Tributes to Wakefield’s ‘Mr Amateur Rugby League’

Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly

Tributes have been paid to a man once described as Wakefield’s ‘Mr Amateur Rugby League’.

Jack Kelly died aged 85 in Pinderfields Hospital on December 13 after battling a long illness.

The great grandfather, of Wavell Grove, Sandal, was the driving force behind Brookhouse and Wakefield Loco teams. The former club secretary was also well known from his two decades as a teacher at the former Kettlethorpe Middle School where he taught French, English and PE.

His family have a cherished 40-year-old newspaper cutting from The Yorkshire Post which describes Mr Kelly as a ‘reluctant hero’ who wouldn’t take credit for the teams he helped build and the players he helped to coach. These players included ex-Leeds and Great Britain winger Alan Smith.

Daughter Louise Doyle said: “We have found lots of newspaper cuttings. We have been a bit shocked since to see how prolific his sporting career was, how big he was in Amateur Rugby league.

“We knew it was a big part of his life and ran through his veins but he was incredibly modest.”

Away from the field Mr Kelly was a dad-of-four who lived then at Bromley Mount, Sandal. His wife of 23 years, Betty, died in 1977.

Mrs Doyle said: “He was a typical Yorkshireman, he had to adjust, get domesticated and bring up four children. He never complained, not once, about the hand he had been dealt.”

She added: “He was a really good friend. We really do feel we have lost our anchor. He was the head of the family.”

Daughter Linda Hughes added: “He was a gentle giant. He was incredibly wise. We felt we could take our troubles to him and he would listen and not judge. He would always seem to understand. He has instilled in us his own sense of courage and dignity.”

Mr Kelly is survived by his daughters Sharon, Linda, Louise, son Jonathan, ten grandchildren and two great- grandchildren. His funeral took place at St Austin’s RC Church on Tuesday.