Derek Brown, a former schoolboy star who signed for his hometown team at the age of 16, has passed away aged 81 after a long illness.
Saints Heritage Number #755
Born St Helens 16th April 1940
Died St Helens 6th May 2021
During the late 1950s, the Blackbrook club provided Saints with a number of players, like Derek, who went on to play first team rugby, including Brian McGinn, Dave Harrison, Tom Finney and Jimmy Measures. Although a centre in his formative years, Derek played in the forwards for St Helens, either in the front or back row and showed great strength and resilience. He had to be a good player to claim a place in a Champion team as it was then, with a mighty pack: Abe Terry, McKinney, Prescott, Briggs, Huddart and Karalius. However, there was a spot in the front row up for grabs when Alan Prescott was recovering from a broken arm after his heroics in the second test at Brisbane in 1958. Derek had first chance, followed by Jimmy Measures, Dennis Karalius and Fred Terry.
Derek made his debut in the front row against Warrington in a 15-7 victory in a league match at Knowsley Road on 25th August 1958. His former Blackbrook team-mate Jimmy Measures was also in the second row. On 25th October, he was in the team that was beaten 2-12 by a powerful Oldham side in the Lancashire Cup final at Wigan’s Central Park. Derek also helped out as an emergency goal-kicker when Peter Fearis was unavailable, kicking a goal at Parkside in an 11-19 defeat by Hunslet on 24th January 1959 and again at Central Park on Good Friday on the day that Wigan got their record attendance [47,477] when they beat Saints 19-14.
Despite the signing of front-rower Len Hammill from Bramley to replace Prescott, Derek stayed in the team to the end of the 1959-60 season, when Saints lifted the Lancashire League trophy, although there was defeat at the hands of Wigan in the Championship semi-final at Knowsley Road at the end of the campaign, when both Alex Murphy and Wigan’s Mick Sullivan received their marching orders.
“We grew up next door to each other in Bolton Street, Fingerpost. In fact, we are second cousins and Derek is just 12 days older than me,” says his former Blackbrook and Saints’ team-mate Brian McGinn. “Derek went to Parr Central and I went to Holy Cross School. He captained Lancashire Schoolboys. We were lifelong friends.”
Derek captained all the teams he played for, right up to and including the A team at Knowsley Road. His swansong was the first league match of the 1960-61 season on 13th August 1960, in a 16-4 defeat at Oldham. He struggled with a knee injury and later joined Rochdale Hornets, following a Saints’ career that encompassed 32 appearances, 2 goals and a try, the latter scored against Halifax on 13th September 1958, in a 45-20 win at Knowsley Road.
Derek certainly loved his rugby league and would have been celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Barbara, in August. They have two children, Tony and Gillian, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Everyone at St Helens R.F.C. sends our condolences to Derek’s family at this sad time.