The man with a heart of gold…
Where do you start when summing up 50 years of Mr George Robson’s Easter escapades? According to Julie Andrews in Sound of Music, you start at the very beginning so here goes…
Born 16th June 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, George attended his first Festival in 1965 when Hild Bede College at Durham University came to the Festival. Within their ranks was an “Old Beghian”(an old boy of St Bees school in Cumbria) who was about to embark on a teaching career as well as a lifetime of dedication to his beloved Morpeth Hockey club who he joined in 1967 and Blackpool Hockey Festival. As an Old Beghian and past President of the Old Boys association, George is proud that the most recent famous Old boy to join him is none other than Stuart Lancaster…the England Rugby Union Head coach.
Over 50 years, George or “Mr President” as he is affectionately known, has quietly and diligently gone about his Hockey Life supporting and encouraging players of all ages to play and enjoy the game he loves. Club Secretary at Morpeth for over 25 years in two spells, George was a solid club player who having taken up the game whilst at University, perfected his skills on the bumpy grass pitches in Northumberland. This proved to be perfect grounding for his early years as a player at Blackpool, where pitches at Easter were marked out on Stanley Park on grass areas used for Football and family recreation.
Being a North East man George has a keen interest in Football but not as a Magpie, Mackem or Smoggie, no…George is a Spartan! Sporting the Green and White of Blyth Spartans where he is a much loved figure and sometimes Match sponsor. A quiet unassuming man George never seeks the limelight preferring to be in the background, a man quietly getting on with jobs and attending to matters that others think insignificant.
On many occasions George has been asked “Why Blackpool” at Easter for so many years? Without exception he will tell you “it’s a great place, fresh air and sunshine (Oh Yeah!!) where people come together to play Hockey and socialise and where friendships are made, rekindled and maintained. Without it there would be a hole in my Year”.
People might say you cannot use the title “Mr Blackpool” as that was what Reginald Dixon (who for many years played the Organ at the Tower Ballroom) was called. Oh Yes We Can! For not many people know that George is an organist too, “pulling out the stops” at several local churches on a regular basis. Along with many other things, George has a love of Music and at the Easter disco has been seen on the dance floor waving his arms about to “Hi Ho Silver lining” and “We are the Champions” although he is not so keen on Dizzy Rascal and Snoop Dog.
George also deserves the title of “Mr Blackpool” for the work he has done in fostering relations with Blackpool Cricket Club. This has been an integral and essential part of the Festival since the early 1970’s, when it became a Base and Social point for the Easter weekend. Whilst many take the cricket Club for granted, George quietly built up a relationship with the Cricket Club Committee and Members (they live upstairs in the Members Lounge whilst we take over the Main Club).
Steve Kennedy, who many of the older Festival goers will know, was the original DJ for the Festival discos held at the club before the Festival grew. Recalling his first meeting with George in1972, Steve says” Over the years, not only has George come to Blackpool at Easter for the Festival but he has attended many County Cricket matches and called in “Just for a visit”. I know he has many memories of the happy times he has spent in the Pavilion. Probably unknown to most people, George has made a number of donations to Blackpool Cricket Club including the clock in the members lounge which he donated more than 20 years ago when he became Festival President, cementing the Festivals link with the club even further. As a club we are grateful for his support and personally I am honoured to be a friend of George Robson”.
Blackpool Hockey Festival has had 17 Presidents since its inception. The first was E. Rothband (1952-1953). The 16th was ‘Bunny’ Wain, fondly remembered by many, who took over on the death of Festival founder George Greaves (President 1976-1990). Bunny sadly died after less than a year in office following which George Robson became the 17th President. George has now been in post for a commendable twenty-three years.
“Must be great to be President and figure head, turn up, and enjoy a free weekend in Blackpool with a few beers” remarked one rather worse for wear player a few years back.
How wrong you are my friend!! George for the last 21 years has Chaired every committee meeting including the Annual Big Meet which was always at held at “ Chateau Danson” in Buxton. This required a 6 hour round trip, made longer by Georges insistence on picking up Umpire Secretary en route and having a Coffee and Bakewell Tart in Bakewell prior to the meeting. Over the Easter Weekend itself, George goes round all the venues, making sure that everything is in order, delivering spare match balls, locking up at venues, talking to the staff and grounds man, and visiting Hospital to ensure injured players are ok. By Sunday night, George will have made a point of speaking to every team attending the Festival – No mean achievement especially back in 2004 when there were 68 teams!
Also on Easter Sunday, George hosts the Mayor of Blackpool at Stanley Park and then at the Cricket Club for the Festival Lunch, giving the thank you speech on behalf of the Festival with many an appropriate historical or humorous quip. On Sunday evening prior to the disco, he attends the Umpires meal and feely hands over his fines for his misdemeanours before levying his own fines on the Umpires. Monday will find George presenting the trophies and saying his goodbyes. Tuesday his thoughts turn to next year’s festival.
Over 50 years, George has seen the Growth, Decline and Re-emergence of the Festival.
Hockey has moved from 8 grass pitches on Stanley Park, with games umpired by two players from the previous game, with games played solely by Men’s teams…Through to the advent of water based astros in 1988, mixed Hockey in 1987 and women’s teams included in 1997. In addition, for the last 25 years there has been a Pool of qualified Umpires of which George was one of the first.
Everyone…Players, Umpires, Committee etc are grateful to George for all the things he has done and continues to do, for the success of the Festival but most of all for always being there.
THANK “MR PRESIDENT” and Congratulations on 50 not out!!
Contributions from Peter Danson, Steve Kennedy, Peter MacLellan