1910 - 1980
father was born in 1910 to Kate and John Blackburne; for most of the first 30
years of his life he lived with his parents and his brother Eric in Beulah
Place; (this is now the site of Beulah Court in Womersley Road) He and his
brother attended school in Knottingley where I understand they both shone on the
father worked for most of his early life at Yorkshire Tar Distilleries whilst
still pursuing vigorously his sporting life. He had trials with Leeds Utd.
where he played for the second team, but did not ultimately make the grade.
He also played for Aldershot and Doncaster Rovers. Locally he played for
Pontefract Borough and Frickley Colliery, he also played cricket for Knottingley
and was an able athlete - we have trophies to confirm this!
was all to change when one day Dad agreed to do an extra duty at work and there
was an explosion, the result being my Dad was blinded, (he was 25). The
family and friends rallied round, his mum taught him to type; he learnt Braille
and friends escorted him on many long walks - notably his brother.
Obviously Dad wondered what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
He had heard of the one school in the world that trained blind physiotherapists
and he decided to have a go. In later years he told me he wondered how he
got into school as most of the people on interview had degrees, including one he
spoke to with an Oxford degree. However Dad was never short on personality
and I am sure that really helped him. His brother Eric also tells me that
when the titled lady who was the Principal of the college received his letter,
she was so impressed she invited him for an interview. Subsequently he was
offered a place and was informed he was the only candidate offered a place that
had had just a council school education. His training in London took place
in the war years; so many hairy taxi journeys took place dodging the bombs that
fell during the Blitz, as he journeyed between the school of physiotherapy and
completion of the course he was offered a job in South Africa, but all he wanted
to do was come home. He got a part-time job at Castleford Hospital, but
soon transferred to Pontefract Infirmary where he stayed the rest of his working
life. He also set up a private practice in the small back room of his
parents home, his first patient being one of the Backhouse family.
working at the hospital he met Freda Laycock of Hensall. She had been a
member of the Queen Alexandra Army Nursing Service in the war and had served in
Sierra Leone, France and Germany. Whilst serving in Germany she was in a
car crash, as a result of this she needed physiotherapy, hence she met my Dad
and they married in 1950. They then had two children, myself Kathryn and
my sister Patricia. Once married they moved into a house in
Womersley Road and from here Dad continued his private practice. In the 60's and
70's his fame seemed to spread, people like John and Sheila Sherwood, famous
Olympic athletes came for treatment, not forgetting some of our own very local
sporting heroes, Gary Cooper, Don Fox, Malcolm Reilly, Mick Major, Keith
Hepworth, Roger Millward and Alan Hardisty - who in his book says that it was
Dad that inspired him to set up his own treatment centre. He also became
the greatest friend of Terry Cooper, the Leeds United and England left back.
Terry would visit our home 3 or 4 times a week for treatment and Dad would treat
him and fill him with confidence before he went on his next big match. As
a family we have many happy memories of all these great sporting people.
One event that stands out in our memories was when our family, plus Eric his
brother, went to Wembley to the FA Cup Final where we saw Leeds United play
Chelsea. As well as all these people, Dad treated many Knottingley folk
and so he became very well known and respected in the local area.
kept totally up with the world of sport and major events, through listening to
the news and being read the newspaper, he could discourse on anything and at
times patients came for the camaraderie that existed within the clinic as well
as for the treatment.
was not content to let work rule his life, he regularly attended worship at
Ropewalk Methodist Church, and his faith had a great influence on his life.
He belonged to a choir and enjoyed taking part in their concerts. He
continued with his walking, ably supported by either his ever-faithful brother
or his family. One of his greatest enjoyments was playing bowls in
Ferrybridge. His brother as a guide, he became very competent at this and
he and Eric had many notable triumphs. Because of this he was interviewed
on the radio and appeared on television. Life was never dull in the
aged 70, Dad died of a heart attack. He was a marvellous man as I am sure
many will testify. He lives on in the memories of my mum, my sister, his
brother and myself. His subsequent grandchildren, four boys and one girl,
were born after he died. However, some of Dad's sporting prowess lives on
in them, as they are all able sports people, the boys being particularly good at
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