Wednesday, 17 December 2014


Small pratincole (S.P.Pandey@SPOARvia Wikipedia Commons)

AN entertaining talk on the birds of the Indian state of Goa brought the curtain down on the Grimsby branch RSPB meetings for 2014.

The event at the Corpus Christ church hall in Cleethorpes  marked a  return visit for speaker Chris Galvin who, as well as being a keen birder, is a regional  sales manager for high-profile binoculars and 'scope company, Opticron. 

Chris, from Liverpool, is a keen Everton fan and might have preferred  to have been watching Sky TV's coverage of his side's 3-1 home win against against QPR . . . but the prior speaking commitment prevailed. 

He and wife Jeanette have several times visited Baga in Goa which is one of the world's best birding destinations.

He illustrated his lively presentation with his own stunning shots of scores of colourful species, but his talk was more than just a catalogue of sightings. He included in the mix plenty of  amusing anecdotes.

On one occasion, he and two fellow birders were photographing kingfishers when they detected a snake on the other side of the stream slithering at speed through the water towards them.

"I might be a big lad, but I can't half shift if I see a snake swimming towards me,"he chuckled. "I don't like snakes!" 

Before it made its move, Chris snatched a shot of the crittur which he later showed to a friend who is a vet and herpetologist. 

In fact, it was a rat snake and harmless to humans - but Chris didn't know that at the time.

Later in his talk, Chris revealed that while  pursuing a potential photo of an Indian spotted eagle, he dropped his  'scope on a concrete.surface. "It cost me £758 to repair," he lamented. "That eagle owes me!" 

The hotel where Chris and Jeanette  like to stay is the three-star Marinha  Dourada which overlooks two scenic lagoons.

But he was not averse to  rising at dawn to explore less wholesome places such as fetid swamps at one of which he was  delighted to glimpse - and photograph - a cinnamon bittern.

"It just goes to emphasise that even the seemingly most inhospitable places provide a habitat where certain species will eke out a living,"he said. 

Among the species with which Chris seemed to have a special affinity was the slender-billed gull, but only in adult breeding plumage. 

"It's got suck long, sexy red legs," he enthused. "Oh stop - I'm a long way from home!" 

Goa, particularly the north, is also increasingly popular with Russian visitors, but he said he had not encountered any who were  birders.
Chestnut-headed bee-eater (JJ Harrison via Wikipedia Commons)

Among the species featured in Chris's talk were:

White-browsed wagtail 
White-cheeked barbet 
Small pratincole 
Chestnut bee-eater 
Indian robin 
Black-shouldered kite 
Black-capped kingfisher 
Pied kingfisher 
Collared kingfisher 
Indian roller 
Scarlet minivet 
Stork-billed kingfisher 
Ashy wood swallow 
Black kite 
Blue-eared kingfisher 
Pallas's gull 

Jungle owlet 
Spotted owlet 
Brown hawk owl 
Indian Scops owl 
Red-wattled plover 
Yellow-wattled plover 
Long-tailed shrike 
Bay-backed shrike 
Oriental magpie robin

Scarlet minivet ( JM Gard via Wikipedia Commons)

To see Chris in a different context, banging the drum for Opticron at a trade fair in the  USA, see: 

* The Grimsby branch has received a letter of thanks from the RSPB for raising £1,521.88 during the year 2013-14.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


The Hunt over The Fields      

THE growing interest in works by Grimsby-born  artist Vincent Haddelsey was  reflected in the firm prices achieved when more than 70 of his paintings and prints went under the hammer  at Lincoln Auction Rooms.

Stars of the sale included The Hunt over The Fields, which sold for £1,300, and Polo Match which made the same amount.

Born in 1934, Vincent Haddelsey lived at Canwick, near Lincoln, as a child, and enjoyed riding with the Blankney Hunt and being on foot with the Cranwell Beagles.

A self-taught artist who acquired a love of horses at a young age, he travelled the world in pursuit of his subject matter.

He studied horses and landscapes in Mongolia, China, India and Chile, participated in the rodeo in Mexico, rode with hounds in Europe and show jumped in England and Canada, all the time painting the scenes he saw.

Preferring to be known as an ‘equestrian painter’ rather than an artist, he exhibited widely, wrote and collaborated on books about his work, and had paintings included in the Royal collection.

Haddelsey died in Paris in August, 2010.

The auction, held on November 26,  was conducted by William Gregory on behalf of  Golding Young & Mawer

Polo Match

Friday, 5 December 2014


THE article below was published in the Cleethorpes Chronicle newspaper in June, 2012.

