Sad Loss of a Top Man
It is with deep sadness that the Club has to report the passing this week (on 28th January, 2018) of one of the true stalwarts of Wigan St Patricks, and of the community game in general, Gerald (“Gerry”) Fairhurst.
Gerry was a rugby league enthusiast, through and through, and a massive supporter of Wigan St Patricks and of the community game. Born in Forge Street, Ince in March, 1941, Gerry was proud of his Ince roots and of its people and was always insistent on being from the “right” (Ince) side of its boundary with Wigan (marked by Clarington Brook, much of which runs today under the Club’s playing fields).
Although only an occasional player of the game in his youth, having attended a rugby union school (West Park Grammar School in St Helens), Gerry was a keen Wigan RLFC supporter and clearly demonstrated his love of rugby league in his extensive writings on the game in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which appeared widely across various Rugby League publications. Gerry’s enthusiasm was further fired in the early 1970s when he came to play a key role, alongside Derek Birchall and several others, in the re-establishment of youth rugby league in the Wigan area with the development of the Wigan Amateur Under 18s League in 1972 and then in the foundation of a new structure for the amateur game in the UK with the formation of the British Amateur Rugby League Association (“BARLA”) the following year. As part of this, Gerry (with Derek) took forward the development of the Whelley Under 18s amateur rugby league team, many of whose players will have fond memories not only of playing the game on Sunday mornings but also of having their love of the game fuelled further by then being taken along in Gerry’s car to local (and not so local) professional matches in the afternoon. No matter how many were already jammed into the car on those trips, Gerry could always find space for one or two more!
In 1977 Gerry then became instrumental, with Cliff Fleming, in merging the Whelley club with Wigan St Patricks, giving St Pats an Open Age Second Team and a Youth Section which almost immediately became the source of much of the Club’s success over future years, winning National Cups, County Cups and League championships and producing seemingly endless numbers of players for the very top levels of the professional game.
Immediately upon becoming involved in the Club, Gerry became a massively positive influence upon progress and expressed the intent that the Club become more competitive with other sports, particularly rugby union, by developing our own facilities and clubhouse. Up to that point the Club had been based at the old St Patricks Parish Club in Wellington Street, but Gerry’s drive to achieve more saw him take a major and highly influential role in designing and building our current Clubhouse, completed in 1985, even undertaking some of the bricklaying duties himself in which he also enlisted many of his family (of whatever age)!
Gerry was a massively positive influence upon St Pats and upon many of the people involved, both within and outside the Club, and was a friend to so very many people. He undertook various roles within the Club, including Committee Member, Team Manager, Kit Man, Club Solicitor and Press Secretary and his distinctive and instantly recognisable reporting style on the Club’s matches appeared weekly in the local press. Typically, he would fulfil his reporting duties by travelling to the Club’s away games by train rather than on the team coach and would often combine this on trips to Humberside or Cumbria with an overnight stay to enjoy the local ambience in the evening and a cultural morning the day after, before attending the game in the afternoon to cheer on his beloved St Pats! More than anything, Gerry was a huge supporter of the Club, in whatever capacity he was involved!
In his professional life, Gerry was a leading solicitor in Wigan Town Centre and was with the firm Arthur Smiths (formerly Arthur Smith and Broadie-Griffith) from being a trainee in 1964 until his retirement in 2014, having graduated from Sheffield University with a Degree in Law.
Gerry was undoubtedly a one-off, a unique person who had a hugely positive influence on our Club. He was widely recognised as a wise, genuine, respected and kind man who was, and is, simply irreplaceable. Quite simply, Wigan St Patricks would not and could not have been where we are today without his contribution, his principles, high standards and positive influence. As one of our longstanding members said this week: “Nothing was ever a problem to Gerry. It was just something that needed sorting out.”
Gerry leaves a wife, Margaret, 4 children (Christopher, Nicholas, Louise and Anthony), 12 grandchildren and hundreds upon hundreds of friends.
Gerry’s funeral will take place at St Patricks Church at 1:30pm on Friday, 16th February, 2018 followed by a celebration of his life at Wigan St Patricks Clubhouse later the same afternoon.
Tribute by Peter Murphy – written with love.