The great Len Shackleton, of Bradford Park Avenue, was often referred to as the Clown Prince of Soccer. His skill on the field often revealed a genuine wit.

But whether Shack would ever have made it on the stage is open to debate.

One local soccer hero who did combine the two, though, was the now almost-forgotten Harold Walden, Bradford City centre forward and music hall comedian. Oh, and Olympic gold medallist, as well...

Walden was born in Heaton in 1887. He joined Bradford City from Halifax Town in 1911, the year the Bantams won their one and only FA Cup final, and spent five seasons at Valley Parade, though the First World War was to take a significant slice out of his career, as well as out of the city's young manhood.

When he was transferred to Arsenal in 1920, he had played 57 times for City and scored 25 goals.

He served as a volunteer during the war with the West Yorkshire Regiment, with the rank of captain, and became battalion adjutant.

Afterwards he returned to Valley Parade, where he had made the Number 9 shirt his own. But his most glorious soccer moment came when, as a member of the Great Britain team, he won a gold medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics after his side beat Denmark 4-2 in the final.

These were the games dominated by the Native American Jim Thorpe, who won the pentathlon and the decathlon by huge margins and, on receiving his medals from Gustav V, acknowledged his congratulations with a laconic 'Thanks, King'.

Walden is, it is fair to assume, the only variety artist ever to win an Olympic medal.

His stage debut came in 1919 when he performed at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, singing at the piano for a lifeboat appeal show.

The theatre owner, Francis Laidler, was so impressed that he booked him for a week on a variety bill. It was the start of a new career, and Walden gave up football not very long after.

The comedy came later, during a tour of Australia. Walden was still a singer but, when the show's comedian became ill, the Bradford man was 'volunteered' to fill the role.

He dragged his hair forward onto the forehead that had struck fear into opposing goalkeepers, and created a kiss-curl fully 30 years before Bill Haley was to make it his trademark.

A straw hat borrowed from a bookmaker standing beside the stage competed the transformation. The curl and the hat became part of the act, as did his old Number 9 shirt from the Bradford City days.

The new career almost ended prematurely when, deep in the Australian outback and travelling on a covered wagon, someone knocked over a paraffin lamp.

In the resulting fire, everything, including precious water, was lost. But the artist survived, returning to civilisation atop a load of pit props on an open railway truck.

Harold Walden made it into films, and starred in an adaptation of a Harold Brighouse play, The Game, which became The Winning Goal on celluloid in 1920. No prizes for guessing who stuck the ball in the back of the net...

Towards the end of his career, he became a member of the famous Ernest Binns Follies on Morecambe pier, and a familiar figure to Bradford holidaymakers.

One of his last appearances was in 1955 at a show to raise money for the Yorkshire Evening News's Christmas Appeal. He died after a heart attack on Leeds station a couple of weeks later.

When asked why he had given up soccer for the halls, he said: "With football it's 45 minutes each half, rain or snow, with a ten-minute interval and a raspberry from the crowd if you don't score.

"On the Halls it's ten minutes each show, with 'twice nightly' and a two-hour interval in between; and there's a benefit at the end of each week, whether you score or not".

Just the job for covering all eventualities...

A last police box memory - from a seemingly untapped well of folklore, particularly among retired bobbies, who remember these little havens and retreats from the hurly-burly with affection.

There used to be a piece of paper called a Form 70, which was used to report incidents and happenings for which no other form was deemed suitable.

So theft, murder, arson, mayhem and high treason had their own forms. But if the Martians landed, or three wise men turned up asking about a stable, or the chief constable walked on his hands through the middle of town stark naked, this was a job for Form 70.

One day a young bobby, new to the beat, was horrified to arrive at his box to find a window broken - probably vandalised.

There was only one thing he could do - ring the sergeant, a man wise in the ways of the world and never at a loss for what to do.

The sergeant pondered briefly, then said: "I think a Form 70 should just about cover it, son."

And so it did. The next time the sergeant visited the box, he found the appropriate form - not filled in, but covering the gap in the door...

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.