WHENEVER he watches football on TV, one Cleethorpes man makes a point of keeping a particular close eye on the performance of the goalkeepers.

That is because Clarrie Williams, of Penshurst Road, was once a professional ‘keeper himself - indeed, one of the finest stoppers of his generation.

He enjoyed an illustrious eight-year playing career with Grimsby Town during which spell he was an England triallist.

Had his path not been blocked by the likes of Frank Swift (Bolton), Bert Williams (Wolves) and Gil Merrick (Birmingham), he might well himself have achieved international honours.

To this day, his achievement of only conceding 29 goals in the 46 matches of the 1955-56 season, when the Mariners won promotion from the Third Division North, stands as a Blundell Park record. Playing in every match that season, he kept no fewer than 25 clean sheets.

On his 21st birthday, he played against Fulham whose stars included Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Hill, the latter later  to enjoy fame as a TV pundit. Other notable opponents in a career that spanned the 'Fifties included Billy Wright and Ron Flowers, both of Wolves and England.

Now 79 and as genial and good-humoured as ever, Clarrie was born in Wardley, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the middle of one girl and four boys (all still alive) to Clarence and Alice Williams.

However, aged five, he left the North-east when his father, a coal miner, decided to move to South Yorkshire where prospects were better than the pit where he worked at Gateshead.

Soon afterwards, war broke out, and Doncaster was the target of frequent bombing raids as the enemy sought out to knock out the Harvester plant - home to the manufacture of tractors and other heavy machinery.

"We had to dash to the air raid shelter on more than one occasion,"he recalls. "One bomb landed just a couple of fields away from our home."
As a boy, Clarrie was an enthusiastic about all sports and played as a centre forward and winger for Doncaster YMCA.

However, YMCA were  taking such severe hammerings - on one occasion losing 10-0 - that he was persuaded that instead of scoring goals, his new role would be to stop his team from leaking them.

That move transformed his life. He proved to be such a natural between the goalposts that he was soon signed, as an amateur, to play for the reserves with Doncaster Rovers, then managed by Peter Docherty. 

Also at Rovers at that time was Charlie Williams, a skilful player and engaging personality who later earned a top reputation as a club comedian.

By this time, Clarrie had become an apprentice at Harvester, but his outstanding  performances with Rovers drew the attention of Grimsby Town, then managed by Bill Shankly, who duly signed him on professional terms.

His first wage was £10 per week during the season, reduced to £8 a week in summer - he made up his money by working as a labourer at the building firm, Would's, notably on construction of Dudley Street in Grimsby.

What are Clarrie's memories of Shankly? "He was a great manager.He was football-mad and a big disciplinarian - too much so for one or two of the players who soon left.

"There were very strict restrictions on when and how often we could see a film at a picture house or go dancing."

Training sessions were intensely physical - typically lots of running, variously on the streets, on Cleethorpes sands or up and down the terraces at Blundell Park.

There was very little ball work for any of the players, and Clarrie pretty well had to learn the techniques of improving as a goalkeeper by himself. 
He can still recall his first game away Crewe Alexandra which the Mariners won 2-1. As he remembers, any slight pre-match dressing room nerves nerves disappeared as soon he was out on the pitch.

"That is how it is with most players,"he says. "When you're out there playing, you just get on with the match."

Clarrie played in front of large crowds - invariably more than 16,000 at Blundell Park and sometimes more than 20,000.

Many of the home fans would arrive by bicycle, most leaving their machines on Harrington Street - though some canny householders used to charge sixpence (2.5p) for parking rights during the course of the match.

Ironically, the players had a clause written into their contracts forbidding them from cycling because of concerns that pedalling activity would strengthen the wrongs sets of leg muscles. 

Clarrie recalls playing all over the country - often at grounds where the crowds were almost on top of the pitch.

The Den at Millwall was an unwelcoming environment, but it seems football fans then were never as hostile as they sometimes are today.

Inevitably, the visiting goalkeeper would receive plenty of stick, but Clarrie remembers it more as "cheeky banter" than as abuse.

"It was all part and parcel of the game,"he says."If you couldn't take it in your stride, you shouldn't have been playing ."

One of his worst experiences came in a match against Liverpool at Anfield where he had to be carried off on a stretcher after a particularly bloody injury - ironically sustained in a collision with a team mate, Dick Connor.

Clarrie is  5ft 11in - relatively short for a 'keeper - but an advantage when it came to dealing with  low shots.

