Dennis Cawthorne (1922 - 2005)
When I was a child my dad had three careers. He had been a professional Rugby League player with Huddersfield, Oldham and Rochdale Hornets after having played for Oldham & Lancashire Schoolboys. He was a goalkicking second row or loose forward. Later he played as an amateur for Higginshaw and St.Annes where his goal-kicking became legendary. All the while he had another career in which he excelled, that as a baritone singer. Blessed with a unique and charismatic voice he wowed clubs like Talk of the North and Batley Variety Club through the 1950's and 60's. I was adopted by the great man in 1957 at just six weeks old. My adoptive mum Joan having had earlier miscarriages and unable to safely bare children. After finishing his playing career at 40. 'Five years too late', he always said, he invested his savings in a business and showing his rugged toughness he chose to become a coal merchant. He said he did it because he had put on loads of weight after giving up rugby and wanted to get fit and keep fit. It was a double edged sword. A culmination of too much rugby and too much hard work saw him have to endure three major hip operations and problems throughout his later years with varicose veins.
He finally sold the coal business after I declined his offer to take it over and get into road haulage.
He wanted to carry on working and got a reasonably 'cushy' job at the Owl Mill in Lees and worked there part time beyond his retirement age. He enjoyed the sociability! But that too left it's legacy as he contracted Bisinosis (cotton disease) from his time in the mill and breathing problems plagued the remainder of his life. This didn't however prevent him from singing in public and he continued his legendary status with occasional appearances at various social clubs around the Lees area.
He followed my failed football career and my three years playing Rugby League and also devoloped an increasing interest in Mossley after my constant cajoling finally got him into it! He then travelled all over the north watching his beloved Mossley and only ceased travelling away in his late 70's. Into his 80's and it was Saturday home matches only. But despite failing health he always chose to stand.
My mum Joan passed away in 1972 and in some ways he never really got over it because he never stopped loving her and always said he wanted to be burried with her. A wish I am fortunately able to fulfil!
He did have a couple of later lady companions but they never meant the same to him as his beloved wife Joan.
I was fortunately able to give him grandchildren and he loved Jaya, Hari and Shanti from the moments they were born. He was a big fan of the lads fledgling football careers and would always reward them if they played well, which of course was every week in his opinion!
On Christmas Day he came to visit and spend the day with us, as he had for many years. He had a lovely day, playing with the kids, chatting with our other dinner guests. In the days following, his health deteriorated quickly but he was a stubborn mule but an incredibly strong one and wouldn't acknowledge his illness to us until it was all but too late. He was taken to hospital on Sunday, said his goodbyes to us all Wednesday and passed away on Friday!
God bless you dad and thanks for everything!
Your ever loving family
John, Helen, Jaya, Hari and Shanti