartley's enjoyable account of the Ilkley Sevens successes of the early fifties brought back many happy memories of the ‘glory days’ of 58/59/60. These years saw the second hat-trick of wins following that of 51/52/53 and together with two runner-up positions brought Harry Birchall’s remarkable record as coach to eight successes in eleven years.

I was fortunate to play in 1960 alongside some very talented players. Three of the team, Malcolm Bussey, David ‘Harry’ Brearley and Robert Broughton, had played in the 1959 team captained by Grayham Smith. For the rest of us it was a daunting experience stepping out onto the hallowed turf for the first time with the expectations of coach-loads of baying Heathens on the bank opposite the main stand.

We arrived at Ilkley having won the Manchester Sevens the previous week without our star player Malcolm Bussey who was away playing for England Schools. We beat Wallasey, Upholland, Ermysted’s and Wigan in the early rounds and I remember Harry Birchall being delighted with our victory over De Le Salle College in the final and buying us a round of drinks in the bar.

Ilkley was an altogether more intense experience though. Unfortunately I only lasted two rounds suffering a blow to the head in the match against Hymer’s College. My replacement David ‘Sam’ Hollas came on against Keighley and made some shuddering tackles against a powerful; Yorkshire fly-half.

The semi-final, a neck-and-neck affair against a dangerous QEGS Wakefield, was settled by a last minute try from Robert Broughton who had switched from fly-half to scrum-half when Hollas came on.

The Final against Hemsworth was a much easier affair — 17-0 with tries from Broughton (2), Bussey, Roger Morley, a small but powerful wing with a fearsome hand-off, and hooker Brearley.

The star names were in the backs but the forwards — Barry Collins, Harry Brearley and Ian Booth — whilst not big, were fast, mobile and intelligent.

Broughton scored 8 tries that day, Bussey 7, Morley 3, and Brearley 1.

The 1960 squad went on to win two more competitions — the Sutcliffe Cup for senior teams in the Halifax area and the Barnsley Sevens — making four wins in all with no defeats. Has any other Heath team equalled this?

For me that sevens season was the peak of my rugby career. I played senior rugby for several years including Heath O.B. and a couple of games for Halifax. The rest of my rugby was at University and in London and the south-east.

For some of the others there were greater successes to come. Three of the team — Bussey, Broughton and Booth — went on to play for Yorkshire at senior level. Melvyn Farrar, who played in the Barnsley Sevens as 6'4" lineout specialist, went on to play for Notts, Lincs and Derbys as a flying winger!

Malcolm Bussey, who was England Schools Champion at 440yds, went on to win three rugby blues at Cambridge, played for Leicester and had a full England trial.

Barry Collins made a name for himself as a writer with at least one televised play — The Witches of Pendle.

Thanks to the Friends Reunited website I was thrilled to be able to meet up with four of the team — Broughton, Booth, Brearley and Morley — on that amazing day at Twickenham in April when Heath and Halifax won their cup finals. It was a real pleasure to see them again, hardly changed by the ravages of thirty years!

Terry Howsen [Heath 1952–60]

A footnote: some nine years after leaving Heath I was Head of P.E. at King Edward VI G.S. Retford. Rugby came second to football in that school; so it was not perhaps too wise to enter a team in the Ilkley Sevens. Inevitably we drew Heath in the first round and inevitably we were comprehensively thrashed! The same Heath chants were baying from the same mound and the team was still coached by Harry Birchall. To this day I regret not re-introducing myself to Harry, to thank him and tell him what a thrill it had been just to be part of the team that won the Ilkley Sevens.

First appeared in the Newsletter dated