Wiganers are enjoying a blast from the past as their passion for rugby brings them together.
Wigan Warriors Community Foundation and Fur Clemt, the pay-as-you-feel cafe at Central Park, have joined forces to set up a Rugby Memories Group.
Every fortnight, rugby fans come together to chat about the Cherry and Whites, look at old photographs and programmes, and watch a game together.
They are even joined by some well-known faces, with Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin, former players Bill Ashurst and Billy Melling, and current academy players attending the most recent session.
Claire Taylor, Warriors’ community health and well-being manager, said: “Rugby is the common ground. Wiganers are big rugby fans. Wigan people like the history and looking back on the town and what it did and what it is famous for. I think people enjoy that and celebrate that, which is good.”
The group has been organised to help combat loneliness and they are dementia-friendly so more people can get involved.
Claire said: “The idea is to get people here and get them talking. It’s not just about dementia, it’s about socialising, preventing loneliness and preventing isolation.”
The group has met three times so far and more and more people have attended each session.
Among those enjoying the event was Evelyn Dodgson, from Pemberton, whose father Joe Miller played for Warriors, making 206 appearances between 1907 and 1919.
She took along caps given to her father when he played for Wigan, Lancashire and England.
She said: “I’m here to see all the rugby players. I’m a big rugby fan.
“My dad played for Wigan. I’m really proud of him and have brought his caps.”
She shared memories of her father, who also played for Wales as he served with a Welsh regiment during the Great War.
She said: “When he played rugby and war broke out in 1914, he signed up for the war. There were 14 people from Kitt Green - his friends - who went with him. He gave his rugby career up to fight. He fought on the Somme.”
He returned to play for Wigan after the war, but suffered the effects of gassing and had to stop.
Residents and staff from Woodlands Court care home in Aspull attended to share their memories.
Lifelong Warriors fan Roy Yates, 73, wore a team shirt from 30 years ago and asked captain Sean O’Loughlin and academy players to sign it.
He said: “I have always been a Wigan fan. I have a lot of memories. I have VHS tapes from the 1950s which are now on DVD and every night I watch one.” Another fan, Trevor Mitchell, was looking through a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings relating to Warriors and memories came flooding back.
Sean O’Loughlin joined academy players at the event, chatting to the people attending, posing for photographs and giving autographs. He said: “There are a few bit of memorabilia floating around and some caps from the early 1900s. There’s a lot of good chat going on about old rugby games and things like that. Some interesting people with some good stories.”
The Rugby Memories Group meets fortnightly, from 2pm to 4pm on Tuesday at Fur Clemt at Central Park, on Montrose Avenue.
As the number of people attending the sessions increases, more volunteers are wanted to chat about their rugby memories.
To join the group or volunteer, email Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org