An obituary for an Old Stroller is something no-one wants to write. But the obituary of The Old Stroller is especially poignant and unwelcome. But here goes . . .
Bob had been with the Club since joining the Lancashire Evening Post as a cub reporter in 1970, and he had a fine and increasingly social playing career at Hoppers until fate, and Bert Shepherd’s retirement as (the founder) 6th Team Captain, intervened. The story is told in Bob’s own words in the foreword to the ‘Stroller Songs and CD’ production…
. . . . When Bert’s boots fell apart he decided to hang them up for good. Someone had to carry on the team. Six was too big a number for some of us, so a plan was hatched to invent the Strollers. Well it must have been a plan, because it worked. The title matched the way we played and we had at least two ready made songs . . . . . within weeks the pattern was drawn for future years. A solid core of regulars was supplemented by rising stars, falling idols, players with talents or fitness levels best suited to bar duties or those with chronic aversion to Saturday afternoon retail therapy. Some who would never have been seen dead in a sixth team logged in firmly as “Strollers only” on availability lists. A legend was born and, despite one or two fierce battles in selection committee, it began to take life . . . . .
And the rest, as they say, is history. His august journalistic career has been lauded elsewhere (See foot of page for links), but suffice to say that from 1979 until his move to Cambridge in 1984, Bob laid the foundations on which the Strollers stood firmly, even when in an ‘overly joyous’ state! He was a man of dry wit, considerable organisational ability and extreme intelligence, but allowed none of these to stand in the way of making the Strollers what they became! An example of what they became, in 1987, is initially illustrated in the picture – taken when the joyous Strollers stopped off for a drink with Bob in Cambridge on the way to tour in Amsterdam. Inevitably, Bob was kidnapped onto the coach, and, as told in his foreword, only narrowly escaped transportation.
He hit very bad health from a stroke in 2017, but although ‘not much could get out’, Stan Threlfall reported that ‘everything seemed to be going on inside more or less as usual’. This was confirmed in 2019, when Ennis O’Donnell and Jim Melrose went down and met Jim Palmer to present Bob with a ‘69’ sweatshirt. They settled down with Bob outside his residence, and were prevailed upon to have a beer or two. At which point the hitherto practically silent Bob came out with a very distinct ‘who’s driving then!’. A fine ‘Last Stroller Memory’ – Bob will be much missed and much revered.