KBGS Old Boys' Forum

A place to discuss Keighley Boys' Grammar School. 

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KBGS Old Boys' Forum
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Willis Walker

It is sad to report that the Willis Walker sports emporium is now closed for business. Current trading conditions and out of town "sports" shop have hastened its demise.

To me, and probably 1000's of people in keighley , Willis walker was THE sports shops. You got your rugby gear from there, Cricket stuff, Golf balls etc., etc..

I always remeber the kind service (now sadly lacking in most shops) and making sure you got exactly what you needed. Not in stock? We'll order it for you. Never heard of it, we will try to find it all in th days before computers became the thing.

Ah well, times move on, things change, not always for the better, but that's life.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1964 -1970

Current location (optional) STILL Keighley

Re: Willis Walker

Sad news indeed. In my years at KBGS I bought two 'Gradidge' cricket bats (price £6) from Willis Walker, who had himself been a very accomplished batsman (going in generally first wicket down) for Nottighamshire, in the twenties and thirties. He was always extremely courteous and kind. My friend, Tony Barker, also bought a bat from him at the same time as I did, but he made the mistake of heavily coating it in linseed oil, including (fatally) the splice, which quickly worked loose. He took it back for help and advice and without batting (sic) an eyelid WW reached into the rack of bats, pulled out an identical one and gave it to Tony, then explained carefully how he should oil it and prepare it for use. Service like that was hard come-by then, let alone now.

Incidentally, does anyone remember when WW died?


Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1951-58

Current location (optional) East Yorkshire

Re: Willis Walker

According to Cricinfo, he was born in Gosforth November 24 1892 and died in Keighley December 3rd 1991 (99years and 9 days) just short of his last century - out in the "nervous nineties".

Others who served you in WW's had the same courtesy and helpful manner as WW himself.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1952-60

Current location (optional) Nirvana

Re: Willis Walker

It is always a sad day when an old established retailer closes their doors. I too have happy memories of my mother buying my rugby gear at W Ws, including a white jersey, and other items when I started. When I've been back in Keighley on holidays, I have always made a point of calling in for a nostalgic look around.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1947-51

Current location (optional) Auckland, NZ

Re: Willis Walker

Seem to remember that, as well as sports gear, you could get your cubs' uniform there too, woggle included.

Re: Willis Walker

They also sold fishing and shooting gear
Bought my first air rifle there and my first fishing rod
Mr Walker was a gentleman of the old school and could not do enough to help and advise

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1959-1966

Current location (optional) cumbria

Re: Willis Walker

I think all cricketers will remember buying their first 'Litesome' jock-strap, complete with pink plastic, triangular box insert. What a life-saver! The Litesome company was situated somewhere at the bottom of Granby Lane and had on it's Board of Directors a certain 'Len Hutton', who, I remember, featured on their advertizing posters at that time. I recall purchasing my own Litesome and box from Willis Walkers following an encounter with a slow long hop the previous day which left me quite sick for an hour,'retired hurt'. I didn't bat again that day!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1945-50

Current location (optional) Keighley

Re: Willis Walker

Your tale about 'one in the box' reminds me of an occasion Ingrow St John's were playing Haworth Meths at their ground when David Dewhirst, a junior at that time, took one right between the legs which felled him. We carried him to the pavilion and when we enquired where his box was he said he didn't wear one because it was uncomfortable. I asked him which was more uncomfortable the box or being hit without one.
He went back in later and set about the bowling with a vengence, smashing sixes into the allotments with straight lofted drives. I spent the rest ofthe afternoon picking David's balls out of the greenhouses and cold frames.

Re: Willis Walker

On a rough calculation, Arthur, about how many times did you have to venture into the allotments?


Re: Willis Walker

David, your mention of the 'Litesome' 'belts for men' reminds me of another 'cricketing' story. You are right that the factory was eventually located at the bottom of Granby Lane, but previous to that it was just across Bradford Road at the end of our street (Beecher),Fred Hurtleys, by John Smith's Crane Works. Our next-door neighbour was manageress there.

One summer evening, it would be in the early fifties, several of us were playing cricket in the street, using the 'pig bin' for a wicket, and out came 'Uncle' Tom Smith, who lived opposite us. Sometimes, when he'd had a jar or two, he would come and chase us away (especially if his window had been thumped...), but that evening he was in more mellow mood and came and joined in the game. Soon he went in to bat - I was bowling. I sent down one of my quickies, but to my dismay he just stepped forward a couple of paces, swung the bat, and away went the ball and my pride with it! But worse was quickly to follow. The heavy rubber ball soared, right across the road, where Hurtley's neon sign was patiently flashing out its message: 'Litesome belts for men... Litesome belts for men...' - but not any more. The ball hit it, the glass shattered and showered down onto the pavement, but by that time only the 'pig bin' remained in the street to carry the can. It was still there next morning, standing stupidly in the middle of the street, and was moved back where it belonged by one of the joiners trying to get his wagon down the street to his workshop - thankfully removing the last shred of evidence none of us had had the courage or good sense to do. The street cricket season was closed temporarily but, when there were no repercussions after a couple of weeks, it started up again. I always suspected Hurtley's moved to the bottom of Granby Lane for safety reasons.

'Uncle Tom's Big Six' was one of the paintings I showed at last year's Reunion.