David Arthur James Littlefair: [Heath 1958–1965]

David was born in Bradford, the eldest of three children; the family moved first to Hipperholme, then, in 1956, to Shibden, where he was to live for most of the rest of his life, eventually moving into one of the cottages attached to the farm which his great-grandparents had first acquired at the end of the nineteenth century.

Like the rest of the family, he played a full role in farm life in his younger days, operating the mowing machine, stacking bales, tending cattle and nursing the aged carthorse through the exertions of its summer work.

He went to primary school in Lightcliffe and, in 1958, to Heath Grammar School, where his father, George Arthur Littlefair, taught Modern Languages from 1947 to 1973. At Heath, David developed the talents he had already shown at primary school — particularly for sport and for acting. He took major roles in several school productions, including Sheridan’s The Rivals, Anouilh’s The Lark and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. His acting ability stood him in good stead throughout life, as he became a popular after-dinner speaker and master of ceremonies, as well as perhaps the North’s leading exponent of that hauntingly lyrical ballad known as Eskimo Nell. He also followed in the family tradition of being a good linguist, particularly in spoken French. Heath, its traditions, its legacy and its influence were always of great importance to him, as were the lifelong friendships which he made there.

As a sportsman, he was a good cross-country runner, competing in the national schools cross-country championships, and an able wicket-keeper for the school Second XI. His prowess was as a rugby-player and he developed into a creative and cultured wing forward and vice-captain of the school First XV. He won a place in the Yorkshire Schools Under-nineteen squad during the 1964/65 season; an injured ankle kept him out of the game against Lancashire but the pack was reshuffled to include him at openside in the fixture against Wales at Otley in January 1965. He had an excellent game, having a try unjustly disallowed in the last minute — Yorkshire were awarded a penalty instead which would have drawn the match — and subduing the Welsh scrum-half — Gareth Edwards — into a rare quiet afternoon. He also excelled a seven-a-side rugby, where his creativity and sound defence were often instrumental in deciding the outcome of close contests.

Before he left Heath Grammar School in the summer of 1965, David had played on a regular basis for Heath Old Boys, as the club then was known,for some time, joining the second wave of young players who continued the revival of the club which had begun in the late fifties with the energy and enthusiasm of Russell Smith, Gordon Brear, Alan Hartley and others. He recalled that he first trod the turf at West Vale in 1963 and he was proud to play his part for over fifty years as the club developed, prospered and flourished both on the pitch and off it. He loved the club and served it loyally, never tempted to play his rugby anywhere else. He played with distinction for many years in the first team, captaining the side for two years, then, in the foothills of middle age, captaining the second team and helping to nurture youthful talent, and continuing to serve in a variety of roles, including committee member, coach and referee’s secretary until late in life poor health curtailed his involvement to active and perspicacious spectator. He derived enjoyment and satisfaction in his latter days from his scouting expeditions to watch the following Saturday’s opponents. His affection for and pride in the club never dimmed and he cherished memories of many high points — reaching the Yorkshire Shield Final in 1968, winning the Silver Trophy in 1979 and the annus mirabilis of 2002 culminating in the Junior Vase triumph at Twickenham.

The previous year he had been diagnosed with the leukaemia which was to bring his working life with John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster to a premature end; entering hospital one morning with what he believed to be a chronically bad back, he was sent home the same day with a very different diagnosis. Told that he might live a short time or fifteen years, he was determined to make the most of his time, travelling widely, particularly to New Zealand, where he had made and kept many friends, and to the United States to visit his son James. He was given a new lease of life by his two grandchildren and rejoiced in the time he spent with them. He lived as fully as he could in a conscious spirit of carpe diem, continuing to travel, to speak and to watch with avid interest and insight Yorkshire cricket and rugby. In 2016 he became increasingly frail, but his warmth, wit, wisdom and encyclopaedic memory were still much in evidence. He faced his illness bravely and without self-pity or complaint. A bad fall at home put him in hospital in Huddersfield; complications followed and he died peacefully six weeks later, surrounded by members of his family, including his daughters, Sarah and Anna, and his first wife Linda.

John Littlefair