Born on the wrong side of Leeds Bridge in September 1943, and doubly proud of the fact whenever he donned the Hunslet Schools’ R.L. jersey, to 14-year old Bill Ramsey in 1958 fell the distinction of being the last Hunslet Carr boy to represent Yorkshire Schools’ R.L. , before the old school, with all its traditions, was finally phased out at secondary level in the name of progress. Hunslet Carr, beaten at last by old Father Time! Shades of schoolmaster George Cripps, whose all-conquering teams ruled the roost between the wars, amassing huge scores week by week and conceding just the odd try a season with miserly thrift.
The end of an era, maybe. For Bill Ramsey, the dawn of great expectations! And where better for the strapping young second-rower to start than the Parkside of his schoolboy dreams? Winner of a Division Two championship medal in 1962-63, by 1965 he was walking on air, a classic Wembley Final against Wigan, followed by a Yorkshire Cup Final versus Bradford Northern at Headingley, albeit both ending in defeat. Three appearances with Yorkshire and Tests against New Zealand at Odsal and Central Park. The world was surely his oyster now, a Test against France in March 1966, four more Down Under and then, cruelly, in the very last match of the Tour, a fractured wrist that was to put him out of action for a whole season.
So it was that in December 1967, even as he was struggling to regain form and confidence and the Loiners sadly in need of a boost, the Headingley management stepped in to negotiate his transfer for a fee of £10,000, subject to various contingency clauses in case the move went awry.
Went awry, indeed! As luck would have it, Leeds were on to a winner, for during his six-year stint he was to play in no less than ten Finals, missing only the Championship clashes with St Helens and Dewsbury in 1972 and 1973 and the John Player win over Salford. A strong-running forward, ever snorting fire and aggression, and capable of generating alarming pace from a standing start, he was a most fearsome customer to face in a frontal assault, his death-or-glory bids blasting a way through all but the most solid of defences. Rarely, too, did he neglect his basic responsibilities, backing up conscientiously and cover-tackling with unremitting zeal.
Back to peak form within four months of signing, Bill’s performance at Swinton’s Station Road in the 1968 Challenge Cup Semi-Final was nothing short of inspired. The thrilling stop-me-if-you-dare surge upfield, and a pass out-of-this-world to send John Atkinson speeding along the path to glory, stomping up in support in the second half, and scything through Wigan’s bemused ranks with devastating acceleration for a try of unbridled power, goaled by Bev Risman and there he was, on the rampage yet again in the closing stages to set up a touchdown for Syd Hynes. After a second-row display like that, more’s the pity he was out of his element, like so many more, in the Wembley watersport extravaganza that followed.
Nevertheless, on he went, season by season, responding far more often than not to the big occasion. In 1969, a storming display at Odsal in the tempestuous Championship showdown with Castleford, not forgetting his precious second-half drop-goal. A year later, he was making his experience pay dividends in the BBC 2 Floodlit Final at Headingley, a cunning reverse pass splitting wide open the Saints’ oyster-tight defence, for the ever-alert Hynes to spurt over alongside the posts and how he revelled in the 1971 R.L. Cup Semi-Final versus Castleford, taking over as hooker from injured Tony Fisher for the whole of the second half, and tackling his heart out to ensure a third trip to Wembley, alas only to be given the run-around at loose-forward by the taunting Murphy. Nor did Hull supporters take kindly to him running amok at The Boulevard in 1972, in the 2nd Round of the R.L. Cup, with Alan Hardisty on hand to scorch over for the all-important try, not that Trinity were all that keen either on the pair of them putting on a 3rd Round encore!
So many memories and so much to show for his time at Headingley, yet so much more still to achieve elsewhere! Transferred out of the blue to Bradford Northern in January ’74, in time to help them win the Division Two championship, he was flown out early in July as a Tour replacement for the unfortunate John Bates, and played in seven matches, including the 3rd Test (as sub) in Auckland. Moreover, barely had he returned before he was recalled to Yorkshire’s ranks, taking his final tally of County appearances to eight.
Hunslet, Leeds, Bradford. Now it was Hull’s turn, yet only briefly for he played so impressively in the 1975-76 John Player Final, setting up a spectacular try for Mick Crane, that Widnes, the victors by 19 points to 13, had no hesitation in whisking him across the Pennines. And what an incredible Grand Finale the move turned out to be.
His playing days finally over, Bill rounded off a marvellous career with a spell as. New Hunslet coach from August 1978 to December 1979. What, no Hunslet Carr? You must be joking! Schools may close, but they never, never die! Old boys won’t let them!