Former Bees president Harrison dies aged 75

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Fund-raiser extraordinaire Peter Harrison, who has died aged 75 Fund-raiser extraordinaire Peter Harrison, who has died aged 75

Former Bradford & Bingley Rugby Union Club president Peter Harrison, also a former Yorkshire RFU committee man, has died of cancer aged 75.

Born at Coal House Nursing Home in Odsal, he attended Horton Bank Primary School and Grange Grammar School, leaving at 16 to work in the wool trade as a yarn salesman with James H Woods.

An object lesson in making the most of one’s ability, Harrison joined Shaw’s Fuels in 1958, and 20 years later formed his own petroleum companies, Brent Petroleum and Holmfield Petroleum, which he dissolved on his retirement.

A tight-head prop with massive determination, he made 184 first-team appearances for Bradford, which put him seventh on their all-time list, and for 12 years he was part of a formidable front row that also involved Frank Whitcombe and Peter Crowther.

Their most memorable triumph was winning the Yorkshire Cup in 1966 under the captaincy of Mike Dixon.

Off the field, Harrison’s forte was fund-raising and marketing, be it at Bradford or, later, Bradford & Bingley, and he was a committee member at one club or the other for 40 straight years.

“He must have raised thousands of pounds for Bradford & Bingley when they played the Barbarians,” said admiring fellow stalwart Keith Wilkinson.

“You either hated Peter or you loved him - I was in the latter camp - but you cannot argue that he got things done, and he was incredible at negotiating for a better deal.

“Also he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and made something of himself - he was an incredible man.”

Outside of rugby, Peter also raised money for Volunteering Bradford, an organisation that helped people become volunteers across the city.

Volunteering Bradford worked closely with 450 community groups and sports clubs.

From 2001, Harrison was a director and trustee, supporting the staff in their work and careers and was excellent at engaging volunteers through his network of contacts.

He used his business acumen to solve issues, promote the bureau, develop policies and procedures and negotiate with suppliers.

This year 60 per cent of their public funding was cut, which deeply saddened him as it restricted the amount of work that could be done.

However, unsurprisingly, it made Harrison more determined to be involved, even during his illness, and it was surely his will to live that also helped him make it through to the end of the Bees' rugby season.

Hisa son Roger says: "Peter Harrison should be listed in the dictionary. If he was, the definition would read ... inspirational character with very high integrity, honest as the day is long, loyal beyond belief, a great friend, amazing family man, the best father a child could have, passionate and fun.

"Throughout the whole of his life, he stood by one mantra - that life was for living, and life was what you made it. He lived ten lifetimes in one.

"Peter came from a working class background, and through his industrious nature landed a sales job for Shaws Fuels.

"On the way, he did his national service and was bestowed the Queen's Scout Award, which moulded his independent tenacious character.

"He was a member of the Bradford Junior Chamber of Commerce and went on to set up, and run his own fuel business.

"At Bradford Rugby Club, he met his friends for life, and they were a talented bunch - on and off the field - with many country and county caps between them.

"As a team they amassed an enviable collection of silverware. Peter was part of an enduring front row with the infamous Peter Crowther, and Frank Whitcombe - the trio lasted 12 years!!

"After retirement from playing rugby, he became a minis coach at Baildon and established a strong friendship with Fred Anderson.

"His inspirational lines became legendary with words like: turn, face, bums out and present the ball; remember, the bigger they are lads, the harder they fall; you’re the best team in Yorkshire, and don’t forget it!; plus I don’t want to see anyone wearing gloves, unless you’re a girl."

"He took the lads all over the North of England, never using a map. He had a bat-like ability to know where all the rugby clubs were - always wearing a Patrick branded tracksuit three sizes too small and boots two sizes too big.

"Waste not, want not was his slogan. Peter was first into the showers, armed with a bar of a grit-filled soap, showing us ‘young-uns’ how to really scrub your ‘nethers!’ That sight still haunts a lot of former players throughout the country.

"While I was at school, he grew frustrated that the Friends of the School did not support rugby, so he set up the school rugby club to send the lads on tour around the world.

"He and the committee raised £35,000 to send the lads on tour to Zimbabwe. He enjoyed raising money so much, that since then he has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for many charities, such as the Peter Greenwood Memorial Trust, MS and Cancer, for sports bodies and, of course, through Bees sponsorship.

"He adored his charity work, and, more recently with Volunteering Bradford, he found a role which set his imagination alight.

"Peter had the gift of being able to inspire others to do things they never knew they could achieve. He built your self-belief, making you feel bullet-proof.

"He always insisted that everything was possible, and everyone was equal, no-one should be feared. If you felt fear, he would say just imagine them sat on the throne – its always a good leveller.

"As we well know, Peter was very direct and put a few noses out of joint, but this was because he was a passionate man who had a valid perspective about everything.

"Peter’s sense of fun was infectious, and was valued by all generations. His sense of fun was limitless, and he always had a young man’s outlook on life.

"The stories he told, and things he did, made the antics of Morecambe and Wise look tame. Many of you have witnessed his touchline one-liners, and many of you saw him ‘spend a penny’ when the ball had been kicked out of play.

"He used to gurn at people at inopportune moments to make them laugh and, as a younger man, to get noticed he stood at the bar for long periods of time with his trousers round his ankles.

"His rebellious nature led him to leaving skeletons outside people's houses, then ringing the doorbell and running away.

"When he was coaching mini rugby, he used to roll backwards after being tackled, break wind and then blame one of the young lads.

"There is one unforgettable line that Peter instilled in all the kids he inspired through his life, and that was, ‘Growing old is compulsory, but growing up is voluntary’.

"Peter was like a fine wine - deep, rich and passionate. We will savour him for many lifetimes to come.

"Throughout the whole of his life, he stood by one mantra - that life was for living, and life was what you made it. He lived ten lifetimes in one."

His funeral is at Bingley All Saints Parish Church on Friday (1pm).

Peter leaves a wife Shirley and daughter Sara, as well as Roger.

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