He was also unbelievably agile and had lightning reflexes which enabled him to pull off many breathtaking saves.

In these days, balls were much heavier, particularly in rain, but it least they did not swerve like their modern replacements.

Clarrie was also adept at claiming high crosses and corners - which often meant clattering into the beefy attackers and fellow-defenders lined up in front of him like a herd of buffaloes.

He describes effective punching of the ball as "a matter of timing" - always hoping that his fist did not make contact with the ball's  lace-up point which could result in a painful graze.

In those days, keepers' gloves were flimsy, hand-knitted string affairs - nothing like the sturdy and substantial, padded counterparts of today.

Also unlike today, games would seldom be postponed just because a pitch was frozen. Clarrie remembers one particularly icy match at Leyton Orient - the only time he played in tracksuit trousers.

"There was no question of calling the match off because the crowd was already in the ground,"he says.

In those days, the laws were far less protective of keepers and frequent bodily (or head) contact with the opposition's  burly centre forward (or the studs of his steel-like boots) was an inevitable feature of the 90 minutes.

But Clarrie could more than look after himself. If he felt an opponent had deliberately tried to hurt him or injure him, he made sure it did not happen again by offering a whispered warning: "Don't worry - I'll get you on the way back!"

Although the Cleethorpes man never played for his country, he did have the honour of representing a British Army XI. That came during his National Service when, after  basic training at  camps at Bovington, then Catterick, he spent an enjoyable 15 months as a tank driver in Hongkong.
Clarrie pays tribute to his wife of 54 years, Pat, for her support.  A Grimsby lass, educated at St John's Church School, then Carr Lane School (now the Havelock Academy), she used to work at Marks and Spencer's Freeman Street store  where she was star of the menswear department.

A sports enthusiast herself, Pat played both netball and badminton in her younger days.

The couple's first date was at the old Gaiety dance hall on Wintringham Road which used to attract many top bands.

Clarrie had to get permission from the club, while Pat borrowed sixpence from a friend for the admission.

Pat seldom saw her husband in action because she worked on Saturdays - with her free time being during Thursday half-day closing.

However, she became used to seeing her husband arriving home with all manners of gashes and bruises - and, on one occasion, a broken arm - because of the physicality of his profession.
"I recall one occasion when he was pretty well dragged to our  front draw by a couple of colleagues with his trousers covered in blood,"she says. "I never knew if he would still all be in one piece when he returned home!"

Following a transfer from Grimsby, Clarrie ended his playing days with two seasons at Barnsley before returning to Blundell Park for seven years where he was assistant trainer to George Higgins, bringing on a host of players, including legendary striker Matt Tees, plus goalkeepers such as Charlie Wright and Harry Wainman, the latter of whom he sometime still sees on the golf course. 

His younger brother, Derek, also played for Town, as did two cousins - Jimmy Thompson and Dick Young.

However, his football days ended on an abrupt note when, for financial reasons, Town decided to release him and the physiotherapist, Jimmy McCoy.

"We learnt the news not from the club but when we read it in  the newspaper,"says Pat with an understandable sense of indignation.

However, there was a silver lining to the end of  Clarrie's life in football because he  soon doubled his wages after landing a job as a process operative at Courtaulds where he worked for the next 28 years.

He played cricket - both batsman and bowler - for the works team and also took up golf. Both he and Pat are past captains at Cleethorpes Golf Club.

They both enjoy watching golf on TV, with Englishman Lee Westwood being  a favourite. (They used to admire Tiger Woods, but not so much now because he has somehow seemed incapable of shedding  his arrogant demeanour). 

The couple have two sons, Stephen, assistant manager for ABP  at Immingham Dock, and Michael who is a manager with Sainsbury's, currently working at heir Newark store. They, too, both played football, representing the Hartwell Ford works team.
The couple have six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Because of the cumulative effect of wear and tear during his playing days, Clarrie has had several operations - including three on his hips and one on his spine. Even as player, he had to have a cartilage removed after overdoing a running stint at Wonderland.

"I am afraid it is the lot of many professional footballers to end up crippled to some extent or other,"he says wryly.

To get out and about, Clarrie now requires two sticks but he still enjoys being in the fresh air - particularly on the seafront where a walk sometimes ends with a bacon buttie at one of the local cafes.

What does he think of Joe Hart, England’s current first-choice man between the sticks?

“He's a very good goalkeeper,"comes back the knowledgeable response.

