FORMER rugby league player and pub landlord Allan Bishop has passed away, aged 71.

Allan, one of the town’s great sporting characters who came from one of the most famous rugby league families, died on Friday (April 3) after a short illness.

He had recently celebrated his 71st birthday.

A former pupil at Rivington Road School, Allan signed for Saints from Parr Labour Club ARLFC for £1,000 on his 16th birthday in January 1965.

He was described as a typical scrum-half in terms of build in those days at five feet four inches in height and weighing in at nine stone 13 pounds.

Allan became a real stalwart for the A team during his time at Knowsley Road but had to wait a while before making his senior debut, against Huyton at Knowsley Road, on September 20, 1968, when he came off the bench.

Saints were losing 10-5 at half-time and eventually scraped an 11-10 win against one of the league’s perennial strugglers.

Allan was the younger brother of Tommy Bishop, who had played scrum-half in that match, during his last season at Knowsley Road before joining the Cronulla club in Sydney.

Allan played the last of his eight competitive matches for the club in an 8-5 defeat against Workington on April 12, 1969 in a home league match. He was partnered in the halves by Alan Whittle.

With competition fierce at Saints, Allan went on to join Blackpool Borough for £2,500 in 1970, where he became a firm favourite with the fans at Borough Park.

He was a clever player, with good hands and was elusive in open play.

Former Saints teammate Terry Loughlin said: “He was the toughest little man I ever knew. Allan had lots of fighting spirit – he was mentally tough – and could impose himself on a game, despite his size.

"In fact, it was Allan who recommended me to go to Blackpool when he was there. Allan had gone to Blackpool with another former Saint – Tim Pickup, who played full-back. The Blackpool chairman Mr Emery thought the world of Allan.”

Terry added: “Allan broke his collarbone during a match at Blackpool and promptly drove back to St Helens in the 10 hundred weight company van he had borrowed, and I sat next to him changing gears!”

Allan served Blackpool Borough well, before joining Widnes and then was recruited by Geoff Fletcher at Huyton.

He was also a great family man, with a host of friends. He would willingly talk about rugby league to anyone and was full of stories about his own career and the wide range of characters he had come across over the years.

Allan was also a popular member of the Saints’ Players Association.

He had worked originally for Phythian's butchers.

His later working life saw him become a landlord at the Phoenix Hotel in Canal Street, after his brother Tommy, the Bulls Head in Parr and the Globe Hotel behind the town hall.

Allan was also steward at the Sidac Social Club and was recently employed as a taxi driver, mostly working in Liverpool.

“He was my best mate in rugby,” added Terry.

“We will all miss him terribly.”