Lancaster nostalgia: a referee you looked up to

Freehold United FC - 1947-48 winners of the E G Smith Cup. Names of players only: middle row from left, Eric Salter (reserve goalkeeper), Colin Barker, Raymond Troughton, Donald Rutherford and Alan Baines. Front row from left, Ronald Parkinson, Frank Parkinson, Ken Topsy Irving (captain), Owen Westwood and Eddie Redhead.
Kneeling on the ground from left, Gordon Simpson and Jack Tiger Wilkinson.
Freehold United FC - 1947-48 winners of the E G Smith Cup. Names of players only: middle row from left, Eric Salter (reserve goalkeeper), Colin Barker, Raymond Troughton, Donald Rutherford and Alan Baines. Front row from left, Ronald Parkinson, Frank Parkinson, Ken Topsy Irving (captain), Owen Westwood and Eddie Redhead. Kneeling on the ground from left, Gordon Simpson and Jack Tiger Wilkinson.
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Local historian Terry Ainsworth pays tribute to Eric Salter.

I first came across the name of Eric Salter in a book called “The second Tuesday in the Month” written by Clifford Moffet that covered 60 years of refereeing in the Lancaster and Morecambe area (1921-1981).

Waring and Gillows Cricket XI 1948-49: back row from left, George Chudley, Roy Ingram, Ian Stubbs, Bob Fryers, Stanley Nicholson, Ben Lush, Sid Woodhouse, Roy Paton and Wilfred Curwen. Front row from left, Eric Salter, Frank Parkinson, Jack Poulton, Tommy Mulroy and Billy Mills.

Waring and Gillows Cricket XI 1948-49: back row from left, George Chudley, Roy Ingram, Ian Stubbs, Bob Fryers, Stanley Nicholson, Ben Lush, Sid Woodhouse, Roy Paton and Wilfred Curwen. Front row from left, Eric Salter, Frank Parkinson, Jack Poulton, Tommy Mulroy and Billy Mills.

This excellent book revealed that Eric had collapsed and died whilst refereeing a game between Arnside and Milnthorpe in February 1975.

Resuscitation and cardiac massage by players and a local doctor failed to revive him. He was 43 years of age.

Eric had worked at Waring and Gillows along with Frank Parkinson who kindly supplied two photographs showing them both in the cricket and football teams of Warisons and Freehold United.

When Warisons closed in the early 1960s Eric took a course at the Bolton Teacher Training College. In 1961 he gained his Class Two Certificate from the Lancashire Football Association and was appointed to the Lancashire Combination Linesmen’s List.

Royal Albert Hospital 1956-57: back row from left, Bill Bradshaw, John Corless, Eric Salter, Eric Blamire, unknown, unknown. Front row from left, Cyril King, M Walker, Ken Studholme, Ken Barnes, Cliff Procter, John Townson.

Royal Albert Hospital 1956-57: back row from left, Bill Bradshaw, John Corless, Eric Salter, Eric Blamire, unknown, unknown. Front row from left, Cyril King, M Walker, Ken Studholme, Ken Barnes, Cliff Procter, John Townson.

Simultaneous to this promotion on the football field he was appointed to a teaching post at Sale Grammar School and the local society lost his services for the next six years. Once at Sale he joined the Altrincham and District Referees’ Society gaining his Class One Certificate from the Cheshire County Football Association in 1965.

Returning north in 1967 he taught woodwork at Milnthorpe Secondary School and was promoted to the Lancashire Combination Referees’ List in 1969. The highlight of his career came in 1971 when he officiated as linesman in an FA Challenge Cup semi-final game between Stoke City and Arsenal.

At a society level he served in a number of posts including that of Vice-Chairman and for many years held the position of Social Secretary. His death brought a deep sense of loss to all who knew him and perhaps the most fitting epitaph to him would be that he was a sportsman in every sense of the word and served with distinction in every position he held within the society.

A few weeks after Eric’s untimely death the local referees’ society, led by their secretary Dave Allison, organised a testimonial game to be played on Wednesday April 2 1975 between Milnthorpe Corinthians and an Alan Spavin All Star XI.

Dave Allison remembers Eric, he said: “I was a young society member when I got to know Eric in the early 1970s.

“He was a referee you looked up to, a Football League Linesmen with an FA Cup semi-final appointment as one of his best. He would always have time to advise and encourage the less experienced referees like myself.

“His untimely death was a tragedy for his family and a huge loss to the society.

“Fittingly, his memory lives on with the annual presentation of the Eric Salter Rose Bowl to a referee who has given excellent service to the society during the year.”

Billy Mills, a friend and teammate of Eric’s, also suffered a tragic death when, at the age of 24, he collapsed on the Giant Axe while playing cricket for Waring and Gillows in 1955. Billy, a cabinet maker, had also represented England in two Boys Club Internationals against Scotland and Ireland.