"He is confident, courageous, technically very gifted and has an excellent temperament."

The very characteristics that Clarrie displayed when he was a Mariners hero back in the Fifties.


There have been few more towering figures in the fishing and maritime industries than the late John Ross who died, aged 74, in May 2011.

In recognition of his illustrious career first with the family-run Ross Group, then with publicly-owned Cosalt, he was appointed High Steward of the Borough of North East Lincolnshire - a prestigious, honorary position, reflecting the esteem in which he had been held by the community for his services over half-a-century.

The ceremony held at Grimsby Town Hall was a proud occasion not just for John Ross but also for members of his family.

What made the occasion more moving was that, for the previous decade, he   had been struggling with  a heart condition, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy, all of which combined to have a seriously immobilising effect. 

Mr Ross enjoyed conversations with members of his family and his many friends, watching TV programmes about politics and listening to Radio 4 - he was an avid fan of The Archers.

But he was unable to walk and found it difficult to read, to write or to use a computer.

He lost his first wife Jennifer to cancer and subsequently married Gill.

Since his death, the John Ross Community Trust Fund, set up in his memory, has raised huge amounts of money for worthy groups and organisations throughout the borough.

In this hitherto unpublished question-answer interview of March 2008, he talked about his life and times.  
How do you feel about becoming High Steward of the borough?
It is a great honour. I am especially proud because it is a position previously held by my father J. Carl Ross. Some while back, a current councillor - I will not name him - tentatively inquired if I might be interested. The next thing, I was invited to a meeting with the council's chief executive, George Krawiec. I asked him if he had any reservations about my being in a wheelchair, but he reassured me it was very much the opposite. The council's approach demonstrated its commitment the interests of everyone, including those with a disability. I heard nothing more for a few months until an invitation to the ceremony came out of the blue.

You live in Grimsby now, but you are originally from Cleethorpes?
Yes, when I was a boy, the family home was at 39 Signhills Avenue. I was born around the corner at a nursing home in Bradford Avenue. Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the beach with my brothers and sisters. 

Did you go to school locally?
It was wartime. Although not as badly hit as Hull, the Grimsby area was regularly the target of  enemy bombing raids. To keep me out of harm's way, I was sent away to Ilkley in Yorkshire where I went to a prep school. But it closed when the teachers were called up for service.  When I was 13, I went to Shrewsbury School.

Isn't that he same public school that Michael Hesltine attended?
Yes, he was in same form. We were different types. My contemporaries also included Richard Ingram and Paul Foot who went on to found the satirical magazine, Private Eye.

Were your schooldays happy?
Very much so. I was far from being  a star but I loved every minute of them. My end-of-term reports regularly referred to me as being cheerful and sociable. Sad to say, references to my academic ability are few and far between.

After Shrewsbury, did you go straight into the family fishing firm that your father was building?
Not yet. After I passed the entrance exams, I went on to Clare  College, Cambridge where my degree subject was Economics and Law. I also enjoyed my life at university.

Soon afterwards,  you joined  Ross. it must have been an exhilarating and fulfilling career. Judging by the records, the Ross Group was always eager to innovate, both with its trawling activities and with how the catches were frozen and processed.
There was no shortage of challenges. It was very rewarding to be a part of building up the business and consolidating Grimsby's reputation as a world-famous fishing town. My father's enthusiasm was infectious. I remember how pleased he was when he bought Young's. He said it was the best day's work he had ever done. I had plenty of opportunities for travelling overseas on business - for instance, on buying trips to places such as Peru and Chile.

Over the years, you and the family must have eaten your fair share of fish. Do you have a favourite?
Haddock. It's always said in Grimsby that haddock is for eating, cod is for selling. It's about 10 years since I've eaten cod. Someone once brought in at a family gathering. It was terrible, but I didn't make a fuss. I ate it up like a good boy!

You must still have vivid memories of the golden era of Grimsby as a fishing town?
By 1968, there were some 60 or so trawlers. That was the peak. At Ross, we prided ourselves on having the top skippers. They understood the fish seasons and where the best catches were to be made. 

 But soon after came the introduction of fishing limits and Iceland's decision to exclude our vessels from its waters.
From then on, the writing was on the wall. Our trawlers were scrapped or became supply ships to oil rigs. One was converted to host a pirate radio station, Radio Caroline.

