Debut: Vs Dewsbury (A) 18th August 1951
Honours: Yorkshire League (Winner: 1954-55)
Born at Castleford on 6th August 1926, and given an excellent grounding in Rugby League at both Lock Lane School and Featherstone’s George Street, the six interminably long black-out years of his youth served to intensify Arthur’s love for the game. Came the peace, came the fulfilment of thwarted ambition, his fine performances as a hooker with Featherstone Intermediates and Streethouse Red Rose Intermediates earning him amateur honours with Yorkshire versus Cumberland at Maryport, before Featherstone Rovers snapped him up in November 1947.
Post Office Road! Two acres of heaven on earth! Thrilled as he undoubtedly was to make his debut for Yorkshire versus Lancashire in 1950-51, and for England versus Other Nationalities at Central Park during that same season, to turn out in the Rovers’ blue and white hoops remained the ultimate. He asked for nothing more!
And then, one dread night in May 1951, scarcely had he got back home from the pit, almost as black as the coal he hewed, when he suddenly became aware of cars, including a Rolls, drawing up outside. Curiosity soon gave way to utter dismay, embarrassed Rovers’ officials insisting that they didn’t really want to let him go, but the Club was in no position financially to reject a bid for his transfer. It couldn’t be true! A couple of minutes earlier, not a care in the world; and now his castle tumbling about his ears! Yet, momentarily shattered though he was, he ran true to form. Nothing under the sun, he’d always said, would tempt him to leave Featherstone, where dangers and discomforts shared at the coal-face had forged such bonds of loyalty and togetherness. It was that very loyalty, in the end, that left him with no alternative, Leeds signing him later that night as a replacement for Ken Kearney, who had rejected a contract renewal some two or three days earlier.
What price loyalty? Quickly as he settled in at Headingley, to merit further selection for Yorkshire in their Championship year, the Loiners went down to Leigh in the 3rd Round of the R.L. Cup, whereas homespun, where-is-it exactly Featherstone, having used the £3000 transfer fee to strengthen their squad, put themselves on the map in a big way, as gallant runners-up to Workington Town in the first Wembley Final to be televised nationwide.
Arthur was delighted for them! His turn would come one day, with Leeds! And why not? There seemed to be every prospect of that, and more besides, in 1953-54. As good a ball-getter as there was in the game, and a tireless worker in the loose into the bargain, he ran into such rattling good form in the second half of the season that a place in the 2nd Tour Trial at Station Road was no more than his due. Moreover, he came through with flying colours on the day, though neither he nor Halifax’s Alvin Ackerley found favour with the selectors, the No 9 slots going to Tom McKinney and Tommy Harris. Any disappointment on that score, however, was promptly dispelled by a runaway 3rd Round victory over Workington Town by 31 points to 11, with Wembley no more than eighty minutes away. There was, unfortunately, just one snag, Warrington being of a similar mind! Ah well, there was always next year!
Welcome as a Yorkshire League medal was in 1954-55, it was the arrival of Harry Street in December ’55 that introduced a new strain of highly infectious cuptieitis, Arthur responding nine weeks later with surely his finest ever game in Leeds colours. And where better than The Boulevard in the 1st Round of the R.L. Cup? No matter he was barely 11 Y2 stones wet through, he was in at everything from the very first whistle, beating Tommy Harris to the strike, tackling low, big as they came, with terrier-like tenacity, backing up and covering as though his life depended on it, selling the odd dummy, from time to time, with a smile of quiet satisfaction, and all the while distributing shrewdly as acting half-back at play-the-ball. Follow-my-leader was a game he’d played for hours as a youngster. At 29, he still revelled in it, and was prepared to follow Harry’s lead until he dropped.
Sweet as the victory at The Boulevard was, that over Oldham in the 2nd Round lost nothing by comparison, with Headingley’s vast 33,000 crowd in a constant ferment of excitement. Hull, Oldham, perhaps it was going to be; expectations were rudely nipped in the bud by Halifax, who themselves went on to the Final.
Losing his place in September 1956 to the up-and-coming and extremely gifted Bernard Prior, apart from playing in the occasional game Arthur could do no more than offer his genuine support from the sidelines, and that he did with unfailing generosity of spirit, as the Loiners enjoyed one of their most successful seasons for many years, culminating for Keith McLellan’s men in a 21st anniversary of the Wembley victory achieved by Jim Brough’s team in 1936.
Leaving Headingley in the summer of 1957, with still just that one England appearance and six with Yorkshire to his credit, Arthur was quite content to round off his career in Bramley’s colours, the homely Barley Mow ground being more on a par with the modest facilities at Post Office Road.