John Blair funeral

Date published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

THE cortege of former Oldham Rugby League player John Blair entered and left a packed Holy Trinity Church, Waterhead on Friday to William Rimmer’s stirring march for brass bands, ‘Slaidburn’.

The family had requested that no one should wear black; that the service would be a celebration of John’s life; and that Diggle Band, with whom he had family connections, should play his favourite Whit-Friday march.

On the coffin was a replica of his old No 6 jersey in traditional red and white hoops which he wore in 115 Oldham games between 1970 and 1979, amassing 292 points with 15 tries, 119 goals and nine drop goals.

The hundreds present — latecomers had to stand in the aisles and at the back of church — heard the vicar of Waterhead, the Rev Paul Monk, pay tribute to a family man whose sporting interests also included Austerlands Cricket Club and local crown-green bowls.

Among the many former Watersheddings players present, most of them John’s team mates, were Phil Larder, Lynn Morgan, Martin Murphy, Mike Elliott, John Hammond, Ray Clark, Ray Hicks, Kevin Flanagan, Eddie Barton, Stuart Bottom, Ian Entwistle, Norman Brelsford and Steve Whitmore as well as former assistant coach Iain MacCorquodale and the backroom assistant who spent more than 25 years as the club’s man with the ‘magic sponge’, John Watkins.

Mr Blair, who in recent years did Oldham Rugby match-day commentaries for Oldham Community Radio, died in Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, aged 59, after a four-year battle against cancer.