Sorry, news of Henderson's death was an exaggeration


IT'S not every day you get to "kill off" a former All Black but last week I did just that.

In spite of all my best efforts, for all the rigorous checks and double checks into the whereabouts of the 13 members of Huddersfield's 1953 Challenge Cup final winning team, I managed to "do a Mark Twain" to the man who played on the wing outside Fartown's captain Russ Pepperell against St Helens.

It had to happen I suppose.

No sooner had the words "last surviving member" been printed in last Wednesday's Yorkshire Post as part of an interview with Pat Devery than it became apparent that I had erred somewhat.

It is now my happy duty to report that, to paraphrase Twain, the report of the death of Peter Henderson was an exaggeration.

Now 80, Henderson is alive and well and living in the Bay of Plenty area of New Zealand's North Island, from where he is in regular, if infrequent contact with the Huddersfield ex-players' association, whose estimable chairman, David Gronow, was uncontactable last week.

Henderson made 19 appearances for the All Blacks before spending seven years at Huddersfield, after which he returned home to become embroiled in a long campaign against his ostracism by the New Zealand RU for turning professional.

He was finally re-instated as an All Black in 1989.

The news that Peter 'Sammy' Henderson, who is still regarded as one of the fastest players to represent New Zealand – he had a time of 9.7 seconds for 100 yards – survives will come as some relief to his former team-mate Devery.

The 84-year-old Australian has lived in the United States since the early-1970s, most recently in Oregon, and was surprised to hear that he was the last link to that great Fartown team of the 1950s.

In spite of my faux pas, the interview with Devery stirred up many happy memories for some readers, including Austin Holroyd who describes Lionel Cooper's three-quarter partner as "a great gentleman, and everybody's favourite."

Mr Holroyd said that his late wife "nearly swooned" when Devery viewed the semi-detached house next door to his at Fixby, adding "Perhaps it was as well he didn't buy it!

"I'm 80 now but I still remember that day at Wembley as though it were yesterday. St. Helens' centre Greenall had a big plaster on his arm. They said he'd sprained his wrist, but I think it was to wallop Devery!"

Another reader, Joe Hemingway, wrote: "It was worth the admission fee alone just to watch Huddersfield running on to the field with players such as Devery, Cooper, Johnny Hunter, Pepperell and Billy Banks in their ranks."

Sam Grundy, a Bradford supporter, wrote to say "having known Trevor Foster well I know that players from his and Pat Devery's era have plenty of stories to tell and they're a welcome change from the usual things we read about."

However, the last word on the 1953 Challenge Cup final must go to Mr Holroyd, who recalled proudly driving to Wembley stadium a few days before the Challenge Cup final in his new-look Ford Consul.

"When I got to the big gates at the top of Wembley way a uniformed man opened them, waved me through and saluted, so I parked at the edge of the pitch and strolled around," he wrote.

"Dozens of men were re-laying turf at the four corners of the pitch, as Wembley was used for speedway in those days.

"I spent an interesting quarter of an hour pottering about, then jumped into my car and was saluted out!

"Happy days."