ONE of the founding fathers of New Earswick All Blacks Amateur Rugby League Club has died while on holiday in Benidorm.
Dennis Harrison, 77, was in the Spanish resort with his wife, Jean, niece Denise and her partner, Eric. They were due to fly back on New Year’s Eve but Mr Harrison passed away in the early hours of that day after suffering a heart attack. His body is to be flown home tomorrow.
Mr Harrison, who lived in Monkton Road all his life, was a joiner by trade before retiring aged 65. He also played rugby league for the old Imperial and Clarence Club teams before suffering a badly broken leg.
He became a founder member of the All Blacks 31 years ago and was still a much-loved clubman, winning the York & District RL Unsung Hero award in 2012.
The club had started out as a junior team in Dunnington – with Mr Harrison getting involved as his son, Richard, was a player there – but became York All Blacks after having to move home.
They were based at Burnholme School and on Knavesmire, before finding their current home, and name, at White Rose Avenue in New Earswick, in 1994. Jean was also involved behind the scenes, cooking after-match meals for players.
Richard said: “My dad was on the committee from day one. Our junior team weren’t able to continue at Dunnington so a group of dads started a new club. They were a great group and they’re still good friends. They got the club going and it’s gone from strength to strength.
“I stopped playing ten years ago but he still went down, sorting out the kit, doing half-time collections, dishing out the tea, all those things. That’s my dad – always helping out.”
With junior teams at most age groups, along with their open-age side, All Blacks are now one of the biggest sporting outfits in York.
The first team’s Pennine League match at Chequerfield tomorrow has been postponed as a mark of respect. Players and club members are instead to have a social get-together at their clubhouse.
All Blacks also lost then chairman Phil “OJ” Johnson 16 months ago, after he died of a heart attack while on a plane to Turkey.
Current chairman Paul Pallister said: “I’m gutted – we all are. He was part of our pack. We’re like a family at All Blacks and we are all devastated. Our thoughts are with Jean and all his family.”
Mr Harrison, the youngest of five children, leaves his brother Jack, widow Jean, son Richard, daughter Sarah, and grandchildren Will, 11, Emily, eight, and Harvey, who is 14 months old.
Funeral details are to be confirmed.