THE rugby league community turned out in force to remember one of Saints’ favourite sons of the 50s and 60s.
Wilf Smith, a stand off who made 205 appearances for his hometown club, passed away suddenly last month after being taken ill at the age of 78.
On Friday Blackbrook St Mary’s Church was packed to the rafters as friends, ex-team-mates and loved ones gathered to celebrate his family life and sporting career.
in action at Knowsley Road
They spoke in glowing terms about Wilf, a devoted father-of-three and grandfather-of-two who was beloved husband of Bernadette.
Son-in-law Gary Connolly, the former Blackbrook junior who went on to star for Saints, Wigan and Great Britain, was among the pallbearers.
Many of his former team-mates from the Saints were in attendance, including Trevor Simm, Brian McGinn, Jimmy Measures, Frank and Tony Barrow, Peter Harvey and Geoff Hitchen, together with many others associated with both the professional and amateur game.
In a marvellous oration, Ray French told some great tales about his former team-mate. They both came from Parr, originally, and they talked about how Wilf followed his father, Tommy, who was a legend at St Helens Recreation between the wars, into the professional ranks.
Wilf in 1960
Wilf went on to play in ten finals for the Saints, including the 1961 Challenge Cup triumph over Wigan, when he partnered Alex Murphy in the halves.
Ray talked about how Wilf had given him some wise advice when he first came to Knowsley Road from rugby union: “Just be patient and the ball will come to you, Ray,” he said – words that French valued immensely at the start of his own career.
It was clear from the size of the congregation just how many people knew Wilf and wanted to pay their respects.
A sombre, yet uplifting occasion.