It is extremely sad to report the passing of one of the town’s great sporting characters, from one of the most famous rugby league families. Allan Bishop passed away on Friday 3rd April after a short illness. He had recently celebrated his 71st Birthday.
St Helens RFC Heritage Number: 855
Born St Helens 4th March 1949
Died St Helens 3rd April 2020
A former pupil at Rivington Road School, Allan signed for Saints from Parr Labour Club ARLFC for the sum of £1,000 on his 16th birthday in January 1965. He was a typical scrum-half in terms of build in those days at 5 feet four inches in height and weighing in at 9 stone 13 pounds.
Allan became a real stalwart for the A team during his time at Knowsley Road but had to wait a while before making his senior debut, against Huyton at Knowsley Road, on 20th September 1968, when he came off the bench.
Saints were losing 5-10 at half-time and eventually won 11-10 against one of the league’s perennial strugglers!
The Saints’ team that day read as follows: Walsh; Wilson, Tony Barrow, Whittle, Jones; Myler, Tommy Bishop; Warlow, Sayer, Watson, Rees, Chisnall, Coslett. Bobby Wanbon was the other substitute.
Allan’s elder brother, Tommy, was scrum-half in that match, who had joined the club from Barrow before the Challenge Cup deadline in 1966. It was his last season at Knowsley Road before joining the Cronulla club in Sydney. Indeed, for both brothers, their Saints’ careers would soon be at an end.
Allan played the last of his 8 competitive matches for the club in the 5-8 reversal against Workington on 12th April 1969 in a home league match. Allan was partnered in the halves by Alan Whittle.
Competition was fierce at St Helens and he went on to join Blackpool Borough for £2,500 in 1970, where he became a firm favourite with the fans at Borough Park. He was a clever footballer, with good hands and was elusive in open play. Yet as his former Saints’ team-mate Terry Loughlin remembers, there was more to him than that:
“He was the toughest little man I ever knew. Allan had lots of fighting spirit – he was mentally tough – and could impose himself on a game, despite his size. In fact, it was Allan who recommended me to go to Blackpool when he was there. Allan had gone to Blackpool with another former Saint – Tim Pickup, who played full-back. The Blackpool Chairman Mr Emery thought the world of Allan.”
Alan served Blackpool Borough well, before joining Widnes and then was recruited by Geoff Fletcher at Huyton. Anyone who has seen that fabulous documentary, ‘Another Bloody Sunday’ is left in no doubt whatsoever the toughness that was required to merely survive, never mind thrive, in those days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a real school of hard knocks!
Allan was a great family man with a host of friends. He would willingly talk about rugby league to anyone and was a fund of stories about his own career and the wide range of characters he had come across over the years. He was also a popular member of the Saints’ Players Association.
He worked originally for Phythians the butchers and thereby hangs another tale.
Terry Loughlin continued: “Allan broke his collarbone during a match at Blackpool and promptly drove back to St Helens in the 10 hundred weight company van he had borrowed, and I sat next to him changing gears!”
Such hair-raising tales put him in good stead for his later working life as a landlord at the Phoenix Hotel in Canal Street [after his brother Tommy], the Bulls Head in Parr and the Globe Hotel behind the Town Hall. Allan was also steward at the Sidac Social Club and was recently employed as a taxi driver, mostly working in the Liverpool area.
Everyone associated with St Helens R.F.C would like to pass on their condolences to Allan’s family at this sad time.
“He was my best mate in rugby,” adds Terry Loughlin. “We will all miss him terribly.”
Thanks to the Saints Heritage Society for the words.