Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Rugby Union Characters - Charles Waller

Charles Waller, who joined Leeds Chirons in 1967, never played a game for the club, as when he first became involved he was past the state retirement age. His role was to look after the dressing rooms, run the bath, make the after match cups of tea and clean up after everyone had gone. Mr Waller was encouraged to take on the role of dressing room attendant by his daughter, who wanted him to have a 'hobby' that got him out of the house. The reality was that the hobby practically became a full-time job. Never addressed as Charles, Mr Waller took the role on from John Mason the former caretaker and groundsman at Roundhay School. John Mason had looked after the dressing rooms for a number of years until he retired in 1965. There was a gap of a year or so between John Mason retiring and Mr Waller starting as dressing room attendant. During this period players and club officials took on the role with very mixed results. Often the dressing room boiler would not be lit in time and so the water in the bath would be cold. The tea would not be ready after the game and the dressing rooms would often not be cleaned from one week to the next. When Mr Waller, who lived in a cottage in the school grounds, took on the role, apart from a few early teething troubles, things ran very smoothly. The early teething troubles were mainly to do with the temperature of the bath water. It took a while for Mr Waller to get used to the eccentricities of the coke boiler. After one week, when he had complaints about the water being cold, Mr Waller put the boiler on very early and so the bath water was scalding when the first Chirons player jumped in. He soon jumped out again, uttering expletives! After a few weeks Mr Waller got to grips with the ancient boiler and things began to run smoothly.

Mr Waller spent many hours in the dressing rooms every week, tidying and cleaning, and remained with Chirons until the club went out of existence. His role on match day increased over the years as he became responsible for preparing the after match food, which was usually pie and beans. His after match food became legendary, as did his tea. People would often wonder whether the fact that the tea was so strong was because he started brewing it on the Thursday before a game. I believe Mr Waller never watched the games, but he was always interested in the results. In the 1st World War Mr Waller was a horse handler and if asked he would, on occasions, talk about his experiences. Many former Chirons players and officials have very fond memories of Mr Waller. Over the years he became something of an 'institution', and opposition players often went out of their way to chat to him before and after the game. I am sure many clubs had people like Mr Waller, but the difference probably being that they were former players. To my knowledge Mr Waller, who was quite a small man, had never played rugby, he just enjoyed his 'hobby' and the people he got to know through the rugby club.

There are more stories about rugby union characters in Leeds Who? Available from ypdbooks.com

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