Centre-forward is still on the ball at 94

James Tiplady with some of his old school photographs
James Tiplady with some of his old school photographs

THE discovery of some historic pictures, one of which is more than 100 years old, led to a trip down Memory Lane for one nonagenarian.

Hartlepool pensioner James Tiplady may be turning 95 next month but his childhood memories are still vivid.

His son, John, 64, unearthed these pictures at James’ former home in Fens Crescent, with two showing a young James in the Elwick Road School boys’ football teams in 1928 and 1929 and the other featuring his father, also James, in the 1908 cricket team for Expansion, which later became the Expanded Metal Company.

This spurred James to share some of his memories with the Hartlepool Mail.

It turned out that the granddad-of-four’s life may well have turned out differently, had a footballing injury not put paid to a promising sporting career.

James, who lives at Bupa Brierton Lodge nursing centre, said: “The photographs were taken in the football team when I was 11 and then the following year.

“I played centre-forward and we were in the Hartlepool school league. We were winners of the shield.”

He went on to play for Belle Vue Congregational Church Under-18s team and won a medal and team shield.

James was later head-hunted to play football for Horden Colliery Welfare reserves, aged 17, which James says was “a better class of football”.

But half-way into the season, in a match against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park, his career was scuppered when he broke his leg.

“I never played again that season,” he said.

“I suppose life could have been different. Quite a few lads went away and played for good teams

“I knew John ‘Jack’ Howe, who played for Hartlepool United and then England.

“He played for Hartlepool reserves, got a game in the first team and then was away, transferred.”

James, who has eight great-grandchildren, was working for the Shell-Mex BP depot in Hartlepool, helping to deliver paraffin to collieries in East Durham, where he said homes had no gas or electricity and used paraffin lamps, when he sustained his injury.

But when that put him out of action, his bosses wrote to him and told him he no longer had a job.

He was on the sick for 14 weeks before he eventually found work at Hartlepool’s South Durham Steelworks and Iron Company, where he was to spend 43 years, rising through the ranks from labourer to bayman.

His steelworks job was a “protected occupation”, which meant he did not have to sign up for service in the Second World War.

He remembers blackouts and going into the air raid shelters at the steelworks.

Sadly, his late wife Elizabeth’s brother, Jackie Merifield, a rear gunner with the RAF, was killed during the war.

James’ father, who worked as a shipyard riveter, married Phoebe Ann Jones and as well as James junior, they were also parents to Stan, who was seven years older than James.

James, whose daughter Irene, 71, a Fens resident, passed away in May, said: “I have worked hard all my life. I don’t know why I have lasted so long.

“I got married when I was 21 and had a regular job. In those days, when you got a decent job, you had to hang onto it, you couldn’t pick and choose.

“That’s the way it was.”