OLDHAM Rugby Union Club was saddened to hear of the death of former player Frank Jenkinson aged 80.
Frank, who died in hospital in Canada after a long illness, was a legendary figure, continuing to play after losing his arm following an accident while working in textile engineering.
Scrum half Frank, who was raised in Glodwick and was a pupil at Waterloo School, was first team player of the year in 1971-72 and after the accident returned to captain the B team for many years until emigrating to Ontario.
Wife Barbara said: “Frank always maintained that if he lost a limb, he was glad it was his arm and not a leg.
“He always made light of the injury and I think that helped him cope with what happened.
“Rugby was his first love and, even though we lived in Canada, he kept in touch with people from the rugby club and also friends from junior school.”
Frank and Barbara, who celebrated their diamond wedding in August, lived in Shaw before emigrating.
Former Oldham RUFC president Steve Fox led the tributes, saying: “Frank was quite a character and despite being small in stature he had the heart of a lion.
“Speaking of lions, Frank received compensation from his accident and bought a new Ford Escort.
“He picked the car up and took his family to Knowsley Safari Park. Unfortunately, a rather large lion jumped onto the roof which immediately caved in. Nobody was hurt but the car was a right off.”
Les Coop, another former club president, recalled the time when Frank, feeding a scrum, unstrapped his false arm and threw it into the scrum to the horror of the opposition front row.
Larry Walsh added, despite moving to Canada, Frank remained part of the Oldham RUFC family and folklore, “a real character who was always full of beans”.
He said: “I remember the story of Frank playing for the fourth team, wearing his false arm (unknown to the opposition), when he stiff armed their inside centre.
“It happened away at Calderdale on their quagmire of a pitch. Frank got well and truly dumped by their back row soon after.
“The referee nearly fainted when he pulled himself out of the mud without his arm and stood their shirt sleeve dangling loose.”
Paul Street said: “Frank was one of life’s natural leaders and characters, and there are so many anecdotes.
“With the strength of character to overcome his disability and to continue to be the life and soul of the party. Definitely one of the club’s legends for sure.”
Liz Hall also had an amusing arm-related story to recall: “I remember one Saturday Frank was refereeing and asked him to tie his shoelaces.
“Cheeky me replied ‘why what’s wrong with your hands’. I jumped out of my skin when he handed me his false arm. He was a character.”
Barry King said: “During my relatively short time at Keb Lane, I remember watching Frank playing at full back for the vets.
“I said to him once that I had never seen him drop a high ball and what was the secret. ‘Never take your eyes off the ball Barry’, he told me and it served me well during my career.
“One of the nicest compliments of Frank was how well he was known and the esteem he was held in Oldham Amateur Rugby League circles also.”
Dave Dillon, a former team-mate at Keb Lane from 1964-74, when he also emigrated, added a Canadian chapter.
He said: “When Frank, Barb and family first moved to Canada they lived with Pat, I and our family in the Toronto area until they were able to get established.
“Frank joined me at Toronto Scottish RUFC, and he later played with Brantford Harlequins RUFC.
“We lost touch for 40 years, but our paths crossed again when Frank and Barb moved from British Columbia to South Western Ontario to be closer to their daughter.
“We would get together once or twice a month. It wasn’t long into these meetings that our long-suffering wives would have to listen to these two old farts reminiscing about their escapades with Oldham RUFC.
”It was as if we had just got off the team coach at Star Inn after an away game! Wonderful, enduring friendships are developed from involvement in the great game of rugby. What an inspiring guy he was.”
Frank leaves wife Barbara and children Gary and Lynn.
Barbara thanked everyone for their message of sympathy adding they have been comforting at this difficult time.