TEN days or so ago, to mark 30 years since York Rugby League Club's Clarence Street ground closed, we ran a large poster photograph on the centre pages of The Press. We hoped it would stir a few memories, we said.

The photograph showed a match being played under floodlights at the ground in 1978. But we didn't know who York RL's opponents were.

That photograph prompted a big response from readers. Several got in touch by phone or letter to say the match was played against a touring Australia rugby league side. And reader Pat Graves was able to give more detail. The match was played on November 14, 1978, he wrote. And the result? A resounding 29-2 thumping for the home side. Perhaps not unexpected...

None of the contributions from readers came close to that sent in by John Zimnock, from Osbaldwick, however. John described in loving detail growing up next to the ground and falling in love with rugby league as a boy. His lengthy letter is rich in memory and in detail. So there was nothing for it but to reproduce it on these pages, with some extra photos from our archives to illustrate.

Over to you, John...

"Your photo of Clarence Street, from the Rowntree end terrace, certainly stirred my happy memories of growing up on nearby Rose Street. It was a big part of our lives.

"Walking to Archbishop Holgate’s I passed the place at least twice every day. After the deprivations of war in the Fifties it even provided us with sustenance as our 'gang' of hungry kids enjoyed its benefits to our stomachs. When games were on fleets of coaches would arrive and all park on the grass verge of Hambleton Terrace, opposite Rowntree's factory overlooking Rowntree’s private railway line. The coaches would be lined all the way from Wiggy Road to the Haxby Road end and whilst games were on the drivers would congregate at the top end to smoke fags and exchange banter. Meanwhile we were at the back of the buses lifting the handle of the emergency doors and climbing aboard to search the luggage racks - not for items to steal but for the packed lunches for the after-match snacks.

"Pal Roger Hildred took me to my first match. Standing on the terrace I was baffled but soon joined his cries of 'Come on Tank!' Tank Riley I think.

"One evening uncle Billy Botterill arrived on his bike from Osbaldwick and he and mum Marjorie asked if I wanted to join them at the game. I said no, better things to do, like read my Kit Carson comics. Later I was not happy as they didn’t say it was the Australian touring side playing!

"Later our school playing field was across the road where York Hospital now sits, and when games were on the gates were open at half time and admission was free. We kicked school games off at 2pm and when we were finished about eight of us would troop over the road in our muddy kit and watch the games. This was in the early 60s and by now we knew every player by name - and obviously Dave Rippon, as he was in our our Colts team before he left school.

"The team was known as 'Leeds old boys' because of all the players that joined us as their careers wound down - Jeff Stevenson at scrum half for one. We also got scrum half John Smith from Hull, and many disliked him because he kicked the ball and possession is the key in rugby league. But many of his kicks went to ex-York RI wing Geoff Smith to end up in tries, Geoff an excellent Great Britain winger.

"In 1963 we all thought we were off to Wembley as York had signed try-scoring prop Albert 'Budgie' Firth from Wakefield - my hero, people used to bounce off him. Except we got Trinity in a packed semi final, 6,000 in the house, and Albert soon got 'injured' and that was us done.

"The following year famed winger Mick Sullivan joined from St Helens and we thought this is it, we’re off to the races, but he did more damage as landlord of the Royal Oak than he ever did on the pitch.

"I remember Vic Yorke, our hardworking great goal kicker, being criticised for a poor game. 'What do ya expect, he only come off night shift at Rowntree's at 6.30 this morning?'

"By now cycling from Haxby for games I had a duty to report on games to ex Coldstream Guardsman and relative Fred Heilds on Stanley Street, a wonderful man with wife Minnie giving me tea. I kept my bike in their backyard during games so it didn’t get nicked.

"Lots of players would be sent off and as they went down the tunnel those rich folk in the stand that had paid an extra two pence for a cushion would throw cushions at the player carded - it was always a laugh when some threw the cushions back.

"In one game an old lady went on the pitch and started hitting the player sent off with her brolly. He took it off her and snapped it over his knee. So much for pitch invasions.

"After one school game we went over to watch York A as Dave Rippon had just signed from Heworth and we wanted to see how he was getting on. Dave was on the deck when Bert Render gave him a massive kick in the back. At this point we decided rugby league was not for us so we stuck to playing union at York rugby club on Hob Moor.

"Still it was heart-breaking when the ground was sold. No more trips to the Punch Bowl to get abuse from Archies Old Boy and landlord Brian Coulson, ex Hull KR, for being sissy for playing union.

"Stir a few memories? I think you did that."

Brilliant stuff. Many thanks, John.

Stephen Lewis