born in January 1940 at 16 Sand Street, Collyhurst and was the second of six
boys for my Mother, Eileen.
Myself and my brothers, Colin, John, Wilf and Stephen (sadly Wilf's twin, Paul, died in infancy) lived in Collyhurst and later moved to Blackley with our mother and her husband, John Burton (the younger boys' father).
I went to Saint Patrick's school and joined the Merchant Navy at 15 years old and left 2 years later where I worked various jobs in and around the Manchester area.
I became fascinated with boxing after watching a Newsreel about the great American world featherweight champion Willie Pep; and around Collyhurst lived dozens of former boxers including the world class trainer Jack Bates, I would stand gazing through the window of “Harry The Barber's” on Rochdale Road, where Jack trained his lads and can remember clearly the day when Tommy Fynan let me go into the gym!
I started boxing when a neighbour, Andy Lambert, took me to Lily Lane Youth Club. Fred Hampston was the trainer helped by Ronnie Furness. Mr Hampston made a great impression on me, he came to see my Mother and asked if she had any objections to my boxing and I began to dream of being World Champion!
After two years of training however, I had still not had a fight and each time I begged Mr Hampston to let me have a go he would always say the same "I will let you know when you are ready".
Frustrated, I left Lily Lane and joined another gym where I got my first contest within 3 weeks. I was delighted and couldn't wait for my chance of stardom- however, one minute into the bout and it was over- Harry Carter was the winner! I had one more try (which I lost) before Mr Hampston came and took me back to Lily Lane where I was much happier.
In the early 1950's Jack Bates moved from his gym on Rochdale Road and moved into the Rainbow Gym which was situated at the back of the Big Queen's on Queen's Road. This became like a second home for me, I used to sweep up and watch all the greats preparing for fights. Former lightweight champion Frank Johnson, his brother Jackie Braddock, Tommy Proffitt and Stan Skinskiss, were among the many who trained there.
I started coaching at the old Collyhurst Lads Club in 1965. It was situated on Willert Street, near the Police Station. The spirit fostered in this run-down building was second to none, and whenever the Collyhurst lads boxed on tournaments huge followers went to see them perform.
Under my leadership the football team won their League and Cup and the Boxing Team won championships year after year: National Schoolboy titles, National Junior ABA titles, England Schoolboy Internationals, Junior England Internationals, Senior champions and Internationals. I became the first Manchester coach to gain the ABA Coaching certificate.
Taking the teachings of Jack Bates, Fred Hampson, and Tommy Proffit and Billy Tansey as my guides I emphasised defence as the first policy.
In the early 1970's the Collyhurst Lads Club was demolished along with the Collyhurst Flats and the club moved to its present premises above the Co-op shop on Lightbowne Road, Moston. Success came thick and fast and I've produced champions with class and flair. I had British, European, Inter-Continental and World Champions.
At first I
did everything on my own, running tournaments at the now demolished St Edmunds
Club on Monsall Street but did accept help from various people with the running
of the successful project and I'm extremely grateful for all their help.
In the Millennium honours list I was awarded an MBE for my services to the community. I couldn't believe it at first and thought it was my kids or the lads at the gym playing a practical joke on me! But it was real and I was extremely flattered.
In March 2000, all the family (including my brother Colin and his wife Pat) descended upon London to meet Prince Charles and later on, Sir Richard Branson, who was receiving his knighthood on the same day and invited us all to his restaurant, The Kensington Roof Gardens, for a party.
It was a truly special day and one that I will never forget.
In my life away from the gym, I married my lovely wife Rosemarie in
August 1973 at Corpus Christi RC Church, Miles Platting and we have four
wonderful children, Anthony, Damian, Christopher and Rachael. It has been great
for me to see my children all grow into the special people they are today and
now I have my beautiful Grandsons, Joseph, George & Joshua and Granddaughter Rose to lavish
attention on and keep me active.
In March 2011, I decided to retire from boxing and concentrate on my family and my writing. Whilst I was sad to leave, I know it was the correct decision for me and I get to spend more time with my beloved wife and family.
I received the Sir Henry Cooper Services to Boxing Award in 2012 from the British Boxing Board of Control which I was thrilled about, I loved my time in the gym and the great memories I have will be cherished forever.
I’m keeping myself busy and always have a few books on the go throughout the year and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.