Town sports legends

FURTHER to Ian Clayton’s column (Express August 9) regarding some of Featherstone’s sporting greats, which I found very interesting.

I would like to mention a few sporting greats whom I had the pleasure of knowing personally, the first being John Reynolds, who in the very early 1960s was the British heavyweight power lifting champion for two consecutive years, only to be beaten on his third attempt by the massive 6ft 5ins, 20 stone Dave Prowse who later became Darth Vader in “Star Wars”.

John was a Featherstone lad who trained at the Featherstone Weightlifting Club, situated in those days in a room above the Railway Hotel.

Being a shiftworking faceworker at Ackton Hall Colliery, John found it difficult to maintain a strict trianing regime but nevertheless achieved a great level of success in his sport. Other well known members of that same club were the Garbutt brothers, Jack and Len, who during the 1950s and 60s were to the best of my knowledge both holders of Yorkshire and possibly British weightlifting records.

Another well known member of that same club was, and I believe still is, Alan Whitworth, whose name occasionally appears in the Express as coach, coaching the present day champions. Alan has over the years been the holder of several weightlifting records. Who could think of Featherstone strongmen without mentioning the almost legendary Ossie Wilks, who in the 1930s was associated with the great Ron Walker, a Bradford man, who for several years, was the world heavyweight weightlifting champion winning a gold medal in the 1932 Olympics.

Ossie no doubt learned some of his technique from Ron and went on to become one of the strongest men in the district, performing such feats as carrying on his shoulder a blacksmith’s anvil from the pit yard to his scrap yard on Green Lane.

Yes it’s nice to think of some of the great characters produced by this insignificant little ex-mining town of ours, and I feel sure, given the time, we could think of many more in addition to those mentioned by Ian and myself.