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Backwords: Hunter Misses His Prey

Mike Shaw was almost a total failure as an autograph hunter Ė but his old autograph book conjures up memories.

One of the best-kept secrets of my youth has been revealed.

Itís all my wifeís fault for doing some premature spring cleaning.

Now the whole family knows that as an autograph hunter I was almost a total failure.

The proof was unearthed the other day when the little autograph book I thought had been lost for ever turned up at the back of a drawer.

Like every other book we handled as schoolboys, itís backed with brown paper. Some were even covered with wallpaper, I remember.

It dates back to 1942 and I seem to recall that in those days of shortages it took me ages to get hold of one.

But that was the easy part. Getting the pages filled was infinitely more difficult.

Mind you, I did have a few successes among sportsmen of the day. Even though top-class cricket and football were victims of the war.

The biggest name I captured was probably Edwin St Hill, the West Indian all-rounder who became the first black cricketer to play in the Huddersfield League when he was signed by Slaithwaite.

That great Yorkshire stalwart Maurice Leyland also figures on the cricket pages, along with county colleagues Arthur Wood, Arthur Booth and Cyril Turner.

Two famous Yorkshire ďexportsíí are also there. Clifford Walker, who played for Slaithwaite but was recruited by Hampshire, and Arnold Hamer, the Primrose Hill batsman who went to Derbyshire.

On the soccer front I did manage the whole of the Huddersfield Town team of the time. Not a bad side it was, either.

Memories of the makeshift League North are revived by the Town line-up of Hesford, Bailey, Barker, Willingham, Brown, Boot, Bateman, Glazzard, Rodgers, Watson and Poole.

But these were modest successes. Dozens of pages were left blank, so I recruited family and friends to fill the gaps.

Most werenít merely content to sign their names, I see.

They added a little verse or saying, no doubt prompted by me to fill up some of the wide open spaces.

So, preserved for posterity, are gems like this one.

In a parlour there were three,
The maid, the parlour lamp and he.
Two is company without a doubt.
And so the parlour lamp went out.

Then there was this enigmatic ditty.

A girl may look nice
In a bath marble white
And in whose embrace she may frolic.
But give me a girl
Who will stand in a bowl
And do what she can with carbolic.

My motherís contribution was probably a hint about my laziness.

There are many ways of doing things
As everyone supposes
Some turn up their sleeves at work
And some turn up their noses.

And fatherís contribution still leaves me baffled.

Hereís to you as good as you are
And as bad as I am
Iím as good as you are
As bad as I am.

On reflection, perhaps the shortage of autographs was not so disastrous after all.

No disrespect to the big names, but I think I prefer the rhymes.


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