Do you think the politicians botched things? Do you have any sense of bitterness about the decline of Britain's fishing industry?
There was a lot of mix-up. Sometimes things seem right thing at the time - but less so many years later with hindsight. There is a parallel later with how the country has abandoned many of its coal mines. But it's a point of principle with me never to be bitter or resentful? It serves no purpose. You just have to adapt to the changed circumstances and move on with your next project.

In time, you and your father were both ousted from Ross Group. But your own career took a new direction when you took the helm at Cosalt which you ran for the best part of a couple of decades until your retirement. You changed its name from Great Grimsby Coal Salt and Tanning Company, re-energised it and successfully took it to a Stock Market flotation. What was once a seemingly quaint parochial business has flourished ever since.
With the decline of the fishing industry, there was no choice but to adapt and innovate if the company was to survive. New services and products needed to be introduced. Supplying  marine safety equipment became an increasingly significant part of the business as it remains today. For me, there was a lot of personal satisfaction that it was Cosalt-supplied products that saved the lives of passengers when, last year, a cruise ship camed to grief  in the Antarctic. I am no longer connected with the company but it has as its slogan: "Safety at Sea".
Your son, David, has also enjoyed a highly successful business career, notably as joint-founder with his school pal Charles Dunston of Carphone Warehouse. But he recently followed in your footsteps by becoming non-executive chairman of Cosalt. Have you been  tempted to renew your involvement?
Not in the slightest. You have to recognise when the time has come to let go. I maintain an interest, but I would certainly never wish to interefere. If David wants me know anything, he tells me. But otherwise we just know what we read in the newpapers.  He is also non-exective chairman of National Express plc and has other business and charitable interests, particularly to do with education.

Do you have any other sons?
My eldest, James, has a chain of 10 bookshops in Malaga and other parts of Spain. He is married to a Belgian and they have four children.

What about daughters?
Emma is married with three children and lives near Malton in Yorkshire. Lucy is no longer married but is bringing up three children at Uppingham. Then there is Sophie who lives in Leicestershire and had recently bcome engaged.  
As well as a full business career, you also have some political feahers to your bow?
Yes, I served as a Conservative councillor for six years Although I enjoyed it, I decided against pursuing any sort of political career in local government.
Did you ever consider standing as . . .
An MP! No, not unless they brought Parliament to Grimsby! I've always been to much of a homebird. The prospect of spending Monday to Thursday in London would not appeal. It can't do much good for any family life.

What are your thoughts of some of the prime ministers of the past few decades?
Margaret Thatcher was brilliant, I showed her around one of of our factories and had lunch with her. She was good fun. John Major found it difficult to make up his mind. Blair was brillant. Gordon Brown is terrible - not helped by the fact that he's surrounded himself with people who are less than honest.

Did you know Ted Heath?
I didn't greatly care for him. I accompanied him once  from Grantham to Grimsby. I can't remember if, at the time, he was Leader of the Opposition or a minister. His manner was very stiff, and he insisted on bringing some of his aides with him, and I didn't much like the tenor of the conversation. He refused to travel in an old-fashioned Bentley, so we all  piled into an Austin 1800. 

What about the likes of Harold Wilson and Callaghan?
Hold on, you're forgetting I'm a young man - I can' remember either of them!

Let's go back further - to Harold McMillan and Sir Alec Douglas Home
They belonged to another generation. In those days, prime ministers were gentlemen. It's very different now - they're professionals.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


CHRIS Snell (pictured) is one of the unsung high-achievers of Grimsby.

Unsung because his successes have come in the unglamorous world of breeding pedigree exhibition budgerigars.

Now in his 50s, he is a relative veteran of the budgerigar scene, having started in the hobby on his tenth  birthday.

One of his first birds was bit of a mystery package because it was yellow with brown wings, but he later ascertained that it was what is known as a lutino whose wings had been stained by creosote!

Chris  has an enviably  consistent record of success, with numerous best-in-show awards and a host of specials from the Budgerigar Society  world championship  - the highlight coming  on November 3, 1984,  when  the young  light green hen he bred in partnership with his late father, Arthur,  beat off the challenge of some 5,370  other birds to take top honour.

The father-of-four (including one stepchild) says the memory of that triumph has fired his continuing ambition to succeed with his birds.

Chris, has also judged at budgerigar shows all over the world.

The question-and-answer feature below originally appeared in the specialist publication, Cage & Aviary Birds.

Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a nestbox full of chicks. I am sure birds breed better if they are happy and healthy, so I favour expansive open-topped flights where they get plenty of exercise plus the benefits of sunshine and rain. I am not overly-concerned about any disease risk from the droppings of wild birds.
Undoubtedly my mother, Mary, and my late father, Arthur. In all aspects of life - not just the Fancy - their support and encouragement always proved invaluable.

