Hunslet are in mourning for life-long fan Dennis Conlon, who passed away on Friday 28 April 2023.
Dennis, who had been bravely battling cancer for many years, was, in April 2016, one of the club’s first supporters to be profiled in the ‘Hunslet Through & Through’ series in the south Leeds outfit’s magazine ‘South of the River’. The article, written in his own words, is reproduced here in full, in homage to a man who wore the myrtle, white & flame with great pride:
“As an actor I’ve appeared before millions in soaps such as Coronation Street and Casualty, played the Chief in Shameless, Dennis Waterman’s landlord in Stay Lucky and had Mr Patel’s corner shop in Waterloo Road.
“I’ve played at the RSC and theatres throughout the world, including Brooklyn Academy. As a musician I had three albums released and supported Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer and many more – even had Genesis as a support band.
“But my proudest moment was when my son Sean became a member of the boyband 5ive in 1997 and Hunslet asked him to kick off the 1998 season.
“I’ve always had old cars, so had to get a friend to take him to the stadium because Simon Cowell wouldn’t allow him to be seen in an old banger. It still didn’t take the shine off my day.
“I’ve been watching Hunslet since 1958 when I went to St Joseph’s Secondary Modern Roman Catholic School. The headmaster, old Joe Arnold, was a Rugby League fanatic and converted every boy who came through the school gates. Kevin Bew, of Hunslet Boys’ Club, was in my year.
“My first match was the Championship Final against St Helens, in 1958/59, and my first Parkside game was also against St Helens. Tom Van Vollenhoven did us in both, it was 8-20 at Parkside.
“When I was fifteen I took over the supporters’ club and ran it with Paul Jepson, Harry’s son – Harry was club secretary at the time.
“My greatest and possibly worst memories were, naturally, the 1965 Challenge Cup Final. My favourite era was the Graham King, Johnny Wolford Elland Road epoch.
“I have five children and I‘ve brought each one to matches as soon as they’ve left the maternity ward. I was equally proud of Sean when I managed to convince the Rugby League to book 5ive for the pre-match entertainment for the 1999 Wembley Cup Final, and again for the Premiership Final at Old Trafford.
“Prior to the Wembley game, there was a parade of players from previous finals. I was a guest of honour in the royal box and was looking down at the tunnel as Sean left the field. The parade players were lining up to enter the stadium and who would be below me but Geoff Gunney, my favourite player of all time, representing Hunslet. I shouted down to Sean to grab him and I managed to get a photo of them both.
“Sean was linked to Hunslet throughout his early days of 5ive. He hated being in the band from the start and at one period had a bit of a breakdown. I have to thank a few players who looked after him when he came to the club seeking solace after a particularly bad time in America. Stan Warriner, Mick Coyle and, especially, Steve Pryce took him under their wing. He came training with the team, and the coach – David Plange – even offered him a chance to play, though this would’ve been only as a publicity stunt.
“Sean and Prycey became good friends and Sean is Godfather to Steve’s son, Cameron.
“I now live in Southport, so don’t make it to every match. But I love this club. I’m proud to belong to the Hunslet family in the same way I am to the Rugby League family. I gushed when I saw Danny Jones’ widow, Lizzie, sing at Wembley and at the Sports Personality Awards. In what other sport would you get that? Hunslet epitomise that family feel.
“I had an unforgettable time when I attended the 50-year Wembley celebration dinner and shook hands with my second-favourite all-time player, Brian Gabbitas.
“My latest adventure is as a writer. I’ve now written a novel, `Sex, Gods and Rock & Roll’. It’s not about rugby but I’ve given many of the characters Rugby League names.
“Director of Rugby Darren Williams has kindly allowed me to put it in the Hunslet shop. Please give it a look. If you can find 30 names, you can get a quid off a pint in the Phoenix Bar. Check out my website for the answers. www.dennisconlon.com”
That last paragraph sums of Dennis Conlon, and his commitment to Hunslet Rugby League club. Rest in peace, Dennis.
Funeral details have yet to be confirmed.