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Tributes paid to Barrow sporting all-rounder John Bradford

TRIBUTES have been paid to former Walney Central rugby league and Barrow AFC reserves player and bodybuilder John Bradford, writes PADDY McATEER.

SIXTIES CENTS: The Walney Central B team in the 1960s with the late John Bradford in the line-up. Back row, left to right: Dave Crozier, Harold Sharp, Tommy Quayle, Mick Hubbold, Bob Dyer, John Bradford, Mal Sharp, Ian Scott, Jimmy Hollywell, Jack Gibson, Bob Whitehouse. Front row, left to right: Joe Riley, John Lauderdale, Dougie Farragher, Bob Scott, Tommy Ryan, Barry Hogg, Alf Hadley, Steve Nevinson, Keith Joel SUBMITTED

The sporting all-rounder died in hospital on the Wirral, following a short illness. He was 68.

A successful newsagent on Ferry Road and Liverpool Street, John was very competitive at soccer, rugby league and bodybuilding.

Soccer was his first love, playing for Barrow North End and Barrow AFC where he turned out for the reserves and A-team in the 1960s.

He played in the forwards and was a prolific goal scorer, as he was a rugby league try-scorer for Walney Central B team.

Though only a teenager himself, John took on the role of manager of Island Rovers, a team comprising of under-16s lads from the Ferry Road area. Long-time friend Bob Dyer said: “We were only kids and John brought us Ferry Road lads together as a team in the Barrow under-16s league. We had Jack “Butch” Wright in our side, who went on to play for Barrow.

“I remember we got through to the knock-out cup final and beat a star-studded Holker Old Boys side that had the likes of the late Peter Marshall (who also played for Barrow) and Ronnie Jackman, it was a good day for John.”

John scored many goals for a Barrow AFC A-team which included Jim Perry, who then switched codes and played at first-team level at Barrow RL and was assistant coach for the club for several years.

John also switched codes and became a strong running winger and second row forward for Walney B, scoring many a long-range try.

But it was in bodybuilding that he excelled, taking up the sport more than 50 years ago. He started in the Greengate gym, then known as the YMCA, which later came under the wing of Bill Hemsworth and was renamed the Furness Health Studio. Bill was to become his mentor.

Bill, who won a record four Mr Britain titles and later became Mr Universe before becoming the first professional Mr Britain, said: “John was dedicated to his bodybuilding. He was so keen and won several awards, his first being in the novices class of North West Britain, going on to land the North of England and Lancashire titles.

“I don’t know how he managed to spend so many hours at the gym and play rugby as he was always up at 4am in his newsagents. He spent several years living and working in Australia but kept his membership up. Each year I would receive a cheque for $50 and he returned to the gym when he came back to Barrow. He was a great lad.”

John is survived by his wife June and son Paul. Funeral arrangements are to follow.

Have your say

My Dad will be missed by us all. He was a great family man, sportsman and businessman. Thanks to you all for your posts here, it is comforting to know that he was admired by so many. Best wishes, Paul Bradford.

Posted by Paul Bradford on 5 December 2012 at 20:13

my late dad yorkie ronnie whitehead use to say that john bradford true gent,also good all round sportsman,dad use to watch them play when he time off from barrow rugby,good friends with alf hardley guess most guys in the photo as well,rip john hope you me dad having good chat bout good old days up there.

Posted by mr peter whitehead on 5 December 2012 at 05:43

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