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50 years ago in Salford: Testimonial for Risman’s rugby superstar Harry Council

Does the name Harry Council ring any bells with you? His fame may not have translated into the modern era but in his day he enjoyed recognition equivalent to that of today’s Salford stars Rangi Chase or Adrian Morley.

Council was handed his team debut for Salford City Reds on 29 January 1955 in a home fixture against Belle Vue Rangers, a club destined to fold at the end of that season.

Under manager Gus Risman, who took charge in 1956, Harry developed into an integral member of the team, noted for his sterling defensive work.

In the late-1950s, he made the transition from back-row to prop with relative ease, his experience and work ethic making him an obvious choice to take on the mantle of pack leader.

He soon became a regular member of the senior side and became known as the club’s strong man, read into that what you will.

But an old shoulder complaint reared its ugly head and Council’s time with Salford came to an end when he had cartlige removed from near the joint.

The last of his 262 appearances for Salford, during which he scored 20 tries, was a home 21-5 victory over Rochdale Hornets on 2 January 1965.

The testimonial football match – between a team of ‘Television All Stars’ and a side handpicked by Council – kicked off in front of a full house at The Willows at 2.30pm on Sunday 3 April 1965.

Can you recall any of the 1960s ‘celebrities’ who made up the ‘All Stars’?

Mike and Bernie Winters; Bernard Bresslaw; Jimmy Tarbuck; Jess Conrad; Dave King; Ronnie Corbett; Dick Richardson; Larry Taylor; Jeremy Young; Jimmy Keene; Eden Kane; and Michael Cox.

I do know that Eden Kane had a number one hit in the UK in 1961 with ‘Well I Ask You’ – for a bit of extra pop trivia his brother Peter Sarstedt also had a number one hit in 1969 with ‘Where Do you Go To (My Lovely)’.

Council’s team consisted of Les Bettinson; Ernie Critchley; J Brennan; D Brown; Alex Murphy; Tom Van Vollenhoven; Frank Myler; B Risman; P Myler; T Wilson; B Glover, and J Warner, who had played for Manchester United and Wales.

The players were introduced to the Mayor of Salford Alderman Joseph Davis before the kick off.

Sadly we have no idea of the result of this game and would love to find out, they were usually high scoring games and hopefully Harry would have lived up to his ‘hard man’ reputation on the day.

Harry returned to the ground on 14 October 1979, as one of nine former players introduced before a 12,000 crowd to the Rugby Football League chairman, David Oxley and other dignitaries as part of the pre-match presentation ahead of Salford’s ‘Centenary Match’ against Widnes.

He passed away in February 2008 aged 75 but is still remembered with fondness by Salford rugby fans of a certain age.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.