Harry Jepson: Farewell to the last living link with 1895

Harry Jepson died on Monday aged 96 after a lifetime of service to his community as a teacher and as a coach, official and mentor to rugby league. He died, if a death can ever said to be fall appropriately, on the anniversary of the founding of the Northern Union on 29 August.

Harry was born in 1920 in Hunslet and became a fan of his local team Hunslet at a very young age. Along with Richard Hoggart, who was in the same class, he attended Cockburn High School and went on to became a teacher, rising to be deputy head at Clapgate School. He learned French at school and was one of the few people to be able to speak to Jean Galia in his own language when the pioneering French rugby league tourists visited Leeds in 1934. You can read his full biography here.

He became secretary of Hunslet Schools Rugby League and began to work with Hunslet RLFC, becoming secretary of the club in 1963. During his time at Hunslet he got to know the legendary Albert Goldthorpe and worked closely other officials of the club, such as Joe Lewthwaite, who had been personally involved in the 1895 split that established the Northern Union. 

In the late-1960s he was head-hunted by Leeds to become their de-facto football manager and he played a central role in reshaping the club, eventually becoming club president.

In 2008 I sat down with him for a compelling two-hour conversation about his life and his memories of rugby league for a planned DVD. Sadly the project never came to fruition but I still have the tapes. Below are two short extracts (complete with timecode stamp!); in the first he describes what the phrase "Best int' Northern Union" means and in the second he describes going to see the great Harold Wagstaff. 

I'm in the process of editing the full interview - stand by for an announcement shortly!

Harry Jepson explains the meaning of 'Best int' Northern Union".

Harry Jepson describes going to se e Harodl Wagstaff play in the 1920s.