IT is extremely sad that we report the death of Thatto Heath-born Frank McCabe.
Born in 1932, Frank signed for the Saints from the local ‘B’ team and gradually worked his way up into First Team contention.
He made his debut in the number nine jersey in a 36-4 success against Blackpool Borough on October 22 1955 and in his second run-out for the seniors, he played against the visiting New Zealanders at Knowsley Road, which the Saints won 16-8.
Yet, it was in the 1955-56 season that the young McCabe showed he had the attributes to be the regular hooker. Primarily, of course, he could win the ball from the scrums, a vital part of the game in those days when possession was so important.
Yet he was also extremely quick and agile around the rucks, like today’s acting half-backs. He was an opportunist who could score tries too.
Indeed, Frank took over the reins from Welshman Reg Blakemore, who could also get around the field and cause untold damage in the loose.
The Saints embarked on the Wembley trail in 1955-56 with three home ties: Warrington [15-6]; Castleford [48-5] and Bradford Northern [53-6]. Frank played in every match and scored twice against the men from Bradford, who had previously been a bit of a bogey team for St Helens in the Challenge Cup.
Finally, the spell was broken, but there was also tragedy for Frank when he picked up a serious knee injury in the game that effectively ended his season. Unluckily for Frank, the Saints went on to Wembley and won the cup for the first time, with Len McIntyre in the hooking role.
Frank did make a comeback, but he soon had to call it a day. His last match was at Headingley, when Saints lost to Leeds 11-22 on January 19 1957. Mind you, before that, Frank and his team mates achieved legendary status when they defeated the visiting Australians 44-2, on November 24 1956 at a jubilant Knowsley Road.
All the forwards scored a try, including hooker Frank, an unusual occurrence at the best of times. Just for the record, the pack was: Prescott [Capt], McCabe, Terry, Silcock, Gaskell and Karalius.
Frank made 30 appearances overall and scored 10 tries, obviously a measure of his mobility. But for his debilitating injury, he would surely have been a fixture in the number nine jersey for years to come, he was that good.
We send our condolences to Frank’s family at this sad time.
Written by Alex Service