“Not bad for a lad from Croft Terrace – the rough end of the town in those days.” At a sprightly 82, Jackie Reid is proud that the British Lions Rugby League Association plans to inscribe his name on its Roll of Honour at a ceremony at Bradford on 29th January, but it does not turn his head and he certainly does not forget where he came from.
The honour comes as recognition of a life time’s distinguished service to the game as International Chairman of the British Lions Rugby League Association (BARLA), and previously as an international scrum half. He started playing in that position for Egremont Rangers in 1949, when he left the forces having served as a mechanic during the Berlin Airlift.
Scrum half is a pivotal position on the rugby field, requiring sharp thinking and great agility. From that position Jackie used to dictate the strategy of a game and launch his threequarters in attacks in either direction. He also needed these qualities to stay alive against forwards nearly twice his weight, in addition to great courage, having lost and suffered a dislocated shoulder when he ran into weightier opponents.
He quickly caught the eye of scouts and played for Great Britain against France in 1951. He turned professional in 1952 and his proudest memory is of playing as a member of the Whitehaven team which inflicted on the Australian tourists one of their very rare defeats, 14 – 11, in the Recreation Ground on 20th October 1956. He showed us a plaque commemorating that famous day, with his name as scrum half inscribed.
Since then he has organised tours of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France and Russia, and speaks proudly of great players who made their names on such tours, including Gary O’Connor, Barry McDermott and Paul Anderson. Their playing days now over, Paul is now manager of Huddersfield, while both Gary and Barry are much sought after commentators. He also shows a golden touch in persuading these countries to send touring sides to this country, and recently welcomed a strong New Zealand squad to play a combined West Cumbrian team at the Stadium in Hensingham. As Chairman of the Stadium he is immensely proud of the facilities it offers with Rugby, Soccer and all-weather pitches, an athletics track and a view, of Ennerdale, unrivalled in any other stadium in the country. Wherever he goes he brings a driving force that should be the envy of people half his age. His greatest sadness is that he is not able to share this latest honour with his late wife, Lily, who accompanied him to Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE for services to the Nuclear Industry. The photo sits beside one that shows him being introduced to the Queen, 30 years ago, when she opened the BARLA headquarters at Huddersfield.