I learnt a huge amount from two great fanciers of the past, Jack Fisher and Harry Bryan - both great budgie men who transformed the hobby. But you never stop learning, and I have also benefited from the insights of Geoff Tuplin and fellow-members of Cleethorpes Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Society.
I used to work for a firm that imports timber from Russia, but in recent years  I have scaled down my involvement  to providing consultancy services as and when required.


I as at home running water in the bath when I received the phone call from my dad that one of our birds had won top award at the Budgerigar Society club show.  I am not normally emotional but I was so overcome that I inadvertently climbed into the bath fully clothed!

I'm an avid follower of Manchester United.

Yes, up until I was 23, I played at a competitive level to a fairly high standard. I was a centre half. But I gave up because other commitments - not least budgies - meant I didn't have time to attend twice-weekly training. In my last match, I recall the referee booked me for tripping an opponent!
Manchester United’s former  manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is one of my idols. Because of his flair and attention to detail, I have no doubt he would also make a top-class bird  fancier. If he decides to take up the hobby in his retirement, I would happily let him have a few of my birds to set him on his path.
No, I used to take our local Grimsby Telegraph but not any more. 
I have never had any hankering to step back into yesteryear because I have always been happy to live in the present. But I guess it would be interesting to re-experience the 1950s - the decade when I started making my way in the  world. 

I would give a lot away - including a chunk to any organisation, home or overseas, that promotes the budgerigar hobby. Anyone taking up the hobby would get free cages and seed. If there was any money left, I would buy a lifetime Man Utd season ticket.

I would use every tool possible to promote the keeping of budgerigars. Increasingly, that means making greater use of electronic communications and social websites. I am a great fan of the new internet budgerigar forum.  
The annual BS club show and world championship  - a great event where  the quality of the birds is invariably outstanding.
That's a tough one. It would be a choice between British, racing pigeons or homing budgies. I once met the Queen Mother and had an interesting chat with her about the homing budgies at Windsor. She was worried that they were being taken by sparrowhawks, but I sought to reassure her that it was the weaker birds  that were being taken and the fittest would survive. 

The bullfinch - it's a beautiful bird.  
Queuing. If it means standing in line, I'd rather not go.
Las Vegas, I'm not a gambler but it's a fabulous city where everything is so much larger than life. It has fantastic shows, starring some of the world's greatest artistes.  I remember visiting one hotel where there were  lions in the reception area!

I love quiz shows such as Eggheads.

The King's Speech - I prefer films with a factual basis. A few months before that, I went to Avatar, but don't ask me what it was about - I fell asleep halfway through!

The sounds of the 'Sixties, especially The Beatles. My favourite track is Help which I find inspiring.

Lincolnshire sausages with mashed potatoes and peas. That's something I would miss if I lived abroad. It's the herbs that give Lincolnshire bangers the edge over the rest.

Tea. I am not a big alcohol drinker - it tends to give me a headache.

A silver Mercedes-Benz E320. It's a lovely car and my one luxury.



WHEN the Mariners do well, few are as delighted as Dave Boylen.

Even though it is 36 years since he last played for Grimsby Town, Dave, who lives just off Cleethorpes seafront, remains one of the club's most fervent fans to the point of being its official ambassador.

Most players merge into the sunset after their playing days over, but the 66-year-old remains involved because he has a deep sense of loyalty to the memories built up during his time at Blundell Park.

"I will always be grateful,"he says. "Not just for my career as a player but also for having the opportunity to live in an area with such warm and friendly people.

"I have a fantastic wife, Theresa, two smashing daughters, Debbie and Carrie-Anne, plus a brilliant grandson, Harrison, who is seven." 

Rewind to October,1947, and the start of life in the tough Ardwick area of Manchester could scarcely been have less auspicious for Dave because, tragically, his mother died in childbirth.

He could have been sent to an orphanage had it not been for the devotion of his father, Billy, and older sister, Evelyn, who resolved to bring him up themselves.

Times were tough but also happy - none more so than when he was spending every spare hour playing football with his pals - either in in the streets (with lamposts as the goals) or as a member of his local Roman Cathlic boys' side.

His first mentor was the priest who ran the church team, a man called Father Seale, who was endlessly inspirational.

"I will never forget his encouragement,"says Dave. "He gave me the belief that I could make it as a professional footballer.

