Many people will be greatly saddened to hear that Ron Hoofe, has passed away after bravely battling a short illness.
He was 70 years of age.
To a generation of supporters he was the voice of St. Helens rugby league – one of our own, seemingly plucked from the very bowels of the ‘Scaff’ [actually, his original gaff was the Best Stand Paddock] whose commentaries were what every dyed-in-the-wool Saints’ fans wanted to hear.
Let’s face it … he was irresistibly parochial; one-eyed; ribald; irreverent and positively bled red and white! His good friend and fellow bus driver Vernon Roby once christened him ‘Ronnie Beep’ as he was prone to utter the occasional profanity and thought that it might be a problem for him in the heat of a Saints-Wigan derby!
For well over a decade, you could hear his distinctive tones in every self-respecting pub and club in the town the week after the match. At the end of the day, it was always his love and enjoyment of the game that he portrayed with such infectious enthusiasm and an often wicked – yet never demeaning – sense of humour.
He was a real one off, a larger-than-life character, with his wit and banter honed by years of driving buses around the St. Helens and the Merseyside region.
Ron began his stint with the microphone in the mid-1980s, with Brian Peers on camera and continued well into the new millennium. His commentaries highlighted an era when the Saints tried desperately to get one over on their deadly rivals from the other side of Billinge Lump.
Ron loved those derby clashes against the dreaded foe, the ‘Pie Eaters’ of Wigan: akin to gunfights at the OK Coral, where only the toughest survived, with huge, baying crowds at Knowsley Road and Central Park. Great players too. The wizardry of Shane Cooper; the jack-rabbit running of Neil Holding; the power and defiance of Chris Arkwright; the pace of Barry Ledger and such redoubtable warriors as Bernard Dwyer, Kevin Ward and the redoubtable Jarrod McCracken, who were all quite capable of giving their opponents what Ron invariably called ‘a real Sister Duffy’!
He talked our language, and we adopted such catchphrases for our own use on the terraces.
“I try to put some humour into the broadcast. Some love it…some hate it….but that’s life! Being involved with the coaches, players and backroom staff at St. Helens on match days and, hopefully, giving the public entertainment gives me great pleasure.”
His most talked about ‘They think it’s all over’ moment came in a relatively nondescript game against Hull at Knowsley Road, on a cold, dank night in February 1991.
Ron took up the story: “We were getting beaten with just seconds to go when the ball came out to Les Quirk on his own ‘25’. He skirted the touchline, past scrum half Entat’s attempted tackle and scored us the try which won the match. I described the try as one of ‘orgasmic proportions.’ What I meant to say was that it was the ultimate climax to a great game.”
Needless to say, Ron’s description of that marvellous four-pointer is forever enshrined in the folklore of St.Helens R.F.C!
Despite Ron’s apparent bias towards his hometown club, he always had a glint in his eye and, at the end of the day, it was only, really, a game of rugby league! Wasn’t it?
Ron was also a keen collector of programmes and other Saints-related memorabilia and was, for many years, a familiar face at the various programme fairs.
We send our condolences to his wife, Chris [they were married in 1979] and daughters Anne and Pam, plus a grand-daughter, as well as sisters Val and Win and Son in Law Dave.
Written by Alex Service