Brian Starkey, one of the best known and most successful crown green bowlers in the district, has died aged 76.
A Yorkshire county player, he was twice the Huddersfield Champion of Champions title holder, in 1980 and 1993, and twice the Huddersfield Merit winner (1979 and 1995).
He was also a stalwart of the winter Griffin Bowling Club, where he was the first man to win three Examiner Rosebowl titles and also the long-serving greenkeeper, secretary, treasurer and maintenance man over 25 years, for which he was made a life member of the club.
Bowling was his life, and he was single-minded in pursuing the sport he loved.
His career was even more remarkable because he took months to recover from a bad motorcycle accident in February 1983, aged 44, when his left leg was badly smashed.
It left him with a permanent and pronounced limp, but when he got back in the winners’ circle he remarked: “They thought I’d never bowl again, but they didn’t know Brian Starkey!”
That summed up his winning attitude, one which made him a valued member of highly-successful teams at Springwood, Slaithwaite Cricket & Bowling Club and Mirfield Old Bank, where they had a string of successes in the Yorkshire Cup.
Mirfield OB were all-conquering at the time – “yes, yes, a good side” he remembered in later years – and once Mr Starkey had overcome his own penchant for losing in the later stages of individual competitions (he was once christened ‘semi-final Starkey’), he took lots of major honours back to the family home in Heckmondwike.
In addition to the Champion of Champions and Huddersfield Merit, he twice won the Barker Sports Handicap (formerly the Ben Shaw’s) in 1979 and 1993, the Mirfield Merit, the West Riding Merit and, in 2004, both the Worthington Handicap and the Hills Supplies Yorkshire Handicap Pairs.
He also won the Hill Crest, the Spen Valley Merit, the Spen Valley Pairs and the Vic Sugden Memorial Trophy while, at the Griffin, his record was magnificent.
In addition to a prolific strike rate in the Sixteens, he added three titles in the 31-up Rosebowl (1980, 1985 and 1999), three victories in the Peter Jackson Memorial Trophy, two wins in the 31-up Stones Cup (1977 and 1986), two wins in the Griffin Pairs (1987 and 2000) and he was twice the club’s Champion of Champions (1988 and 1990).
In 1983, Slaithwaite CBC staged a benefit match between a Huddersfield League representative side and a Rest of Yorkshire Select to help Mr Starkey after his accident. All the top-name bowlers of the time turned out and raised £350.
With Yorkshire, he was always a part of the away team, fitting in that he would often travel to several different venues in the same day to play in different bowling events.
He was so focused, in fact, that he left son Simon’s wedding mid-way through the ceremony to go bowling and returned to join the celebrations when the match was over!
The son of Conrad and Molly Starkey, he went to Woodhouse Voluntary School at Sheepridge and it was there that he first took up sport, playing football.
He was part of the school’s team which won the Crowther Cup at Town’s Leeds Road Ground in 1953, when they beat Mount Pleasant 7-1 on the same day Town beat Everton 8-2. His grandad, Alfred Tyas, was there to see the successes.
Mr Starkey went on to play for Bradley Rangers, with many friends saying he was a better footballer than he was a bowler, and he was part of successful league and cup sides at Warrenside. He also played for Linthwaite and Holsets.
He did his national service in 1957 and 1958, serving with 20 Section, 199 Battery 68 Regiment Royal Artillery in Gibraltar.
He worked at Holsets, Mitre Sports and then Ben Shaw’s and was a window cleaner at the time of his motorbike accident, later going into painting and decorating and relief management at pubs and clubs.
With bowling his passion, though, he was never happier than being out on a green, or spending time at the Griffin.
Mr Starkey said at the time: “I put everything I can into the Griffin. I like doing it.
“It gets me out into the fresh air and it’s a bit of exercise for the leg. I can do what I want and, when I get tired, I can knock off.
“The principal aim of the Griffin is Sunday competition, but there’s always a lot of people practising down there on a Saturday.
“If you stop them you’re a lousy so-and-so. It does give you something to moan about!”
He was also a member of the successful Huddersfield Veterans team in the Yorkshire Inter-district and won individual titles in the Veterans Association.
He leaves three sons Paul, Simon and Wayne and several grandchildren.
The funeral was at Dewsbury Crematorium on Monday, where Griffin President Alan Hirst was among those paying tribute.