Looking back on the career of Bob Tyson, a referee of the highest standards who kept the peace for more than 50 years in the local amateur game.
In the 1950s and 1960s when I was playing in the North Lancs League there was a plethora of good referees like Bob Tyson, Gerry Jones, Fred Riley, Dick Ditchfield, Al Jobling, Norman Whittaker, Walter Crossley and Harold Osliffe to name just a few.
These men, contrary to many opinions, loved the game of football and brought passion, honesty and high principles to the game. When we were ready to play a game on a Saturday afternoon our spirits were always lifted when we saw a referee of the highest calibre appear and Bob was certainly in that category.
Bob Tyson was born in 1939 at 4 Meadow Street, Lancaster, and although his father Bob played football it was his father’s twin brother Bill who took young Bob to his first Football League game at Deepdale in 1951 to watch Preston North End beat the mighty Arsenal 2-0 in front of 42,000 spectators. Bob remembers even now the fantastic atmosphere and red balloons floating above the crowd.
Living on Meadow Street, Bob and his young friends were always looking for a field to play football on and as Quay Meadow was considered too far, the Giant Axe was the obvious choice but danger lurked in the form of Ellis Fisher and invariably they would be chased off by Ellis and his trusty big white dog called “Drifter”.
Bob joined the Referees’ Society on September 13, 1955, and his first game as a referee was on September 24, 1955, on Barton Road when he officiated a game between Lancaster YMCA and Red Rose Boys Club who were managed by Wilson Huck. He made an inauspicious start to his career when he fell down the steps to the grandstand and had to be revived with “smelling salts”, but he recovered and went on to referee for 51 years until 2006, hanging up his whistle when he was 67 years of age.
Bob was always averse to the use of foul language and interpreted the laws of the game without exception.
One story that came to me about Bob was that he sent a player off before the game started at Grange-over-Sands. Bob walked on to the field to call the two captains together and get the match started when one of the Grange contingent said something to the effect, “Bloody hell, not you again” and also added one or two less than polite adjectives.
Needless to say he didn’t participate in the game as Bob took appropriate action and sent him off there and then. Even though substitutes were allowed Grange played for 30 minutes with ten men but alas the result of the game is not at hand.
Those values and standards never left him throughout his long and distinguished career.
On a lovely, crisp April afternoon Bob and his wife, Barbara, were at the Giant Axe watching a semi-final of the Morecambe & Lancaster Sunday League. It was at the time when excavation works had started in preparation for the floodlights to be installed.
Bob stepped back, without thinking, and found himself at the bottom of a deep hole which had been prepared for the floodlight pylons. Unable to reach the top, he was never very tall, he asked Barbara to get help.
Seeing Ray Harrison and several members of the Mayfield United team who were spectating, she asked them to help. Looking down the hole, Ray was asked by Barbara to get some ladders. “Ladders be buggered,” said Ray, “Go and get some shovels and we’ll bury him.”
Having survived the fall and Ray Harrison’s masterclass in graveside comedy, the final indignity awaited him after he was hauled out. Barbara exclaimed, “Look at your coats, I’ve just had it cleaned.”
One match he officiated at was Heysham against Edinburgh team Rosslynlea.
“Played with the keenness of any league game this friendly match at Heysham against Rosslynlea of Edinburgh produced some good, entertaining football.
Opening play was brisk with both sides having chances in front of goal. Rosslynlea opened the scoring after ten minutes from a penalty and held their lead until half-time.
In the second half, against the run of play, the visitors went further ahead but in a spirited comeback Huddleston scored twice, one from a penalty, to put Heysham on level terms.
Play was even from then on but in one of their attacking forays Rosslynlea scored what proved to be the winner. After the match the Rosslynlea captain was presented with a horseshoe from the Heysham president, Mr Wittam, who was also presented with a tartan plaque from the Edinburgh team.
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