In Memoriam: Abe Terry

St.Helens R.F.C. are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Saint #728, Albert Edward Terry.

It is sad to report the passing of one of Saints’ finest local born forwards, a Challenge Cup and Ashes winner, at the age of 89.

Signed on 17th February 1955, Albert ‘Abe’ Terry was a superb front row forward, a great scrummager with good hands and a deceptive turn of pace, who came through the ranks at Knowsley Road from the ‘B’ and ‘A’ teams. He made his debut against Barrow at Craven Park on 18th April 1955, the last league match of the 1954-55 campaign. It had been a disappointing time for the seniors, who finished in 7th place in the league and it was time for Coach Jim Sullivan to re-shape the squad in the race for further honours. Abe featured on 12 occasions during the 1955-56 season and helped the team to get to Wembley after a re-played semi-final victory against Barrow. Unfortunately, he was not selected for the final when Saints later broke their Challenge Cup final hoodoo by beating Halifax 13-2. “I had been injured but Jim Sullivan didn’t think I was ready,” said Abe some years later, with Nat Silcock taking up the number 10 slot. Fully fit he would certainly have played.

In 1956-57, Abe really began to assert himself as a first team regular, making 28 appearances, including a record 44-2 thrashing of the visiting Australians at Knowsley Road, when all members of the pack scored against the famous ‘Green and Golds’ – Alan Prescott, Frank McCabe, Abe Terry, Nat Silcock, Josh Gaskell and Vince Karalius.

By the 1957-58 campaign, Abe was fast becoming one of the best front-rowers in the British game. He played in 44 matches as the Saints, buoyed by the signing of wing sensation Tom van Vollenhoven finished second in both the Northern Rugby League and Lancashire League tables. Unfortunately, Workington ended Championship final hopes with a 12-13 victory at Knowsley Road but there was to be consolation for Abe with selection for the 1958, Australasian Tour, together with his five of his team mates Glyn Moses, Frank Carlton, Alex Murphy, Vince Karalius and skipper Alan Prescott.

He made his international debut, with Murphy, at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the first test on 14th June 1958 in front of over 68,000 fans. Things did not quite go to plan for the Brits, who were beaten 8-25. Wigan’s Brian McTigue came in for Terry for the second test, with Vince Karalius making his debut. Great Britain managed a marvellous backs-to-the wall victory at Brisbane and returned to Sydney for the decider, with Terry once more in the line up. The Aussies were soundly beaten 40-17 and Abe scored Britain’s second try after 22 minutes, a marvellous 40 yard effort, when he showed great agility and fleet of foot for a big man to score under the posts to give the visitors a 12-2 lead. Terry played in all the tests against the visiting Kangaroos in 1959, when Britain retained the Ashes once more. He played in 11 tests overall and represented Lancashire on 2 occasions, the last being a 30-22 success against the Kangaroos at Knowsley Road on 23rd September 1959.

Abe and the Saints were flying in 1958-59 with a pack that included his Great Britain touring colleague Dick Huddart in the second row. The team scored over 1,000 points and lifted their third League Championship after a stunning 44-22 success over Hunslet at Odsal Stadium, Bradford. When Saints beat Dewsbury 22-2 at Knowsley Road on 7th March 1959, his younger brother Fred, essentially a back-rower [HN #762], also made his senior debut.

Abe made 35 appearances [Fred made 20] during 1959-60, when Saints won the Lancashire League with further glory to come over the next twelve months. Abe was joined in the front row by hooker Bob Dagnall and the team defeated Swinton 15-9 in the Lancashire Cup final at Central Park. He had switched to the number 8 jersey and was joined by a young rookie from rugby union, Cliff Watson, towards the end of the 1960-61 season and there was more glory to come as the Saints embarked upon a memorable Challenge Cup campaign which was so nearly de-railed. Abe tells the story: “Vinty [Karalius] had injuries during the 1960-61 season and we played Hull away at the Boulevard, a week before meeting them in the semi-final and although we had a weakened team, we won 9-4. I was captain that day and brother Fred was at loose forward. We beat Hull convincingly in the semi-final and once again I was captain. Vinty came back for the final, of course.”

The team wore the famous red vee for the first time as they beat rivals Wigan 12-6 in stiflingly hot conditions. “The final was a marvellous occasion, but very hot,” recalled Abe. “We had a special drink at half-time to replace the salts we had sweated out of our bodies. We matched Wigan in the forwards and mastered the ball in the scrums. Our back three were great, especially Dick Huddart, who had a great game. Great days.”

Alas Abe never quite reached the same heights after that memorable match at Wembley, although he did score a typically belligerent try in a 25-10 demolition of the visiting Kiwis at Knowsley Road on 14th October 1961. On 2nd December Abe played his last game for the Saints away at Hull KR when the visitors lost 5-12, when his career was about to take an unexpected turn. It was his 216th appearance. He also scored 29 tries in the red and white jersey.

In 2021, Abe spoke about how he ended up leaving Knowsley Road: “I captained the team on a few more occasions during 1961-62. Unfortunately, I lost quite a bit of form and I ended up being dropped after I refused to go to Whitehaven with the A team. Then I had a bad game at Hull KR and after I was put on the list, Leeds came for me. Initially, I didn’t want to go, but Harry Cook said that there would be no place for me at Saints! I worked at UGB when I first left school, then got a job at Scotts Central Heating Company on Prescot Road and spent ten years down the pit at Ravenhead Colliery. I moved to Yorkshire and I got fixed up with a job. I never really settled at Leeds and then went to Featherstone Rovers and had a great first season there. Then it was on to Castleford, where [former Saints’ loose forward] Harry Street was coach and after that it was time to call it a day.”

Abe Terry is a member of the prestigious St Helens RFC Players’ Association’s Hall of Fame and has been a constant presence at former players’ functions over the years. “He was such a wonderful man,” says Steve Leonard, Director of Saints Community Development Foundation “and always a pleasure to see him at the Totally Wicked Stadium, latterly as a special guest at the club’s recent 150th Celebration Dinner on 23rd November, where he was as popular as ever. He will certainly be sadly missed by so many.

Everyone at St Helens R.F.C. extend their condolences to Abe’s wife Margaret and all members of his family at this sad time.

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