A season ticket holder from Eccleston Hill, who once played for the Saints’ B and C teams at Knowsley Road has received his grandad’s Heritage Certificate: #76 Jack Rennie – the 700th given out by Saints Heritage Society and St Helens RFC since 2019.
A delighted Mike Rennie, together with his cousin Geoff Tasker, also a season ticket holder, was presented with his special family memento by former Saints second-rower Jimmy Measures at the Totally Wicked Stadium at pitch side. Mike also provided an image of his grandad, albeit in later life.
Jack Rennie was a miner from Sutton, whose elder brother James played for the club in the amateur Rugby Union days. Sad to report that James, from whom great things were expected, died tragically in a colliery accident underground at Lea Green Colliery in 1892, aged just 21. In those far off days, working men had to forfeit a Saturday shift to play the game, leading to the breakaway three years later which enabled clubs to pay ‘broken time’ to its players, so they didn’t lose money.
Jack made his senior debut against Warrington in the Lancashire Senior competition at Knowsley Road when the Saints won 12-3 on 18th February 1899. A solid forward who helped his team-mates dominate the set scrums, he made 34 appearances overall with his last match a 0-23 defeat at the hands of Broughton Rangers on 29th November 1902. He also scored two tries. It should be noted that Jack played in four matches against Wigan and was never on the losing side.
As for grandson Mike, rugby league was in his DNA: “My Uncle Robert played for the famous local amateur team Uno’s Dabs and I used to watch the Saints from a young age,” he remembers. “We used to get the bus from Victoria Square to Knowsley Road. Dad wouldn’t take me to Wembley in 1953 and I had to listen to the match at my grandad’s house on the wireless, as they used to say. One of my best memories was to see the Great Britain v France match at Knowsley Road in 1957, when Glyn Moses was Man of the Match and Alan Prescott was the captain.”
Doing his apprenticeship as a colliery electrician, he attended the Mining School behind the old Central Station and the PE teacher was Tom van Vollenhoven. He later met another Saints’ star, Dick Huddart, who was a mechanical fitter at Sutton Manor Colliery [Number One Pit]. Mike later worked at UGB and Rockware before a final spell in the chemical industry in Widnes.
“I was a loose forward who played for the Town Schoolboys and for Saints’ C and B teams,” Mike recalls. “I started in the C team and my team-mates included the likes of Joe Robinson, Alan Whittle, Peter Gartland and Brian Hogan. The coaches were Albert Butler for the B team and Billy Boycott took the C team. I remember playing against Widnes St Pats at Naughton Park and Duggie Laughton was in their team, who later came to Saints. Family matters took precedence when I got my job at UGB and I had to give the game up, but I’ve scored tries at Knowsley Road as a schoolboy and B and C teamer, so some great memories.”
Both Mike and Geoff, whose son Paul was once a member of Saints’ Academy, are proud of their grandfather’s achievements and were delighted when Jimmy Measures, replete in a Saints’ Heritage jersey was on hand to ‘do the honours.’
“It was a fitting occasion to mark the 700th player,” says Adrian Lawrenson of Saints’ Heritage Society. “So many interesting stories and unexpected family connections have come to light since the process first started in 2019, all adding to the rich heritage of our club as we approach the 150 celebrations next year.”