brother peter harvey Today Peter is just as likely to be seen at the Deafness Resource Centre, where he has been Treasurer for about fifteen years, as he is at Langtree Park, the home of St Helens Rugby League Club, where he is Treasurer of the Players Association.

Born in Scotland in 1940, the first son of a St Helens miner, with a largely Irish background, he might have turned out to be a miscellany of mischievous monkey business, if it were not for the strict confines of a truly working class home.

Brought up never to tell a lie, never to steal a sweet from anyone, but also to be prepared to fight for what he believed in. His father was a professional boxer who had many sayings, but ‘there is nothing for second’, is perhaps the one which signalled his fortitude in the face of adversity. Some might say the reason for his determination to succeed.

A pupil at Holy Cross school, where all of the Harvey children since 1912 had received their schooling, he passed the scholarship for a place at St Helens Catholic Grammar School (West Park) and proceeded on a path which would take him away from the mines and eventually lead back into the classroom, as a teacher.

Being introduced to Rugby Union at Grammar school broadened his horizon to look outside of St Helens as he developed in school. He was picked to play for the school team, then the county, and eventually the country, captaining each as he went along. Not an academic but he was chosen to be head boy and head prefect, rather to the astonishment of the Oxbridge candidates.

Leaving school behind he followed in the footsteps of Martin Reagan and Tom Hackett playing for Liverpool RFC, and then again onto St Mary’s College (Strawberry Hill) Twickenham to gain his Teaching Certificate. Teaching in those days did not require a Degree qualification, so it is that Peter still hasn’t got one. He has Teaching Qualifications from four different universities but none of them were then classified as degrees.

He met Ruth and they both went through Teacher Training College, she at Mount Pleasant Liverpool, as he progressed through Simmeries and on to the renowned Loughborough College, where hephoto was rewarded with an Honours Diploma. Playing all sports to a very high competence and gaining coaching awards in many of them, was the background to a year of hard work, but more importantly learning the lesson of being a little fish in a very big pool.

Starting his teaching career as the Head of the P.E. Department at St Bedes RC secondary school in Ormskirk, becoming a gymnastics teacher worthy of The National P.E. Conference, and a Football coach taking the Ormskirk team to the Quarter Finals of the English Schools Competition, for his school work; was quite a contrast to playing for Liverpool and Lancashire at the week-end. Achieving several England Trials at Rugby Union and receiving leave of absence for an England Tour of Australia and New Zealand, which came to nothing when the selectors ‘thought that he would go to Rugby League’, and didn’t pick him to go.

Peter says now “It is difficult to imagine the vitriol poured upon me by the Rugby Union establishment, including those in teaching, when it became a self- fulfilling prophecy and I signed for St Helens Rugby League Club.”

He stayed at St Bedes sufficiently long to take the four shining RL trophies into show the pupils, before leaving in 1966, to teach at Prescot Church of England Primary School, in charge of the education of Special Needs pupils. A further qualification at Liverpool meant that he went back to university thus ending his playing career at Warrington.

“Being a teacher was more important than being a rugby player but the competition for the second was much greater than the first.

He taught in Secondary school, Primary school and Infant school, before becoming Head teacher of three Primary Schools in Kirkby before winding down as an educational consultant for the last four years of his career.

Perhaps the least well know achievement are the two spells of his attachment to Encyclopaedia Britannica, one as a teacher developing multi- media methods of Education, and the other writing material to supplement access to Children’s Britannica in Primary Schools.

In one of the busiest but most enjoyable periods of his life, he was serving in The St Helens Lions Club, being a Charter Member in 1975, President in 1978, Zone Chairman in 1979 and Deputy District Governor in 1981.

Ruth and Peter celebrated their retirement with a round the world trip and for their Golden Wedding this year a trip to Rome, where they gave thanks for all of their blessings, including three wonderful children, Simon, Louise and Rachael and their nine grand children. Let us pray that Pope Francis (and the Bishops Conclave) can understand the reality of family life in the modern world.

Recently he has been the Project Manager for the St Helens Pals a highly successful WW1 Project. He is still an active member of the Family History Association and is happy to meet ‘long lost relatives’ now residing here in St Helens.

Peter’s autobiography is available from 1st November 2014, click here to purchase via Amazon: ‘Redhead with Fire in His Boots-My Life in Rugby’

Available from all normal outlets or from Peter if you want it signed.

To read Geoff Lightfoot’s review of “‘Redhead with Fire in His Boots-My Life in Rugby” click below

Peter Harvey book review


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