Our Heritage: Bill Harrison stars for Bury in Division One

Lancaster Town 1933-34 featuring Bill Harrison.
Lancaster Town 1933-34 featuring Bill Harrison.

In the second of a two-part feature historian Terry Ainsworth looks back at the career of professional footballer William Harrison - great grandfather of Lancaster Guardian sports reporter Adam Lord

Bury, newly-promoted to Division One of the Football League, came to play a friendly against Lancaster Town in May 1924.

The Gigg Lane side won 1-0 and it seems likely that Arthur Paine, former secretary of the Dolly Blues and then secretary and manager of Bury, returned to Giant Axe and sealed the deal to take goalkeeper Bill Harrison to the top league in football.

In October 1924 it was reported in the Guardian’s “Sports Snippets” that Harrison played a brilliant game for Bury Reserves against Blackpool Reserves much to the delight of his manager Paine.

Three months later he appeared for Bury against Manchester City and kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw and then the following week he ensured a victory over Sheffield United, again without conceding.

A London contemporary said: “Harrison’s anticipation was great; his performance was marvellous; he has a future before him.

“A star of the Bury side, he absolutely held the Sheffield forwards, no matter where or how they came.”

Later in the season a number of Lancastrians travelled to Deepdale to watch Bill play against Preston North End and he was only beaten by a penalty making several excellent saves to give his side victory.

In October 1925, Paine returned to Lancaster with Bury Reserves to play a friendly match that ended in a 1-1 draw.

A lunch was held at the County Hotel before the match and his team were in hilarious mood. Harrison was present but was unable to play because he was taking an enforced rest under doctor’s orders.

The Bury first team beat Tottenham at Gigg Lane on the same day.

In January 1926 Harrison participated in Bury’s eighth consecutive win against Everton by the odd goal and then played brilliantly in the English cup-tie win against Rotherham in front of 16,442 spectators.

His first contract at Bury, signed in October 1924, makes a fascinating read, and it is likely he moved for a transfer fee as he had only signed a contract with Lancaster in May 1924 for 12 months at £1-5s-0d per week.

The contract at Bury paid him £5 per week plus a £2 win bonus which would have put him amongst the higer earners. He was living on Lune Road, Lancaster, at the time.

Harrison returned to Lancaster Town for the 1933-34 season having largely been a number two at Gigg Lane during his nine years in Greater Manchester.

Throughout the season scarcely a week went by without plaudits being showered on Bill for his outstanding ability between the sticks and the campaign back home culminated in success when Lancaster Town lifted the Lancashire Junior Cup with a 3-0 victory over Chorley at Deepdale, Preston.

Playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 with gate receipts of £557 special praise went to Heaton and Roscoe who scored the goals and Harrison who performed heroics in goal especially in the first 20 minutes when Chorley were in the ascendancy.

Having played a round 50 games in that campaign Harrison went on to make 43 in his next and final season where he was instrumental in Lancaster Town being crowned champions of the Lancashire Combination.

In the final month of the season he was injured and the reserve goalkeeper, Illingworth, stood in as his deputy.

It appears that Harrison retired after this final triumph but the pages of the Guardian do not report whether he returned to the North Lancashire League or simply hung up his boots.

What is clear is that William Harrison had a fantastic career and played at the very top level of football in a career that a young man who attended Dallas Road School could only dream of.