"You would never have known he was a priest on match days - he used to take off his dog-collar and leap up and down as he urged  us on."

Dave graduated to playing first for Ardwick Boys' Club (where the emphasis seemed to me more about fighting than football!), then to Gorton Boys' Club where his skills caught the attention of scouts from several of the Football League clubs in the north-west.

For a while, he had links first with  Preston, then Rochdale, but they dilly-dallied, partly because of misgivings about his size - he is only 5ft 3in.

Height was never an issue for Dave himself, because he had excellent ball skills, amazing balance and speed both of thought and movement.

"When the ball is on the ground every player is the same height,"he says. "That's what I was once told, and it's true."

Town's manager at the time was Jimmy McGuigan who realised Dave's potential - and swooped.

"I had no hesitation in signing," continues Dave. "It  was big moment in my life. I was on the first rung of the football ladder. I was going to be paid for something I loved doing." 

                One-way ticket

Dave quit his job as a machinist, working at a factory that made sheepskin coats and rainwear, and headed for Lincolnshire with just £20 in his pocket, plus a one-way train ticket from Manchester's Piccadilly railway station.

Aged just 16, was he not a little nervous about venturing to the other side of the country to a town where he had no relatives or friends?

"Not at all," he replies. "I relished the challenge. I was glad to be out of the concrete jungle and coming to Grimsby.

"It was a proud fishing town with a football club, which, though no longer in the top flight, had lots of traditions and ambition. What's more I would be living by the seaside."

His lodging were firstly in Fuller Street, where he failed to settle, then later 24 Clee Crescent where he was treated as one of the family by the owners, Jim Teanby and his wife.

Dave settled in well, playing in the Mariners' youth side which played so well that in the Northern Intermediate League that crowds of as many as 2,000 attended matches.

The following season, aged 19, his first senior opportunity came - he was part of the side that recorded a 4-0 win over Gillingham on May 6, 1967.

Dave is full praise for his first manager, plus coaches George Higgins and Clarrie Williams, from all of whom he learned loads.

"Jimmy McGuigan was very astute and taught me a lot about the game. If he had stayed longer at the club, I am sure it would have hastened my development as a player."

But the boss had a fall-out with the board for various reasons - one of them possibly being that, against his judgement, he  had been told to sell star strikers Matt Tees and Rod Green to Charlton Athletic.

McGuigan was sacked, to be succeeded by Don McEvoy, who lasted just three months, then Bill Harvey who had Grimsby roots, though latterly he had been chief coach at Chelsea.

By now, Dave was a first-team regular whose impressive performances were generating the interest both of the national press  (notably the Sunday People) and other football clubs, including the up-and-coming Brian Clough who was building a promotion-winning side at Derby County.

He was impressed both by the accuracy of Dave's passing and by his energy at driving forward attacking moves.

                     Clough snubbed

After watching Grimsby's midfield dynamo no fewer than six times, Clough put in an offer of £20,000 - only to be snubbed by Harvey who refused to accept it.

"You don't want to play for an idiot like Clough," the manager told his star player."In time, bigger clubs will come knocking at the door. Besides, I want to build this side around you and your ability."
Dave was crestfallen. He admired what Clough had been achieving at Derby and would have jumped at the
opportunity to play at a higher level.

But, in those days, players were slaves to their clubs. He had no say in the matter.

Rebuffed by the Mariners, Clough  later turned his attention and paid Preston £60,000 for a similar sort of player, Archie Gemmill, who, played for him first at Derby, then at Nottingham Forest, winning numerous domestic honours and Scottish caps.

However the successful partnership when, much to his subsequent heartbreak, Gemmill was unexpectedly dropped for the 1979 European Cup Final.

Inevitably, Dave followed, through the media,  the fortunes of Gemmill and must, more than once, have asked himself: "What if?"

He was aware, too, that at neighbouring Scunthorpe United, Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan had gone on to fame and fortune after being sold for sums in the region of £20,000 to bigger clubs.    

To his credit, he swallowed his disappointment and continued to put in scintillating performances under Harvey, then subsequent managers such as Bobby Kennedy, Lawrie  McMenemy, Ron Ashman, Tom Casey and John Newman.

He is proud to have been part of McMenemy side that famously  won  the 1971-72 Fourth Division championship, clinching the title with a 3-0 win against Exeter City in front of 22,000-plus delirious fans, some of whom had clambered on to the stand to watch the action.

"We played poorly in the first half,"says Dave who recalls the match as if it were were yesterday. "Even before the kick-off, somehow things semed flat - it was probably the pressure of expectation.

"At half time, the gaffer laid into us one by one. He tore us apart individually and told us we were letting the fans down.

                       Angry pep talk

"McMenemy was not tactically the most astute of managers, but he had an aura of authority - and his angry pep talk did the trick.

“We recovered our  form in the second half and the glory was our's. The celebrations went on until long into the following day."

Dave has a million and one memories of his playing days. Once, in the dressing room after a memorable FA Cup win at Preston, there was  a visit from a VIP - none other than the great Bill Shankly who made a bee-line across the floor to shake Dave's hand.

"Well played, the wee man!"enthused the ex-Anfield legend. "Magica! That's the Grimsby I remember from the days when I was manager."

On another occasion, following a match at Watford, he and teammates found themslves in the bar, rubbing shoulders with none other Elton John, the club chairman, Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger.

Over the years, Dave picked up plenty of cautions but only one sending-off - that was in a reserve match after swinging a boot at an opponent who had hurt him with a dangerous late tackle.

"I'm sorry, Dave, you'll have to walk,"said the referee, John Atkinson.

Was he superstitious? "Absolutely!"he chuckles. "Before matches, I aways made sure to put on my left boot first. Once, when we were on a losing streak, I even took down the number plate - Number 13 - from our house in Laburnum Drive, Grimsby! "

As older Mariners fans will recall, Dave was also the club's highly reliable penalty-taker in chief - and he never succumbed to nerves, even when being noisily (and crudely) barracked by the opposition players or fans.

His approach to taking the spot kick? "I just shut everything out of my mind, picked whatever corner and got with it, no messing."

Not that he beat the 'keeper every time. Soon after McMenemy took over, he had one saved against Crewe in a 3-2 defeat.

The match was memorable in another way. The Crewe side included a friend and fellow-Mancunian, Stan Bowles, later to become famous as one of the county' most gifter goalscorers as well as a prolific gambler.

"Bowlesie would bet on two spiders climbing up a wall,"he jokes. "At the time, he was available for just £5,000, and McMenemy was very interested - but he went to Carlisle instead, then to QPR where his career really took off.

Dave abruptly quit Grimsby Town after a rare bust-up when the board refused to allow him an opportunity to play on an interim basis for an American side, Los Angeles Nighthawks, because it would have meant him missing the last few Mariners matches of the 1978 season.

                         Sense of injustice

"Basically, I walked out on the club,"he says. "It was perhaps bit silly of me, and probably I should have taken a walk on the beach to clear my head of the sense of injustice I was feeling.

"According to the gaffer, John Newman, who had supported me, the board refused to release my registration because they thought it would set a precedent for other players. But I just thought it was mean-spirited given that I had been a loyal club servant since arriving as a kid with £20 in my pocket.

"For three years, I never returned to Blundell Park, but then I decided to buried the hatchet and let bygones be bygones - a decision I have never regretted."

Away from the Mariners, Dave continued  playing (and managing) -  but in non-league football with sides such as Louth United, Immingham Town and Skegness Town.

He also pursued a 21-year career in youth work, which game him immense personal satisfaction, and he was  a leading light in the Artie White Foundation which has raised some £400,000  for worthy local charities over the past 17 years.

Through his contacts in football, he has persuaded some of the biggest names in football, including the late George Best (who was to become a friend)  to attend fund-raising celebrity events in this area.

Up until his retirement this week, he had been working for Grimsby electrical, instrumentation and engineering  firm, Technica Ltd, but it is also  worth recording that between 2007 and 2011, he was a highly effective member of North East Lincolnshire Council, serving as a Liberal-Democrat in the Freshney ward.

Dave reckons his life outside football has widened his experience and given him a more rounded perspective on life.

Although, to the end of his days, the Mariners will always be his main love, he still also has a loyalty to his roots,  and he  is also a fan of his boyhood club, Manchester City.

He prides himself on being calm and collected when watching televised football, but, when City clinched the 2012 Premiership title with a nail-biting 3-2 win final match of the season against QPR it was, for once, a different matter.

"I was watching the match wearing my light blue Etihad shirt at the Liberal Club," he says. "Five minutes from the final whistle, it looked like the title had slipped from City's grasp - then came those two last-gasp goals.
"I am not ashamed to admit it," he confesses. "I went completely barmy!"

*This article is a revised version of one that appeared in the Cleethorpes Chronicle in March last year.